Introduction: myths and assumptions
Let’s get started.
This is my belief: most practitioners fail not because it’s inevitable, but because they believe certain myths about building their practice. They are like lenses or filters they look through that colour everything.
When I say ‘myth’ I mean the assumptions that most practitioners operate under about what is normal and what is possible.
These myths determine what they do and don’t do in their marketing.
These myths prevent them from seeing what is possible. To quote author Derrick Jensen, they “blind them to real opportunities and bind them to unlivable situations.”
These myths are incredibly common. There’s an old saying that ‘the fish were the last to discover water’. Why? Because they’re swimming in it. They’re surrounded by it all the time. We tend to miss what’s most familiar. We’re too close to the forest to see the trees.
Together, these myths form a sort of group, consensus reality that we all agree on.
These myths are not true.
One of the myths is that it takes a long time to build up a practice. This is not true. You could double your practice in 90 days (with the right strategy). People have done it and you can too.
Or can you? Not if you don’t even see it as an option.
When you talk about healing and helping people, everyone smiles and says, ‘awww . . .’ but when you start talking about selling, marketing and money, everyone frowns and says ‘ewww . . .’ There is a lot of discomfort around these issues. In some ways, the myths that we are going to explore are like coping mechanisms. We don’t see an alternative and so we come up with beliefs to explain why we don’t have what we want.
When these myths are named and questioned directly – sometimes a certain freedom emerges.
In fact, these myths are so pervasive and their effects so predictable that they often lead to an all too common story. You may find what follows disturbingly accurate . . .
Chapter 1: The Itch
Jane looks at the lives of her family and friends and shudders. Many of them seem to be trapped in jobs and relationships that don’t inspire them and, more often than not, drain them. They eat foods that she knows are hurting their health. She doesn’t want that kind of life.
She wants to feel alive. She’s not quite sure why she’s so unsatisfied, and can’t put her finger on it . . . or even clearly articulate the alternative she’s craving. But something feels . . . off. It’s like a vague itch that she keeps trying to scratch but can never quite reach.
Chapter 2: Inspiration Strikes
But then it happens.
A friend introduces her to a holistic healing modality or perspective that makes a huge difference in her life. She is skeptical at first but the more she looks into it – the more ‘sold’ she is. And, as she applies is to her own life – she begins to notice changes. Her health improves, her relationships get better, she’s better able to set boundaries and she is feeling more and more at peace.
And then a light-bulb she goes on. A lot of people seem to be making it as holistic practitioners and coaches . . . why not her? She could do this for a living!
So, she does some research and decides to get certified in the technique or modality.
She spends years (and thousands of dollars) doing this. She spends years learning the philosophy and practical applications of her craft. And the more she learns, the more she loves it. It’s implied that once the program is over she’ll have everything she needs to run a successful practice. “If you build it,” she tells herself. “They will come.”
Eventually, she graduates.
Chapter 3: Reality Strikes Back
And immediately feels overwhelmed . . . “how do I start a business?”. She has no idea. So, she looks around at what everyone else is doing. And spends even more money on a gorgeous logo, business cards and flyers. And she tells all of her friends.
But a few years later – despite her best efforts – she still finds herself struggling to attract as many of the kinds of clients she is most wanting to work with. She places a few ads in the local new age magazines but gets an abysmal response on them. Each day she checks her voicemail and email hoping to find it full of bookings from people who saw her flyers or ads or posters at the local organic food store but . . . they never seem to come in at the levels she’s hoping for.
She has never made more than $20,000 per year (on her best year).
And a lot of the clients she works with don’t seem to want more than a ‘bandaid’. They don’t really seem willing to take full responsibility for their own healing. They just seem to want her to ‘do her thing’ on them. And then when she successfully helps them heal . . . they don’t need to come back. So, she waves them farewell and is struck by the need to replace that income. Somehow.
And then there are the disappearing clients . . . Some people would come in for a session or two, seem very happy with it, even tip her and then . . . just . . . vanish. And Jane is left wondering, ‘did I do something wrong? What happened?’
