Why Wellness Is Different
Making the world better isn't like selling pizza.
Health & wellness businesses don't just sell programs and services. They guide clients on highly personal journeys and help them meet both opportunity and adversity with grace, resilience, and purpose.
Wellness is special.
Every day you help people make the most personal decisions of their lives as they embark on their own health journeys.
You help them peel back the layers of their prior experiences, fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams, and then set course for the future they choose.
And you do it all in an environment that scrutinizes everything your business does, from special federal and state rules to Google and Facebook restrictions on advertising.
Because health matters. More than anything. And with great power comes great responsibility.
1. When more is expected, more is required.
Health and wellness is a minefield of special rules that other industries don't have to deal with.
For licensed health professionals, state licensing and codes of ethics restrict the use of certain titles, define scope of practice, and limit some marketing activities.
The Federal Trade Commission restricts health and fitness claims and has specific guidelines for weight loss advertising.
Most states require health clubs to obtain a license and provide a financial guarantee like a surety bond.
Google, Facebook, Instagram and Bing also restrict how you can advertise health, fitness, wellness and medical services.
For example, only licensed pharmacies can include drug names in their online advertising. Only certain nutritional supplements can be advertised. Weight loss programs can't promote hCG. And only licensed healthcare providers can claim their services improve medical conditions. Some businesses like addiction treatment centers must obtain LegitScript certification in order to advertise.
In social media ads, your use of photos can't call negative attention to parts of the body. Your ad copy can't imply or reference negative self-perception, even though we all know that clients often specifically seek out health and wellness providers to improve their confidence and self-esteem!
Why? Because we're talking about people's health and wellbeing. It's a special, closely scrutinized category.
And when you want to play in the big leagues, you've gotta know the rules, and play by the rules.
2. Wellness is a journey.
No one thinks twice about replacing a toaster that scorched one slice too many. The stakes are low. Get it wrong, you'll eat cereal this morning and buy another toaster this afternoon.
But people think long and hard about health, fitness and wellness decisions before they commit.
Every one of your clients, members or patients brings a unique mix of life experiences, hopes and fears to your business. Many carry complex emotional baggage that makes them even more hesitant to commit.
An Olympic hopeful isn't going to switch coaches on a whim. That guy trying to manage Type 2 diabetes is skeptical about quick fixes.
Buying behavior in health and wellness usually follows Dr. James Prochaska and Dr. Carlo DiClemente's "Transtheoretical Stages of Behavior Change" model: precontemplation to contemplation, preparation, and finally, action.
The earliest actions from potential customers aren't usually purchases. They may sign up for your email newsletter, attend a webinar, read client testimonials or patient reviews, watch a video about your program, or click on links for for maps or directions (a definite buying sign!). Even tooling around on your website for longer than 20 seconds can signal a potential purchase.
All of these actions support sales by helping prospects determine whether your programs and services are right for them.
Keep in mind that information unrelated to their decision process—for example, global obesity statistics—is just a distraction and a waste of their time.
3. Wellness is personal.
Wellness is never one-size-fits-all. The perfect weight loss program for Sonya is a terrible fit for Marcus.
Not everyone with diabetes is overweight. Not everyone's who's overweight is a couch potato. Not every woman wants a "bikini body."
Your weight loss program, yoga studio, gym, sports medicine practice, diabetes self-care center, or counseling practice probably excels at helping certain types of customer.
You've got to tailor all of your sales and marketing to attract your best prospects, the ones that fit your strengths.
Maybe it's women struggling with emotional eating, or stressed executives, or new triathletes, or young people dealing with anger or self-control issues.
If you're not sure who you serve best, you'll find yourself asking month after month why it's so hard to find prospects willing to pay what your program's worth.
4. Wellness is perennial.
Retailers count on making tons of money selling whatever's hot right now.
You are the opposite of a retailer. Most of your programs and services are evergreen. They don't change dramatically from day to day or season to season.
You don't have to chase fads or offer LOW LOW prices to move inventory that will rot in warehouses if it doesn't sell before spring.
Once you're clear on what you do best and who you're best at doing it for, you can stay on message year-round. Unlike a retailer, you don't need to constantly create new Google Ads campaigns, overhaul your Google Business Profile, or massively update your website content.
Once you're sure those three essential platforms are in good shape and fully represent your business, most ongoing maintenance is minimal and falls well within the abilities of small and medium-sized business.
We know that many of you see January sales peaks. But those folks started thinking about buying much, much earlier. That's why you have to market year-round, not just in January.
5. You're in it together.
Your business walks side-by-side with your customers on their health journey.
