12 trends and predictions for the health, wellness, and coaching industries in 2021
I’ve been meaning to write a blog about up and coming marketing trends SPECIFICALLY for wellness professionals. Well, here it is, just in time for the Chinese New Year!
(Happy year of the Ox!)
Sometimes, I’m not quite sure if I’m behind the times or ahead of them.
As an acupuncturist, I was already doing some of these things mentioned below, in the early 2010’s, which seems like a lifetime ago. I was in a minority. Today, that which was previously more “marginal” is now becoming more mainstream, due to the pandemic, better technology, saturated markets, NEW markets, tech monopolies, health trends, and more…
Yeah, it can be enough to make your head spin!
I wrote a list of 12 trends and major changes that you may have already seen, or are likely to see happening in 2021.
Some of these trends simply reflect the most probable path that both I and “my tribe” (we think alike) are going to take.
Most of them are about how to market your business directly, but a few are health trends that will indirectly have an impact on how you run and market your practice.
Some of them are simple, and may feel natural to you. Others are more advanced, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward and creating more freedom for yourself this year. Don’t just go “outside the box.” Light that sucker on fire.
1. The year of the “niche.”
The focus on being the village healer and treating 100 conditions was already dying, even before the pandemic.
Now, people are less concerned about finding “an acupuncturist near me” but finding the BEST person who can help them with ______________. (post-menopausal weight gain, the real root cause of their headaches, fertility for women over 40, ski and snowboard athletes, you get the idea.
You can also focus on what TRULY makes you unique.
Hint: what makes you unique is NOT your patented method, your study in Japan, or the 60k diagnostic machine you just invested in. It’s about the HOW and WHY you work.. in such a way that keeps people coming back.
It’s your brand, your positioning, and what people love about you.
Seriously, you could position yourself as the go-to acupuncturist in your area for cyclists and mountain bikers, if it made sense for you. You could even expand beyond your local area as the “go-to-acupuncturist for bike people.”
Trying to “help everyone” is great, but it’s a lousy marketing plan. This doesn’t mean that you can’t help other people. It just means that you want to become KNOWN for ________.
2. Transformational experiences instead of transactional sessions
Oh, I have a LOT to say about this one!
Here’s reason #44 why selling your time isn’t really the best business model in the long run.
When you position yourself as someone who delivers an hour of service, or 90 minutes (or whatever) you become a commodity.
The patient or client perceives that the value they are getting from your services are based on how much time you put into it, instead of the results over time. The expectations of what happens in that hour can be a lot, for BOTH the patient and the practitioner.
This is especially the case in the absence of other ways that you can easily set patients up for success. (Which require only a bit of up-front work from you.)
I’m going to be brutally honest.. we all know how some people treat other people’s time. Like the doormat they wipe their feet on. Others do almost nothing outside of their hourly appointment, which usually results in them not really moving forward.
With the exception of those who don’t respect your time (avoid them or fire them) I don’t think that it’s necessarily their fault, or yours.
I think that the problem is about how the entire system has been set up, and i think that it’s about to be seriously challenged this year.
How well does that patient do who never does her exercises and continues to eat a lousy diet?
When each appointment is a tactical approach, the result is something like this:
You are thinking, on a conscious level:
“I sure hope they keep their appointments for the next 8 weeks so it has a chance to work”
You are thinking, on a subconscious level:
“I sure hope they show up because I’m exhausted, giving a LOT to everyone, and need the income to pay my rent and overhead”
They are thinking, on a conscious level:
“I know there is a treatment plan and I trust it.. I’ll do my best on my end.”
And on a subconscious level they are thinking:
“It seems kind of expensive. Since I only see them once a week, I’m relying on them to make sure I get the biggest bang for my buck in THAT HOUR. Because I really don’t want to do my exercises or change my diet.”
Know what? There is a better way, and this is one very positive trend that isn’t exactly new, but is gaining a lot of traction.
You are selling a plan, a process, or a strategy, and you are the guide.
