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Holistic branding and marketing posts by Diana Chaplin.


Filtering by Tag: marketing

The Holistic Business Model: Big Picture Strategy Beyond Marketing

Diana Chaplin

I love the word holistic. Maybe it’s my history of working on the marketing team at Integrative Nutrition, or aiming to live my life in a balanced way, but holistic refers to the underlying essence of wholeness that we all unconsciously desire.

It also happens to be how any healthy system works.

Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur, a non-profit, or a mid-scale business, a system is what you’ve got. The question of whether it’s an effective one that has the right elements in place is likely the start of the process you can initiate to achieve wholeness, and ultimately see positive results.

The Holistic Business Model

You can find immense information online on basically any individual part of a business, but what’s often missing is the full context of how each of the various parts fit together. The big picture with the wide angle lens, at the center of which is your brand. That’s the point of relevance that ties everything together, like the hub of a wheel that gives meaning to each individual spoke in order for the whole thing to move forward.

Many think that your brand is a logo, or something to do with marketing. But I beg to differ, because your brand is really the core of your identity. It is the essence of who you are (as an individual or organization) and the more clarity you have in THAT, the easier everything else in the system will flow.

Now mind you, I’m not an “expert.” In fact, I feel that this word has been watered down to the point of triviality in a world where everyone is trying to be one. I have 10+ years of experience in marketing, sales, communications, and coaching, but I’m still learning. I’m telling you this not to downplay my own expertise but to say that this particular holistic business model is a work-in-progress. It may not be complete, and I invite you to comment if I’ve left something out because I wholeheartedly believe in co-creation and collaboration. That’s what systems thinking is all about, and I seek to exemplify learning and innovation with full participation.

So let’s get to it.

As mentioned, your brand is at the heart of the system. Everything revolves around your core identity. I elaborated on branding essentials in a previous post, but what I’ll say here is that investing in your brand is absolutely the best thing you can do for your business. It will be a long, hard road to clarity, one I liken to a vision quest because it will touch upon everything you thought you knew and demand that you reveal your innermost self. But that’s a good thing. And the result, ideally, is something clear, simple, and needed in the world. Something that can be stated in about 10 words or less and easily understood by the people you’re most trying to reach.

Here’s an example from an organization I support, the Biomimicry Institute:

“The Biomimicry Institute empowers people to create nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet.”

Is it clear? I think so.

Is it simple? Yep, it’s just one short sentence.

Is it needed in the world? Oh hell yeah.   

From the core of this identity, they elaborate what that means on their website. They host sustainability-based design challenges, provide educational resources for classrooms, host a public resource site, have a consulting arm, and more. The point is that when you have a clear identity such as this, it is easy to explain what your business is all about, yet also leaves plenty of freedom and flexibility to experiment how that identity manifests in what the business does.   

Not only that, but it helps every single person within the organization understand the collective intention of what they’re all doing, and how the different roles contribute to that effort. When there’s a lack of clarity, at best people tend to disengage and not work to their full potential, and at worst they could actually be detrimental to the business.

Your brand should be useful, meaningful, and memorable.

It can inspire, entertain, invigorate, educate, motivate, or nurture, but ultimately it must make people feel something or become somehow better. Why? Because if your product or service doesn’t leave an impression that is positively meaningful, then you’ll be forgotten or ignored.

So let’s move on.

Once you’ve got your brand clarity figured out, it should permeate throughout your mission, message, products, relationships, and team, and by extension things like marketing strategy, customer experience, and acquisitions.

Mission ­– this is how you’re exemplifying your brand identity and the bigger vision of what you’re really trying to do in the world. For Lifeisgood.com it’s not selling T-shirts, it’s spreading optimism. They sell T-shirts to generate revenue for the business, but they also have a nonprofit kids foundation, share positive stories from all 50 states, and create media. Having a clear and simple mission opens up the ways in which the business can operate and flourish. Check out these conscious brands for inspiration. 

