Between us, Kathryn and I know at least a dozen, maybe two dozen health and nutrition coaches. And some of them don’t have as many clients as they want. If that’s you or someone you know, read on for a few brainstormy thoughts I had on building your practice.
1. Not everything will apply to everyone. Take what you need and leave the rest.
2. Motivations differ. Some people may not want to make a lot of money but just want to coach to have access or discounts on specialized products. Cool. Take what you need and leave the rest.
3. I’m not a health coach, nor do I play one on the Internet. But I have been self-employed for 15 years, developing a comfortable lifestyle of clients and projects that are satisfying and remunerated. Take what you need and leave the rest.
I wrote this over a lunch hour. It’s not extensive, or even fully thought-out. It’s a series of brainstorms. Take something and run with it. Report back.
I have been influenced over the years by Alan Weiss, and Bryan Franklin and Jennifer Russell. So if you like this stuff, by all means go buy their programs. Tell them I sent you – who knows, maybe I’ll get a commission or something. (Or don’t tell them, it’s okay with me.)
People Need You, and They Want You
You’re a health coach because you care about people and their health, right? Looking around it’s obvious that most people *need* to upgrade their health. What you need to do is _attract_ them to you. You don’t need to “sell” them anything, but they sure would like to buy things that can help.
This distinction is important: People don’t like to be sold (and, probably, you “don’t like to” sell), but people love to buy. How do you help them buy, without sullying yourself with the selling biz?
Meet them where they are. Don’t offer them the whole enchilada on first meeting. Don’t criticize them, or correct them, or judge them, or make them feel inadequate because they buy cheap food at Sam’s Club. Recognize that buying food at Sam’s Club means they want a fast, inexpensive way to not be hungry, and if it’s healthy so much the better.
So one cool thing would be to teach _how to make inexpensive, healthy, fast, one-pot meals your family will love._ Or, _how to use a blender to make a fast, healthy, awesome milkshake your kid’s friends will beg you for, that also boosts their immune system._
Obviously the marketing language could be upgraded here, but my point is that when you meet them where they are you are addressing their specific concerns and moving them *one step* closer to where they need to go. This will _magnetize_ people toward you, and then you can ask them questions about what they need, and then you can help them get what they need.
The Internet is for Scale, not Starting
I used to think the Internet was a great place to develop free content, give it away, build a list, and then convert those folks to paying and higher-paying programs. That’s all true, but it’s not the starting point.
The starting point is direct one-on-one sales to individual people. One thing I got from Bryan and Jennifer that really stuck with me is that if you can’t get your friends to use your stuff, or tell their friends about your stuff, you don’t have a business. Especially if you’re giving it away for free.
More importantly, you don’t have a _growing_ business until people you know tell their friends, without prompting, and those friends have a good experience and tell _their_ friends. Until you are getting extensive word of mouth referrals, your website is an excellent place to blog about topics of interest, offer some free stuff in return for list signups, and represent you and what you’re all about. But it’s not the center of your world – people are. People you know, people you meet, and people who need to meet you.
And you don’t even _need_ a website. Bryan’s mom started one of the first executive coaching businesses and she earned over a million dollars a year several years before she put up a website. Even today she still doesn’t have, and has never had, business cards. Her entire 25-year multi-million dollar coaching career was built on doing good work, and getting word of mouth referrals.
Don’t be stuck on your products, services, methods, or models. Think of your existing material as a base to build on, examples of how you work, or modules to reconfigure for specific formats (online, telephone, one-on-one coaching, live events, etc).
In other words, if you have a collection of awesome gluten-free dessert recipes and someone tells you they’re looking for gluten-free recipes don’t just pitch them your desert recipes – ask them what they need: Breakfast, lunch, snacks, kid snacks, supper, deserts? Then, offer to _give_ them your desert recipes and work together to craft a week-long menu plan that fits their family’s lifestyle.
Maybe they’ve never bought coaching before, so don’t call it coaching. Maybe pitch them on two sessions, one 90-minute session at their home (or Skype, but see “scale vs starting” above) to understand what they currently do, and then you go away and build some potential menus, and come back for another 90-minute session to go over it. At the second session, offer them another session on preparation. Maybe even offer to come over once a week for five weeks and prepare supper with them – or in the afternoon before everyone gets home. You’ll do one new recipe a week and after five weeks they’ll have a whole new set of healthy, tasty stuff to add into their rotation.
Maybe form an alliance with one or more home chefs, who will prep meals and deliver food (or make it in their kitchen), so there is a resource to deliver pre-made healthy meals available. Maybe you get a cut of that, or maybe you don’t – just keep focusing on delivering solutions that people need, one step at a time, and create products and services based on these conversations.
