Hungry? Some Innovative Marketing Ideas for Your Practice, from Whole Foods Grocery Store

Over the weekend I was shopping at Whole Foods — a very high-end specialty grocery store that has carved out a niche selling “all natural” foods with a local emphasis, for two to ten times what the chain store down the road sells. If you don’t have a Whole Foods in your area it’s a pity, because every trip there is like a lesson in marketing your practice! Here’s why.

They’ve successfully taken one of the most commoditized and price-competitive products (groceries) and carved out a very lucrative niche for themselves — selling “all-natural” foods to the well-heeled, health-conscious and most affluent in America. As a result, they have positioned themselves at the very top of the market (for example, charging $6 for a dozen eggs when you can buy them for $2 practically anywhere else). They’ve developed a very large, loyal fan base (who visit the store three or more times a week and refuse to shop anywhere else), and, by changing their marketing message and getting clear about what makes them unique, they have virtually no competition in their niche.

Wouldn’t any or all of those things be great to achieve in your practice?

Here are three of the biggest take-aways from Whole Foods’ marketing strategy that you can apply to your clinical marketing:

  • Whole Foods adapted their marketing message.

They moved away from a commodity/price-driven one (“Buy from us for less”) — to one that was distinctive and different from their competitors (“We sell health and environmental responsibility”). See how these two marketing messages are completely different?

  • They specialized and stopped trying to be all things to all people.

They aren’t targeting the people who price-shop beef, or who show up with a fist-full of coupons. They’re targeting people who like to think of themselves as healthy, educated and environmentally and socially responsible. People with high disposable incomes (not the granola/hippy crowd).

  • They created a real shopping experience for their customers.

Just walking through their doors you immediately feel healthier. Like you’re doing the right thing for your family by saying “No” to products with artificial anything. Whole Foods understands that people buy on emotion, not logic. It’s just not logical that you would pay $6.50 for a gallon of milk when you can buy it for $2.50 elsewhere. But Whole Foods realized that they’re not actually in the business of selling groceries, they’re in the business of helping people feel better about themselves. (Sound familiar?)

People happily pay $6.50 for a gallon of milk because they feel they are doing the right thing for their family. The milk comes from happy cows who are pasture-raised. It’s free of hormones and antibiotics and any other nasties that you’re told exist in regularly sourced milk (said nastiness, by the way, has to my knowledge never actually been verified). You’re told the story of your milk — that it comes from a 150-year-old family-owned local farm, that a portion of the cost goes to a milk program for under-nourished children in Ghana, etc.

  • Whole Foods makes it very easy to buy, and for their customers to return multiple times a week.

They’re not just in the business of selling groceries, but also hard-to-find wines and hand-tossed fire-grilled pizza. They have a fromagerie, a chocolaterier and more than forty different dishes for stressed parents to buy and take home to their kids as a “healthy” alternative to take-out. They hold evening classes on health-related topics, and some stores even have their own restaurants and sushi bars inside the store.

In other words, Whole Foods has a very deep understanding of their customers and what their buying wants are. And they meet as many of these wants as they can, to prevent their customers from straying anywhere else. By changing their marketing message, not being afraid to specialize and wrapping in an exceptional experience, they have transcended their competition. Do you do something similar in your aesthetic practice?