20 min read
Whether you have a degree in nutrition, have personally experienced the benefit of a drastic dietary change, or just really love sharing your favorite nutritious recipes, it’s time for you to make some money off of your knowledge and start an online nutrition business.
The Founder’s Guide to Starting an Online Nutrition Business
Starting an Online Nutrition Business: Planning
- Create a Unique Offer
- Be Consistent with Your Nutrition Plan Options
- Make Things Easier for Your Customers
- Do Your Research
Your Online Nutrition Business: Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
- Responsive Design
- Professional Templates
- Efficient Store Options
- Room for Growth
Starting an Online Nutrition Business: Marketing Tactics
- Examine Yourself First
- Gaining Credibility
- Social Media
- Cross-Marketing Promotions
- Guest Blogging
- Email Newsletters
- SEO and Advertising
Starting an Online Nutrition Business: Planning
Before putting your product into the marketplace, you need to organize your thoughts and pinpoint what exactly it is that you are selling to your audience. In order to have a successful online nutrition business, you must start with a plan that is unique, scientific and brand-specific, easily accomplished, and follows a certain selling model with cross-promotion potential.
Create a Unique Offer
Since you are already passionate about the industry, you already know that when you start an online nutrition business, you are entering a highly saturated market. I don’t mean to discourage you, but to help get you thinking about how to make YOUR online nutrition business stronger.
Many people claim to have the “secret” on how to lose weight without anyone having to change any bad habits (if you could see me, I am rolling my eyes right now).
However, if you have something new and unique to offer with your online nutrition business, you could be incredibly successful with online sales. Just be aware that it’s not enough to claim that some new diet or exercise plan is going to be “the one” to actually help people lose weight. You’ll have to offer something more with your online nutrition business.
Perhaps you can come up with a new angle on an old way of doing things. Take emeals.com as an example. They don’t just provide recipes to their customers; they put the recipes together in a weekly meal plan, complete with an organized grocery list. This saves their customers hours of work by taking the time-consuming tasks of meal planning and making weekly grocery lists off their customer’s plates (pun intended). In addition, they cater to different dietary needs by offering plans for diabetics, vegetarians, those on the Paleo Diet, and more.
Really think about what problem or problems your online nutrition business is solving for your customers. Go the extra mile to make it a unique business with something new to offer so your business stands out.
Be Consistent with Your Nutrition Plan Options
If you are selling nutrition plans, create one based on the science of nutrition that will actually work for a majority of your audience. If you are selling a service or simply providing recipes for your audience on a blog, make sure you are being consistent in what you are offering.
For example, don’t start a vegan blog and then switch to offering non-vegan recipes. This alienates your target audience. Make sure your brand is clear and specific across all facets of your business. Then stick to only offering things aligned with that specific type of branding.
Make Things Easier for Your Customers
As stated earlier, it is really difficult to get people to part with their hard-earned money. One way to ease your customers into lightening the grip on their money is by making something easier for them, not more difficult (another delightfully obvious statement that still needs to be said and written).
How can you make your online nutrition business easier for your customers so it attracts more of them? Now I know some of you are thinking that sometimes the best things for you aren’t easy. I couldn’t agree with you more.
What I am asking you to do is to think of creative ways to just make whatever it is you are offering a smidge easier for your customers to accomplish.
For example, let’s say you are that blogger with a recipe that has 16 ingredients. Go the extra mile and research which stores have most of those ingredients on sale that week. Or take the top three grocery stores that your customers shop at and calculate exactly how much acquiring all of those ingredients will cost them. Alleviating some of these steps for your customers will prove you useful to them and keep them coming back to you for more.
Knowing which selling model your online nutrition business falls into is key for marketing and future expansion purposes.
- Are you offering a self-fulfillment plan that your customers just have to follow on their own?
- Do you take it one step further with coaching sessions, helping to encourage your customers when they hit roadblocks in the plan?
- Are you offering a food product that will make your customers healthier?
- Are you a blogger that is offering recipes of a certain variety to your customers?
Do Your Research
Offering more than one plan can help you upsell your customers and get even more income from your online business. However, you want to identify which model your business falls into in the beginning to help you come up with creative ways to expand your offerings in the future.