And the worst part is . . . she has no idea why she’s still struggling.
Chapter 4: A New Hope
Then she realizes what the problem is: she’s only offering one modality. So, she goes back to school (and spends a lot more time and money) to learn some new modalities and techniques to offer her clients. Some of them seem thrilled – others don’t seem to care.
But then she starts to see a problem it’s created. Instead of just being able to say, “I’m a massage therapist” she now has three or four other modalities to express and so she finds herself saying, “Well, I do a unique combination of shiatsu massage, traeger, reiki and quantum touch.” And now people seem more confused than ever by what she does.
Chapter 5: The Dawning Realization of the Missing Link
She feels clueless about marketing. She wonders why she never learned this at her school. She learned how to do what she does – but not how to market it, articulate it or sell it. Often when she tells people what she does she notices them glaze over and not ‘get’ what it is that she really does.
She knows she needs to market her business but when it comes to actually talking about her business to people – she can’t bring herself to actually ask people to come in for a session without feeling pushy.
Her friends tell her to ‘go online’ and so she spends even more money and time to create a website – but gets little to no business from it. She realizes she has very little ideal of how to make the most of it. Great. A website. Now what?
And hell . . . maybe the people she wants to reach aren’t online. Or . . . maybe that’s just another ‘excuse’ she’s created with regards to her business. Argh!
Secretly, she dreams of someone else showing up and just handling all the marketing for her. If only she could just show up and help people and other people could send her the clients. If only she didn’t have to worry about setting her fees.
When she tells people her fees, she often sees them flinch as if too say, ‘that’s way too much . . .’ and so she often just offers them a deal and drops her fees. After all, if she loses them there are hundreds of others who offer something similar to what she does. She feels like a commodity somedays.
Her friends encourage her to stay positive. Some of them even imply that her feelings of doubt are what are manifesting the shaky results in her world. ‘Maybe’, she begins to think, ‘this is about my self worth . . .’
Others tell her that she just needs to keep trying. To be more persistent but . . . the truth is – she’s exhausted and overwhelmed. She wants to spend time on her marketing but . . . it always seems to slip through the cracks. With spending time with friends and family, doing sessions, time for herself and her creative pursuits, tidying, doing the books and more . . . she never seems to find the time. And even when she does, she feels daunted. She has no idea where to start. She doesn’t know if she has any more effort or energy to give.
And secretly she feels incredibly inadequate. She tells herself that if she were more enlightened and healed she would just ‘know’ where to go and what to do and that it would all feel easy. She begins to suspect that her lack of business success is a reflection of her own lack of inner growth.
And she sometimes feels like a hypocrite or a fraud for not being perfect. She talks to people about living a balanced life but here she is – overbooked and not having time for a balanced life herself. She gives out a lot of wisdom and advice about how to live more healthfully but doesn’t always apply what her own advice.
And then there’s the marketing . . .
She knows she needs to learn how to ‘sell’ what she does – but has no idea where to begin or how to ‘sell’ in a way that doesn’t feel pushy, inauthentic, slimy or insincere. She feels shy in social situations with new people and hates the idea of tooting her own horn or meeting people just to ‘convert them into clients’.
She knows she needs to get better at articulating what she do – but she feels to close to it. She can’t see the forest for the trees.
She knows she needs to articulate what makes her unique but . . . she hates the old-school notion of competition. She wants to see the other practitioners succeed too! How does she express what makes her different, without slamming other people who do what she does?
She finds herself wondering, “How do I market while maintaining integrity? How do I paint a picture so that others can see what I see? How do I teach people that herbal medicine doesn’t have to be “alternative”, but instead “normal” health care? I feel so overwhelmed by all the marketing advice…do this, do that…I feel so torn…what do I do first? And what next? And how do I stay focused on my passions and do marketing at the same time…I don’t want my marketing to distract me from the work I love.”
She looks at her brochures, flyers and posters and knows they could be much better – but doesn’t even know where to begin. She’s told to create an email newsletter (that’s the golden secret!) but she’s on a bunch of them already and doesn’t read 10% of them (and hardly likes 10% of the ones she DOES read). She does not want to spam people. She’s tried posters but they don’t seem to work at all.
