Calling this article “11 Ways to Grow Your Holistic Business” implies that the ways to grow holistic businesses are different than for traditional ones. That’s not really true. The ways to grow are pretty much the same. But the essence of how you carry out each step is fundamentally different: to grow your business consciously.
Holistic businesses tend to face unique challenges. All businesses must offer a compelling product or service, make more money than they spend and abide by the laws of their community. For holistic businesses, however, there are other, more difficult issues.
While practitioners are experts in their vocation, they may lack the skills to operate and grow the business. In my experience, they frequently dread the “business” aspect of their work and wish it could be magically taken care of by simply doing their job well. Accounting, managing and marketing are far from joyous for them.
Owners of holistic businesses often struggle to communicate the value of their products and services, which may be new to the people they serve. They believe so much in the good of what they do but find it hard to convince others of it. The “convincing” feels like coercion, and they don’t like to feel as if they are making a person do something. As a result, they are reluctant to even offer; to simply talk about the value of what they do and let people convince themselves.
In the following pages, I will address some of these issues as we cover the ways to grow your business. I’m confident there is at least one idea here you can use immediately to get more customers, improve your business and make your life easier.
1. Set an intention for the business.
What do you intend to do with your business? What’s its purpose in your life, and in the life of your clientele? When you retire in x number of years, what do you want to have occurred? What contribution will you have made? How will your life, and the lives of your clients, be improved?
Setting intentions helps us visualize a final result, or destination. It calls up inspired action in us, as we walk the path towards our destination. Intentions effectively clarify and shape daily work in your business. I recommend having intentions for every business and marketing activity.
2. Establish a brand.
A brand is the promise of value and unique benefits you make to your intended audience about the experience they will have with your product or services. As the soul of your business, your brand guides every action you take. All communication and activities should be in alignment with and reflect your brand identity.
The first step in developing a brand is to identify what value you bring to your clients. The trick here is to look at your gifts from your ideal client’s point of view and to select those qualities that are special, unique and better than anything else out there. There should be rational, logical reasons that clients buy from you, as well as emotional ones.
For example, we feed our dog a natural diet, and I wanted to ensure her yogurt was organic (no chemicals or GMOs for my baby). That’s a rational decision. Emotions come in when I decide which brand to feed her and choose the one with the cutest graphics.
After the Value Identification step, you should consider all the things you can do to let your clients know about you. This is Value Communication. Notice it isn’t limited to advertising your brand or even talking about it. Value communication includes everything from the appearance of your office and your marketing materials (and you, by the way), to the price you charge and the events you participate in. The intention here is to make sure that everything representing your business in any way is consciously communicating exactly the messages about your brand that you want your clients to hear.
Remember that a brand is not a logo, a color scheme, a slogan or a business name. A brand is the sum total of the thoughts, feelings and expectations about what you offer that live in the hearts and minds of your intended audience. It’s not tangible, it’s a promise: the one they believe you fulfill. As you develop your brand, be sure that you are consistent in the way you communicate it. That helps the promise come true.
3. Write a marketing plan.
A written marketing plan is the best tool to ensure the success of your business. What may seem like an academic exercise is actually a grounding process for your heart-felt ideas. When you bring your head and your heart together in the creation a marketing plan, you demonstrate to the Universe your intention to succeed.
There are numerous resources out there to help you put a plan together. The basic things you need to include are specific intentions, strategies, tasks, timing and budgets. The questions you need to answer in it are: What services and products will I offer? Who needs what I do, and how will they find out about me? What activities will I participate in to grow my business? What support do I need to accomplish this? How will I measure my progress?
Keep your marketing plan simple and brief. Unless you want to get loans or outside investment, no one needs to understand it but those involved in your business. But be sure you actually write it down and review it on a weekly basis; this will ensure you’re always clear about your destination and where you are on your journey.
4. Get a web site!
A web site is a wonderful way to communicate your value and unique benefits to your audience. Those who are interested in what you do can visit on their own time and look for answers to all their questions. As they explore your information-rich site, they begin to develop an affinity for you as an expert in what you do.
