7 Biggest Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Most natural health practitioners continue making several of the 7 biggest mistakes – year after year. You do not have to be one of them. Work through this document and implement what you learn and you will see how the success with your practice increases.
Mistake 1: Being a Jack of All Trades
Most natural health practitioners have a wall full of certificates of different modalities they have studied in. If you are one of them, you might be missing out on one of the most important ingredients to success.
Who is Successful?
Have you ever studied the natural health practitioners in your town that are really successful? One thing they all have in common is that they are known for one really specific thing: either one modality or one type of problem they are treating. When you hear other people talking about them; they will always refer to that same thing. When you look at their marketing materials; it will highlight that one important thing.
Being a Specialist
So why are specialists doing so well? The obvious reason is that it is much easier for clients to talk about a specialist and refer her or him on. Before they come they would have heard a specific message about that person (be it from another client or any marketing material). When they are there, the experience matches what they heard and so they can pass that same message on. With a generalist, it is often hard to clearly define what they do and the message is weak.
The more subtle reason is that they are becoming more successful with their treatments by concentrating on one problem and learning everything about it. There is no question about it, no matter how much you study theoretically, only practice and experience can really make you a master in what you do. And focusing your energies on becoming a master in one specific area will get you there much quicker than spreading yourself too thin.
The biggest fear seems to be that you are losing clients if you cannot offer a broad range of services. As long as you are talking about potential clients you might lose, focus on being a specialist. You have probably tried the generalist approach in the past. Today you have exactly as many clients as that approach could bring you. If you want to get ahead, become a specialist and see how the outcome improves.
Mistake 2: Producing a Brochure/Leaflet
A brochure/leaflet seems to be one of the first things any health practitioner thinks of when thinking marketing. Depending on the financial situation, a high gloss brochure is produced, or a DIY which is copied on coloured paper. Both approaches are big mistakes and cost you time, money and clients. The cheap home-made brochure is actively damaging your business. You are a professional with trained skills. Do not devalue them with sub- standard marketing material. Professional graphic designers & printing have become cheap enough to warrant the expense. Just compare it to the investment you have made into your education.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is about building relationships with your clients and starts long before any advertising is done. Your target market, their problem and your solution are the basis. The better defined these are, the more quickly will you get to know your target market, and the better you know your target market, the more quickly will you be able to define these elements. There is no better way to getting to know your target market than through networking (see mistake 4).
The Critical Elements in Marketing
The headline (or title) is said to account for 70-80% of the success of a marketing tool. Treat it like that and spend sufficient time to get it right. Write multiple headlines over a few days and test the best ones with friends or even some of your clients to find what is most successful. The better it resonates with your target market’s problem, the better it works.
Rather than listing features, show the benefits. Features are what you do, benefits are the positive outcomes for your clients.
Testimonials are stories which add credibility by others telling them for you. It is best to interview your clients (or just take note of what they say), write it into a suitable form and ask for their permission to use it.
Give a great guarantee to reduce the risk for your clients. Services cannot be tested before buying. A guarantee substitutes that. And if you ever get someone taking you up on it, use that as a learning opportunity to improve your service. There are very few free-loaders who just do something to get the money back.
Offers have to be in line with the value of your service. Think carefully (and test) what your market really values. It is the perceived value that draws people, not the monetary value. So use this to show your appreciation. And think of ideas, other than discounting. Always finish all of your marketing materials with a clear call to action.
This does not have to be the purchase. Instead it could be the next step in building a trusting relationship. Include your contact details!
The Most Effective Tools
A business card that includes the above elements is your most important marketing tool. People want to be treated by people they trust. After meeting you personally or through a referral, the business card can act as a reminder to act on the good personal impression.
Vouchers that are linked in with a business partner, so that you ride on the trust that exists between the business and their clients. A website is cheap to produce and flexible to test different approaches.
In any case, it is essential to plan what marketing tools you will use over the course of 12 months and plan your budget accordingly. The most effective marketing is through building the relationship with existing clients and referrals. So your marketing tools should support those efforts first, before trying to reach total strangers.
Mistake 3: Neglecting Your Current Clients
Do you know the feeling of always being the one to contact a friend and never being contacted in return? It will not take long until you stop calling her a friend and then stop making contact. Now ask yourself how often you have made contact with your current clients? If you have ever done it, you are far ahead of other health practitioners. Most just wait for clients to call for the next appointment.
Make follow-ups a part of looking after your clients. Focus on their wellbeing, rather than on trying to sell them another appointment and you will see how much more they will come to you. The time-frame for follow-ups really depends on your modality and you have to choose what is appropriate. However, the maximum time to leave between contacts is 3 months.
If you provide a great service and your clients are happy with you, you are actually doing them a favour by asking for referrals. Why? Because they will have the satisfaction of having helped one of their friends to solve a problem and they will have helped you to get a new client. The best time to ask for referrals is after they have seen you a few times and are getting better. Use the time before a session when you just chat to ask whether any of their friends might benefit from your service as well. Most people do not actively think about it, but when they do, can think of others who have the same problem. They might tell you someone or just start thinking. If they told you someone, you can refer to that person at the end of your session and make a special offer that your client can pass on to their friend.
Make sure you always thank the referrer when a new client comes because of them.
