7 Steps To Fix Your Marketing Forever

I talk about the core principles and lessons inside Donald Miller's "Building a StoryBrand" and translate them into how you can apply them as an osteopath.

Podcast Episode Transcript

When I type into Google “What is an Osteopath?”

This is what I get back – top hit is from the NHS website:

An osteopath aims to restore the normal function and stability of the joints to help the body heal itself. They use their hands to treat your body in a variety of ways, using a mixture of gentle and forceful techniques. Techniques are chosen based on the individual patient and the symptoms they have reported.

Now, whether you’re happy with that or not as an osteopath is irrelevant because the only thing that matters is the interpretation of the general public.

Why? Because on a grassroots level, if someone is in pain and they’re looking for help – if you’re lucky enough for them to land on your website, they’ll find message after message talking about osteopathy in a way that means nothing to them. They’ll walk down the street, and they’ll see the window signage of an osteopathic clinic that says something like “Osteopathy can help with” and then list a bunch of conditions.

Talking about osteopathy in this way is going to continue to keep osteopathy in the shadows of chiropractors, physiotherapists and other manual therapists because we can’t do one simple thing: Provide a crystal clear explanation about what we do in a way that makes people listen.

Donald Miller’s Building a StoryBrand solves this problem using the most beloved form of connection in human history – through the art of story telling.

So, as you know, this podcast is centred around the idea that you should never open a clinic without fully understanding what it takes and a part of that means I’m covering 10 books I believe every osteopath should read. This is the third book and I want to address something.

If you’re on your phone, please do me a favour and click on the episode, scroll down and you’ll see a Q&A section – I need you to start telling me if you want me to do another 10 books. I have a rule with Osteohustle and that is if the people don’t respond to something, it’s probably not worth doing. Osteohustle isn’t for me, it’s for you — it’s what our profession needs and demands for that I aim to achieve. So, head to the Q&A section now and tell me if you think I should do another 10 books. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the podcast — thank you to everyone who sends a message or an email, I love that some of you message me after listening to each episode — you’re the real MVPs — thank you to everyone who’s left a 5 start review, if you’d be so kind, please do so, thank youuuu.

Alright. Let’s dive into Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller.

As always, I want to provide context. So, I first read this book back in early 2018, so I was just starting off as a clinic owner, again in 2021 when I thought that Osteohustle’s messaging needed addressing and now again in 2023 for this podcast.

In Building a StoryBrand the central concept is that every single human being on the planet loves a great story. So, how can you use the power of storytelling as an osteopath, and more importantly, how can you use it as an osteopath to better communicate how you can help people and ultimately attract more new patients while making it easier for current patients to refer their friends, family and co-workers?

Well, that’s what you’re about to learn.

First up, your marketing message needs to be crystal clear and speak to peoples needs on an emotional level.

Donald explains that the first mistake brands make is fail to focus on the aspects of the offer that will help people survive and thrive. All great stories are about survival – either physical, emotional, relational, or spiritual. A story about anything else won’t work to captivate an audience. Nobody is interested. This means that if we position our products and services as anything, but an aid in helping people survive, thrive, be accepted, find love, achieve an aspirational identity or bond with a tribe that will defend them physically and socially, good luck selling anything to anybody.

And I think that’s so true. Here’s something that I did when I started my own practice, and I bet you have too. I thought: well, I need a way to attract new patients, so I’d better get a new website.

But what I learned through this book is that a new website, no matter how fancy it looks, won’t get people through the door if you don’t use language effectively.

Donald says that the second mistake brands make is, they cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand that offer. When, having to process too much, seemingly random information, people begin to ignore the source of that useless information in an effort to conserve calories. In other words, there is a survival mechanism within customers brain that is designed to tune out should we ever start confusing them. He says: imagine every time we talk about our products to a potential customer, they have to start running on a treadmill. Literally, they have to jog the whole time we’re talking. How long do you think they are going to pay attention? Not long. And this is precisely what’s happening. When somebody visits or website for example, they are burning calories to process the information we are sharing. And if we don’t say something and say it quickly, they couldn’t use to survive or thrive, they will tune out.

So, the answer is to create a clear message, one that presents your brand with no room for confusion. According to Donald, this message must communicate three things in the clearest way possible to someone who has no idea about osteopathy: Who you are. What you’re here to do. And why they should choose you instead of someone else.

He argues that if your message is all over the place, talking about irrelevant things, things they don’t understand, trying to make too many points and it’s confusing, people will struggle to figure out if they’re in the right place and try somewhere else.

So, the first lesson is simple. Say what you are, be crystal clear about it and be consistent across anything to do with your brand so your website, signage, social media, posters, leaflets, Google Business Profile, how you speak to patients, all that good stuff.