Message – this includes both internal and external messaging. By internal I mean the communications that happen with your team. Are they clear on the big picture of what this organization is trying to achieve? By external I mean anything that you publish, anywhere. Your core message should be consistent with your brand identity and your mission. It involves all marketing efforts, various pages on your website, advertising, blog posts, videos, social media posts, ebooks, and any other forms of content that you create. Be mindful about the words that you use so that they resonate with your audience. This is where it’s critical to have a copywriter, content strategist, and marketing manager who are able to see the big picture of the brand and bring that down to earth in the creation of cohesive messaging at every level.

Products – are you creating things that “walk the talk” of what your brand is all about? You’d be surprised at how often the values or mission of a brand is at odds with the products they actually make. I see this all the time in wellness-related products that use words like “natural” and even “organic” and have lots of green colors and leaves in their packaging, but then use all kinds of artificial ingredients and fillers in the actual composition of their products. We wouldn’t even know if it there weren’t laws stating ingredients have to be disclosed! The point is not to cheat your customers. Make sure your products are genuinely aligned with your brand message and identity. Make them as awesome as possible to truly serve your customers, and have integrity in what you’re creating. Without alignment here, your sales will suffer.

Relationships – this is really what success comes down to. Genuine relationships, built on trust and mutual benefit. Develop a relationship with your customers so you understand their experience, desires, and challenges. Likewise, reach out to potential partners whose mission is aligned and complementary to yours. Be honest with investors, affiliates, consultants, distributors, and anyone else who’s a part of your business network. The more you create opportunities to connect with these individuals the more you’re nurturing the seeding ground for innovation, collaboration, and success.

Team – your team is the staff, whether it’s full or part time employees, freelancers, VA’s, or consultants, and the founder. The founder is a leader of the team, but should also be an open and accessible part of the team. It is critical for everyone on the team to be clear on the mission, and fully informed to speak clearly to customers, ask the right questions, create design and web experiences that speak to the target audience, and of course, be proud and purposeful in the work they do. Every team member should believe 100% in the heart of the brand identity. If they do, they will bring their absolute best selves to the table, and that’s good for business.

What did I leave out here? Plenty!

Service, values, loyalty, diversity, wisdom, leadership, strategy, sustainability, influence. I could go on but I’ll save these topics for separate posts.

For now, here’s your takeaway exercise:

Look at the diagram and the five focus points above and ask yourself which is currently missing from your business? Do you have a clear brand but no system in place to enact it? Do you have a dysfunctional system? Do you lack brand clarity and positioning? Start by putting your finger on what needs your attention most, but be sure to move forward with the holistic mindset of knowing that every element impacts every other element. Don’t create a Band-Aid, create a long-term systemic solution from the inside out.

Get in touch if you think I can help. 

Launching Wellspired

Diana Chaplin

Wellspired.com is an inspiration and information haven where health-conscious working parents can find balance in the things that matter most: health, family, and career.

After an evolution years in the making and months in design and development, Wellspired has just been released into the world. Here's the backstory to my personal brand development...

It all began when I joined the staff team at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. It was a dream come true that allowed me to be surrounded by wellness-loving people, and to experience the school's Health Coach Training Program for myself, graduating as a Holistic Health Coach in 2012. I created a blog called Living Body Wellness to share wellness tips and offer my services as a part time Health Coach. I worked with some amazing clients and grew both personally and professionally as an entrepreneur on the side while working full time at IIN and raising a family.

After a while, I fell in love with blogging and content management and began to formulate ideas for where to take this venture next. In 2014, I was ready for a more professional redesign. I was still using a basic Wordpress theme after all and wanted a more visually pleasing user experience,

so I did some research on modern website designs - specifically avoiding what other Health Coaches were doing - and used PowerPoint to design a brand new look myself (yeah really, I bet any actual designers reading this are chuckling right about now but hey it worked!), hired a developer to build it, and the most recent version of LivingBodyWellness.com came to life. It helped increase my blog traffic, acquire more private clients, and get all sorts of offers for promotion, freelance gigs, and other projects. 

