• Identifying the features of your business
What are the features of your business—the characteristics, the traits, the facets, the elements, the highlights? For example, you may offer women’s health and wellness services, educational classes, office appointments, phone consultation, a sliding scale, a newsletter, etc.
• Identifying the benefits of your business
How do your customers benefit from your services and products? What can they do, or what do they receive, from coming to you? Perhaps your customers learn their health risk factors, learn self-care techniques, learn about alternative/complementary approaches to wellness, receive state-of-the-art health care, etc.
• Know what you are selling—this is key!!!
You may be selling care or products, but what is really underneath that? Is your real product empowerment or peace of mind? Once you get clear about this, use it in your marketing materials.
• Develop a niche
Often we nurses want to do everything for everyone. This usually doesn’t work for business. Find the area of your practice that feels the best, that makes you the most happy and satisfied and go for that niche. It is easier to market to a specific group than everyone. The more specific your marketing effort is, the more successful it will be. When you narrow your focus, you will become known for that area of practice.
• The best advertisement is word of mouth
Think about how you find out about practitioners. You usually ask someone who they go to or who they would recommend. Your satisfied customers are your best source of advertisement. Let people know you want new clients. Reward them if they send a new client.
The second best form of advertisement is to meet people. Get in a speakers bureau. Give free talks about an interesting topic. Talk at conferences. Ask for clients. Have office open houses. In the beginning, you may want to offer a short free consultation. Go to health fairs. Talk on the radio either for free or pay for a show if you can afford it. Develop an email mailing list to inform people of upcoming events. Use a viral marketing approach and ask email recipients to forward your email to friends. Contact people and use a program like Microsoft Outlook or a page on your computer or index cards to keep track of your links.
E-newsletters are a hot marketing approach now. Some of the best have the information right in the email so there is no downloading problem. Keep them short, sweet, informative, fun and succinct. Here are some suggestions for software companies that offer this service:
Websites are helpful in business. You can develop a simple website that people who you contact can go to for more information. If you are wanting the website to draw in clients, that is a bigger endeavor requiring much more money for design, graphics, branding, updating, refreshing, and search engine expertise. A simple version can be under $1000 but a more complex version can run $15,000 or more.
Ads in newspapers or journals are easy but expensive and not the best source for advertising unless you have a great deal of money. If you run an ad, be sure that it really includes the benefits and what you are selling.
• Develop referral sources
Who do you know that really values your services or would if they knew about them? Two or three really great referral sources can fill the bulk of your practice.
• Set your intention and use the law of attraction
Get very clear about what you want. See it. Smell it. Put your arms around it. Use affirmations and the law of attraction. Take action steps. Move toward easy and fun in your business. Find what feeds you.
• Consider playing the FAN CLUB GAME
This is a fun way to develop a system for creating satisfaction in your work. Jay Perry, master coach, developed this approach and you can read more about it in his book The Fan Club Game. Basically it divides contacts into strangers, people who are aware of your work, people who are interested in your work, people who have had a taste of your work, people who have been clients and people who are fans of you and your work. This approach helps you see where most of the people are in your network and helps you plan how to move them toward the fan club.
• Think of collaboration rather than competition
We are entering into an age of collaboration. Most business plans want you to develop a list of competitors. It is helpful to know what others have tried and what works and what does not. However, if you switch to thinking of the people in your field as collaborators, you may uncover some interesting and useful colleagues and links. This does not mean that you should give away your trade secrets. But really, if you offer a service, it will probably be a unique service that people want because you are delivering it.
If you work alone, develop a support system of other practitioners either in your area or utilize a phone bridge so you can routinely meet with colleagues. This will add a richness and vibrancy to your work and life. This is another reason for nurses in private practice to share information and best practices. Join the Private Practice Discussion Forum (members only) and communicate with other holistic nurses about private practice. Collaborating will help all of us.
• What to charge?
Most service providers struggle a bit with what to charge for their work and when to raise their fees. Usually they can consult others in their towns that provide a similar service. Nurses in private practice are small in number compared to nurses that have a set salary. We have little experience or role models for this part of private practice. For your business to succeed and grow, financial numbers need to be your new best friend. Some nurses have said to me, “I don’t really like numbers. I just want to help people.” Unless you do not need to make money from your practice, you need to understand start up funding and profit and loss statements. Visit the Business Resource page to get access to free templates to help you get organized with small business plans, start-up expenses, cash flow and more.
• Develop a product(s)
When you are in a private practice providing a service, you are using your time on a one to one basis. You see one person or a group of people for an hour and you charge for your time. You can only make so much money from this model. You only have so much time. If you have a product, you have an additional revenue stream…money coming into you. You can be at the beach and if someone buys your product, the money comes to you.
That said, be careful—full of care—with what products you sell to people. There are many types of products to consider. Maybe you want to make a relaxation CD or a self-care basket for Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, etc. The list is endless. You provide a service to your clients because you have done research and are knowledgeable in certain areas of resources. Certain products are set up in a pyramid, network model. Sometimes the energy surrounding these products encourages practitioners to provide the items and then enlist clients to become distributors as well. It is important to consider all aspects of the products and the process of offering them to the public.
Consult your accountant when you begin to sell products because your bookkeeping system may need to change. Keeping track of inventory will also require a procedure.