26 May 2009

Projecting Expertise

Last week I spoke to two groups of naturopathic medical students about marketing their practices after graduation. As expected, there was some resistance to the concept of marketing themselves as an expert when just out of school. This is a normal and appropriate concern.

And it's not just my ND clients who have trouble with this claim. My counselor clients also feel inhibited about calling themselves a specialist. Naturopathic doctors and psychotherapists alike are trained to be generalists, and marketing as a specialist rubs uncomfortably against that.

Plus, let's face it, a lot of us in the healing arts are recovering from poor self-esteem and low confidence. It stretches our own belief in ourselves to say out loud that we have expertise in anything. If I could give us all a pill for that, the magic med would erase all the early life programming we've experienced that damaged our self-concept as relates to the joyful quality we naturally have in childhood when we KNOW we can do anything.

But I digress. One way around this marketing need to project expertise, while still staying in integrity with the truth, is a very simple language shift. In the examples here, do you spot the difference?
  • I'm an expert anxiety counselor. Or, My expertise is in eliminating anxiety and depression.
  • I specialize in helping women with anxiety gain confidence and freedom from debilitating worry.
In the first example, the claim implies a high level of experience, extra rigorous training, or something beyond the average accumulation of education and years in business. (It also is rather egocentric, and just begs to be proven with statistics or some other quantifiable method).

The second example defines a narrow scope of interest and merely says
this is where I put most of my attention -- it's what I like doing best. The focus remains on the client type, their problem, and the result they want, rather than staking a claim about myself. It directly states that my role is facilitation of the client's work.

The second example is much different in that it doesn't claim to know everything about anything. It simply states what is true from day one after graduation -- I'm a helper.

If you are graduating this spring as an ND or a therapist and you can't say you're a helper -- well, why did you choose this profession?

09 May 2009

Two Key Strategies to Attract & Keep Affluent Clients

Just listened to a tele-class hosted by Fabienne Frederickson and Kelly O'Neil -- two coaches doing fabulously well in this downturned economy by targeting affluent clients. Affluence is defined by them as people with household incomes of $85,000 and up.

One key they emphasized is really no different from marketing to anyone -- and that is, know who your client is, understand what they want, save them time and/or money in getting it, and position yourself as the credible expert for providing it.

In addition, though, the affluent in particular want to be treated as special and important to your business. So little gestures of client appreciation go a long way. Ideas for coaches, counselors and NDs about what those gestures can be include:

1. send birthday cards with hand written note -- to household members that are important to them, such as their kids, and even their pets!

2. send thank you gifts when they refer someone who ends up to be a client -- bottle of wine, gourmet goodie basket, anything extra nice, and make sure your logo is on it!

3. give exclusive access to you -- via a special cell phone number or email address reserved just for them.

4. follow up, check in, give extra attention -- make them feel special, cared about, and like you really want their ongoing business.

03 May 2009

Marketing Misconceptions

If I had to brainstorm a list of the most common misconceptions about marketing a private practice as a counselor, coach or naturopathic doctor, I'd name these ideas frequently voiced by my clients.

  1. mass market advertising is the best way to make people aware of your services
  2. all a professional website needs is a description of your services, including benefits, and your contact info
  3. joining a networking group is essential for getting new clients
  4. a postcard campaign to referral sources announcing the opening of your business will bring in enough referrals
  5. spend a week or so on marketing and then get down to business

There are likely many more misconceptions, and I may start keeping a list! But really, what's wrong with these ideas?

Each of these notions -- except #3 -- is rooted in the idea that there is a magic formula for attracting client that can be accomplished once, and never need ongoing tending. Most self-employed professionals don't realize that building a business is a fulltime job in itself, and that marketing is the most time and energy intensive activity we must continually do if we want to be successful.

Misconception #3 is usually wrong because we join general interest business groups, which is not usually where our clients are -- or because other networkers are intent on getting us as their clients.

Instead of these misconceptions, the marketing truths we need to accept are these:

  1. Marketing, like bookkeeping, is a necessary DAILY task -- make it an appointment with success!
  2. For solopreneurs in the healing arts, niche-based, client-centered marketing works. General, provider-centered marketing doesn't work.
  3. Marketing from your personality strengths is more client attracting than trying to copy what works for others.
  4. Market only to your ideal client, and don't waste time and resources on a general public.
  5. Potential referral sources need to know why sending us clients will solve a problem for them, or how it will increase client loyalty for them.
Need more how to info on marketing your practice? See www.TheNoHypeMentor.com

01 May 2009

Do You Have Good Marketing Hygiene?

One of the biggest challenges new and seasoned solopreneurs seem to have is developing the habit of regularity when it comes to marketing. It's a central truth that for marketing to really attract clients, it needs to be done continually. Something -- just one little thing -- should be done everyday that serves your client niche.

A lot of self-employed professionals in the healing arts engage with the care and feeding of their business more like a firefighter than a gardener. We spend our days in crisis mode, putting out one fire after another, rather than patiently and methodically planting and watering seeds, and pulling out weeds. While we may get small flare-ups of clients who are likewise in frantic panic mindset, what we don't get is steady growth of name recognition in the marketplace and a bountiful harvest of ideal clients.

Having good marketing hygiene is like having good self-care hygiene -- it is the set of actions you do that take care of the daily health of your business. Whether it's interacting on a social media or discussion board site, blogging, updating your website, writing articles, giving a talk, attending a networking event or talking a potential referral source to lunch, it's crucial that you do at least one marketing related thing every day.

Plan it, schedule it, and follow through. Make it your business hygiene system for growing a thriving practice. Start today.