When someone is really, truly, serious about a solution to a problem or the fulfillment of a desire, they are willing to pay a SET PRICE based on the overall value they get from the experience. They are paying you to take them from point A to point B. They may be paying you to give them the tools that THEY need to set them up for success, depending on their preferences and personality.
And perhaps they are even paying for continuing support once they “graduate” from this process.
They will be willing to do the work, if you give them some resources other than “stop eating sugar.” That’s not motivating. What IS motivating is having an actual STRATEGY, or a plan to follow, along with resources, accountability, and support.
The old way is going the way of rushed, impersonal, traditional healthcare. The new way is about adding coaching to your toolbox.
Because there’s too much pressure to be a “healer” within a short time slot. That’s not a strategy. It’s a series of tactics.
What about all the time that the patient or client is NOT in your clinic, or on a call with you?
This is where I think that practitioners can benefit from putting on their coaching hat, or at least stop positioning themselves as “healers” who are responsible for a positive outcome by only having control of what happens inside of an hour.
Sure, you can base your model on the urgent care clinic down the street, or how insurance companies want you to practice.
If this isn’t you.. I’m right there with you.
I see this as a FANTASTIC opportunity, if WP’s can see it. This year is the year where many people will need to start taking more responsibility for their own health.
Do you have other offerings besides just time slots?
If you have not already begun to position yourself as a practitioner who isn’t selling time slots, but an overall strategy, I urge you to start this year to start building an online course, group program, classes, or a membership in addition to your “time slots.”
Give people the tools they need and provide them with a fantastic overall experience that’s worth every penny, without grinding yourself into the ground with the hourly model of delivering care.
It’s a win/win for both the practitioner and the patient. The insurance companies? Ha. Do you care?
This sets the stage for the next few trends I’ll mention:
As people start taking the management of their health into their own hands (The DIY health movement) more people are looking for ways not only to get information, but to stay on track on a monthly basis, get support, and stay motivated.
Online and/or in-clinic memberships (or a combo of the 2) can provide support in between appointments.
It’s a LOT easier than it was when I first got started.
The first step: Create that first handout or that first video. Creating a library of great content takes TIME. We’re talking months or even years to get to the point where it makes sense to charge a monthly fee for access to your membership.
You can still benefit from day ONE by creating something tangible to give to your patients or clients to help them succeed.. Even if it’s just a simple checklist for gut healing or a list of ideas for a perfect breakfast or lunch.
4. Self-paced courses that compliment your 1:1 services
Self-paced courses are similar to memberships, but are a one-time purchase. Courses are perfect for the same reasons as memberships, but they are also a great way to introduce people to your work, without having to spend months writing, publishing, promoting, and distributing a book. (Books are still a wonderful asset to have!)
”Cold” leads are far more likely to purchase your online course than your 1:1 services, and courses are far more accessible on a global scale.
When clients or patients “graduate” from your services, a course is the perfect way to “offboard” them so that they can continue on their journey when life gets challenging and it becomes easy to slip back into old habits and patterns.
Courses can be hosted on Teachable, Podia, or even platforms like Kartra or Kajabi. The “barrier to entry” is also much lower than it was even 5 years ago, in terms of both the learning curve and the cost.
Don’t worry about others who already have a course that teaches something similar. The truth is, nobody can do exactly what you do. It’s not just the content, branding, and your expertise. It’s the WHY behind what you deliver, and how you do it, that makes it attractive to the person you are gearing the course for.
In my opinion, the sooner you can get started, the better.
5. Content marketing: Higher quality, but with less pressure (Natural, organic and holistic SEO)
Whether it’s preventing the spread of misinformation or in some cases, outright censorship (or somewhere in the middle) it may be harder for individual clinic owners to compete with larger brands. For example, type in “natural remedies for headaches” and see what comes up in a Google search.
Don’t let this get you down, but you will need to think a little more strategically than you may have in the past.
Content marketing and search are interconnected. In order to position yourself as an expert in your niche, and to be found, you’ll need to produce content with a few strategic keywords, on a consistent basis.
Good news: You can still carve out a niche for yourself, in this “year of the niche.”