For instance, I read Haylie Pomroy’s book, The Fast Metabolism Diet, and decided to go ahead and try her weight loss method. I was able to follow the rather strict rules of the diet and did indeed lose weight, however, it was a difficult diet to follow in terms of what you are and are not allowed to eat for 28 days. The friends that I convinced to try the diet quit after only one day (yes, ONE day) even though they had seen me lose weight and knew that the FMD methods work. My friends said it was just too difficult to cook for themselves for every single meal because they couldn’t use any shortcuts (AKA: processed foods) with wheat, corn, dairy, added sugar, etc. in them.
After going to Ms. Pomroy’s website, I discovered that she offers meal replacement shakes for each phase of the diet, which makes a huge difference for people not accustomed to cooking for themselves all the time. Now any time I recommend this diet to my friends, I encourage them to check out Ms. Pomroy’s website and get some dietary aides to help ease them into achieving their weight loss goals with this method.
Like Ms. Pomroy, if your business begins with a self-fulfillment plan for your customers, consider extending your business into the coaching or food product fields to help your customers achieve their goals. The more resources you give your customers, the more successful they will be (and the more successful you will be in the end). Just make sure you know where you are starting out with your business so you can focus on developing where you are going in the future.
Spend some time thinking about what type of online nutrition business you will be offering, and what products you want to sell. Next week, we will discuss how to develop your online presence and reach your audience.
Starting an Online Nutrition Business: Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
Now that you have all of your amazing ideas for your online nutrition business coherently organized, it’s time to get your business going. But where should you start? Let’s begin by discussing how to implement the single most important selling tool for your business.
Building Your Nutrition Website
Your website is going to be the most important part of your online nutrition business. Why? Because your website will tell your customers everything they need to know about you. Have you ever been interested in buying a product but after viewing the website, weren’t sure you trusted that business with your credit card information? This happens all the time with online stores because customers make judgments about what type of business you are running based on how your website looks.
If you are offering to help people with their nutrition needs but have a disorganized looking website, you are sending mixed messages to your audience. How can you be trusted with their health if you won’t put in the effort to develop an exceptional website?
For example, look at Selz user Jessica Sepel’s website JSHealth. It offers clean lines, organized articles about healthy living, and professional looking photographs. The underlying message of the website is that Jessica puts a lot of time and effort into her business and can be trusted with your health needs.
Contrast this with a website that looks like it was thrown together at the last minute. Who would you choose to trust with something as important as your health? So how do you make a nice looking site without a degree in web development?
Your Online Nutrition Business: Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
The first thing you need to look into is which ecommerce platform you should choose for your online nutrition business. Nothing is worse than creating your entire website and then realizing that you should have chosen a different ecommerce platform for your online store. Redesigning your entire site is not fun. So the decision in which service to use for your online nutrition business is a very important one that should not be taken lightly.
Many people like to go with the host that offers a free website, but beware that you often get what you pay for. Here are a few things you should be looking for from your hosting service that will be an integral part of your business:
The first thing you should be looking for from your ecommerce platform is a responsive design. You want your website to look good on any device your customers may be viewing it on, whether that device is a laptop, desktop, tablet, iPhone, or Android phone.
80% of Internet users now search on their phones as soon as they hear about something, so you want your site to look good when they do that and not have broken links or a design that goes beyond the screen’s scope. With responsive design, you only have to create one website design and it will look good no matter what device it is viewed on.
This saves you the hassle of creating multiple designs and caters to a larger target audience since your website will look good no matter which device it is viewed on.
The second thing you should be looking for from an ecommerce platform is professional looking themes. Unless you are familiar with designing websites or comfortable with spending hours doing trial-and-error learning about their site designer, you will need to use a template to design the website for your online nutrition business.
Efficient Store Options
Another thing to consider when picking an ecommerce platform is to know where your business is headed. It is important to know which selling category your online nutrition business falls into and where you could possibly end up. You don’t want to have to redesign your website when you offer a new facet of your business.
For instance, if you are selling digital downloads of nutrition plans, but later decide to offer physical products such as supplements, you will need an ecommerce platform that will let you sell both from your online nutrition business. What if the service you picked doesn’t offer real-time carrier rates for your physical products? You will have to start all over with a different ecommerce platform. You need to assess these needs before designing your website in the first place.
