How Marketing Can Help Your RD Practice: Part 1 - The One Thing You Absolutely Have to Start With
When was the last time you made a new friend? Did you give them your social security number the first day you met them? Did you tell them about the time you ate an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting? No, of course not. When you meet someone new, you protect yourself and you start letting them in on your secrets once they’ve gained your trust, right? Maybe you still don’t tell them your SSN, but you definitely give away more of yourself to someone that you deem trustworthy.
It works exactly the same way with gaining clients. People need to know they can trust you before they make the decision to give away part of themselves to you, whether it be emotions tied to their eating habits or their money. You also need to differentiate yourself from other dietitians out there because clients always have a choice and you want them to choose you!
So what’s the one thing you absolutely have to start with when marketing your practice?
You need a brand.
Before you can develop an effective marketing strategy, you need to deeply understand your business: the customer, their needs & how you fulfill them.
Your brand tells customers who you are and what they can expect from you.
A good brand exudes trust by being authentic, accessible, and reliable. It sets you apart from other RDs and highlights what’s best about your practice whether it be your upbeat working style, your attention to detail in every aspect of nutrition or your premium level of service.
A brand is every aspect of your business. It’s the how, who, when, where, what….it’s everything. Where you advertise. The tweets you send. The way your office looks. Everything that goes wrong. Everything that goes right. Even the mints on the reception table.
Consistent, strategic branding leads to strong brand equity, which in turn will lead to increased trust from potential customers, it will add value to your practice and allow you to charge more for your services.
You might be thinking at this point “Okay, I get it, I need a brand. HOW do I create one?”. There’s a lot that goes into branding, but some general questions you want to ask yourself are:
- Why did I start my practice?
- What is the mission of my practice?
- What are the benefits of my services, what makes my practice unique?
- What’s our personality, what is the practice like?
- What do we care about?
- What do our customers desire?
- Notice I didn’t say want or need. This one is important because you have to look beyond the surface level. For example, instead of them wanting to lose 30lbs, it’s likely that they want to be perceived as someone that’s healthy, works out, and eats well. The want the lifestyle of and to have people perceive them as someone that is 30lbs lighter.
- How do we change our customers' lives?
- What qualities do I want customers to associate with my company?
- How will I communicate with my customers? What’s the style & tone of how we speak to customers and convey our brand message?
Spend time really answering the above questions and write it all up in a semi-formal Brand Guide and use it when creating your website, emails, making ads, thinking about how and what you’re going to post on social, etc.
You also want to choose 2-3 brands that you admire, not because they’re great companies but because they’re great BRANDS and add them to the end of your Brand Guide. They don’t need to be private practice RDs, but if you’re a solo practitioner, choose someone that has a personal brand in a similar field (health, wellness, etc). Take note of what’s great about these brands and while you never want to copy, figure out how you can emulate what they do with your own spin on it.
A Brand Guide will help direct you and your team to be strategic and consistent with the message you're putting out to the world. Once you do this, you’ll begin to build trust with potential customers and once they trust you, they’ll want to work with you.
An important thing to remember about a brand is that they’re always determined by individuals, not companies. You can influence your brand, but not define it. Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what THEY say it is. The best branding happens when a company’s target market distinguishes them as they wish. Make sure you’re always talking to your audience. Do they perceive you as you want to be perceived?
So that wraps up Part 1. Now that you know where you need to get started in order to market your practice, get started on creating your Brand Guide!
Next time we’ll talk about 10 tips on marketing your practice for FREE. “What? Nothing’s Free.” You’re right, there’s definitely some time and resources involved, but really, you don’t have to spend any money. Make sure you check back!