Tim Emerson is a trooper.
He participated in the Niching for Hippies program I ran in the summer of 2012. And, like many, he struggled with this idea of niching. I can’t even count the number of times he’d come to the group with what he thought was (finally) a workable niche, only to get a ‘meh’ and ‘please try again’ reaction from the group. Lots of encouragement but nothing seemed to be clicking for people. But Tim wouldn’t give up. He kept trying. Kept sitting with it. Came at it from so many angles when a lot of others might have just given up on the whole thing. Tim was committed. And, given that the Latin roots of commitment come from the verb ‘to begin’ that certainly fit because Tim seemed to always be starting from scratch.
And then, finally, something clicked and has been slowly unfolding since that moment.
What follows is an interview with him and my personal thoughts on where he might go next with it all.
What is the niche you’ve come up with? Who is it? What are the problems they struggle with?
You know how healers can sometimes struggle to feel connected with the light they felt when they first learned their practice? Too much space between clients limits their practical growth, and they wish they had the intuition and results they see other healers demonstrate. They truly want to make a difference, to share their gifts, but as time passes, doubt creeps in, and they wonder if they’re just kidding themselves, if they can really help after all, whether their gifts are real. They can feel somewhat empty, disconnected, and disheartened. They wonder sometimes how they can heal others when they’re struggling with healing their own doubts, fears, and limitations.
What’s the result you are helping them to achieve?
Well, what I do is help them to brighten that light and to keep that light burning, to reconnect them to the feeling they had when they started so that they can continue to grow, to keep believing in themselves, and to fulfill the dream of helping others that set them on their paths initially. I show them how to feel this connection, to experience its reality directly and demonstrably, and to facilitate their own multi-level healing from it. I act as a catalyst for their own very real change and accelerated growth. With these changes come a lightness of being, a clarity and direction about their life paths and spiritual directions, with insights and confidence they can then demonstrate and share with their own clients. They can then practice authentically and confidently as healers, as just who they truly are now, getting the support and encouragement they need to learn to be genuine and to allow themselves to grow again on their life path.
How was the process of coming to this niche for you? Was it hard? Easy? A struggle? Something you’d already been working on?
I found I could generate website traffic easily, but it wasn’t qualified traffic. I needed to find specific people–but who were these people? Naturally, I could work with anyone, but that wasn’t going to help me with search criteria. Whom could I best serve? I started by asking “Who is already coming?”:
Generally people see me (or are referred) for one or more of three reasons:
1) They are suffering from chronic pain or illness, and a friend referred them (often not someone I know either). Back pain, cancer, asthma, something medicine isn’t handling well, things like these. There’s often an emotional heaviness as well.
2) They are in a period of uncertainty, and are looking for clarity, focus, insight, new directions. Shifting careers, changing relationships, periods of spiritual transformation or seeking, feeling things aren’t as they should be, often accompanied by some angst, weariness, or anxiousness about the situation(s).
3) They came across Reconnective Healing somewhere, and article or the Internet, or read Eric Pearl’s book, and then found my name on the practitioners’ directory, and want to book a healing session or The Reconnection. This may be for reasons 1 or 2, or they may be interested in learning about healing itself, with an eye to later training and practice. They are curious, but ready to pay.
They are 30-60 years old, more often female (not always), middle class (low to high middle), U.S. or Canadian. They are already open to the idea of energy and distance healing. They lean toward green practices, liberal politics and healthy lifestyles, if often moderately so. They are often artistic, or healers themselves, energy or traditional (nurses, counselors). They resonate with my website imagery—forest waterfalls, Kwan Yin—and appreciate the quiet space in the middle of their busy lives. They like me.
Particularly interesting to me was that people I didn’t know were referring clients. But because I didn’t know them, I really didn’t know why. I appreciated the trust, and after investigating, found these people were other healers who “figured they needed to call in bigger guns for this case.” While honored, what could I do about this? How could I help people who were a good fit find me? Particularly since almost all clients are referrals–even though I frequently don’t know the source.
At the same time, I had begun drafting my book, “Getting Unstuck: Healing your Life,” pulling together what I had learned and preached about getting practical results even in seemingly difficult circumstances. As I recorded my thoughts and experience systematically, I also found the process clarifying those thoughts, then sparking new thoughts, and then pushing me into completely new areas of growth and experience, building the book into something much more than it was when I sat down to write it. This process was no exception. How would I find these strangers whom I love and who love me and what I offer? That’s how I saw the job of niching. What would resonate authentically with both me and my clients?