Even better news: You can “cheat” and still produce high-quality content. You don’t need to write a blog every week. You can start building a good library of your own intellectual property that you can:
• Re-use, by turning the blog into a podcast, a speech, modules in a course, chapters in a book, etc
• Re-cycle, by promoting the same blog at say, the same time every year. For example, let’s say that every March, you focus on the effects of sugar and sugar addiction. You don’t have to re-write it every time you want to use it. You can dust it off, update it as needed, use it, and put it back on the shelves again for later.
Note: refreshing and updating old content has been shown to improve SEO just as much as creating brand-new content!
• Re-purpose. For example, you can create a weekly live stream that you can record and use the audio for your podcast, or an interview you can transcribe online (using AI tech, such as Otter.ai) and use for a blog. There are many more possibilities.
6. The (further) evolution of SEO
Every year, some experts like to declare that SEO is “dead.” (eyeroll) The truth is, as long as people are searching for stuff on the internet, there will be a need for SOME kind of SEO. Not just for big corporations (who will still need to invest in it) but for solo entrepreneurs as well, to an extent.
Especially for health and wellness practitioners: 80% of people online have searched for a health-related topic online. (1)
Your ideal patient or client is likely to do online research before choosing a healthcare provider or wellness professional. You can be the “Dr. Google” in your niche. Not everyone is looking for the status quo when it comes to health information. That’s why there’s more than one expert in any given profession, and this is a good thing.
One of the reasons why some may dismiss SEO is that SEO doesn’t provide an immediate payoff. SEO is a slow, steady process that pays off in the long run.
SEO is like a garden with crops that thrive on rainfall but grow slowly over time. It pays off in the “long game” with a diversity of crops that aren’t dependent on fancy irrigation systems and fertilizers. SEO is about getting traffic to your site organically, as opposed to paying for that traffic.
Another reason for the periodic “open season” on SEO: You can’t really put classic (Google) SEO and social media into separate categories anymore. Most social media channels are also search engines, especially YouTube and Pinterest, and social media is believed to be a Google ranking factor. They are interconnected.
But.. depending completely on getting traffic from Facebook or Instagram, or any social media channel.. in my opinion, is kind of risky. Optimizing for Google searches, even at the most basic level, is just plain smart.
In 2021, “findability” is going to be more important than ever. YOU can be “Dr. Google.”
Here are some some other reasons why some health and wellness marketing experts like to claim that SEO is either dead or irrelevant:
• The first page in a Google search is a finite resource, and is only getting more crowded and expensive. Like beachfront property in the Bay Area.
This is why, as I mentioned above, if you create a blog entitled “Alternative remedies for headaches” you’ll be outranked by the big players like WebMD, even if their blog is shallow and outdated, and yours is innovative and based on the latest research in your field.
• What “big tech” considers to be “good” information vs. “misinformation” can be very subjective, which many wellness practitioners have discovered, the hard way.
Nor is this process entirely free of politics and conflicts of interest, or lack of rational thought. For example, there is solid evidence that shows that zinc deficiencies are connected to a diminished immune response, but information like this gets bumped in favor of the great mask debate.
Whatever your take is on this, just know that you may need to adjust your game or think creatively and strategically if what you provide are ways to empower people when it comes to their health.
• It’s unrealistic to spend hours and hours descending into the rabbit hole that SEO can become. Trying to predict what Google is going to do next can be like becoming a part-time stock trader.
I can relate.
You do NOT need to waste your energy fighting against any of this, but it does NOT mean that “SEO is dead” or isn’t worth your time. (or money)
And now for some GOOD news…
• Content: The good news is that if you keep creating HIGH quality content that answers the questions that your very SPECIFIC ideal client or patient is looking for, you are already more than halfway there.
• Keywords: “Long tail” (a longer, more specific and targeted phrase) keywords are great for answering specific queries. Although search volume is lower, they are much easier to rank for, making it more likely that visitors will land on your website instead of your competitors’s site.
