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4 Must-Have Elements for a Compelling Business Narrative

4 Must Have Elements

Whenever I begin work with a new client, I ask them to tell me about their business narrative.

What do I mean?

Simply, I want to know what they’re about. Why they do what they do. Who they help. What results they produce for their clients and customers.

Unfortunately, the kind of answer I often get reminds me of this Picasso:

picasso-girl-with-a-boat

Things are a bit jumbled and confused. I get a general idea of their business, but there’s no single, well-articulated message coming through strong and clear.

As a work of art, the abstract, mixed-up elements in this painting make for an engaging visual experience. But as a business narrative, it’s a recipe for disaster.

What makes for good art does not make for good business. Your job is to bring your business narrative into clear focus. Here’s how.

#1: Know Your Why

Have you seen that now famous TED talk by Simon Sinek?

If not, go watch it as soon as you can. It’s called How Great Leaders Inspire Action. In it, Simon explains why most companies approach their marketing backwards.
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9 Simple Rules for Good Web Design

9-rules-web-design

I could talk for days about good web design, but I’ll spare you. Here are the Cliff Notes — my top 9 rules for a winning website:

Rule #1: Clutter = Bad.

When in doubt, cut it out. Don’t be afraid of whitespace! Whitespace is your friend. It provides visual relief and cushions the important stuff, like a soft fluffy pillow.

Rule #2: User colors sparingly and consistently.

Here’s a good rule of thumb if you’re not a designer type: Pick just 2 colors, in addition to black or dark gray for your text and white for your background. (Advertisers have known for decades that when you want people to read more than a few words of copy, always use dark copy on a white/light background and never the reverse (light on dark), which can be taxing on the eyes – especially online.)

Your primary color will show up in your logo and/or banner, headlines, links, and design elements; your secondary color should be used for accents only — things you want to really stand out, like call-to-action buttons (add to cart, buy now, instant access, get started).

Use your secondary color sparingly so as not to dilute its “punch.” Bright colors like orange, orange-yellow, and red make good accent colors, but it can be any color that pops from the main theme. See this example from SalesForce.com, where the green button in the top right stands out because it’s unique:

salesforce

Important: Choose colors that represent your company personality and appeal to your target audience (or at least won’t turn them off).

Rule #3: Use fonts sparingly and consistently.

Pick, at most, 2 font families: one for headlines, one for body text.
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Here’s a Quick Way to Pick a Winning Niche

trophy

As a holistic health professional, you have an extensive toolkit to help people in many ways, from nutrition guidance to supplement recommendations to fitness advice. Your interest and compassion makes you want to help everyone, and you find it hard to turn down anyone who asks for your help.

Problem is, when you try to help everyone—from a middle-aged woman struggling with weight gain to a young mother with an immune disorder to a boy with food allergies—you spread yourself thin and serve no one well, including yourself. (To read more about why trying to help everyone is a bad business strategy, read this article.)

So how do you narrow down your niche and find your focus?

Here’s a quick, 3-step process:

1. Make a list of what excites you.

There’s no point in specializing in a topic that bores you, so start by noticing what gets your juices going. Are you passionate about prenatal nutrition? Fascinated by female hormones? Stimulated by stress reduction? Fanatical about raw food?

Perhaps, like many in holistic health, you find too many things interesting and feel pulled in ten different directions. Don’t worry about that yet–I’ll show you how to pare down the list in the next two steps. For now, just make a list of all the topics that you feel especially drawn to.

Be sure your list includes only topics that you can envision focusing on for the next 2-3 years without getting bored. Your list might look something like this:

  • Prenatal nutrition
  • Food allergies
  • Nutrition for autism
  • Diabetes
  • Helping people get healthy
  • Improving energy
  • Mood disorders
  • Exercise for weight loss

 
2. Look at your list and ask, are people actively searching for solutions to these issues?

The best niches are ones where people are actively searching for answers, particularly if there’s emotional pain and urgency. Look at each item on your list and evaluate them to see if this true.

In this example list, there’s one that does not fit the criteria and should be crossed out. Can you guess?
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Is Niching Necessary?

Is Niching Necessary?

You’ve probably heard some version of this before:

In order to build a successful practice, you’ve got to pick a niche.

You’ve got to choose a well-defined, target audience who has a particular problem or aspiration.

But is it true?

To answer that question, let’s do a little thought experiment.

Imagine that you visit your doctor for a routine check up and she shockingly informs you that you’re on your way to developing Type II diabetes if you don’t make some serious changes to your diet and lifestyle right now.

You’re surprised because you’re only 15 pounds overweight and you certainly don’t think of yourself as unhealthy, but there it is.