Room for Growth
The last thing to consider about your ecommerce platform is picking one that encourages you to grow. Some ecommerce platforms actually punish you for being successful, so you need to pick a host that offers plenty of storage, bandwidth, and customers.
When your online nutrition business is a big success, you will have many people coming to your website. However, some services only allow a certain number of visitors per month or a certain number of products you can sell. So, when you are featured on Dr. Oz and everyone sees your online nutrition business on TV and goes to your website…it will suddenly stop working until you pay a fee to your ecommerce platform to get it to work again.
This sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Even if you build your business slowly (which is more likely) and gain a steady stream of followers to your site over the course of two years, you will have to pay more every time your increase in visitors exceeds your allowed amount. Pick a platform that will grow with you and encourages you to succeed.
Now that you understand the importance of setting up an optimized online store for your online nutrition business, let’s move on to how you can market your online nutrition business to the general public. Creating a website is great, but if no one has heard of you, how many sales do you think you’ll get?
Starting an online nutrition business is very different from other businesses in that you must be trustworthy in order to gain the respect of your customers. No one wants to be advised by someone just looking to make a quick buck.
People can be incredibly skeptical of your business if you don’t use what you are offering or simply don’t look like their ideal body type. They want to believe that you have actual knowledge that they need to acquire and that you care about not only your own health but their health as well. For this reason, marketing your online nutrition business will be slightly different than if you were to, say, sell sponges.
Let’s take a look at the ways you can get your name out to the general public in order for your online nutrition business to take off.
Starting an Online Nutrition Business: Marketing Tactics
Examine Yourself First
The first thing you need to do when touting an online nutrition business is to examine yourself. Do you follow your own advice? Do you use the products you are promoting? Have you overcome weight or health issues? Unfortunately, many people will take one look at you and decide if they want what you have to sell. If you are skinny and have lost a significant amount of weight, this will encourage them to seek out what worked for you. If you are still overweight though, it won’t convey the message that your regimen works.
You are going to be the biggest advocate for your business and in the nutrition business, your looks matter. Make sure you are at your optimal level of fitness so when your customers look at you, they see what they want to be. Use your looks to your advantage by getting professional photographs taken of yourself and integrate them into your online marketing strategy.
You can even post “before” pictures of yourself so people can see what has changed about you. Seeing is believing, so showing your customers how your plans, products, or recipes have worked for you gives credence to your claims about having nutritional knowledge.
Once again I must state that your online nutrition business is different than other businesses because there is an entire scientific community involved in the area of nutrition. There are ways to use this to your advantage though. If you have a degree in science, you could get yourself and your nutritional discovery published in a scientific journal. This would give you a name among scientists and help further prove that your nutritional knowledge is based in science.
Since many people starting nutritional businesses aren’t scientists, it is a good idea to get some type of certification in nutrition. There are a plethora of online courses that you could complete to at least be able to say that you have additional education in nutrition that the general public does not have. Here is a list of some of the top certification programs!
If you can’t or don’t want to go either of these routes, getting a doctor or two to verify that what you are offering has some scientific basis would be a major marketing victory. Having this reliable third-party verification will help convince your potential customers that you aren’t just a lone wolf making up nutritional advice as you go.
Having credibility in the nutrition field is a must, so really consider what you need to do to make yourself more credible and think about who you can reach out to that will verify what you are selling as beneficial to the public as a whole.
When gearing up to launch your online nutrition business, you will need to set up social media channels for your business. Even if you don’t use them right away, it is important for branding purposes to pick a username that is affiliated with your business and use it across all social media channels. This consistency will really help your customers find you on social media and stay engaged with your business.
Another thing to keep in mind is the need to pick a username that is easy to remember. For instance, if you offer meal replacement bars and you want to use the handle MealReplace, that’s great! But don’t pick MealReplace2017 simply because you started your business in 2017. Your customers won’t remember that and when it becomes 2021, and your social media usernames will seem outdated.
Another thing to remember about social media is that while it is a great arena to sell on, you can attract larger numbers of likes or followers by not posting about your business all the time. What do I mean?
If you have an Instagram account and sell those meal replacement bars, instead of photo after photo of your bars, you should be posting about related things like working out, being busy with no time to eat, maybe a meme about being tired at work, admiring a sunrise, etc.
