Randi Drinkwater discusses marketing integrative services to the baby boomer generation.

by Randi Drinkwater

With almost 80 million Baby boomers across the nation struggling to find alternative and integrative healthcare practitioners, and you struggling to find them, reading this article might just be the most important five minutes you ever give to yourself.

No doubt these baby boomers have high standards and expectations when it comes to aging.  They have a strong desire for wellness and expect nothing less.  This puts them high up on the charts as serious and ready to make a conscious move to create  holistic/integrative life plans that will bring this health conscious group longevity, limber limbs and the perfect balance between mind, body and soul.

Alternative Medicine, according to Paul Zane Pilzer, world-renowned economist, is fast becoming the next “Trillion Dollar Market”, with spending totaling upwards of $500 billion (of course this includes much more than the $27 billion spent on modalities, encompassing nutraceuticals, equipment and other alternative health related products.)

If this and other trend predictions hold true, holistic practitioners will soon find themselves in the proverbial spotlight where they will play an increasingly vital role – and reap the abundant benefits – as alternative medicine  becomes a mainstream choice. At first glance, this is truly good news.

Why, then, does there seem to be an air of commotion surrounding the baby boomers plight to stay young and healthy?

Put simply, boomers are struggling to find alternative practitioners who will help them meet the requirements of their plans to live long and physically prosper.   It seems that, for the most part, practitioners aren’t doing anything to find them.

Sadly, internet-based searches, word-of-mouth and phone books will only get a practitioner so far. Without appropriate education – consumers will either continue to accept conventional medicine as the only option for their health related needs or go with the limited information that their family and friends can offer. Worse yet, they’ll take the first name that pops out at them from the phone book or an online search.  This is good news for practitioners whose name starts with “Aa.”  Unfortunately, for the consumer most alphabetical recommendations will not fit with their specific needs.

If the lack of purposeful marketing on the part of alternative practitioners is taking you by surprise, you are not alone.  I run into it everyday.  How could this be possible in the information-inundated 21st century, especially with so much financial reward on the line?

Think about it.  The internet and online forms of communications have become second nature to all who choose to use it.  And many practitioners have become dependent on them as their first line-marketing venues. Yet, the more traditional forms of communications – mail, magazines, newspapers, and radio, to name just a few, are still viable and effective options that can be strategically utilized by practitioners to help potential patients/clients find them.

Sadly, fear seems to be a driving factor in the disconnect between patient/client and practitioner, fear of the “big M word” – marketing.  To a struggling practitioner, marketing equates to high out-of-pocket costs and a lot of time spent implementing marketing programs, which takes away from time spent doing what they do best and love to do– using their healing expertise and wisdom to assist others.  If we look a little deeper, these perceptions about marketing are just that – perceptions. And, rather than being reality, our perceptions are what create our reality.

So, if the hassles, time-intensity and costs of marketing are just perceptions, what is the “real” story?  Are we on a battlefield with traditional medicine on one side and alternative medicine on the other?  Can marketing help to build a peaceful bridge that health conscious consumers can peacefully walk across as they choose from the wealth of health modalities available to them?  Will deep seeded fear of marketing bring the growing wellness industry to a halt?

These are questions I have taken to heart and contemplated, and I have come up with a few ideas that feel good and holistically-based to me. Rather than seeing the health world as a battlefield, I see it as a playing field. And one way to play smart and well is to understand the game and listen closely to what the players are saying. It seems the baby boomers are crying out for education on whom and what is behind the alternative movement.  Boomers are becoming more discerning and independent when it comes to making health choices – and they are holding health providers accountable at a higher level. They want trusted advocates that can help them sort through the maze of choices. They want to be empowered to design and implement their holistic integrative life plans in ways that make sense to them.

As a seasoned marketing professional, I sometimes stop and think – “Well, would you just look at the turn things are taking.” I am sensing the evolution of marketing from captivating and catchy, to honesty and full disclosure. This is where I feel the alternative community has a winning edge. We don’t have to change a thing about who we are or what we do in order to communicate effectively with our clients. We just need to take advantage of forward-thinking marketing products and concepts that allow us to put the word out to patients and clients without having to face the perceived fear of marketing that has kept us silent for too long.   As someone who has walked in both worlds – marketing practitioner and client – I have made it my mission to help create ways for practitioners to “do their thing” without sacrificing time spent with clients.

When all is said and done, I believe more traditional forms of communication take the responsibility off of the consumer by utilizing a unique approach designed to ensure that all the information that a baby boomer needs will find them…rather than the other way around.

If you are a baby boomer, what can you do to take a proactive part in building your holistic/integrative life plan?

  1. Before you set your plan into high gear – make an informed decision. Your wellness depends on it.
  1. know what your options are before making a decision
  2. know who the practitioners are in your area
  3. do a thorough check on their reputation and work
  4. interview several practitioners before making your final choice

How can practitioners be most effective in fully leveraging the gifts of marketing that are available to them?  It really comes down to letting go of old belief systems and embracing a new outlook on marketing and the impact it will have on the baby boomers ability to make informed decisions.

  1. Being a gifted healer is table stakes when it comes to building your patient/client base.  People need to know you are out there.  How you optimize your outreach to potential patients/clients so that you can be found, could very well mean the difference between thriving or simply surviving.
  2. Right now, somebody out there is waiting to buy your product or service….the question you must ask yourself is, do YOU know who they are?  And more importantly, do THEY know who you are?

Bottom line, if you are not identifying your key and most profitable customers, AND getting your message out to them, you are missing opportunity: the opportunity to find new customers and ultimately long-term clients. The client’s dollars will go somewhere.  Why not to you?

  1. Never loose site of your overall responsibility.  The responsibility lies with each and every practitioner to take an active role in educating consumers on their wellness options.  Then and only then can they make informed decisions.

The light is getting brighter everyday.  It is yours for the taking, to do what you do best –as a healer and a successful practitioner.  Let go of the fear of the “big M word” and be guided by the light – fully embracing marketing as friend not foe – in the ever continuing charge to mainstream alternative medicine.

For more than 25 years, Randi Drinkwater has successfully spearheaded high-impact, turnkey marketing solutions that are analytically and strategically focused for such global companies as IBM, Cisco Systems, and WorldCom/MCI/UUNet. Today, Randi resides as CEO for Alternative Growth Streams, Inc., a marketing-membership website (http://www.easygettingmorepatients.com) designed exclusively to empower Alternative and Integrative practitioners to get more patients/clients and grow their business – quickly and easily.

  1. Mature Market Institute – MetLife
  2. Business Wire, August 2007
  3. Baby Boomers and Alternative Medicine; Femhealth Botanicals for Women