For example, “Chiropractic” has a huge search volume, but it’s way too competitive to rank for. Even “chiropractors in Tucson” could be competitive. But “10 root causes for headache pain that can be helped with chiropractic I Chiropractic in Tucson” is a phrase (keyword) that not as many people may be searching for, but is less competitive and may better answer the queries that your ideal patient may have.
But you’ve got that niche DOWN, right?
• You may NOT need to rank in the top 5 for every keyword. People are not necessarily clicking on the first thing they see in a search anymore, because there’s more ads and Google features than ever before at the top.
For example, if someone is looking for natural remedies for their headache, and they are a savvy ideal patient, they may be used to scrolling down a bit further to find what they are looking for.
There may still be a gap between what Google algorithms deem is most relevant to a search, and the keywords that business owners use so that they can be found.
Also, take voice search into consideration. What people type and what they say may be entirely different, when looking for a wellness professional.
Think of SEO as a fruit tree that you plant in your garden that takes some work up front, and doesn’t seem to produce quick results. But then after a year or two, it starts to bear fruit with less and less effort.
Remember.. SEO isn’t just about Google: YouTube, Pinterest, and even Facebook and Instagram are/have search engines.
You can also think of it as the “bridge” that will help your ideal client or patient FIND you online!
7. The Decentralization of social media platforms
You may have noticed all the hoopla and drama on social media, with some of the major players being Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and Clubhouse.
There are a lot of people who for various reasons, are not happy with having one centralized place to interact with people online. For better or for worse, I think that checking out other options isn’t so much about “shiny objects’ anymore, but about hedging your bets.
I also think that the original purpose of social media is fundamentally about pleasure. (People avoid pain and seek pleasure) If you discover a platform that makes social media fun for you, this will have a positive effect on how you do business on that platform.
I’m hoping that more choices won’t mean that being online becomes a chore, but becomes more liberating and maybe even exciting. We shall see…
8. Outcome-based group health programs in a new era of empowerment for patients
In the past, a lot of group programs seemed to be based more on support, sometimes to the detriment of actual healing. You know what I mean, those groups full of people who would rather complain and identify with their condition than do anything about it, let alone spend any time or money getting the help they need.
Now, there is more emphasis on individuals having no other choice than to take responsibility for their own health. The focus is on EMPOWERMENT.
These types of groups work VERY well for chronic conditions that can be controlled or even resolved via lifestyle changes and methods previously considered more “marginal” than mainstream.
Think diabetes, post-menopausal weight gain, or hormone imbalances.
You don’t have to focus on a condition, either. An outcome can also be “anti-aging” or optimal aging, sports performance, or learning how to cook delicious AND healthy dishes in the post-COVID era.
I don’t think of this as a trend to adapt to, as a wellness professional. We are going to have to take the lead.
9. Clear, concise, and patient-centered websites
I still see a lot of health and wellness websites that leave me wondering exactly what it is they do.
For example, a lot of functional medicine websites don’t focus on the patient, but the methodology. Even when it’s not confusing, it’s not always crystal clear how the service can help take a patient from A to B.
LIfe coaches and healers make a similar mistake by making weak and vague promises like “helping you step into your power” or “holding space.” These phrases mean almost nothing. The focus also tends to be on the healer, or coach, not the patient or client.
This year, websites will need to be CRYSTAL CLEAR and concisely explain the benefits to the visitor.
One of the more popular ways for achieving this goal is the Story Brand framework.
Storybranding isn’t a new concept but it’s not going away any time soon. Websites that are confusing, make the practitioner or clinic the “hero” of the story, (instead of the patient or client) or that don’t make it VERY easy to book online, will likely not be very effective. Visitors will bounce off the site, never to return.
More than ever before, a health and wellness website needs to be patient-centered, not doctor-centered.
10. A diversity of offerings
This includes your 1:1 services, bundled, value-added hybrid packages, and some of the options I discussed above. Ideally, you want to have a combination of these so that:
• More people can have access to your expertise. This means that you can help MORE people. It’s not smart to do this by lowering your prices (yes, you heard that right) because it ultimately serves neither you, the industry, nor ultimately your patients or clients.
