Is the ecosystem of your wellness practice healthy and thriving?
Holistic marketing means happy patients and clients, a healthy business, and a healthy business owner.
Are you willing to take a close look at how ALL the pieces fit together?
Whether you are an acupuncturist, chiropractor, naturopath, coach, or any kind of holistic practitioner you probably are already familiar with what the word holistic really means, despite any connotations or associations the word might have or how you identify with it.
(To be honest, I don’t much care for the way the word is used and almost never use it in my marketing)
Today, I’m going to use the term in its true sense.
Here is the formal definition of holistic:
Holistic: Dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part: My doctor takes a holistic approach to disease, Ecological problems usually require holistic solutions.
It doesn’t mean “fringy” or even “alternative.” It means that focusing on only ONE thing that manifests, whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral, doesn’t tell us the whole story.
You have to look at the entire SYSTEM. Isn’t this just common sense?
Just like it can be tempting to treat something off balance with a pill that throws everything even further off balance, it can be tempting to treat marketing as a laundry list of isolated activities.
The results are the same.
One problem I’ve been witnessing lately is about how allopathic the general approach to health and wellness marketing has been over the years. The tendency is to get advice from experts that only know their area of expertise.
This tends to create a lot of confusion as wellness entrepreneurs, who out of frustration tend to bury their heads in the sand, ignoring the lifeblood of their business: getting new patients in a consistent and predictable manner instead of just praying that they “walk in their door.”
The truth is, if you want to build your OWN empire, based on your OWN vision, leveraging your OWN intellectual property and assets built on your OWN platform.. you are going to have to learn the basics of marketing. Our brains are wired to think in terms of holistic systems.
While sometimes it’s good to more or less “stay in your lane” (I made a conscious decision to focus on organic traffic and form partnerships with experts in paid traffic) or to delegate some of the things we don’t have the time or inclination to deal with, I think that it’s important to have a broad knowledge so that we can see how each “piece” of our business fits together.
Again, I can’t stress this enough. This isn’t just for me, who does marketing for a living. This is important for anyone that has their own business.
This can be tricky.
Marketing experts range from excellent to truly awful. This can make it confusing for a lot of health and wellness professionals, so it pays to be aware.
First, they must understand what our industry is about. I’ve had a successful acupuncture practice, so I understand the frustrations and concerns that we have.
Let me give you an example of what I’ve been seeing from some marketing experts who can only seem to grasp one piece of what it means to be a wellness entrepreneur.
Recently I saw an article from a local SEO expert. I did learn a few tips from this article. But it was so obvious that it was written from a single, myopic and now outdated perspective
Here’s a list of things that were not taken into consideration, which are absolutely foundational to creating a healthy business ecosystem in our industry, in 2021:
1. There is more than one way to run a practice. Marketing isn’t just about being the “#1 coffee shop that shows up on Google.”
Today, it’s equally important to consider how a local business wants to position itself and who its ideal (and less than ideal) patients are. For example, “doing all the SEO” in order to be seen ONLY as the “best acupuncture clinic in Denver” seems silly in today’s market in which it makes more sense to be known for something other than being conveniently located. The best at WHAT?
Even a coffee shop that sells a commodity.. (coffee) knows this by now.
2. Not everyone is ready to buy from us at any given moment. When considering how you want to be found in a Google search, it is important to consider something called search intent.
There is a huge difference between someone searching for “chiropractor near me” and “can chiropractic help me with my persistent headaches.”
The first person is ready to buy. This can be a good thing, but it can also mean that you might get a lot of people that treat your practice like a commodity. This can actually put a lot of strain on a business if the business model isn’t set up as a volume-based service. (Yep, a patient mill)
I know from personal experience as an acupuncturist that my practice only thrived after I discovered that I didn’t need to serve EVERYONE and that seeing 100’s of patients per week wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I was already thinking about location independence, for one thing, and I wanted to leverage my TIME. I also preferred to deliver transformational care than transactional care.
This meant that I had to screen out the kinds of patients that were actually hurting my business and draining my energy.
I knew the EXACT kinds of patients that were only interested in “acupuncture in Littleton, CO” and they were not the kinds of patients I wanted to work with. I attracted my best and most loyal patients using entirely different tactics that didn’t position me as a commodity.
The second searcher is in the research stage. People in this stage should NOT be ignored! The reason: It takes on average over 10 points of contact before someone actually buys from you. That’s more than it was even a few years ago.
To me, this is perfectly fine. I WANT people to come in who are more informed, so that the time we spend together is more focused and deep.
For more about how this journey looks like for both you and your clients or patients, I have something really cool for you.
