Marketing 101 for Dietitians and Dietetic Students

This article discusses all things MARKETING - including what it means, how to do it and how to use it to effectively get jobs! In this post, I go through the importance of defining your personal brand (and how to do this), how to market yourself effectively for getting your dream job and how to use social media strategically to get clients.

You can also find a podcast episode related to this topic on The Dietitian Project. Listen to the full episode on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

So last week, I ran a free webinar for dietetic students all around setting yourself up for success during covid-19. In that webinar, I talked a lot about marketing, and how to market yourself as a nutrition professional. 

From that webinar, I’ve gotten a ton of great questions and comments around this topic because it’s something that we’re never really taught about in school! But, at the end of the day, effective marketing will help you land jobs, make money as an entrepreneur and even get into an internship or a masters program! 

As dietitians, we don’t often hear the term “marketing” when it comes to our profession. I think a lot of people hear the term “marketing” and they automatically think it means “selling”. My whole goal with today’s podcast is to help you understand what marketing means beyond just “selling” and to help you come up with ways that you can implement effective marketing strategies into your professional presence, right now, today. Even if you’re a student! 

So to start off… 

Marketing is defined as: the process of interesting potential customers and clients in your products and/or services. 

Plain and simple, in dietetics, good marketing means that you are able to communicate ways that you can make people or employers lives better with the work that you do. In turn, this leads people to know, like and trust you enough to hire you! 

Marketing does not just mean sales, it means using creative ways to showcase how amazing and knowledgeable you are. 

Some examples of marketing include: creating recipes, writing blog posts, making a podcast, posting valuable content on social media, posting work/research that you’ve been involved in, etc. Even what I’m doing right now with this podcast is marketing. These all help for people to understand what it is that you do and how amazing you are at it. 

As you can see, these are all things that you can easily be doing right now to start building yourself up as a professional, regardless of whether you are an RD or whether you’re still a student. 

So now, I am going to walk through a few things that you can be doing to effectively market yourself TODAY (with zero dollars spent!) 

Define your personal brand

Branding is the process in which you create a name, symbol or design that is recognizable as being associated with you. It helps people to identify you and understand the services that you offer and whether you align with their needs.

At the end of the day, a cohesive brand makes you look more professional, which converts to paying clients. It can also help employers understand whether you would be a great fit within their organization. 

Why is branding so important for your business?

  • Branding changes how people perceive you and what you have to offer.

  • Branding helps streamline your creative process so you know EXACTLY what to post on your website, blog, social media, etc.

  • Having a cohesive brand makes you look more professional, which drives business and increases brand awareness.

  • Brands get recognized! When people remember you by your brand, they're more likely to refer to you in the future when they may need your services.

How do you start with the branding process? 

I have a free download for a branding toolkit where you can work through this exercise, but it’s also easy enough to just do with any sheet of paper lying around 

  • Ask yourself - how do you want to be perceived by your audience? Write down some of those attributes and come up with 3-5 descriptive words to help you describe how you want to be perceived. Some examples of descriptive words might be “nurturing, humorous, serious, approachable, feminine, masculine, empowering, self-deprecating”. This should really be the backbone of your personal brand and will really help to inform how you write and how you portray yourself online. 

So let’s say that Kyle has his own dietetic private practice that is centered around helping 20-something year old guys with fitness nutrition. Because he knows that his target market is 20-something year old guys, he might pick words like: masculine, powerful and motivating. 

Now that Kyle knows this information, it will help him understand how he is going to communicate to his audience. So for him, when he’s designing his graphics to post on Canva, he’s picking colours and fonts that communicate to his target market and that convey power, masculinity and motivation. He also now knows that his messaging should be speaking directly to those 20 something year old guys. 

Now, branding isn’t a tool that is only used for creating your own business. Let’s use another example of a student who is really interested in the area of prenatal nutrition and wants to work in an obstetrics clinic one day…  Some words that would describe someone who would thrive in that sort of environment might be things like nurturing, warm and calm. So now that student knows that because she wants to be appealing to that type of employer in the future, she should be communicating about herself in a tone that reflects those words. 

See what I mean? The power of branding can be incredibly powerful if given just a little bit of consideration and attention. 

Get active on social media

When I talk about social media, I am primarily referring to LinkedIn and Instagram. The reason why I am referring to these two channels is because they are more “open access” than other channels like Facebook. So for instance, if you post some of the great work that you’re doing on LinkedIn or you post a recipe on your public IG account, other people can easily see your work when they search you. Versus a platform like Facebook, where it’s not intended to be used for professional reasons (unless you have a professional account) and for the most part, people aren’t going there to look at your professional profile... they’re going there to see pics of you and your dog at the cottage summer of 2018... or whatever :)

I would encourage everyone who is in the field of nutrition and wants to communicate about it to start a social media. In a recent study, more than HALF of people claimed that they were turning to social media and the internet for their health information. No longer are people waiting until they can see their family doctor to ask about their embarrassing mole, no they’re going directly to Dr. Google. 

I’m not saying it’s right, you guys, but I am saying that this is a fact. 

If dietitians are not on social media (where people are getting their information), then that is a MISSED opportunity to be present. Because I can tell you outright, there are many people who are absolutely talking about nutrition on social media and are not qualified. So, dietitians absolutely NEED to be there. 

LinkedIn can also be a fantastic marketing tool. By sharing projects that you’re working on, papers that you’ve published or blog articles that you are writing, you are exposing more people to the work that you do. In turn, this helps potential employers or potential clients understand the value that you can provide to them or their organization. 

One key message I want you to remember when it comes to marketing - do not assume that people know the value that you have to offer, you HAVE to show them. It’s not bragging.

And the great thing about all of the social media strategies that I mentioned above, is you can use them even if you don’t have a lot of experience. 

Using marketing tactics in real-life scenarios

So, I want to start by breaking this topic down into two different scenarios, because I know that some of you are practicing dietitians or recent grads who are looking to start a business. On the other hand, some of you are looking for a more consistent 9-5 job. 

So let’s start off with some of the practical and tangible ways that you can market yourself to prepare for a job, whether it's your first job out of school or you're making a career change.

Marketing yourself to prepare for a job: 

Be strategic about building up your social media 

  • Post interesting nutrition-related articles and providing commentary to show your writing and communication skills on LinkedIn

  • Building up a nutrition-related instagram account that focuses on a niche to demonstrate your interest in the profession or the realm that you are interested in getting into (ex. If your dream is to be a retail dietitian, retail dietitians do a lot of work with educating families on meal prepping. So perhaps you could have a free meal planning template available that you share on social media or LinkedIn to show that you understand what the needs are of people you would be working with. 

Writing nutrition-related articles on Medium and sharing them on your social media accounts (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) 

  • Medium is an excellent way to look like you’re published (without really being published). It is a free tool where you can self-publish articles, and eventually (with enough traffic), you can get paid for the number of views.