Relating to your audience will cause them to become interested in what you are offering, so only posting about what you are offering once in a while is enough to keep them informed. Check out these Instagram pages for perfect examples.
The final thing to keep in mind about social media is picking the right channels and not posting the same thing across all of your social media networks. Really do some research on whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc. are right for your business.
No matter what you decide, make sure each one has something unique to offer your customers so they aren’t seeing the same message over and over again. If you just post the same message across each venue, there’s no incentive to follow your different accounts. Keeping content interesting and tailored for each specific venue will increase your numbers, and ultimately your sales.
Doing cross-marketing promotions with another business is a great way to get your name out to customers that already care about their health. For example, if you were able to get your meal replacement bar into a significant number of gyms or fitness centers, you would be catering to potential clients all the time without having to actually be present to do so.
If you don’t have a physical product to offer, perhaps you could get your nutrition plan or blog mentioned in an upcoming news article or book. If you need help getting quoted or cited for a news article or magazine publication, you can sign up to be a source for journalists on www.HelpAReporterOut.com.
This site regularly helps match journalists to sources and could be a stepping stone in getting your name or blog mentioned in a major publication. Simply sign up for their daily emails and scan the lists of what sources are needed until you see one that you could fulfill.
A timely reply and a well-written response are the keys to getting published, so take time out of each day to review these lists and see if you are a match for any of the journalists’ needs.
If your online nutrition business mostly consists of a blog-style format, consider guest blogging on other sites that have a much larger number of followers. You don’t have to stick with blogs related to nutrition either.
You can guest blog on a “Mommy Blog” and get thousands of new website visits. The only thing you need to ask yourself is how you will discover which blogs are the most popular. Doing a little research first can ensure that you are getting the most return on your investment when writing an entire blog for someone else’s website.
For the most popular blogs, they usually already have a tab or link set up to inform potential guest bloggers on how to guest blog for them. Just make sure when you pitch your topic, it’s related to what their site visitors would want to see and in the same style that they are used to.
For instance, if you are guest blogging on a really technical nutrition blog that typically uses a ton of citations, you wouldn’t pitch an idea not grounded in science and without sources. Cater your article to their audience and hopefully, their audience will come on over to your website and see what you have to offer as well.
Keeping your name and online nutrition business at the forefront of your customer’s minds is easily accomplished with periodic newsletter emails. This will subtly remind your past clients and potential future clients that they care about their health and need to do something about it.
Keep in mind that your newsletter should be thoughtful, easy to read, and short. If you are sharing a favorite recipe, do just that and provide a link to more info on your website. No one will read your unrequested newsletter for more than 5 minutes, so take the time to condense what you have to say and make it useful to your customers. This will ensure a higher open rate on your next email campaign.
Here’s a great example of this from Instagram fitness and nutrition guru, Marie Wold. In this newsletter, she gave a quick summary of the topic at hand, included a clear call to action, and led you to her most recent YouTube video; a tactic that has led her to 201k followers on Instagram and 34,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel.
SEO and Advertising
Finally, two things your nutrition business needs are search engine optimization (SEO) and online advertising. SEO is necessary to make sure your website gets found when someone does an internet search with terms related to what you are offering.
If you are a meal replacement shake business based in Chicago, Illinois and I do an internet search for “meal replacement shakes in Chicago,” your business name better come up on page 1 of the search. If it doesn’t, you are missing out on an incredible amount of potential customers since people rarely go to page 2 or page 3 of internet search results.
To improve your SEO, you will either have to do a ton of research on how to implement it yourself or simply pay someone to help you. This is money well spent though since there’s no point in having a great business if no one can find it online.
Online advertising is also a great way to get more people directed to your website as well. From Facebook to Google Ads, there are a multitude of ways to go about advertising online. Just do your research and set a budget that works for you. Again, this will be money well spent that will be returned to your pocket in the form of completed online orders.
Now that you know everything about getting your online nutrition business started, it’s time to get to it! Carefully pick your Ecommerce platform, design your website, ensure that you have credibility in the field of nutrition, network with other businesses, get social, get help with implementing SEO, and pay for some online advertising.
Your business might take a while to get started (all the good ones do!) but with lots of luck and hard work, I know it will be a major success!