You celebrate the day they walk their first mile, finish their first triathlon, fit into their wedding dress, get that A1C below 8.
You were part of making that happen.
Does anyone at your wireless provider lose sleep if you've got phone problems? Nah.
But the people in this industry really care. When clients struggle, you want to help.
And that makes everything different.
6. You want to know your customers.
Other industries avoid getting to know customers. “Enter your account number to get your balance.” “First, check for an answer in our online FAQ.” “The hold for a live representative is currently 28 minutes.” “Email customer service.”
But everyone in this industry knows that changing lives for the better is all about the human connection. Big changes take big involvement.
Sure, you can automate certain steps and build a business that scales.
But whether you're seeing people in person, or via Zoom or teleconference, clients, members and patients are always more than just a login.
7. You're a trusted authority.
The Internet is flooded with conflicting health and wellness advice and options.
Prospective customers are placing their trust in you to cut through the noise. To explain why your approach makes more sense for their situation than all those other alternatives. To reinforce why choosing your business is the right move.
That’s why getting your marketing messages right is so, so important. You're not selling toasters.
8. Doing well by doing good is the mission.
“We need to make a decent living for our team and we have to take care of our investors, but what we really care about is helping as many people as possible.”
We've heard it over and over. Can you name any other industry where businesses think that way?
Nearly every wellness business shares the wealth of good health.
Some raise money for community causes. Others create scholarships for people who need their programs but can't afford them. Others offer a "lite" version of their services or offer a free weekly session.
The message is always the same: everyone deserves the gift of wellbeing.
9. Good is never good enough.
In other industries, companies get lazy. They stop improving their products — after all, that costs money.
But health and wellness leaders never stop dreaming big. They're always thinking about what would work better, the latest research, great ideas from a conference, how to touch more lives.
Just remember to implement your Big Ideas in bite-size chunks so they become reality as quickly as possible.
10. You're tenacious.
Health and wellness businesses are the Weebles of the business world. Knock ‘em down, and they bob back up again.
After all, you see people every day who could benefit from your help—and you know one day, they'll be ready to reach for it.
When your heart is in your work, you don't give up easily. You know you can change lives, and your determination to succeed overcomes hurdles where others falter and second-guess themselves.
11. Your customers are works in progress.
Order pizza, and instant gratification is virtually guaranteed.
Not so in health and wellness. Your customers don't overflow instantly with wellbeing.
It takes time to help people achieve goals, whether it's raising their 1RM or lowering their A1C.
It's always a marathon, often an ultra-marathon, almost never a sprint.
Successful wellness businesses consciously help customers cultivate a sense of measurable progress toward their goals.
12. People expect more of you.
When’s the last time someone said to a financial advisor, “Before I take your advice, let’s look at your bank account!”
Fair or not, right or wrong, many prospective customers think they can tell whether we practice what we preach just by looking at us.
We’re supposed to be super-fit, never stressed, never sick, at an ideal weight, no chronic health concerns.
Of course, the truth is that our "physical resume" is totally irrelevant. Often the best person to lead a wellness program is someone who has up-close and personal experience with those challenges in their own lives.
Wellness businesses that are quick to listen, slow to judge, and own their own humanity in all its authentic imperfection give customers space for their personal health journey free of judgment, guilt and self-doubt.
13. You touch the third rail every day.
Subway trains run on three tracks: two are just metal strips, and safe to touch. That third rail—it's electric. Touch it, and you might not see another sunrise.
Health and wellness professionals touch the third rail every day:
Should our weight loss program say "fat"? How should our active aging program explain to guys that cardio workouts can help their - ahem - stamina? How can our geriatric care managers talk more empathetically about end-of-life decisions?
Most people would walk away from these conversations—but wellness leaders walk towards them, bravely and calmly, committed to finding the right words for your business and your customers.
14. You have a love/hate relationship with marketing.
The most brilliant healthy lifestyle program ever created will still fail if no one knows your business exists. You must market to survive and thrive.
Yet most health and wellness businesses think marketing is about manipulating people to do something they wouldn't otherwise do.
But this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of health and wellness marketing.
Good marketing is a gift to your potential customers: it honors their time and attention by helping them quickly decide whether or not you're the best fit.
Sharing what you do, how you do it, and who you're best able to help empowers them to decide what's right.
Sometimes that means they don't buy from you—and that's OK. That's why it isn't manipulative.
The bottom line: It's always more than a job.
Your wellness business is a force for good that helps people reclaim their health and, ultimately, their lives.
Years from now, they won't remember that pizza or that toaster.
But they'll still feel the joy from the first time they ate birthday cake without feeling guilty, walked without a cane, fit into their college jeans or beat their half-marathon PR.