People who start and/or run an organization—be it a non-profit, health product start-up, functional medicine practice, yoga studio, acupuncture clinic, or whatever your integrative health practice does —often fall into a trap.
Specifically, it’s the trap of thinking that you ARE the organization.
It’s a common tendency, and I’m not faulting anyone for feeling that way.
In fact, it’s difficult NOT to fall into this trap.
You start with an idea and, through months or years—or decades—of blood, sweat, and tears you build something great. Something you are passionate about. Something that you non-ironically refer to as “your baby.”
So, it makes sense that you would push back when someone (a big jerk like me, for example) comes along and says that you need to kind of divide yourself out from the organization. After all, it’s clear to you that if you weren’t in the organization, it would fail. You are, you’re sure, the single thing holding the whole thing together.
And you are probably right. That very well might be true.
Which is problem.
Because if your product or service is YOU, individually, then you are not only doing yourself a disservice by overworking yourself and carrying way too big of a load, you’re also doing a disservice to your clients or patients.
Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say that you’re a nutrition coach. Your job basically involves running some initial labs on clients, doing a little diagnostic work to try to figure out what’s going on with them, and then you work one-on-one with them for a number of weeks on a nutritional plan, support, advice, and general coaching services. You have no problem balancing five to six clients at a time, but beyond that? You’d be stretched way too thin.
And then… not to be morbid here, but what happens if you (I don’t know) contract “den-(soft)gee” fever and fall into a year-long coma. Does your practice exist when you miraculously wake 365 days later?
No, it doesn’t.
Because the business is you. And logic therefore insists that you are the entire business.
But what if you could set things up so the business would operate just fine without you?
Amazingly, it’s not as an impossible task as it might seem.
Answer these 3 questions and you’ll be on your way.
1. What, Specifically, Do You Do?
This seems like a dumb thing to ask, because if you own any business—let alone a functional or integrative health practice—of course you know what it is that you do, right?
You’d be surprised how many of our clients came to us with no clear idea of what it is that they are actually selling.
Most of the time, people know what individual products or services they offer. But that doesn’t mean that that’s what they DO.
The nutritional coach from above, for example, would probably tell you that she offers nutritional coaching services. She’d say this, probably, because she offers a lot of great services that involved nutritional coaching. In a way, this is true. But, because the business is HER, she also doesn’t have a great idea of what she’s actually selling. Or, maybe to put a different point on this, she doesn’t exactly know what people are BUYING from her.
The old anecdote about a Harley Davidson executive sums this idea up in a nice, neat chrome-plated bow. When someone told him that Harley Davidson sold motorcycles, the executive shook his head and said:
“No. What we sell is the ability for a 43 year old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.”
So ask yourself this question. What are people buying from your integrative health practice? Is it a lifestyle? A feeling of bliss? A lack of chronic pain? A few more vibrant decades of life gifted on towards the end?
Answering this question gives you a fantastic starting point for tackling number 2. Which is…
2. Who Are Your Actually Trying to Reach?
In the marketing world, we generally don’t like trying to marketing things to people. Instead, we try to market to one, single, highly-targeted individual. If you try to reach everyone, you’ll reach none of them. So, instead we build what’s called a Buyer Persona.
A Buyer Persona is a single, incredibly fleshed-out imaginary person that we direct all our marketing efforts towards. Name, age, gender, occupation, income level, family situation, hopes, dreams, fears… we start at the highest, broadest level, and then don’t stop drilling down until we’ve figured out which flavor of non-dairy ice cream they like the best and whether or not they prefer bluegrass over fescue for their front lawns.
And the reason why you’ll want to do this for your own practice?
Because once these details are nailed down, you know where they are, what they want, and what language—speaking both literally and figuratively—they speak. At that point, WHAT you do is very easy to communicate to them. You understand their problems, and know exactly how to solve them. And you also know exactly what you need to communicate to make sure they understand that YOU understand them.
Once you have What and Who nailed down, you can then answer the question that will unlock your integrative health practice’s success in a very powerful way. Which is…
3. Why do you do what you do?
People spend money with other people. And there’s nothing like getting behind a shared cause to get people on board.
Let’s say I’m walking through Whole Foods. I’m confronted with two seemingly identical bags of red quinoa. They’re the same size, same price, and honestly, I wouldn’t be able to taste the difference if my life depended on it.
But let’s say one bag just lists out the ingredients and not much else.
On the other one, though, is a brief story about how this quinoa’s been sustainably sourced from Bolivia and Peru in a way that makes sure those local farmers aren’t priced out of their own market.
Of course I’m going to buy the second bag! Making sure that Peruvian pseudo-cereal farmers and their families aren’t dying from malnutrition? That’s totally a cause I can get behind.
I’ve bought into their WHY.
Your “Why” could be virtually anything. Maybe you ate the normal Standard American Diet for your first two decades of life without much consequence. But then, seemingly out of the blue, you come down with an autoimmune disease. Doctors don’t have any answers for you except to remove a semi-vital organ or three and, you know, just see what happens. So, you start studying nutrition and end up healing yourself with food, and now… your passion in life is to spread that gospel far and wide for people who used to be just like you.
That’s also a WHY a lot of people can get behind.
3. Why do you do what you do?
Now what would it do for your practice if you took each of these 3 specific things, put them into an imaginary box, added some strategy and systems behind them all… and sold it all as your core offering?
For one, your clients would be overjoyed. Their experience would be consistent, structured, and not a second of their time would be wasted.
Secondly, you build trust. You look like you have your stuff together, and people will be much more likely to take action on that trust.
And, finally… it’s just good business. You can do your best work because the foundation has been set. You can build from there. Put simply, you have more time, more available resources, and more energy. Meaning, when you establish your integrative health practice the right way, you’re able to help more people!