Many holistic businesses have to educate their customers about what they do, and a web site makes this easy and convenient. Help interested clients learn what you offer and whether it meets their needs. Share stories of those you’ve helped and their testimonials. Developing a relationship of trust with your clients can begin, virtually, before you even meet them in person.
It’s essential to remember that your web site is an interaction with your client and, as such, needs to deliver a superior experience. Be sure it’s professionally designed, intuitive to navigate, operating properly (no dead links) and packed with information your clients want and need.
5. Study businesses and organizations that share your intended audience.
Put yourself in the shoes of your clients and consider businesses they frequent. What can you learn from their communication methods? What does this tell you about the needs of your clientele? Look at the imagery, tone and style. Are they heavy on information or more about using images to get the attention of their audience?
Recently, an absolutely-not-spiritual local business used an image of a young woman in a yoga pose to attract attention to their ad. Although they probably wouldn’t use this service, a number of holistic businesspeople I know were attracted by the image. I noticed how captivating this image was, and how effective it would have been had it delivered the holistic service some were looking for.
On the other hand, you may want to take note of what other companies do poorly, to learn from their mistakes. Serving beef jerky on the snack table, or using Styrofoam, might communicate that one’s holistic values don’t extend to the health of the body and our planet. Poor customer service can undermine the best intentions of a holistic business, whether you are in charge of the front office or not. Whenever I experience this kind of inconsistency, I remind myself to try to avoid making the same blunders myself.
6. Honor your audience by speaking in their terms.
Almost all marketing materials I see are obsessively “I” focused. The business is telling me all about itself: its mission, procedures, history, etc. It’s the same way in introductions, presentations and advertising. Your intended audience is looking for the answer to certain questions, chief among them, “Is this for me?” Don’t make them wade through an autobiography to get to “Yes!”
You can help them by stating your value in a way potential customers can relate to. Talk about them and what they’re experiencing. Instead of saying, “I’m a massage therapist,” try saying, “I help stressed-out professionals who have trouble finding time to relax.” In place of “I’m a nutritionist,” you could say, “I work with concerned moms who are confused by food labels and pyramids.”
Personally, I never say, “I’m a marketing consultant.” Not too many people are actively looking for one! One of my alternatives is: “I help holistic practitioners who are frustrated with marketing to grow a thriving practice.”
Share stories of other people you’ve helped — what their needs were and how your solution benefited them – to help prospects make a decision about your offering. First, this feels less like you’re selling them, since you’re not saying, “I can help you by doing so-and-do.” Second, it’s quite persuasive, since you’re telling a success story.
Relate the story in terms of before, during and after. “Recently a woman came to me who was really struggling with symptoms of menopause. After a thorough intake procedure, I [describe your solution here – keep it short and relevant]. Within a few weeks, her symptoms were under control and she could function much better.” If I had the same problem, or knew someone who did, I’d certainly want to learn more.
The cheapest and most effective way to grow your business is networking. Every time you come into contact with people, you have an opportunity to connect with them and others they know. You can share resources, exchange information and refer one another. If you are prepared and conscious about these opportunities, you can greatly benefit yourself and others!
Being prepared for networking means making the most of every meeting, whether it’s accidental or structured. Always be ready with your client-focused intro (see #6), professionally printed business cards and a smile. I’ve made meaningful connections in some very unusual places, like supermarkets and taxis, as well as the more typical trade shows.
Networking is about making and nurturing mutually beneficial connections with other people. The best way to make a connection is to talk to people about their needs and how you can help them. Always be ready with a concise description of how they can help you, especially how they can recognize a good referral for you.
This might work for a Feng Shui Consultant: “You know how some homes seem to be awkwardly decorated and feel stuffy? The people who live there just can’t seem to catch a break in life, everything’s so energetically blocked. That’s a really good person to refer to me.”
And remember, the best way to nurture connections is to pass referrals to them. Whether it’s karma or just one good turn, the idea that “what goes around comes around” continues to prove itself true.