“Your deepest wounds are your truest niche.” What had I been through? A few things came up that I had long pushed aside. Some old hurts from my early days as a musician. Some struggles emotionally. A lot of things I’d already laid out in “Getting Unstuck,” the things that brought me to the life I enjoy today. But not yet that passion, that drive, that “Yes! That’s who I serve! I love this!” And from my own book—I wasn’t going to do less than find that passion. But how? I looked to my own interests and passions, particularly healing (of course), music, hiking, my passive solar house, but I just wasn’t seeing it. I didn’t want to just arbitrarily pluck out a group. How was what I did for these people any different than if they were spiritually conscious lumberjacks? I struggled. I reworded. I started over. Healing for Musicians. Healing for Hikers. Healing for ????? Green Home Owners? Local produce producers? Every attempt to nail it down seemed to slip back out to serving the people in my large circle, all the people I was already seeing. It was healing work. So how to niche it authentically?
Why this niche? What’s the story here? What can you say about your personal connection to this niche? Were you once in a similar boat? What made you think you had something to offer here?
For a while, people from Alex Baisley to my own Master Mind group had been telling me I should focus on healing for healers. My clients, many of them healers, were telling me this. Other clients came referred from still other healers. And I certainly could relate to many of the struggles they faced. The other people in Tad’s course were telling me the same thing now.
But. I just wasn’t seeing it.
Until one of the people in the course, watching me go through my open and vulnerable process, spoke up, sharing her own vulnerability. A healer herself, she shared what she sometimes felt inside, how she struggled, and how she looked at other healers and wished she felt more intuitive, more connected, more confident. How could she do this? I realized I knew how, and could help—this was already part of my healing work. Then other healers in the group added their thoughts. I was seeing it finally. This was something I couldn’t offer spiritually conscious lumberjacks. This was something specifically energy healers needed. And I could help. I wanted to help. I was excited about helping.
Healing for healers.
I got it.
For quite a while, I hesitated to start a formal healing practice, because for years and years I’ve watched healers, massage therapists, and a host of other holistic practitioners struggle and wait and hope in vain. Meanwhile, I had run successful businesses, from a consortium of musicians acting as a label to my own business consulting practice, and managed half a dozen others from non-profits to private sector enterprises. I knew I needed a better business model, so waited quite a while before Tad’s “Marketing 101 for Holistic Practitioners” drew me a map to move beyond working with friends of friends when asked. Kwan Yin Healing was born to serve, though, not only my own clients, but to help show, over time, others how they might construct their own dreams and reconnect their lives in practical, sustainable ways. That absolutely applies to healers. And now I could see a two way street.
The practice of Reconnection started when Eric Pearl was told that as a healer, it was something he needed. When I mentioned this and explained the process of connecting meridian lines to the larger universal grid, a few people in Tad’s course said that this really landed for them. They could see the need. Also, I had months ago considered adding a discussion forum to my website, but hesitated because I didn’t want it to sit there idle.
Now I could see that, while doing The Reconnection was the important service I offered healers, I could offer much more, a more targeted package of support and tools to help them on their personal journeys as well as their path as healers.
A “Healing for Healers” forum opened the conversation for us all.
I can now talk to people I haven’t met, learn about their struggles and needs, offer help and support, as well as offer that safe space for healers to help healers, to affirm their experiences, to guide and listen and encourage. I wouldn’t have to work in the dark anymore, guessing what people would want and need.
What’s the response been to this so far from the people you’ve shared it with?
They. love. it. The forum is still new, and in the first few months, with no advertising, attracted a few dozen users and over 700 views: http://www.kwanyinhealing.com/
healing-forum.php and check the growing use as well. Others share that they like the idea, but haven’t gotten around to visiting. As it grows, it will be nice to watch conversations grow among the users’ interests. But it’s also instructive to listen to what’s merely bubbling. People have time for what really resonates, so I know I have interest and potential here, and now will continue to explore to find what hits for healers.
My blog is a few months old as well, and that too is an important resource for healers. But in a blog, even with readers’ comments, it’s the author speaking to the crowd. Healing for Healers is the individuals in the crowd speaking for themselves–their needs, their concerns, their interests, as they see it. That participation and involved community is what I’m building for Healing for Healers.