3. Most people do research online before making any decisions about healthcare. They don’t choose our services like they would choose a restaurant, and they don’t even rely completely on online reviews. They want to know what sets you apart from every other acupuncturist, chiropractor, naturopath, or coach. This applies whether you are marketing to a local area only, or are starting to discover that you can diversify your income by reaching a global audience.
This is why content marketing is still a good idea.
Having a blog or video is a way to establish yourself, solidly in your niche, and to meet people where they are at in their journey. It’s a smart way to position yourself in a sea of competitors all doing the same thing.
Holistic practitioners also have a tendency to be aware of only one “part of the elephant.”
1. Putting up a website ONLY because everyone else is doing it, and only if it’s cheap, and it’s easy. This is like taking a low-quality drugstore supplement because you heard that it’s good for you, but you don’t want to do any research or spend any money. Yet you still think you are getting a good bargain even if all you accomplished was wasting $8.99.
2. Focusing on the “tactic” du jour. Maybe it’s Instagram reels this month. And last month it was Clubhouse. Before that you were told to do a Facebook live every other day. Before that, writing a blog for the sake of writing a blog was the thing that would get you more clients or patients. Before that, you wasted a few hundred dollars on poorly targeted Facebook ads. And even before that, you asked a web developer to make sure that your website “had good SEO.” (That’s not how SEO works!!)
The GOOD news is, if you have done some of these things and didn’t see any results, or even “failed,” you learned a lot about marketing.. And that it’s a LOT like learning a system of medicine.. Whether it’s TCM or functional medicine, there is no “magic pill.”
There are some protocols that get fast results. There are some that are more about the “long game.” Others are dependent on other parts of the system. Much is about customization, and if we are honest, a bit of trial-and-error.
The bottom line isn’t about any one tactic. It’s about a basic strategic framework that you can plug these tactics into. I’ll be honest, there is no “big secret proven formula” at work here. Something that a guru tells you is “proven” to work, may not work for YOU.. but the basic framework is pretty much the same no matter which source you refer to.
Your basic strategy can start out pretty simple, but like many types of holistic medicine, isn’t entirely linear.
I think most of you will be ok with that! We’ll start with the basics.
How to start expanding your awareness
Before you learned to diagnose based on the data you were given and come up with a treatment plan, you had to learn all the vocabulary and “Pieces” of your system. Acupuncture points, normal hormone ranges, herbs and supplements, basic surface anatomy, and more.
The same is true for marketing. I talk about this in depth in my blog about the 9 components of an effective marketing strategy.
If you are completely new to the world of digital marketing, start here with my glossary of marketing terms.
Briefly, here are some of your “building blocks” you can use in 2021. Keep in mind you do NOT have to use all of these. The point is to build something and use it CONSISTENTLY, based on what works for you and your ideal client or patient.
1. A social media channel you can devote an hour to each week. For some, video might make the most sense. (You can cross-post) for others, building a community (Facebook excels at this)
Others may choose to start a podcast, because they want to start collaborating with peers, because they speak well but don’t want to show up on video, and because their ideal client loves to consume information while doing something else, like driving, walking, or cleaning the house.
2. Content or as I prefer to call it.. intellectual property. This includes everything you create, even posts on your chosen channel, as I mentioned above. It’s also a good idea to consider that a large percentage of people are actively searching for health care online. This includes people in the research stage.
That’s why blogging is still a classic way to “get found” online. SEO is mostly about WORDS. The more you talk about what you do and how you do it in a way that is different or better than everyone else, AND use the phrases that your ideal client or patient will actually be typing into a search, the more likely it is that your website will rank (show up in a search near the top) for that keyword (phrase)
This is also why I HIGHLY discourage practitioners from using a service that writes low-quality, generic and syndicated content. This won’t help you and can even hurt your SEO, your business, and your branding and reputation.
Remember, posting on social media is also considered content and yes, your intellectual property. Even though social media has traditionally been more about discovery than intentional search, there is still some element of search on social media, so when creating your posts, keep this in mind.
Think YouTube.. Do you use it to search for something specific, like how to do something.. anything from how to install tile to how to stop a dog from barking to how to make gluten-free brownies? (or special brownies)
You can leverage video this way, by using keywords and tags in your video description and settings.
It also works for visual information. Pinterest is also a search engine. It works very well for recipes, “infographics” for health and wellness tips, and a lot more.
3. Email marketing. An email list is also an ASSET you own. It means you have been given permission to contact/reach out to those who opted in to receive emails from you. This is a CORE piece, and it is also “connected” to your other assets and channels.