Again, conversations: Don’t just pitch a bunch of ideas on your website and hope people find them. Talk to people, figure out what they need, and build the muscle of offering them something that would help. Once you’ve offered the same thing to a few clients and they’re regularly buying the offer, then build an online product and pitch around it.
Trust your skills and abilities to improvise with the goal of helping people move toward what they want.
Help Transform Traditional Medicine
I’m glad the medical system exists as it does for emergencies, weird occurrences, cancer, etc. But we all know it’s undergoing a long-overdue reset toward maintaining health instead of repairing failure.
The opportunity is that they need help figuring out how to do this. The challenge is that doctors especially are often arrogant know-it-all’s who look down on 3,000 years of Chinese medicine or the value of a balanced diet and lifestyle, to pick two easy areas of stereotyping. So, find the ones who are ready and help them out. Here’s how:
1. Get out your Google Maps and start making a map of all the doctors, chiropractors, clinics, etc in your region.
2. Make a simple, nice-looking, printed leave-behind piece. Ideally you would print this on your home printer so you could iterate a few times, but only if it looks top-notch and a doctor would be proud to have a stack of them in their office. Here’s one my friend Uschi did that’s pretty nice. It could be improved, but leaving nitpicking aside, this is on nice heavy glossy paper, it has a good photo of her, it has a testimonial quote, and it tells people how to contact her. Her website isn’t much more. But it’s enough.
3. Visit the offices from step one door-to-door and introduce yourself. You probably won’t meet the doc on the first visit (though you might) but you can size the place up, offer your intro piece, and see if you can make a business appointment to follow up. Some places you won’t want to partner with, some won’t want to partner with you, and some will be a perfect match.
Don’t try to pitch them on everything all at once. Make them aware of you and what you offer. Ask if they have clients who have mentioned the symptoms you have experience in treating. If not, ask them, “What’s the biggest problem you see that your clients/patients need help with?” Make a new medical friend, see if you can help them out, ask them to refer people to you.
Here are some places the relationship could go:
* Leave a stack of your cards/brochures in their waiting room
* Develop a formal referral procedure, where it’s easy for the front desk to send people your way, just like lab work.
* Offer to do a free one-hour talk at their office (or off-site) for their clients about a topic you’re expert in.
* Offer to give their clients a discount on your services or products.
* Offer to work out of their office one morning a week at no cost – you will survey their clients about their needs, tell them about your services, and if anyone takes you up on it the doctor bills the client and you get, say, $40/hour (the doc will bill you at $100/hour or something). Yes, you invest time, but you will have access to people who need things, and if this gets going you could do full days on-site or multiple half-days. The doc is happy because it’s a new income stream, and they only pay you if clients use the services. (Don’t get hung up on the doctor’s markup – accept anything reasonable to start and grow it over time.)
Etc etc etc. Improvise. Keep offering your services and make friends who want things sort of like what you offer. Then tune your offerings to exactly what they want.
Offer to speak at the local Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, or other business networking lunch organizations. Join Toastmasters – you’ll get practice in speaking and also meet another set of people. Get out there and talk in front of any group that will have you. Not about your products or services, but about stuff busy business people (mostly guys) care about: Fast, easy, cheap, better.
The value of parking your car further away and walking into the office, eating healthy business lunches, travel snacks that keep the pounds off, how to avoid soft drinks by replacing them with something better, how to get kids to eat more veggies, healthy vacation destinations, fun learning vacations for the whole family. The best exercise you can do in 10 minutes a day. Healthy gifts your spouse will love.
These all sound like a cliché, but they are the topics, off the top of my head, that any lunch scheduler will eat up in a heartbeat.
You’re looking for people who can afford to care about their health. You’re probably not (yet) covered by their insurance, so they need to have the resources to spend on themselves. They may also have a lot more resources than you, which can sometimes feel weird until you get used to it.
A good book is Dan Kennedy’s _No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent._ This book will get your head wrapped around how to find and sell to people who can afford to pay you. It’s written in a brash, bold style that may turn you off – don’t let it. That style is what you need to adopt to win the money game. Learn from it, integrate it into your own style, and work from there.
Allow Enough Time For Success
Don’t start when you need to make next month’s mortgage payment. Don’t expect miracles from your first cold-calling campaign. But start. Visit those doctors again 6-9 months later, “Just checking in to see how things are going…” Some of them might mention you to their spouses, who will want to learn more. Some will have a single client 4 months later who could use your help and they’ll root around for your worn-out beat-up brochure from their pile of office literature. Some might tell another doc friend at a golf tournament and _that_ doctor wants to learn more. You just never know.
Start this week. Build for the future.