But I did say that your marketing message needs to be crystal clear as well as speak to peoples needs on an emotional level, so let’s talk about that.

Donald explains that when creating your message, the best things to consider are the survival-related needs of your customers. Which is easy for us an osteopaths because we’re primarily dealing with a very emotional survival need: pain.

In the book, Donald talks about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which he arranges our needs as humans according to their importance to our survival. It goes like this: First is food and drink, then safety and shelter, then companionship then other needs like psychology to spirituality.

So again, as we’re mainly helping people deal with something centred around pain, our job as osteopaths looking to create a powerful message is simple because we’re speaking right to the second most important survival aspect of being human safety. We need to be pain free in order to move and therefore work to earn money and look after ourselves and the people we call family.

I want to pause here and catch up. Donald is saying that we need to say what we are, be crystal clear about it and speak to people on an emotional level. And because we’re saying that we can help heaps of people become pain-free, a very emotive survival need for everyone, this begs the question: why aren’t osteopaths full to the brim every working day?

The answer is because what we’re saying is not sticking.

How do we make what we do stick?

You’re going to find out through the StoryBrand 7-Part Framework.

So, the SB7 Framework is structured around the seven most common components of a story. You’re going to use the SB7 Framework to make your message stick and have what’s called your brand story.

These components of the SB7 framework are characterproblem, guide, plan, calls to action, failure and success.

I feel like it’s important to give you the basic idea of what the story arc looks like with context.

The character desires something, but that something is hard to get. That’s the problem. When the character is on the verge of giving up, a guide appears. This guide provides a plan and calls the character to take action. The character then avoids failure and manages to get that something they initially wanted.

Now you know the story arc, let’s talk about each of the 7 steps as lessons then discuss in detail:

#1 Your patients are the heroes of your story, and you should concentrate on one desire

The most memorable stories have a hero. Star Wars has Luke Skywalker. The Lord of the Rings has Frodo. James Bond **has James Bond. But the hero of your brand story isn’t you – it’s the patient.

As you know, the SB7 Framework’s first module is character. And just as the customer is always right, the patient is also always the character. Your story should focus solely on the needs and wants of your patients; this way, when your patients want something in real life, your story, and thus your the services you offer, will quickly come to mind.

#2 Focus on your patient’s “villain”

You need to mention your patients problems in order to engage them. We all know that people like to feel understood, and when you communicate that you’re aware that patients face difficulties, you also communicate understanding.

Stories with a hero usually also include a villain – something or someone the hero must overcome. So, when telling the story of your patients, you must cast their problem as the villain.

This one is super easy for the majority of us because the villain is pain.

#3 Guide your patients

At some point in pretty much every story, the hero gets into trouble. For instance, Luke Skywalker loses his hand and must battle the dark side of the force.

But then, right when things seem hopeless, along comes a guide – someone who puts the hero back on the right path.

Think Yoda, Gandalf, you get the idea.

In your brand story, your brand is the guide – that wise and supportive someone who helps the patient overcome their problems with being in pain.

But this is where most osteopaths fall down.

To effectively and genuinely present yourself as a guide, you’ll need to make clear two things: empathy and authority.

Empathy is absolutely crucial. It not only demonstrates that you understand the pain and frustration of your patient; it also sets the foundation for a strong therapeutic alliance.

Authority is equally important. Now, to establish authority, you don’t need to be overbearing or condescending. All it takes is a constant demonstration of competence.

A great way of doing this is by using numbers and reviews. Now, for you AHPRA practitioners out there, you can’t use your reviews for marketing (if you need more guidance on that, please email me), but for everyone else, reviews are essential because it proves that people are using your service and enjoying it. In our experience here at Osteohustle, getting 30+ reviews on Google tips the scale where you start to see more people booking online and calling your clinic.

As for numbers, you can use numbers like total years in practice or combined years of experience or x number of practitioners etc.

Just quickly on this point. I wouldn’t describe using numbers and reviews as authority – I see them more as credibility, but that’s a different point all together.

Okay, so now that you’ve established the main characters in your brand story, it’s time to start working on the plot.

#4 To get more patients, lay out a plan

Let’s be honest here, as you know, I believe that in order for this podcast to be valuable to you, we need to talk about the hard things, so, let’s be real: osteopathy is a premium service and it’s considered expensive for most people. So, as osteopaths, we must understand that when a patient is trying to choose who to trust, especially when they may not know what osteopathy is, what to expect or are coming to see you for the first time, that it would be helpful to them for us to lay out a plan.

It’s simple: Tell them exactly what to expect.