I’ve looked at several healing “discussions” on various sites, and they are generally “Look at me and contact me for a session.” Not helpful at all, just a posting of essentially ads. This is the opposite. It’s a online coffee shop for healers. If someone wants a session, they know where I am. That’s not the point–the idea here is to provide a useful service, and for free. It costs me a little (to prevent adding ads), but the value of the conversation far outweighs the cost for me. And it fulfills my objectives of being truly of service, of serving as a useful hub, and of letting people get to know me.
When I managed a New Age book store years ago, we were continually promoting other people. Why? The more people interested in what we did, the better. That other people did it too wasn’t the point. They knew us and what we offered. And we got to know them very well. That’s the goal here—I want to know these people and what’s going on for them. And I want them to know other people care and can help.
How are you planning to reach this crowd? Any sense of the best hubs right now?
The main hubs used to be new age bookstores–including one I managed back in the 80s, Seven Rays Book Store, but now they’ve gone out of business, and the closest one to me is in Woodstock, over three hours away. Perhaps there’s some way I can start to build relationships with such places virtually. Or do a workshop once in a while on site. But I’m thinking times have changed, and it’s time to do something different.
I’ve learned generating web traffic is pretty easy; qualified traffic is another matter. I’ve dabbled in Google Ads, LinkedIn, and Facebook, all of which weren’t all that helpful the first times I used them, particularly because I was targeting everyone.
In November, I did an informational Q&A teleseminar — the replay link is on my website – http://kwanyinhealing.com — even though my first two attempts at teleseminars fell flat. This time, though, I specifically marketed to healers. Since the LinkedIn market was small, and since I haven’t figured out yet how to zoom in on healers using Google Ads, I went with a few Facebook ads specifically for healers. I also sent a press release.
- The press release was picked up coast to coast in over 100 news outlets from the Boston Globe to the San Francisco chronicle.
- My Facebook fan page — http://www.facebook.com/
KwanYinHealing — more than doubled in fans.
- My new email list tripled.
- My page jumped from obscure to page six on Google searches (I’m working on page one).
- 47 people opted-in to the teleseminar, a dozen listened live (where they also got a group healing), and a dozen more followed up with the replay later.
- And I worked with ten new clients over the next two weeks, and got great new testimonials and even video footage of a woman who had a year-long neck injury from an auto accident healed…to the subsequent amazement of her chiropractor, who reported that her neck (C1) had somehow shifted back into alignment. Were all these people healers? No. But marketing to healers gave *everyone* a clearer idea of who I was and what I did. It was far more compelling. Niching rocks.
- I’m also finding that some of the marketing groups I’m in are excellent hubs for healers. They see what I’m doing, and because it’s different, I stand out. Then they see continual new and interesting activity—and they’re curious, want to know more. Then they ask about working with me on a project. As one healer put it, “I love what you’re doing—it’s so paradigm shifty, and I’d love to be part of it.”
And that’s the goal. Paradigm shifty. And not just healers—I’m regularly getting questions about my marketing from a range of entrepreneurs, holistic and conventional, intrigued by the difference and with the success of my slow marketing technique. Being gently but fearlessly authentic is bringing in new relationships, and with them, new potential hubs. And maybe a new niche—Paradigm Shifters! Wherever Paradigm Shifters congregate, I’ve got potential hubs. After all, part of my Why is changing the world. Getting to know other Change Makers is a joy—and a hub.
What did you learn about niching along the way?
Niching is a process of coming face to face with yourself, and as we’ve lived our lives so far to arrive at our current perceived limitations, that’s not easy to do. Notice that my friends identified my niche long before I finally got it. They can see from the outside.
So much of building a business, even a holistic one, is about old fear-based approaches. Stopping to consider new paradigms, from as simple as “You aren’t going to help everyone, and if you get honest, you wouldn’t even want that,” considering who are the ideal clients, and who are the no-thank-you clients, to moving away from “what I have to do to be successful” to asking what you really want to do, and with whom, and why, and making those consideration the basis of business, of truly focusing on whom you can best serve, is going to create a far more sustainable, enjoyable, and helpful practice that can then be the focus of practical business models worth pursuing. And it will be authentic.
And it’s so amazing—when I focus on my niche, instead of trying to reach everybody, EVERYBODY is suddenly interested, not just my niche.