Mistake 4: Hiding at Home
Most health practitioners I know are waiting for new clients to call. This will only happen when you become active and start networking. Just putting your marketing materials out there is not enough. People want to purchase from people they trust. And trust builds up as a relationship builds. Networking means getting to know people, their interests, their needs and connecting individuals that might benefit from each other. Networking does not mean selling your services to whoever you meet.
Let me repeat that: Networking does not mean selling your services to whoever you meet. If that is your goal networking easily becomes a nuisance and a strain on your nerves, because you will fail many times (in fact each time someone you talk to does
not end up as a client of yours). Successful networkers have the best interest of the people they meet in mind. Realise that most people feel uncomfortable at networking meetings. Think about how you can make others feel comfortable.
Another excellent way to get out there is to speak at functions. Not only will you be the expert that everyone looks up to and wants to meet, you can also educate your audience how they can deal with their problem. When you do that, keep your education well away from selling your services. The audience has to feel that you genuinely want to help or educate with your talk and not just sell your services.
On the other hand, try to get your audience’s contact details, so that you can follow up.
If speaking is not your thing at all, do not force yourself. Publishing articles in magazines that your target market reads is equally as effective. Again make sure that you write about what interests the readers. They have to feel that they got a whole lot of useful information. Then there could be a small bio box which might have your contact details or web address and your specialist statement in it.
Mistake 5: Failing to Plan
When you started out as a natural health practitioner, you might have had a clear vision of what you wanted to contribute to your clients’ wellbeing. Most health practitioners lose that vision in the struggle for clients. Or it becomes so vague that it is not guiding your decision making any longer.
Build a Strong Vision
Any vision needs to be built on your passions. They can best be felt by how exciting it is for you to follow them. Go for your most exciting passion and turn that into a vision by painting a detailed mental picture of what life is like when you have reached it. Make sure, you not only include your own life but also that of your clients, so that your concern for their wellbeing will always guide you.
Just having a vision is not enough either. It needs to be matched by a plan of how to get there. This plan needs to have very clear next steps and can be more loose in the future when you are getting closer to reaching your vision. One of the best ways to develop this plan is to plan backwards. Think about what happens immediately before you reach your vision, and then the step before that and before that, until you reach the single most important next step you need to take today to achieve your vision. With the single most important next step you need to make sure you have complete control over it and you are not overwhelmed by it. If either does not apply, break it down further. As you take the single most important next steps each day, you will have to rethink your plan to get clarity on the next single most important steps.
Mistake 6: Working Without Financial Stability
Financial stability means that your income is equal to or higher than your living expenses on an ongoing basis. Why is the lack of financial stability an important mistake in the successful running of a health practice? If you worry about whether the next income is going to be enough to cover your expenses, you are stressed. This reduces the focus you can put on building trusting relationships with your clients, because you always have in the back of your mind that they need to come for a session.
Working Out Your Financial Position
A time-frame of 6 to 12 months is normal to build up a sustainable client base if you really work on it actively. So when you start out (or want to take your practice to the next level), do a quick calculation on how much money you need to survive the next 12 months (it is always good to plan on the safe side). Take into account your private expenses like rent (or mortgage), electricity, water, rates, phone, car, food, fun things you do (cinema, eating out, holidays), insurance. Add your health practice expenses like consumables, equipment you need to purchase, marketing you want to do (any advertising, business cards or website), any additional training to update your skills, membership in an association, insurance, a lawyer, accountant or bookkeeper and any other expenses. Add that up and put an extra 10% safety on top for any expenses you might have forgotten. Then add up the income for the next 12 months you can be certain of (e.g. interest payments from an investment, child care benefits, other government support, a job you might have, etc).
If you had a stable income from your clients in the past 3 months (either the same amount each week or rising continuously), you can also factor that in.
Are You in a Stable Position?
Now compare your total expenses with your total income. If the income is higher than the expenses, you are financially stable. If the expenses are higher than the income, you are unstable and are losing money. Please note that you might need to factor taxes into this calculation as well. If you are uncertain how to do that, speak to your accountant.
If you are in a financially unstable position, there are two long term solutions: reduce your expenses or/and increase your income. To increase your income you could get a part-time job that covers the gap until your practice has grown to a secure level of income. To hope for more clients to solve the financial instability usually puts more stress on you which puts a strain on the relationship with your clients and reduces chances of your success. Once you are in a financially stable position, it is time to concentrate on actively building your client base. Now you can do that from a place of strength with their best interest in mind.
Mistake 7: Doing it Alone
Human beings are most successful when interacting with others. We all have unique qualities and skills and it is very seldom that someone can succeed by working alone. Health practitioners who work from home are usually alone, making all business decisions by themselves. The results are less than ideal.
By sharing with others a much broader pool of wisdom can be accessed. Outside support also helps to put decisions into perspective.
An accountant is potentially a great source of business support, provided you do not just use him/her at tax time. Accountants can help you set up the best structure for your business and plan how to simplify the bookkeeping.
A coach or mentor who has been in a similar situation is valuable as they can keep you on track and prevent some costly mistakes.
The most important support is peer support. Sharing with other health practitioners what your current challenges and successes are really grounds you. By speaking about things to someone who can relate, we often get a better understanding ourselves. And by hearing others’ stories you will also gain awareness.
Another important effect from working with a support team is that you are not only responsible to yourself, but strengthen your resolve by committing to doing things in front of others. This leads to a much more consistent approach to building your practice, rather than haphazardly doing a bit here and there and then letting it rest again. Consistent steps, no matter how small will bring success.