She finds herself ‘avoiding’ marketing. She distracts herself. Does anything except marketing! She goes for walks, plays bridge, tidies her office, surfs on facebook . . . but doesn’t. do. marketing.
Her practice is going nowhere fast. She does pretty much what others have done and their practices have flourished (or so it seems). She’s beginning to think this is not what she’s supposed to be doing.
She started with such a passion for her work and such clarity that she was doing what she came here to do – but as she looks at her bank account and stacks of bills she finds herself wondering if it really is . . . did she make a big mistake? Maybe she should take a full time job for a while. The financial instability is beginning to take a stronger emotional toll than she’d care to admit. And yet – her finances feel overwhelming and out of her control. Even the thought of developing a budget or ‘tracking’ her finances feels like an impossible mountain to climb.
After all, she needs to do everything in her business – and there’s a neverending to do list. She has to return all the calls and emails. She has to set up and clean up. She has to do the accounting and taxes.
She finds herself Avoiding doing promotion because it’s so much work to find clients. She’s got no sounding board or support. She’s getting more last minute cancellations than she’d like.
And on top of it all she is noticing that she’s losing passion for the core modality she started with.
Chapter 6: Resentment & Helplessness
She finds herself beginning to resent the very work that once brought her alive. She resents putting in so much effort and getting back so little.
Her life begins to feel imbalanced but she still can’t seem to find the time and energy to take care of herself, in order to do her healing work from a balanced place. She knows that healing or therapy work, don’t work as well when she’s burnt out and frazzled.
And it makes her secretly feel like a bit of a fraud – who is she to offer others healing when she’s still struggling at such basic levels?
And she feels “wrong” for not knowing what to do. Her friends tell her that since what she offers is so great, she should simply be grateful and “attract” her clients. “But how?” she thinks. “By osmosis?!”
In the end, she has to take a part time job (in addition to going to school and spending a fortune to learn another modality!) all of which prevents her from having the time to do any of the marketing she should be doing
She even notices herself start to see her clients as the hydro bill. She finds herself falling into the trap of counting how many clients she’s seen that week or month and comparing them to the bills, “one more and I’ve got the rent!” She feels horrible when she catches herself doing that.
She wants to make it work but, after thousands of dollars, and years of effort, still has no idea how. She feels lost, alone and helpless and sometimes, ready to just give the whole thing up.
Chapter 7: Everything Changes
One day she has an important realization.
The skills she uses to help people heal are different from the skills she needs to grow her business. She realizes that she has spent years learning how to help people get better but almost no time in learning the skills of how to grow her business. She realizes that she has spent years working IN her business but very little time working ON her business.
For years, her practice was more of a hobby. But now she knows she needs to get serious about learning about business and marketing.
So she does a huge tidy of her office space, and sits down with a pen and paper. But she’s stuck. She doesn’t know where to start. She knows she needs to handle her marketing but has no idea where to start.
So, she goes to the bookstore and buys a book, does some googling and finds more resources. One day she hears about a marketing workshop in her area and goes to that. And then, she does what would have been unthinkable before – she hires a business coach.
They talk once a month and she gets assignments to do and she really applies herself. And things start shifting. Slowly at first but within a year – she is astonished to find that she has more than doubled her practice and also raised her rates (with far less drama than she’d imagined).
She finds herself attracting a better and better quality of client – people who are conscious and genuinely open to change (rather than looking for a quick-fix, bandaid solution). She feels more and more excited about her work every day and, because she’s making better money – her heart feels totally free to just be present with her clients. She’s no longer worrying about paying her bills.
But the best part is that she is now able to help her friends who have lived through the same story. She finds herself sitting them down and revamping their own marketing plans – and is delighted when they start seeing results too.
Her life is filled with a sense of freedom as she feels an incredible sense of clarity about how to articulate what she does and how to attract more perfect clients. It no longer feels like a mystery to her.