Whether your business or practice is based solely on your personal brand or comprised a group of employees or practitioners, sustainable success is wholly dependent on relationships. Success is ultimately based on your reputation in the market and how you make people feel.
Have you ever considered whether your brand reflects the best version of who you are and how you practice integrative medicine? Let’s explore some brand fundamentals to bring that voice to the forefront of your public image.
Don’t get me wrong: your systems, business and practice protocols are important. So is your logo, enterprise name, tagline—even the typography, colors, and design aesthetic are critically important (we’ll talk about these vital elements of your platform in a few minutes). But all that stuff means nothing if you somehow skimp on the brand fundamentals.
Your Brand DNA = Your Voice, Not Your Logo
A winning, sustainable brand is founded on this essential shortlist. Your success is dependent upon:
How you make others feel.
The genuine emotional connection you create with clients/customers/prospects… (ideally based on empathetic problem/solution approach).
Your authentic voice: consistently communicating, in tone and timbre, within and outside of the enterprise.
What others say about you when you aren’t in the room (Jeff Bezos, Amazon).
Doing the ‘hard things’ well.
Gaining trust via meaningful engagement.
This happens long before the person becomes your patient.
Storytelling: Why you do the things you do.
The story behind why your company (product and/or service) exists, how it serves others, and why folks should care.
[Questions you must honestly answer regarding your personal integrative health brand can be found here.]
If you don’t carefully consider the aforementioned imperatives of your brand before naming it, making hires, securing space (virtual or physical), or developing the necessary aesthetic and digital platform, and related accoutrements, then you are building on shallow ground. People will quickly see this.
If yours is an existing enterprise or organization, it is never too late for a course-correction… until it is. So read on.
Brand Versus Commodity
What are you trading on? How are you different?
If you want people to pay attention and patronize your business, then get known for doing one thing exceptionally well. Better than anyone else. Become the bona fide expert, the go-to guru for that one thing.
Go deep into this one thing; get real traction, then go wide® by emphasizing your next program, product, course or service, with the same focus, energy, and passion you invested in your first ‘one thing’.
Without clear differentiation in a crowded market, your brand is just a commodity. Commodities are sold on price. The very minute you sell on price, you’re in a race to the bottom—and that never ends well.
Noise, Tools, Scalability, Automation
I have nothing against leveraging technology to streamline processes and create efficiency and scale. These are good things. I use them for FON and my personal brand.
However, the integrative space is getting crowded as more practitioners, clinics, dietary supplement manufacturers, specialty EMR companies, and others enter the fray and jockey for position to reach growing consumer demand for products, programs, and clinical services.
It’s gotten noisier for integrative health business professionals, with myriad ‘set it and forget it’ programs and courses that proclaim to cover every important aspect of building or growing an integrative/functional enterprise (or personal brand) over just a few months.
These business-building teachings, along with hand-holding and, mostly meaningful, cajoling, do not last in perpetuity. The biggest problem I see for the delivery method of ‘one-to-many’ (as opposed to one-on-one) course and program builders is the lack of true brand positioning discussions, and development activities, provided to these mostly fledgling businesses.
Owning a niche is important and smart. It is imperative to have the correct technology, tools, and processes in place. However, it’s the lack of foundational brand, and brand-building elements to support an enterprise, that stokes my fear of the commoditization of integrative/functional enterprises.
Core Platform Must-Haves
Your platform needs to support your unique and compelling brand, comprising a multitude of essential digital and non-digital parts and accoutrements.
If your personal brand or enterprise embodies (or aspires to embody) much of the aforementioned essential brand attributes, but fails to invest in a comprehensive, high quality, modern brand platform, it will fail to take flight.
Regardless of whether your organization is nonprofit or for-profit—a small practice, hospital, health system, nutraceutical company, or specialty EMR company—you must consistently invest in the necessary work that effectively aligns your brand attributes with your overarching business development goals.
The following is not meant to be an all-encompassing list; your unique needs and goals must be taken into consideration. However, these are the essential platform elements:
- Modern, scrolling, Word Press (my preference) website, built on a custom theme.
- Tight copywriting. Your content must ‘sing’. It must be in perfect pitch. All of these must be well executed to help ensure high conversion of prospects to customer: static website content (core navigation areas), pithy and impactful messaging, well-placed calls-to-action, ‘email drip’ letter campaign content artfully taking prospects through a funnel. Don’t forget your sales collateral, forms, sales and products brochure which all support your brand. It must ‘speak’ with an even, cohesive tone—your brand’s established voice. Words are powerful, and should be custom crafted by a skilled wordsmith who has, or can quickly gain, subject matter knowledge on the integrative health space and your unique brand attributes.
- Quality brand identity. Take into account logo (brand mark), tagline (if necessary), with carefully considered type and color palette, and brand guidelines for how it should be used—it should be scalable (readable in smaller sizes), created as a horizontal and vertical iteration.
- Email marketing system. I like MailChimp, Ontraport, Infusionsoft and HubSpot for growing enterprises that are looking for more robust marketing automation functionality with CRM features (see next).
- CRM—Customer Relationship Management.The more efficiently a business can manage its relationships, the more successful it will become. A CRM’s primary role is to learn more about customers’ needs and behaviors in order to develop stronger relationships with them. CRMs can integrate email marketing systems, various databases, lead capture, and website landing pages. There are free and paid options. Of note, Salesforce.com and HubSpot are growing in popularity.