I got loads of compliments on the site and it was great, however the nature of entrepreneurship (and life!) is never static. In 2015 I left my full time work at IIN in order to move my family from New York City to Western Massachusetts and had to do some real soul-searching about the future of my virtual baby while I began to pursue content management on a freelance basis.

While I loved working with private clients to help them incorporate healthy habits, something in my heart told me that this was not my life's true calling. I wanted to create a wellness brand focused on the reader, her challenges and aspirations, her entertainment and information; a rich resource that would bring to life many voices beyond my own. I also wanted to expand the scope of "wellness" to include other things that are equally important: family and career.

Health, family, career.

This is what matters most.

That's when I had my my EUREKA! moment. I'm a health-conscious working mom, that's what I know, that's what I want to write about, balancing my kids, my health, and my work. I want to inspire others in bringing greater ease to this delicate balancing act so many of us struggle with. I want to have articles, wellness guides, meditations, challenges, and even inspired merchandising, all with the goal of uplifting our collective mindset. Not all of that has been created at this point, but we're well on our way!

I also wanted the site itself to have multiple contributors and perspectives, with myself as a tribe leader but not the role model, because to be honest, I'm still figuring out this balancing act just like everyone else. And this is an approach that would allow me to enjoy some of the behind-the-business things I like to have fun with: content creation, social media strategy, marketing, writing, gathering and organizing.

so I invited some wonderful bloggers to contribute regularly, with more contributors planned, so that Wellspired and our readers benefit from a greater diversity and abundance of content.

I also wanted the users/readers/fans of the site to have a voice and to experience a personal sense of joy every time they visit our virtual space. That's how I got the idea for the Daily Thanks comment stream. I don't know about you but daily gratitude always makes me feel good so I figured let's give this a try and see if the community likes it!

Members can post what they're thankful for in the "Daily Thanks" section of the home page.

This feature presented the biggest functional challenge because in order to avoid spam, the site had to have a "membership" component, requiring members to log in in order to post, but I think we worked it out so that the flow is simple and easy to use. Plus it creates a great foundation for future exclusivity of offerings to members only.

Once the new site was ready, it was time for the fun part: 

Announcements and generating excitement!

I created some graphics (using personal photos and styling elements from the site for cohesion) to spread the word, and sent these to my immediate circle of friends and family so they can craft announcements in their own words, using their preferred media channels. This is a nice way to bring a personal touch to the communication strategy, so the news isn't just coming from me.

Since I knew I wanted to maintain my existing audience (and redirect LivingBodyWellness content to Wellspired), I had already begun hinting about the upcoming rebrand in my newsletters and social media months in advance. I showed snippets of the new site, mentioned it in comments, and otherwise just planted the seed to both generate interest and avoid confusion when launch day came around.

On the big day, I sent the personal email to friends/family, a newsletter announcement to my subscriber list, created posts on social media, and notified a few "influencers" I know in the hopes that they'll share it with their larger audiences as well.

And here's the cherry on top.

In order to create even more excitement and encourage people to not only subscribe to the newsletter but become "members", something that requires an extra step and calls for a bonus incentive, I created an exclusive guided meditation on gratitude (fitting, since I'm grateful they signed up, and since signing up allows them to post in the Daily Thanks stream) for the first 50 members only.

Creating meditations is something I've dabbled in before and wanted to do for a long time, plus it just so happens that my husband is a musician who knows how to set up a proper home studio recording. Making this an exclusive offering for the first 50 members only creates a sense of excitement, desire, and scarcity.

Just in case that wasn't enough to spread the word, I also created a paid but inexpensive Facebook ad campaign, targeting my audience of health-conscious moms.