There are better ways to make your services and expertise accessible, and as I mentioned above, it’s not up to us to help everyone. An acupuncturist is not an emergency service provider.
• You meet people where they are at. If they are not yet aware of how you can help them, you can create free educational offerings. If they are more inclined to go the DIY route, they also have options. Your 1:1 service, much like seeing your favorite band live, is going to cost more than a “one to many” offering, (such as an album.) This also means that you have created a natural progression for them to move through, without having to sell.
• You benefit from not putting all your eggs in one basket. Many who have had to close their clinics, even temporarily, are now taking steps to make sure that slow periods, cancellations, emergencies, weather, and pandemics don’t put them in a vulnerable position. Diversification of income is also the best way to scale and earn more income than you possibly could if you were JUST selling your time, because the time limit that puts a cap on what you can earn doesn’t exist with other methods of earning income.
If you want a comprehensive solution for ways to diversify your income and offerings, check out the Future Proof Your Practice Toolkit.
11. Virtual and hybrid events (advanced)
Obviously, virtual events have made a lot of sense in 2020. They are probably here to stay, even as live events start to make their way back.
Virtual events not only make your event accessible during lockdowns. They are a great solution for people that don’t live in your geographical area to gain access to your event, your ideas, and options to buy from you.
If you are wondering if this is legal, the answer is probably yes.. There are ways to do this, even in places with heavy regulations such as California and Ontario.
Many states allow practitioners to practice within their state. When you start thinking about adding a “coaching hat,” you can expand even further.
You can also combine live and online events in creative ways.
I’m not going to lie.. There’s a LOT of work that goes into creating an event of any kind, especially when there are multiple speakers or presenters. The easiest way to set up the “tech” part is by using Kartra and purchasing a ready-made virtual summit funnel.
You’ll still have to do the outreach, interviewing, recording, editing, etc, but it’s entirely possible, and could really grow your email list quickly. You can also sell a VIP pass so that those who want access to all the recordings for a lifetime can pay for it.
This isn’t the ONLY way to leverage events that you host. I’m predicting that many innovative entrepreneurs will find interesting ways to create live, virtual, and hybrid events in 2021.
You can also keep it simple. A hybrid event could simply mean the talks and workshops you have already hosted, with an option for people to join virtually and/or have access to recordings.
I created my own “hybrid” package simply by offering acupuncture services in my clinic along with a digital course and some other VIP benefits. You can find out more about how this might work for you by taking this quiz.
You have MANY options this year!
12. Email is still as strong as ever
Want to know what hasn’t changed?
The longevity winner for all things digital marketing goes to EMAIL marketing. It’s like that old pair of jeans that you turn to because they fit well.
Email also isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon, even if “clickbait” headlines like to grab your attention by saying that it’s dead every year.
It’s not just me, either. Almost every single other digital marketing expert will tell you the same.
Email isn’t sexy, but it’s the best place to keep the conversation going and maintain a relationship with your list. It has a far more impressive ROI than any other channel, at around $37 per each dollar spent.
Statistically, email is by far the most likely place where someone will end up buying that high-ticket item from you, because they already let you into their inbox, and because of this, you will provide nothing less than a generous dose of high-quality info to earn their trust.
You also own it outright, which isn’t the case for social media platforms.
You can use email to promote and deliver your new program, event, membership or course as well!
The bottom line.. Pick even 1 or 2 strategies (besides email, which is an absolute essential) and start building some momentum.
If you are a natural strategist.. you may have already started assembling your own strategy.
You could end up WAY ahead of the game.. in time for the year of the TIGER!
Need help coming up with a strategy for 2021?
You may be 100% ready to implement a strategy. There’s only one problem:
You need to get your first vision out into the world FAST.
This is why I created the Future-Proof Your Practice Toolkit. It’s a step-by-step strategy, laid out for you in an easy-to-follow chronological format.
From mindset to tech, I’ve got you covered.
Learn more about the Future Proof Your Practice Toolkit.