For example, you can send a broadcast or campaign (a single email) to everyone on your list letting them know about a live online event, a new podcast, or strategically timed offers.
This connection can flow in the other direction as well:
You can post a link in your Facebook group or even in Instagram (I use Linktree) that takes people to a page on your website with an opt-in form.
Once this form gets them on your list, then they can receive a series of automated emails that “warms them up” for something juicy you are offering. (You only have to do this once.. It’s a “set and forget” thing) Hooray!!
This, of course, is no different, and an extension of who you are and what you do already to help people.
You are using tools to help people discover and find you, in a way that takes them through a natural cycle, or journey.
A real-life example of how you can start making connections:
One of my clients is a coach who prefers to communicate with video over writing. Every week or so she does a livestream to her Facebook group. She offers a free gift at the end of each live broadcast by sharing a link to an opt in form. (she speaks it and posts it in the comments, but you can also post in in your streaming software if you are using something like StreamYard, which I recommend)
This way she can get people on her email list, which is a vital part of her funnel or “lead pipeline.”
She is starting out with 1 or 2 of these. They are fairly easy to create (she outsources this to me)
After the live broadcast, she uses otter.ai to transcribe the video into writing. A little editing, a photo or visual, and an intentional but natural addition of keywords, and she has a blog ready to go.
It sounds like a lot, but once you break it down, and do it the first time, the system becomes a repeatable process that makes it easier on you. No more figuring out stuff each time. It becomes more about plugging your content into the “machine.” This saves a LOT of time.
She can get a lot of mileage from these videos and blogs later. The videos can go into a course or membership area, or turn into a podcast. The blogs can be repurposed as a live speaking event or a mini course, or eventually even a book. She’s not at this point yet, but she’s building a system she can leverage.
I am doing something similar. Let me tell you.. This process took a few years in order for me to get where I am right now. And now I have a membership, a course, and a few other assets/offerings I can sell so that I can diversify my income and no longer depend on selling my time. I can also raise my 1:1 prices.
Now, it’s YOUR turn. Let’s brainstorm a few more examples or possibilities.
Think about how you could leverage YouTube as a yoga teacher, and then connect it to the other “pieces” of your holistic marketing plan. (Also known as a funnel, when you draw it out like a flowchart or process to make it easy to track)
Or how you could leverage Pinterest if you had a hormone balancing program and integrate email or any other channels of communication you have.. both online and offline. into your flow.
Benefits of creating a holistic marketing plan
• You can capitalize on the synergy of these systems. As you start to implement in an intentional manner, the momentum and energy increases. For example, your blog or your Facebook group posts can get more people on your email list. Your email list can boost your blog and send more people to your Facebook group. An upward spiral!
• You can tailor your plan according to your unique communication style, preferences, and brand.
I happen to love podcasting, and have plans to make this one of my main marketing tools, but having a blog in place makes it much easier. I already have a library of ideas to draw from as well as new ones, and as my business grows my content will evolve and need updates.
You may LOVE video or have a genius for Instagram or Pinterest or teaching others via webinars/masterclasses.
• Diversification: If one component isn’t performing well, you have other platforms and assets that you own.. Including your email list, your website, and your own intellectual property to fall back on. This is one reason why I think it’s smart to have a solid email list and build a library of blogs and podcasts that you own and can use anywhere. If Facebook disappears tomorrow, everything you created there, including your contacts, will also disappear.
How to get started.
Think about each of these items as a wheel with a hub and spokes.
1. A platform. Where is the “library” or “vault” where you will store/host your intellectual property? Where will you capture leads? The place that will serve as the hub of your ecosystem will be your website, even if it’s a simple site or landing page.
Now for the spokes. (This illustration is just an example, you can chose just a few spokes to begin with that work for you)
2. Decide on your primary content type. Do you like to write? Blog consistently, and leverage the hell out of it. It doesn’t matter if your blogs are longer or shorter, as long as you answer the questions your ideal client or patient is looking for in a search.
Google no longer favors superficial content. For example, if you write a blog about 10 tips for wellness, let’s say a 300 word listicle about obvious things like “get more sleep” or “drink more water,” how likely is the visitor going to stick around? If you guessed that the searcher will bounce off to find an article that provides a new perspective or goes a little deeper, they will, contrary to what you may have heard, prefer this. Even if they have the attention span of a gnat.
Attention spans are not necessarily fatigued by longer articles, when done right or when appropriate. They are fatigued by being bombarded by a lot of “noise” and “fluff,” as well as having to spend extra time sifting through junk to find what we are looking for.