Focusing on a niche is simply (1) more compelling, and (2) compels me to get more specific and clear about what I do, what I offer, why I offer it, how it works, and rings so true, so authentically, that people don’t *need* to “get” me to become clients. The average client hasn’t read the bulk of my web site (according to Google Analytics). But they continually tell me they LOVE my site. Why? They love how it feels, and they like the feeling they get from me, and decide to take the jump and work with me. It’s real, and they can tell, from the inside out.
What are your next steps in exploring this niche? Any project ideas?
Yes! “Healers’ Voices” begins in January 2013, and already got nine very interesting and diverse people have signed on
- Erik Carlson of “A Time to Heal” (massage and holistic healing),
- Myriam Haar of “Powerful You” (NLP/Life Coaching),
- Marina Ormes of “Astrology Heals” (Evolutionary Astrologer and Holistic Nurse—who’s niche is “visionary healers”),
- Carol Ann Barrows (Qigong Instructor),
- James Burkhart of “SomaHealing” (Amazon herbs),
- Delia Yeager (Clairvoyant, healing circles),
- Carla Forsyth (Transference Healing/Heartself Healing),
- Lauren Worsh of “The Art of Spiritual Embodiment” (on the Law of Attraction), and
- Lure Wishes…from the Tasmanian wilderness!
More to come, I’m sure—I’ve only been promoting this a week so far. I’ll be sending an announcement with the series details in early January. Each participant will be hanging out to ask questions on the Healing for Healers forum during a specific time, and/or offering a guest blog, and/or doing a recorded interview. The project is open-ended, so sign on, healers!
I’ll continue adding to my blog, which also serves my niche—I’ve explored Gregg Braden and Shin-ichiro Terayama so far, as well as self-healing and perhaps the start of a Hiking for Healers niche.
Much more to come.
I’ll also set up an online book store and music store connected to Amazon. One of the best parts of Seven Rays Book Store for me and our customers was recommending books and music, and I can readily offer that online here, with descriptions of the individual recommendations. I’m sure others will offer their recommendations too. I’d like it to be a comfortable, rewarding place so that when healers (or anyone else) looking for a new read or new music, they’ll think to stop by and see what’s new at Kwan Yin Healing. Blog posts can delve into some of this as well, of course, and perhaps book discussions will get going on the forum–that’s one of the suggestions that came from one of the healers. I like it. I’d like to see Kwan Yin Healing become a hub.
What would you say were the top three lessons you learned about niching from going through the six week Niching for Hippies program?
First, look at who is already coming to you. Notice now those interactions play out. For whatever reason, my clients trust me before they get here, and they’ve already decided to enroll in something. I’ve never had a conversation about cost, with anyone–they just pay. That’s unusual, so I can look to uncovering both why that is so I can do it better, and to turning my efforts to the areas that aren’t yet up to speed–better clarity, better programs, better visibility in my case–but first recognizing that none of that would matter if I didn’t first decide who I was attempting to reach. More traffic to my site isn’t needed, as I’m largely a one on one provider. What I needed was better qualified traffic, and for that, I needed to get clear about niche.
Second, start with hubs. I watched two excellent workshops pass by with insignificant enrollment, because I left that step for last. No. Where will you find these people? And if your niche starts with the word “people,” it’s too broad, no matter how you qualify it next. Pick a group that has a name they call themselves. Period. It can change, but if you can’t name them, you can’t find them. Take a subset of who you’d like to reach if need be–you can’t see everyone at once anyway, so knock them off one by one. See what works. Stick with the ones that do and that you love.
And finally, there is NO substitute for talking to your niche. None. Zip. Zilch. Nadda. At first that can be difficult, but in my case, my niche themselves stepped forward finally and talked to me about becoming my niche. Now I was having that conversation. Now they were telling me what they needed. I knew where to find them. And they loved being able to talk about these needs. Presto. So simple. My niche project was born—a discussion forum for healers. A safe, honest, open, compelling discussion with like-minded practitioners sharing a common set of needs. Healing for Healers. From that discussion, oh the possibilities! There’s still my main work, reconnecting their energy to source, a reconnection every healer needs and should experience. But first, we can build a relationship. That’s worth all of it right there. People who love each other, hanging out together and helping each other. That’s the heart of Healing for Healers. And that’s the heart of a Niche.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m looking forward to developing two other potential niches.