8. Educate your public with presentations and speaking engagements.
A good way to stand out from the crowd at any event is as a featured speaker. It’s always good for business to be perceived as an expert in what you do, and what better way to do that than to stand up and demonstrate your gifts? Find places where you can get the attention of your prospective clientele, and educate them about what you do and why they need it.
Free informational talks at workshops, health fairs and even the public library are easy, low-stress and effective ways to get the word out. What’s more, you get to interact with people who are interested in learning more about what you do. Although the focus is on telling, not selling, at these events, be sure to offer ways for your audience to purchase if they want to. And always – always! – collect contact information from attendees so you are in control of the follow up.
9. Let them try before they buy.
If someone offered you a full session of Bramdoiner for $90, would you take them up on it? What would it take for you to try it? Meeting the practitioner? The strong recommendation of a friend? Some Internet research? Scientific proof of the benefits?
Now imagine you’ve actually heard of Bramdoiner (I know you haven’t, since I made it up). What if the source of your information were a less-than-ethical person? A negative report on CNN? A very positive report in a conservative medical journal? Would you try it now?
This gives you an idea of the predicament of your intended audience. In many parts of the country, people are just now trying massage. Yoga is still a bit far out for some. Meditation, I’ve been told, is a word with “baggage.” Those who are courageous enough to enter the world of holistic business are searching for decision-making criteria, a way to decide whether or not they want what you offer.
The best way to get someone to partake of your services is to give them a taste of what you offer. Is there a way to give away free, or reduced price, samples of your product or service, so people can better imagine its benefits? This can range from a 10-minute session at a fair to a seminar. Small product samples given freely at supermarkets have helped thousands of food and beverage companies find their customer-base. What low-risk sample can you offer to find yours?
10. Develop a strategy for generating referrals.
There are few more persuasive sources of information than a delighted customer. When clients tell their friends about their experiences with you, a million dollar budget could hardly be more effective. Building word-of-mouth starts with a satisfied clientele and ends with a stream of interested referrals calling you. Many businesspeople believe this kind of thing happens or doesn’t happen, but it’s out of their control. Nothing could be further from the truth.
First, set an intention to have a business that generates referrals. Mention to your clients and everyone you meet that your business grows by word-of-mouth and that you would appreciate their mentioning you and passing your card to their friends and colleagues. Merely using the word “referral” can increase the chances of your getting them, but it doesn’t hurt to tell people what to look for. Let everyone know what makes a good referral for you.
Second, invite and reward referrals from your clients. Give them the information or tools (business cards, flyers) necessary to tell friends about your business. When they do, and it turns into business, be sure to thank them. You can do so simply with a word or a note, or elaborately with free gifts or services. But make sure not to overdo; you just may have LOTS of referrals to thank clients for!
Finally, the best way to generate referrals is to deliver knockout service every time. Be sure that every interaction with your clients or potential clients is done in joy and for their highest good. You’ll have flocks of raving fans spreading the word about your business in no time.
11. Don’t give up; follow up.
Growing a business takes time and persistence. Some days it will seem like no one wants what you offer. If you truly believe in the gifts you were given and the benefits they provide for your intended audience, then don’t give up.
What seems like disinterest from your audience is often ignorance (they don’t know about you), contemplation (they aren’t sure what you offer or if they need it) or a question of timing (they know they want it, but not right now).
The best thing to do to help them receive your offering is to communicate, educate and follow up. These activities are not pushy if your guiding intention is to offer, without obligation.
We can greatly benefit from holistic business owners who are striving to help their clients, their community and the world. I hope these eleven ways have sparked your creativity and inspired you to take action on your marketing. You just might find that sharing the story of your gifts and how they have helped others is easier than you imagined. May the joyful sharing enrich your life abundantly!
Which methods have you chosen to grow your holistic business? I’d be delighted to hear about your efforts. Please contact me. Look for more info and tips on the Enlightened Marketing Blog and in my free newsletter.