Even if people DO want super generic and basic health and wellness information, they are more likely to end up on a site like WebMD or LiveStrong. What we offer as wellness professionals today goes beyond that..
We are selling a process, a strategy, and results. Who has ever successfully lost weight because of a blog that told them to exercise more or drink more water?
Likely, nobody. Ever.
You can certainly write short blogs, if they provide useful and relevant information. One of my clients, a coach, can deliver a concise and powerful statement in about 300 to 500 words, including her “call to action.”
This approach doesn’t work for me and the kind of information I deliver, which can be complex and layered, involve multiple steps, require research, and keeping track of trends.
(My style isn’t for everyone, but that’s also ok!)
I prefer to write longer, epic articles/blogs that thoroughly answer questions that my ideal client may be searching for. I then “splinter” each epic blog into “snack sized” content for a live broadcast or podcast.
Instead of writing a new blog each week, I honestly write a new one every month or even two, and focus on updating the epic blogs I’ve already written, keeping the core message more or less the same, and maybe refining the keywords. (Tip I don’t mess with the permalink/URL.. This can mess up your SEO.. you have to know what you are doing!)
I have a yearly cycle with monthly themes. I repeat (recycle) the same content once per year. This is not cheating.. It makes SENSE. People don’t catch everything you put out.. and often wait for something cool you created to “cycle back around” again.
This is just one way you can leverage your writing, but certainly not the only way. You can find your OWN voice, groove, and way to repurpose.
Prefer to speak? Consider video or podcasting. You can transcribe VERY easily using an app like Otter.ai. Now you will have show notes, a blog, text for slide decks, a course or program, or whatever you want to use your written content for.
3. Social media: Choose your platform
Think about how you want to deliver your content on social media.
Do you want to:
• Create a community in a Facebook group?
• Leverage YouTube and Pinterest for their search functions?
• Focus on Twitter and Clubhouse which might give you access to some “big players” in your field?
• Capitalize on LinkedIN to position yourself as a thought leader?
• Tell a story with TikTok or Instagram using short videos?
Note” Don’t rule out any of these because you heard TikTok was only for kids or that LinkedIN was only for B2B.. there are older audiences that LOVE short videos, and opportunities for wellness professionals to form collaborations on LinkedIN. You might also even have an advantage of not having so much competition.
In other words, do what makes sense for you, and what YOUR ideal client or patient prefers. It’s not about demographics, but about your niche.
Also, don’t assume you “need” to be on a particular platform because some guru said that it is the best place to be. I don’t like Twitter. So I don’t use it, at least for now. And that’s fine. I focus more on Facebook and soon, podcasting.
I do NOT think that wellness entrepreneurs need to take the “omni channel” approach that some marketing gurus recommend. This only leads to ineffective overwhelm. Pick one or 2.
Don’t worry about being perfect. Your message, communication style, experience, and skill will evolve. The only way to get there is to put it out there!
4. Take the time to get your basic email marketing infrastructure set up. If you are stuck on ths piece, DO get some help. Here is one affordable option.
5. Link it up! Literally. In most cases, the “glue” that holds everything together for your online and even in person..is a shared link.
Look for ways you can share your blog on Facebook or Instagram. I like to use LinkTree so that I can easily share links on Instagram.
Or perhaps how you can share a quick insight along with your latest podcast episode in your email. You can get people on your email list from YouTube or your Facebook live, via a link.
You might need to actually SEE how this works by diving into your platforms and starting to play.
You may want to keep a spreadsheet or some kind of document around with a list of links (URLS) for all the assets (content, intellectual property) you can direct people to or share. You can include the link, the date, the purpose, how well it performed (open rates, comments, page visitors, etc) or any other data you want to track. (I talk about data and key performance indicators and other concepts I mention in this blog in the Future Proof Your Practice Toolkit)
A calendar will help you visually capture each task or element chronologically.. such as “Friday: Facebook LIVE” or “Wednesday: re-post the holistic marketing article link.”
A mind map, which I get into more in depth with in this blog, will help you visualize how the pieces of your funnel interact and flow.
This may seem like “geeky overkill” right now, but as you start to grow, documenting all of this will make life easier for you. I just used my list of lead magnets, blogs, quizzes and trainings to refer to for all the links in this blog. (I have close to 100) If you outsource any of this, it will make it so much easier to hand off your process to someone else.
6. Get even MORE holistic: What is the overall experience you are creating for patients or clients?
From your waiting room to the payment experience online, from your website branding to the way you communicate and deliver services in person, yep, it’s all connected. If your online experience is clunky or you don’t show up, people will be able to tell. Likewise, if you are exhausted from working with patients and clients that drain you, this will show up EVERYWHERE you and your business show up.
