Smell Better Than Your Friends: 5 Sweet Tips For Marketing Aromatherapy

Have you ever wanted to go up to someone splashing themselves with pure sweet orange essential oil at the WholeFoods and say, "Doh, you're doing it wrong! You're gonna get a rash!"

Yes? Well, you must have some aromatherapy training then.

As frustrating as it is for therapists, your customers could give a crap about essential oil education at first glance -- until something unpleasant and unexpected happens.

The questions is, how do you command attention when it seems everything on the shelves today screams, "Buy me! I"m natural!"

1. Never rest your sales pitch on ingredients -- sock it to 'em with emotions.

Do you offer organic, ethically harvested and tested oils? Of course!  But don't you dare rest your sales pitch on those factors.

The emotions we're talking about here are not "Golly, I'm a good person because I'm helping people in the 3rd world live a better life." That's nice, and we should be aware of such things but you should know that that's not a strong motivator for human behavior.

Sales are about standing out from the pack. Be memorable. Identify what is memorable and you have a winner.

2. Determine your hook

What are you doing for your client? Easing their physcial and psychological pain? Keeping them safe from synthetic chemicals, uneducated or unscrupulous essential oil dabblers? Solidifying their identity within a certain social group? Maybe patchouli toting hippies are your fans? or middle-class housewives? or gender-benders?

Your aromatherapy offerings should match your clients needs.

3. Include interesting photos of expressive (real) people

Rows upon rows of pretty flowers cannot compete with the human face. Niether can cheap stock photography - so get your craft on and take some compelling pictures or find them in our downloads section.

4. Play up the benefits

Please remember the following marketing rules.

1. Features and benefits are not the same thing.

2. All benefits are not created equal.

Potential aromatherapy features: dark glass bottles to keep out the light, custom blended formulas, organic, cruelty free testing, hand harvested

Potential aromatherapy benefits: Reassurance-- because you as a therapist take proper care with your preparations the client will not have to worry; she's safe. Your wonderful formula will remain fresh and effective -- it will not deteriorate in unpredictable and unfortunate ways.

attention + real benefits = sales

Remember embarrassment is a stronger benefit than "relieves a head ache." Sure, aromatherapy can do that -- but it has to do more.

5. Tell a story

Stories get clients to read. Stories with drama get clients hooked. Pain -- either physical or emotional is the lynchpin. Fear and embarrassment are powerfully motivating forces.

To work a benefit like safety and reassurance into your copy, you could write a classic, "Ooops... Don't Try This at Home" educational story.

Something like, It was wonderful until my wrist started itching...

Or, "Did I ever tell you about the time I smeared Spikenard all over my hands... Sure, it smells good at first but OMG... was I embarrassed!!! (I'm laughing now but this is a true story! I did this -- and I smelled like crap because of it. Spikenard is way too earthy for me.)

It's all about the benefits.The benefits in this story would be saving the client from embarrassment and/or physical scarring that could happen if they make a bad choice.

Ewwww... did you just cringe? I saw you -- don't deny it!

6. So, Let's talk ethics

Therapist's get uncomfortable when I talk about marketing -- especially when I get to the nitty gritty about embarrassment.

But look here, if you're on your own, you need to sell your services effectively or you will not have clients -- period.

So what is an ethical therapist to do?

Create your core values.

  • If it's not true, don't say it.
  • Do not reinforce existing oppressive stereotypes. This is where people who try for humor go horribly, horribly wrong. If you reveal a weakness make sure you are your own model.
  • Find other ways for clients to interact with you without having to pay for it -- chit-chat on your blog, hang out on online forums. Not everyone has the dough to pay you for your services but they can still appreciate what you have to offer and you can enjoy their company.

And finally, lighten up -- people like stuff that smells nice. When you yawn on about the dangers of wormwood and wintergreen they get bored and tune you out. Be interesting, save up some funny stories and work the educational stuff in on the sly.

It's a challenge to stay classy and get attention. You can do it.



I think this idea about the business side of this type of work is so interesting: I noticed this reading a previous post also, about talking to potential clients about money. I think as helping professionals our skill-set tends to be so geared towards providing good service and taking care of people that 'money talk' or 'marketing' feel awkward. I know that's the case for me; I'm thinking about starting a private therapy practice, after having worked for government for a long time, and the whole 'business' side of things scares me! I know it's necessary, but I feel ill-equipped. At no point in my social work training did we learn how to ethically and comfortably conduct helping relationships in the context of also running a business. It's nice to see it being talked about somewhere; I'm definitely going to have to bring myself up to speed on this stuff before I get started! I guess getting comfortable with it is the first step.

leigh's picture

Hi Heather -- yes, I was fortunate to go to a privately run massage school that had a thorough marketing and business course but I've heard other therapists say that they didn't have ANY business training. But I'd say I learned marketing through trial and error with my last business.

Because therapy is so tied up in social norms it makes marketing it very awkward. We'll have more content geared for clients in the near future -- but I hope to keep the money and ethics conversation as transparent as possible.

What led you to social work?

That's great that the marketing stuff was built into your program- it really is an essential piece that gets left out, I think. I'll probably try to take a course before I get started; it feels like a whole different skill set.

I got into social work almost by accident, or stumbled upon it, anyway. My first degree was in English, but a friend got me into volunteering in trauma work, and I sort of never left. If I wasn't in social work I'd be in some kind of helping profession, though; I've thought about acupuncture and naturopathy along the way as well.

I have to agree with Heather. While I have no prior training or knowledge of aroma therapy, I've always been intrigued with how small practitioners are able to stay afloat in today's competitive market. You wouldn't easily assume that a therapist has extensive marketing training but you seem able to take your feelings about wanting to help people and providing a much needed service and focus them into a profit generating enterprise. Very impressive and insightful.

I usually purchase one of these products when a store has sample cards with the ingredients and a couple of photos on one side, and the fragrance imbued on the other. I like to know what I'm putting on my skin, not just the name of it but a clear drawing or photo of it too. And these cards (like some perfume ones) come home with me, and if they pass the next day smell test, wind up in a drawer to spread their essence.
I love aromatherapy... it even helps for relief of pain or to when undergoing chemotherapy.
The nose, knows.

To James: Those aromatherapy small practitioners that do stay afloat in today's competitive economy do so because they are offering something more than just "Smells Good". Like Leigh said, it's about the marketing - and I also think it's about meeting a need. Aromatherapy is often incorporated into other "practical" products - hand creams, foot powders, body care and house-cleaning products - things that people need to buy anyway; so they may as well buy one that smells good to them. Most often, it's only after using a product for it's intended purpose that a client will say - "this smells really good, I notice I feel better when I use it, I wonder why that is?" which leads them to that place Leigh spoke of: "educational opportunity".