- Google Analytics and conversion goals.Setting up Google Analytics provides a terrific snapshot of traffic volume, time on site, how people navigate your site. Conversion goals are imperative to set up and track; this ultimately tracks if your core conversion goals are being met—optimizing for specific calls-to-action—such as: a free gift offer, a BOGO (buy-one-get-one), schedule an appointment, or a free consult.
- Content (publishing) strategy. Brands that do not incorporate a publishing strategy for their website are left with static ‘advertising’. Quality content, consistently delivered, engages prospective clients and patients. It builds trust around your brand. It drives organic (and paid) traffic to your site, and it serves as the nucleus of your client/patient sales funnel. FON’s blog contains scores of articles and how-to guides specific to content creation and dissemination.
Don’t Be Penny-Wise and Pound Foolish
You are ideally selling through customer (or patient) engagement, problem-solving, and being unfailingly helpful. You are in the integrative healthcare space—a relatively novel space that is more in demand than ever. You are also influencing people to change their behavior, invest in products and/or services that provide sensible solutions to their health concerns, and to support their overall wellness.
So how can you possibly skimp on the creation of your platform when your business is connected to the most important and serious aspect of most people’s lives: their health? Don’t expect prospective customers to patronize your business, and purchase your products and services, based on your previous successes, personal bona fides, or your resume or CV.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
This carpenter’s adage is spot on. It’s paramount for each platform, therefore its development, to be a perfect fit.
The all-too-common mistake made by integrative health entrepreneurs is in choosing the cookie-cutter approach to platform development. I see it all the time and, because one size does not fit all, the entrepreneur ends up with a combination of: a hodge-podge of interconnected elements that are ‘off-brand’ (not achieving a consistent aesthetic or tone); a project worked on by several vendors in silos, over an extended period of time; poor or uneven execution. This ‘mix’ is primed to miss important pieces.
Like your (ideally) well-differentiated brand itself, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing an effective platform. Are there best practices? Absolutely. But, in order to achieve meaningful traction and get impact, your core platform elements must be customized to your unique brand voice and mission.
Do it right, at the start—at launch or as part of your redevelopment strategy—or go home.
Commit Fully. Invest Wisely. Amortize over Five Years
Many business leaders do not fully know what should comprise their platform; or they have a decent idea, but implement only select pieces, and often on-the-cheap—with some notion in mind that they will circle back to revisit the ‘voids’ once they are generating enough cash-flow. They piece things together and perpetually fix, redesign, rewrite, redo. Is this you?
If you do not budget and invest in the core aspects of your brand and platform, in unison, and upfront, you are ultimately impeding your cash-flow and disadvantaging your enterprise right out of the gate.
Though you will actually pay for third-party vendors (or in-house human resources) within, say, three months of launching a project, you must think about your investment over a five-year period. Spread out or amortize the total investment by dividing it by five. That’s a much more comfortable number to deal with.
Approaching your brand and platform at a high level will provide dividends for years to come. Though technology evolves, and your site and platform elements will need to be updated and augmented, your established identity, website, and other foundational aspects of your platform will serve you well for years to come.
- Your brand and market positioning statement should come before all else.
- Do not make the mistake of relying on technology, tools, processes, and sales funnels, over the foundational work of branding and building meaningful relationships.
- When building your brand, base it on targeted (customer/prospect) engagement and being helpful, while being very careful with how and when you ‘sell’.
- Make the proper, up-front investment in your brand and platform, and amortize (while measuring ROI) over five years. In other words, if you skimp and look for shortcuts it will be easy to tell, and you will face long odds in being successful in the integrative and functional medicine space.
About Glenn Sabin and FON / Glenn is director of FON Consulting, a leading strategy and business development consultancy specializing in the integrative health and medicine sector. FON’s clients span from medical practices, hospitals and health systems, to nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and media companies. Glenn brings economic and moral clarity to the misnomer that health creation and promotion cannot align with profitability.
Prior to launching FON in 2009, Glenn was the CEO of JazzTimes, Inc., an entertainment-based media and marketing agency headquartered in the Washington, DC metro area. After a 25 year tenure, and achieving exponential revenue growth, Glenn exited JazzTimes, Inc. to launch FON.
The shift from entertainment media to integrative health. In 1991, Glenn Sabin was a 28-year-old newlywed diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), an incurable cancer. He created his own medically monitored and carefully researched lifestyle changes, including a whole foods predominantly plant-based diet. Glenn would conduct his own, informal, single patient clinical trial, which was chronicled by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and his personal oncologist Lee Nadler, MD, dean for clinical and translational medicine at Harvard Medical School. Glenn achieved a complete remission from CLL without conventional cancer treatment. His case is part of the medical literature.
Glenn is participating in, and advising Harvard’s Bioinformatics Department on its People-Powered Medicine NEER Study, an initiative investigating exceptional responders. He was the recipient of American College of Nutrition’s 2017 Communications and Media Award. In 2017 Glenn published his popular memoir, n of 1: One Man’s Harvard-Documented Remission of Incurable Cancer Using Only Natural Methods. www.fonconsulting.com, www.glennsabin.com