Rethinking The Business Of Wellness

How To Be A Great Marketing & Consulting Client

By “great” I mean a client who gets the most bang for your buck when you hire us or another marketing firm to help get your fitness, nutrition or wellness business to the next level.

1) Let us help you

True story: for a very short time, we had a client who owned a fairly good-sized wellness business. Her friend “was an artist and had done beautiful artwork for our website.” She insisted on using this art everywhere.

client handshakeExcept that the art didn’t support the marketing messages in any way whatsoever. Plus, it was dated and not actually very good.

But…she didn’t want to hear that, no matter how carefully we said it. And she definitely didn’t want to consider alternatives.

We’ve seen more weight programs, wellness centers, healthy lifestyle programs, yoga studios, fitness businesses, health clubs and other wellness businesses than our clients will see in a lifetime. Our brains are stuffed full of insight into what works, what doesn’t, and why.

You’re paying for that insight, so let us do what you’re paying us to do.

2) Challenge your preconceptions

We once worked very briefly with a client who had certain terminology that they liked to use to describe their online wellness programs. The problem was that this preferred terminology was not in widespread use. Customers used a completely different vocabulary to describe and search for these services, which meant that their business really suffered in terms of search engine and website visibility. They were web-only, so this was a major roadblock to growing the business.

We explained that to them in a non-obnoxious way. We offered alternative wording and talked about ways to introduce their preferred terminology without betting the business on it.

The CEO was so mad that we challenged their preferred terms that they fired us. Seriously. Well, technically we both agreed not to work together – but you get the idea.

3) You are not your customer

It’s a human tendency to look at an idea and say “Well, in MY opinion, I would want…”.

This is an especially dangerous path for fitness, nutrition and wellness businesses.

Most of you are nothing like your customers and never have been. You’ve never once actually walked in their shoes.

Even if you did–say you struggled with weight and eventually got a handle on it–the simple fact that you found a way forward and built a business out of what worked for you means that you are not like your prospective clients who, to date, have experienced nothing but failure.

So don’t judge ideas by whether or not you like them. Picture your typical prospective customer, and think about how they’ll react.

4) And your friends and family aren’t either

It’s a good idea to share business plans and marketing ideas with people who “get” your business AND understand the mind of your prospective customer. That person is usually not your best friend from college, your spouse, or someone from church.

As you consider your circle of professional and personal acquaintances, look for folks who have entrepreneurial experience in small and medium-sized businesses. It’s also useful to get input from people with experience in different industries, too. If  you sell B2C, look for people with consumer experience; if you sell to businesses, look for advice from people with that experience.

Then give these folks free rein to poke holes in ideas, spot potential gotchas, and come up with ideas for improving what you’re considering.

5) Simple but not easy

I can hang a picture – but I can’t build a house.
Like hammers, words are simple tools.
They can be used in simple ways by people with limited skills and expertise.
And in the hands of people with experience and know-how, they can be used in sophisticated and complex ways.

There’s a big difference between “I can type” vs “I can tell a story with words that turns potential clients into paying customers.”

Like building a house, crafting marketing communications tailored to your specific business that capture the interest of prospective customers and move them forward in the buying process is hard work that distills years of experience and know-how.

(Also in this category: your friend’s kid who just graduated with a marketing degree and is pretty sure we’re doing it all wrong. Um, no. We’re not going to rewrite your customer comments just because the new grad thinks they sound corny. In marketing, we call that “authentic and truthful” and it is priceless. And your opinion that blue is a “boring color” will be fairly surprising to BMW.)

6) No English-teacher critiques

Do you ask your sister the math teacher to check your complicated corporate tax returns? Of course not.

So don’t ask your brother the English teacher to critique our marketing content. The often-arbitrary rules that apply to high school term papers simply don’t apply to marketing.

Explaining to you that, yes, it’s okay to have just one word in a headline if it’s the perfect word, that it’s okay to use bullet points, sentence fragments and contractions — none of that’s a good use of your budget.

7) Watch for signs that you’re stuck

I had a recent conversation with a moderately successful consumer wellness business. They want to start offering wellness services to employers. So far so good.

They were planning to kick things off by cold-calling employers. I’m not a fan of cold-calling because it’s a roll of the dice. What are the odds that companies you call out of the blue are in the market for your wellness services? Not high.

So I asked them what they would do when employers said “We’re not interested right now.” Because that is exactly how most companies respond to cold calls.

My contact said “It just seems like this is such a great product, we just need to reach employers.”

And I said again, “What will you do after your first call? Most employers aren’t going to be ready to buy right away, so how will you stay top of mind? Webinars? A newsletter? Some kind of download?”

And my contact said “It just seems like this is such a great product, we just need to reach employers.”

And I said, “How will you qualify them as prospects – make sure they have the money, the intent to buy and so forth?

And my contact said “It just seems like this is such a great product, we just need to reach employers.”

This is a real-life example. I share it here to make the point that when you use an outside expert, you’re paying them to ask (and help answer) hard questions.

It’s perfectly OK for a client to say “Great question, I’m not sure what we’ll do about that, I’m hoping you have some ideas.”

But an inability to get unstuck from your initial excitement about the concept, so that you can see and conquer the very real hurdles you face, is a serious problem.

8) (Reality) check, please!

We’ve worked with big and small wellness businesses. None of them had unlimited budgets–but all of them had earmarked funds to invest in marketing and strategy to get their business to the next level.

They all had more ideas than they had money (very common, and a good problem to have). So what they needed was help picking and choosing which marketing activities to implement, given their financial constraints.

Using outside experts to help you plan before you spend is smart. Because we’re not marinating in your business all day, every day, it’s often easier for us to discern your strengths and weaknesses than it is for you.

We encountered a women’s wellness center in the Midwest that spent well into the six figures on expensive, elaborate print marketing materials. They distributed these materials throughout their entire community (the print marketing equivalent of a cold call, right?). They literally did not get a single customer from that marketing initiative. What was their mistake?

Among other things, using a very expensive marketing technique that targeted unqualified prospects with  no demonstrated interest in their business. That kind of marketing investment is best reserved for potential clients who’re already showing signs of interest in what you have to offer.

It was a mistake that could have easily been prevented. The truly sad part is that they had a great healthy lifestyles program with a lot of business potential – they just didn’t make smart marketing investments to support it.

9) No sacred cows

Ideas are just ideas. Don’t get wedded to them. One of our clients benefited greatly from direct mail–but it took much longer than it should have to get them to try it, because they had no prior experience with it. Yet this was hands-down the best marketing choice for them, given their business goals.  One of the first marketing initiatives we kill for many clients is health fairs. Yep, everyone does them, but they’re one of the least successful marketing activities in the industry.

I’ve seen wellness businesses that haven’t updated their websites in two years diligently spend hours every week posting on Facebook…posts that no one comments on, no one engages with. They think of it as marketing activity, but it’s not bringing in new customers, nor is it strengthening relationships with current clients. They worry incessantly about getting more “likes” and followers.

Meanwhile, their most effective marketing tool, their website, is covered in cobwebs.

Remember that the whole point of marketing is to keep your business top of mind with potential clients until they’re ready to buy. If your marketing isn’t achieving that goal, it’s not really marketing. It may be “busy work that feels like marketing” but that’s not the same thing.

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