I have overseen countless launch and announcement campaigns in the past, but this was my first 100% solo operation launching something that is mine, and it was a great learning experience. Next step, SEO and growth strategy, streamlining content creation, and incorporating graphics, meditations, and other fun content assets into the ongoing creation strategy beyond wellness articles. Wheeeeee!

Marketing in the Time of Internet

Diana Chaplin

It used to be that marketing was a one-way street on a simple country road.

Businesses would take out ads on the radio, TV, or newspaper, showing mass audiences how awesome and fun their lives would be if only they had some product (or better yet, they'd just show the product itself held by a sexy woman, doctor, or rosy-cheecked child and call it a job well done). They could say whatever they thought would make you buy it, and it usually worked.

Research or oversight to ensure products did as promised was minimal, competition was scarce, and if you were dissatisfied with what you purchased there was really no way to provide feedback in a relevant way.

Crappy brands had it made.

Fast forward to present day and things are a bit more... complicated. We've gone from country road to information highway to a multi-dimensional, time-and-space-bending virtual reality since the internet reached critical mass in the first few years of this century.

Immense competition, quality standards, and social media have revolutionized how people interact with brands. Now there are websites to tell a story, there are analytics to show what's working and what isn't, there's e-commerce so you can get whatever you want, whenever you want it, and if you don't like it, you can not only return it but write a terrible review and damage that brand's reputation.

The power has shifted to the masses.

It is no longer adequate to simply describe the benefits of a product, show it being used, or even get fancy endorsements from celebrities or professionals in the field. If the product, message, or presentation sucks, most consumers will see right through the hype and sales will suffer. 

These days, marketers and brands must engage with potential customers, nurture them, cultivate a relationship, incorporate their feedback, and pull them towards something truly great rather than push them towards poorly-made junk.

With a dynamic like that you'd better believe the products and producers themselves have had to step it up. Few things are just things now. The best things offer a feeling of transformation, health and happiness, a better world, a more fulfilling life. They create an entire world around their products and make you want to be at the center of it all because it will actually make you a better person. 

The key is not simply creating something you (the creator) think is great and then investing  a whole lot of money into stuffing it down the throats of consumers, but developing a customer-centric idea that fulfills a need, putting it out there to test the waters, launching and learning, and continually improving based on real-time feedback from the actual people who use it.

Google does it, so does Apple, Facebook, PayPal, even Subway, Starbucks, and McDonald's. Countless more are getting on the bandwagon and realizing that the younger generation stepping into financial power has a new set of standards and expectations.

The ironic thing is that while most consumers feel uneasy knowing that companies are constantly storing our personal information with every keystroke so they can sell us things, we've also internalized these practices to the effect of being annoyed when we are promoted something clearly in conflict with our preferences.

I mean, if you're a health-conscious foodie and see an ad for KFC on Facebook you're more likely to feel violated, gross, and annoyed at Facebook for subjecting you to such an obvious lack of insight than if you were to see an ad for a yoga retreat or a new chia-coconut kombucha drink. Am I right?

Change may be slow for companies that have been around for a long time and have a hard time making shifts in their business model, but new companies are taking off and succeeding quickly by using these practices, just look at Kickstarter, Twitter, Toms, and all the countless artisinal food labels having breakout sales because they're smart about using Instagram!

Furthermore, there is greater specialization. Gone are the days when companies made "great clothes" or "sturdy backpacks" now if you're looking for black sweaty yoga leggings with butterfly patterns there's a business for that, if you're into patent leather tech accessories you can find it on Etsy, if you want Fair Trade raw dark chocolate with superfoods there's a biz for that too. It would have been unheard of to cater to such a niche market years ago but now the internet has united consumers and businesses who sell one-specialized-thing-but-it's-the-best-that-thing out there have flourished. 

Since the dawn of the internet, both marketing practices and the customers themselves have changed and we're not going back. Personally, I like it. It is a more authentic, fun, creative, and effective way to sell things that people genuinely want or need.

Goodbye commerce as money for goods, hello commerce as goods with value!