After wallowing in self pity for a day, you decide to take charge and do something about it. So you start looking for a local nutritionist to support you in making the right changes.

You hop on your computer and Google “diabetes nutritionist YOURTOWN”. A bunch of nutritionists’ websites pop up and you begin going through them, one by one.

All of the websites have pretty pictures of colorful fruits and vegetables, and all of them advertise that they support a variety of conditions, which includes diabetes and pre-diabetes among many others.

But one of the sites really stands out. The practitioner says she is focused exclusively on preventing and managing diabetes, and there are a dozen testimonials from people just like you who have moved from “frightened” to “in control”, raving about their positive experiences with her.

Who do you call?
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The Secret to Doing Anything You Want

Rock Climber

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 40th birthday by spending a week at the Esalen Institute on the beautiful coast of Big Sur.

I was there to take a workshop called “The Max: Expanding the Limits of Your Self-Expression” taught by an amazing woman named Paula Shaw.

Paula has been acting for over 50 years, and while she calls The Max an acting workshop, that doesn’t begin to describe what we 25 participants and 8 assistants did together for five intensive days.

The Max has such a reputation that many of us had known about it for years (like me) but never had the guts to do it until now.

It’s so scary that Paula requires each participant to tell her face-to-face on the first night “I’m in” so they won’t bail as the going gets tough.

As I write this, I smack against the difficulty of describing exactly what we did in the workshop because it was so experiential. But please bear with me as I try because I’m getting to something important—no less than the secret to doing anything you want.

What we did in The Max can be described as a series of exercises and assignments that forced us to discover where we hold back and repress what we really feel and wish we could say.

We were encouraged (tough love style) to push beyond our self-imposed limits and practice expressing our feelings to the max.

This was all done either on stage in front of everyone, or in smaller groups. It wasn’t about thinking or writing—it was about experiencing and expressing. There was nowhere to hide.
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7 Home Page Essentials

Home Page Essentials

As a marketing consultant and coach, I evaluate a lot of websites. I typically find the same set of problems – problems you can avoid if you get these seven essentials right:

1) Let your visitor know they’re in the right place — immediately.

Studies show you have just a few seconds to communicate your message before your visitors decide to bail or hang out a little longer. So it’s obviously critical that you make it clear to your ideal customers that they’re in the right place, and that you do it FAST.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a functional medicine doctor who helps menopausal women balance their hormones. Your tagline might be “Helping Women Stay Active and Vital” and the main copy on the page would say  “Feeling tired, cranky and fat? It doesn’t have to be this way. You can lose weight, get your energy back, and feel great again with my XYZ hormone balancing program. Schedule your appointment today.”

2) Include a call-to-action.

Did you notice how I finished with “Schedule your appointment today” in the previous example? That’s called a call-to-action. It’s essentially an order – you’re telling your visitor exactly what to do.

It might seem bossy, but in fact, bossyness works on the web. You need to give simple and clear instructions, or your visitor will likely do nothing at all. That’s why you see things like “Click here to order” and “Call 1-800-555-5555 right now” and “Enter your email to download this free report”.
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Authenticity and Vulnerability

Be Authentic

I was scanning my Facebook page a few days ago when I saw a post that caught my eye. It was a TED video of Brené Brown speaking on “The Power of Vulnerability.”

I watched the 20 minute video with fascination. It struck a chord because I’ve known for a long time that my deep fear of being vulnerable holds me back in life.

It’s something I’ve worked on purposefully for the past 15 years, and I think, honestly, I’ve made great strides. But it also seems to be a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. I know my fear of being vulnerable keeps me from making more meaningful connections with people, and from stepping out from behind my desk and putting myself out there more in business.

Ms. Brown had some powerful messages, including:

“Vulnerability appears to be the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
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Email Marketing: 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts

Email marketing

Emailing your customers and prospects is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to communicate your message and get more sales. But far too often it’s done wrong, resulting in massive unsubscribes and lost sales.

So how do you do it right? Here are 5 tips and 5 cautions:

5 Do’s of Email Marketing:

1. Provide value.

Give your email recipients something of value in exchange for their attention. It could be your commentary about a controversial piece of breaking health news, or information about a promotion or sale. Whatever it is, be sure it’s something that will interest your particular list.

2. Communicate frequently and be consistent.

If you email only once in a blue moon, you run the risk of losing your prospect’s attention and becoming irrelevant. Aim to email at least once a week, even if it’s just a short note about a new blog article you’ve posted with a link to the piece.

 3. Speak to one person.

Pretend as if you’re writing a personal letter to one of your favorite patients and refer to them directly using “you” and “your” rather than “they” and “their”. Use conversational language as you would in a one-on-one discussion with a friend.
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