Marketing: Health and fitness professionals you have permission

I just learned a secret that is preventing myself and other health professionals from helping more clients.  It’s not a market problem.  It’s not competitors getting in the way.  It’s not even technology challenging us. It’s actually our beliefs. To be able to help more clients we need to get out of our own way and sell our  business.

I went to a workshop with Paul Wright yesterday, an expert business coach for health and fitness professionals.  This particular workshop was aimed at physiotherapists but applies equally to personal trainers and other health professionals.

Paul Write seminar for health specialists

We were there to learn about marketing.  Paul used a catchy “message, market & media” mantra to structure our marketing discussion but actually I think the most value came from what we learned more about ourselves and beliefs.  You see, it’s our beliefs about marketing that are the biggest barrier to us succeeding in marketing. Paul helped us all unravel each one.

I’m definitely not writing this from a perspective of perfection. In fact, I feel better about writing this article because I’m not perfect and have suffered from the same broken beliefs.

These were the biggest belief barriers:

  1. Marketing is a necessary evil
  2. I don’t have time to do marketing
  3. You’re either good at marketing or you’re not

These are all subjective views, not facts.  They do indicate our priorities, our expectations and our confidence but we can change any belief once we know about it.  Sometimes we feel like we need someone to give us “permission”.

Marketing is a necessary evil

One of the first observations I made was how many of us are almost hostile against marketing even though we need it.  Many people don’t appreciate good marketing and instead see it as manipulative, untruthful and slightly dodgy.

Professionals in health and wellness space seem to have special distrust for marketing and I wonder if it’s because we genuinely care about people and almost view selling as something that is stealing from someone else.

This distrust really shone through after lunch.  Paul showed a video of a “threat to physiotherapy”.  It was a short ad for a service and device that basically massaged the pain out of people (replacing the need for an “expensive” physio).
The initial reaction from the physio’s was outrage.  Where was the proof? Where were the qualifications? Is this legal?  This is wrong! Paul rightly reminded the crowd to take notes not point fingers.
Whatever the validity of the claims, this company was getting the marketing message right.  The company was solving a pain; literally and financially (physio’s, massage therapists and personal trainers could be considered relatively expensive).  They were packaging the right “message, market & media”.
So if we really care about helping more people, we need to become better at marketing because (1) we’ll reach more people (2) we’ll convince more clients to enjoy a better experience with us.
Marketing is not deceptive or wrong unless you’re promising one thing and delivering something completely different or worse.  Humans are humans.  We don’t always do what’s best for us.  We often don’t choose despite the information in front of us.  We are typically reactive vs proactive.  And we find it easier to sell pain than prevention.
So if we decide to go against our psychological cues, is that doing us or our clients any favours? Nope. So we need to get rid of this old belief that marketing is wrong and use marketing for good instead.

I don’t have time to do marketing

Paul asked around the room how much time professionals were spending on marketing. Most of the room were owner-operator physiotherapists and most of the room were spending less than 2 hours a week on marketing.

Was this too little? Too much? Didn’t matter?

Well here’s the thing.  A successful business is not determined by how full your appointment book is.  Why would someone want to pay a premium for just one person’s work.  That’s called an job and employee.  When you stop working, you stop getting paid. There’s no upside there to buy because you’ll have fixed hours, fixed costs and fixed income (if you can’t boost revenue by boosting prices).

A business becomes attractive when there is more to buy than just the people.  The upside comes from selling the promise that your business systems will provide a disproportionately large return to the buyer.  Marketing is a critical system, especially because it’s hard to do well.  People pay more for results that are hard to replicate.

So “not having time” is not a problem of time. We all have the same amount available to us, it’s a problem of priorities.

I’ve certainly been guilty of falling into this trap.  The first step for me to get out of it was to really recognise the importance of marketing and to protect my marketing time.  I realised time was also often code for “I don’t have any confidence in my ability as a marketer”…

You’re either good or you’re not

I’ve started reading a fantastic book recently by Carol Dweck called Mindset.  This has been transformative for me.  I don’t know when I started down this slippery slope but I somehow fell into the “fixed mindset”.  Where I believed that my basic qualities, like intelligence (including my ability to be a great marketer) were fixed.  If I’m no good, I’m no good forever.
But this is complete BS.  Marketing just like so many things can be learned.
One of the problems is our lack of practice.  We’re often not good at something is because we’re not practicing enough.  Top pianist practice every day.  Top athletes train everyday. Do we need to spend every waking moment marketing? Of course not. But investing even half an hour a day would help a lot.

We go to events like Paul’s but then don’t apply those learnings.  That’s often why we’re no good at marketing.  We’re not trying hard enough or focusing on the learning vs just the outcome.Paul’s constantly trying things out and enjoying learning from failures.

As Paul suggested, the only person that can tell you if your marketing was successful. That’s your bank manager.  They look at the numbers and look for a positive return.
However, that doesn’t mean that trying means a “failure” or a waste of time.  It means that one combination of “message, market and media” didn’t work.  To be good at marketing, you’ve got to change your mindset and enjoy solving the puzzle. Constant tweaking small tests is the key.
Test small and often.  When something works, go big.  When something stops working, change it and try something new to get a different result.  This is a practice I’m working on every day.

It starts by getting the message right.

People buy emotionally, and justify logically

This was one of the most important takeaways from Paul.  So often health and fitness practitioners get this mixed up and believe people buy based on logic vs emotion.  It’s not the case and an example of the wrong focus is our overestimation of qualifications.

The more qualifications we have, the more of signal that we’re the best right? Wrong.  Most customers don’t care how many qualifications we have, they just care whether we can solve their problem.

Qualifications, titles, awards certainly help with trust when they’re deciding whether we’re worth the risk and justifying the price, but that’s not why they’re buying.  Still, so many physiotherpists, personal trainers, dietitians and health professionals crowd out the emotional triggers that make people pay attention for monotonous, logical reasons to buy.

As health professionals we have so much more to offer when we embrace marketing.  When we see that marketing is a practice and the more we do it, the better we get.  When we know that good marketing is emotional and pulls at the real reasons why people buy.  And when we have a clear point of difference that people care about.

I know I’m back to the drawing board, how about you?

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