Are you tired of working a day job to support your herbal career?
Do you want more clients but aren’t sure how to get them in the door?
Are you wondering if it’s possible to make a living as a consultant herbalist?
I know what it’s like to desperately want clients, only to stare at an empty schedule book. For years I thought that being a good herbalist was all I needed in order to fill my practice, so I studied at great schools and with some of the best herbal teachers of our time.
But it wasn’t enough.
I was frustrated. My negative voice took it out on myself, “You just aren’t good enough! No one wants to pay to work with you.”
It wasn’t pretty.
People would tell me I needed a marketing plan. But at first I didn’t want to hear this. I used to think marketing was either obnoxious or unethical or perhaps a little of both. The idea of selling my services as if I were some sleazy salesman was too repelling to me.
But little by little I started to realize that marketing today is less about “BUY NOW!” and more about learning how to strategically share your services with the people who need them.
After I learned how to authentically market myself, my practice filled up quickly and now I have a waiting list of at least 6 months. My practice is full of people who I love working with and every day I feel blessed to have the honor of watching people transform their health.
In the process of filling up my practice my perspective on marketing has changed. I now know that oftentimes the difference between an herbalist and a successful herbalist is all about marketing.
So let me share my 5 ways to build a successful herbal business with you.
The first step in learning how to authentically market your services is to know exactly who it is that you want to work with.
As an herbalist the first thing you might think about is the health conditions you are most qualified and excited to help. In the beginning it’s better to be more focused rather than have a long list of problems. You can always expand your marketing message later.
Once you have your health condition in mind, imagine who that person is. The more specific you can be the more compelling and successful your marketing efforts will be.
From there think about who exactly you want to work with. Things to consider are:
Some people don’t like this exercise because they feel that it is too limiting. The reality is that, the more focused your marketing message, the more success you’ll have.
One of the most common mistakes I see herbalists make is that they sell their services to people who “want better health.” This vague message is too vanilla. While people may want better health, it’s too obtuse to get most people’s attention.
Knowing exactly who you want to work with will help you with the next marketing steps.
One of the first rules of marketing is that people don’t care about you. At least not initially.
People are most likely to act when they want a benefit.
One of the worst marketing mistakes that herbalists make is that the first message they share with the world is describing the modalities they use. I know, because I used to do this very thing.
Here’s how I used to describe myself to others, both in person and in my marketing materials (brochure, bio, website, etc).
“My name is Rosalee. I am an herbalist. I am a graduate of the East West School of Herbology and I use a blend of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Western Herbalism to create a personalized plan of health for my clients.”
Ugh. Still makes me shudder.
Here’s the problem.
Most people are motivated to see a particular health practitioner because they think that person can help them with their health problems. Seeing a list of modalities a person uses or where they went to school is not compelling.
Instead, your marketing message will be more powerful if you share the benefits you offer for your ideal client.
Here are some improved examples on how to create a more focused message that emphasizes benefits rather than qualifications.
“My name is Rosalee and I work with stressed out moms so they can have less anxiety and get the restful sleep they need.”
“I help women stop their painful periods so that they no longer dread their cycle and are healthy the entire month.”
When I first opened my practice my local newspaper wrote a small paragraph about it in the paper. I was so thrilled! The paper comes out on Wednesdays and I was pretty sure that by Friday I would have already scheduled countless clients.
Two weeks later I was somehow still waiting for those clients to materialize.
If only I could go back and whisper into my naive ears. Marketing isn’t something you do one time. The average person will have to spend hours a week on marketing for an average of six months.
You can be more efficient with your marketing efforts if you know your ideal client (#1), know how to share your services in a compelling way (#2) and you share the message where they will see it.
It’s not your client’s job to find you.
Is your ideal client already health conscious? Look for them at health food stores and the gym.
Is your ideal client a young adult? Look for them at local colleges.
Is your ideal client motivated to see an herbalist because of their connection to nature? Look for them at naturalist classes.
An online version of this may be creating a site with SEO strategies for your town or your preferred condition.
One of the fastest ways to build your herbal practice is to get referrals from other practitioners.
There are two important considerations here.
The first is that you’ve nailed your marketing message so that it’s focused. If your marketing message is too broad people won’t think of you for the referral.
If your message is that you practice Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda to create a personalized health plan… well, who is that really for?
Whereas, if your marketing message is that you work with stressed out moms, when a practitioner sees that stressed out mom she is more likely to think of you and give you that glowing recommendation. Even better, she hands that mom your business card that also clearly states you help stressed out moms. That mom will be much more likely to contact you because you clearly offer what she is looking for.
The second part of building a referral network with other practitioners is to realize that this takes time and relationship building. Dropping off your card with a bunch of massage therapists is not going to cut it.
Look for people who already attract your ideal client. Look for people you personally resonate with. And then get to know them. Offer to buy them a cup of tea. Chat about what they do. Share what you do. If appropriate, sign up for their services. Or perhaps you might do a trade with them. Or offer them a free session with you. The better people “get” you, the more likely they will be enthusiastically recommending you.
Herbalism is growing in popularity but it is still a fairly obscure practice. There are many people with health problems that herbalists can help, but very rarely are those people thinking to themselves, “I need to find a good herbalist.”
Moreover, people rarely sign up for health consultations with people they aren’t familiar with.
Getting a referral from a friend or from another practitioner can be really helpful.
However, if someone is able to get a preview of what you offer they will be more likely to follow through with signing up.
Teaching free or cheap classes around town can be a good way for people to get to know you. Again, think about your ideal client and teach classes they would be most inclined to go to. Another common mistake I see with herbalists is that they teach DIY herb classes in order to attract clients for their herbal consultations.
That’s the difference between teaching this class:
“Make your own herbal bath products: bath salts, lotion bars and facial masks.”
And teaching this class:
“6 ways to cut stress and anxiety from your life so you can get better sleep and have more energy.”
Over the years I’ve heard many herbalists complain that it’s impossible to make money as an herbalist.
But I am proof that simply isn’t true. I make a good living as an herbalist and my practice is easily filled with minimal marketing efforts. This isn’t because I’m special, or because I am lucky. It’s because I learned what it takes to be successful and then I made it happen.
I am passionate about sharing what I learned in this journey because the more successful herbal clinicians we have the stronger herbalism will grow as a whole.
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and the Education Director for LearningHerbs. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.