Now, write down all the ways that one piece flows into or integrates with another. There will very likely be places where there are bumps that can be smoothed out in your own practice.
A classic example: Many practitioners don’t make it EASY to book an appointment. Strange, or even shocking, but true. (Read Marketing Made Simple or Creating a StoryBrand for more)
I’ve had several clients that relied on one phone number posted at the top of their page. Every CTA was “give me a call so we can talk.” There was no way to book online. I hate making phone calls, but when I did, there was a voice message.
This kind of thing SIGNIFICANTLY reduces the chances of someone choosing you over another practitioner. I certainly would move on to the next on the list, unless the website blew me away.
Another example is how you handle re-schedules, cancellations, payments, reminders, and follow-up emails, and how you pre-qualify patients or clients. If the only place this communication takes place is on a piece of paper attached to your intake forms, you are missing out on MANY subtle ways you can make things smooth, pleasant and effective, all while establishing and enforcing any boundaries you choose to set.
You can use subtle and automated ways to do the work for you. Seriously..
Your home page can send a message of: I’m going to get to the point and let you know how I can help you solve that problem (in their own words) Click here to book. I’ve got this. You’ve got this.
They then find that you know your shit via checking out your blogs and podcasts.
They also see your case studies and 5 star reviews.
With just these 3 or 4 things, they are much more likely to commit.
After they book they get a nice welcoming sequence of emails sent to their inbox, which can replace or support your existing welcome packet. (I’m a BIG fan of onboarding, welcome packets, and welcome goodies for new clients and patients) Everything is spelled out. You clearly explain your policies and your process.
You set up a way that eliminates any awkward conversations or transactional disputes. It’s done, it’s automatic. It makes you look like you know what you are doing, more professional, and able to focus on being the doctor or the coach.
This will take a HUGE load off your shoulders, and make your patients and clients feel at ease too.
Then the magic happens:
They begin love you so much that they sign up for a group program for continuing support and guidance after they “graduate” from your 1:1 services in your clinic.
The group program is contained in a Facebook group with newbies that hear about how cool your services are.
Some of the new members of your tribe will then click on a shared link in the group to get a free recipe book and a series of nurturing emails, leading to an invitation to check out your 1:1 services.
We’ve come full circle!
Start to keep track of these things, because this example is just the tip of the iceberg.
You may also discover, bit by bit, how you can create even more “connections” in your holistic marketing that will have you thinking “Oh, why didn’t I think of that sooner!”
Over time, this will be the natural result. Don’t let the arrows freak you out, the idea here is simply to show how everything eventually connects to everything else.
An example for me in my business: Having a separate calendar with a link I can share to people I might be interested in collaborating with who might want to be a guest for an event or podcast.
Included in the automatic confirmation email is a link for a .pdf document that briefly explains what I’m up to, the interview process, and a also link to my Zoom meeting room for a pre-interview.
This has smoothed out a major “bump” for me: Feeling awkward about approaching potential interview or podcast guests. It also helps my SEO by getting backlinks.
Now, if I meet someone interesting on Facebook or LinkedIN, I can just message them with: ” Hey, I love what you are doing. Would you like to get together to have a conversation about this, or be a guest on an upcoming podcast? I’ll send you a link. Cool!
It gets even better..
If they end up on a live Facebook group event as my guest, it brings in new members. If it requires a registration (one of those nifty opt-in forms) I can BOTH grow my list AND my Facebook group, because I included a link to join my group on the Thank You page that they see when they enter their name and email and click the YES! button.
Obviously, as a guest, they get to promote their products and services. This could lead to being guest for an event or podcast, which would allow me to leverage other people’s networks. Everyone wins!
Don’t worry about the mechanics of all this. Just know that once it is set up, it’s done, automatic, synergystic, and holistic!
Which reminds me..
7. Take your holistic marketing to the next level with speaking events (live or virtual) and collaborating with peers and colleagues.
I firmly believe that instead of trying to force our way up to the #1 position for “acupuncturist near me,”we can think more strategically and holistically by carving out a niche for ourselves and referring the rest out to those who may have previously been strictly our competitors.
One of the best ways to do this is via collaborations, guest appearances, summits, podcasts, and affiliate or joint venture partnerships.
So reach out to that person who really LOVES working with the kinds of patients you don’t enjoy working with, whether they are in the same city as you or not.
So there you have it. Like a good holistic practitioner, you will learn by experience, experimentation, and observing the masters you admire.
Now go have fun with this.. Seriously!
Visual person? I’ve got an infographic just for you, at the bottom of this page. But first..