I love this explanation by Donald, he says: your customers are standing on the edge of a creek. They want to cross, but there’s no bridge, and none of them are willing to get wet. What do you do? Well, you heave some big stones into the water, and your customers can hop across from stone to stone.

These crossing stones add up to your plan.

So, to get rid of any possible confusion, be crystal clear about the process.

#5 The hero must have a call to action

Put simply, you’ve got to challenge your customers to take action and make it easy for them to accept the challenge.

Remember: the average consumer will see roughly 3,000 advertisements per day, so you’ve got to stand out. Timidly waiting for attention won’t cut it; people will simply ignore you and even worse, if they do choose you but you make it hard for them to book in, they’ll go somewhere else – remember – they’re burning decision calories.

So, for your website, buttons saying “Book Online”, “Call The Clinic” etc. For leaflets, business cards, posters etc, use phone numbers or QR codes that go to your online booking system etc. And make sure it’s obvious!

#6 Further motivate patients to buy by reminding them of what they’ll lose if they don’t

This is where most osteopaths, including myself, get a little stuck, and it’s to do with ethics, but step 7 balances out for me, so stick with me here.

Donald says that we all know that the story will end well for the hero, but it’s the possibility that everything will end unhappily that keeps us hooked.

In your brand story, you should capitalise on this fear of failure, because a similar fear guides whether we buy something or not.

Now, I think this is a with great power comes great responsibility moment here because if you know that you’re an ethical practitioner who wants the best for your patients, I believe that you can capitalise on this fear of failure because you know that they’re coming to a good osteopath.

I’ll leave that one for you to think about.

Now, let’s address the final step.

#7 Show your patients how osteopathy will change their lives by sharing a vision

I love this from Donald, he says that stories are riveting because there’s always the possibility of a tragic end. But no one wants their own story to end tragically. And that’s why, after highlighting the fear of not purchasing, you should lay out the overwhelmingly positive experience they’ll have when they choose you.

That fairytale ending is success.

For instance, Nike doesn’t simply sell quality footwear and athletic apparel. They promise an entire lifestyle – one filled with inspiration and drive and glory.

So how can you create a vision toward which your patients will want to strive?

Well, Donald says that there are three strategies.

  1. Status. Doing your best to make your brand synonymous with status. This is something that if you’re a luxury brand, you must pay attention to because you can speak to that potential patients intrinsic need to be person who doesn’t go to that place, they go to this place. It’s no different from choosing a budget gym to a luxury leisure centre. People make choices to do with status.
  2. Completeness. This is giving the promise of fulfilment. It’s trickier to explain how osteopathy will make your patient’s life more complete before coming experiencing it for themselves. The best way to do this is through using reviews so others can see what others have achieved. And you can absolutely continue this narrative in a patient-centred way via their goals. Bear with me on this one: If a patient tells you on their first session that they would love to get back to cycling longer distances, of course you should make that one of their treatment outcome measures, but remind them of it. “Hey, isn’t it great that you’re able to cycle longer distances now.” You’re taking about completeness.
  3. Self-acceptance & Reaching their potential. So, Donald says that one way to do this is to help customer’s accept themselves for who they are and uses the example of clothing company, American Eagle. Instead of using models and airbrushing, they advertised with photos of normal people, blemishes and all. Not only was this innovative marketing; it was also a step toward greater self-acceptance for anyone who saw the ads. You can do the same thing by avoiding unrealistic stock photos: both in the sense of using real people, and by using your photos of inside your clinic and of you instead of picture perfect people in a clinic that looks nothing like yours. When it comes to reaching their potential, the fact we’re saying we can help people overcome their pain allows people to envision themselves getting back into what they love doing – but you should do more than that – you must to tell them! Imagine what it’s like to pick your grandchild up without worrying about your back, get off the sidelines and back onto the pitch without worrying about your niggling ankle etc. You get the idea.

So, there it is. Now you can make your marketing message finally stick using the SB7 Framework! The reason why this book is on my list is because it acts as a constant reminder that our business isn’t for us, it’s for your patients and therefore you must make it about them. And now you have a practical way to make that happen.

If you need help creating and communicating a clear brand message that’ll speaks to the types of people you love to treat, come and speak with us!

Of course, if you’d like help with creating and communicating a clear brand message that’ll speaks to the types of people you love to treat, it’s the foundation of our branding service – my email is in the description. Just have the subject as BRAND MESSAGE, you don’t have to say anything else, I’ll reach out to you knowing that you’ve come from this episode.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast and find value in what I’m striving to share, leaving a 5-star review would mean a whole lot.

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Thank you again for listening. See you next week. Cheers.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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