- Healing for Hikers might evolve into retreats or pilgrimages into the wilderness, checking into the primal peace that most people rarely experience, let alone know is part of our earth and existence. I also developed my new self-healing thoughts and techniques practically on long hikes in the mountains, releasing aches and pains without bringing them home. I blogged about this daily in October in “A Wilderness Hike” series — http://kwanyinhealing.net/
2012/10/01/a-wilderness-hike/ — with awesome pictures from my Adirondack adventures in the High Peaks. I’d love to hear hikers’ thoughts, ideas, suggestions. How can I help? What do you need? What would you like to see?
- Healing for Musicians could go in so many directions. I’m an accomplished professional musician (classical, jazz, rock, folk, new age) and have recorded many times, including my own albums (which I’ll eventually digitize and put on my site). I’ve also a strong background in esoteric music and healing, from ancient times and cultures to world practices. I’m not sure where this will go, but there’s certainly potential. Again, I’d love to hear from musicians–how may I best serve?
Something fantastic will evolve, I’m sure. I’m also sure those best incredible ideas will come from hikers, musicians, and healers themselves. And I’m sure I will fall in love with those authentic areas in which we can share.
Mostly, I find that, instead of complicating “what I do,” niching has simplified and clarified my work.
If I’m talking to healers, I can tell them I do healing for healers, starting with challenges healers face and how I help. If I’m talking to people interested already in Reconnective Healing or The Reconnection, my approach immediately distinguishes me from the sea of generic practitioners. One client drove four hours and stayed overnight to have The Reconnection done, even though she has a qualified practitioner in her own town.
“Her web site is all about her,” she told me, “while yours is all about the work and how it started and how it works.” She felt I was a better fit. Or if I’m talking about wilderness and healing, I already have resources ready to offer.
With this comes even more confidence. I used to dread those awkward “So what do you do” questions from people unlikely to “get” it or want it. Now I calmly tell them, “I’m a New Age hippie, and I do New Age hippie things.” That they get, right away. If uninterested they nod and change the subject; if intrigued, they open the door to the conversation and show me which aspects intrigue them.
Honestly, a niche is in no way a constraint. It’s you, authentic and freed. And it shows others the way in to you, what you do, why you do it, and how it fits their own lives.
It is itself healing.
My Thoughts on This Case Study:
Clarify in on the journey (i.e. the problem that’s being solved and the result that’s being offered). When I read over Tim’s answers to the first two questions about the problem he solves and the results he offers . . . there were a lot of words. It felt a bit overwhelming. Developing a marketing message and clear platform is often a lot like cleaning your bedroom. It often gets worse before it gets better. It gets messy because you’re pulling everything out to reconsider and piling it on your bed to decide what to do with it. And, if you stop there, you’re far worse off than you were, but it you push through that ‘groan zone’ and ‘messy middle’ your room ends up so much cleaner and more uplifting to be in. Tim is well on his way.
The next level is can you sum up the problem in seven words or less. And the result too. When you get to the heart of it, it’s usually really simple. People are craving better sleep, better dating, better sex, more money, to feel healthier etc.
In Tim’s case what jumped out were these phrases:
- The Problem: Self Doubt. “They wonder sometimes how they can heal others when they’re struggling with healing their own doubts, fears, and limitations.”
- The Result: Confidence. “They can then practice authentically and confidently as healers”
It seems like the main journey he helps healers on is that journey. I could be wrong, but that’s what felt clearest and jumped out to me.
Whatever it ends up being, he should be able to sum it up in a single sentence or two, “You know healers often struggle with ______? Well, I help them get _________.”
If I were to take a crack at this for him it would be this: “You know how a lot of healers wonder sometimes how they can heal others when they’re struggling with healing their own doubts, fears, and limitations? Well, I help get to a place where they can practice authentically and confidently (even when their own life isn’t ‘perfect’).
You want to make sure you’re naming a struggle and a craving that, when someone in your target market hears it, they identify with it instantly.
The clearer the journey, the easier everything else is.
Blogging regularly. My colleague Marisa Murgatroyd has some brilliant things to say about blogging. But there’s no doubt that regular blogging has done me well in building up the ‘know, like & trust’ factor with my following. Blogging can help people learn about you from a safe distance. It’s a pink spoon. A free sample of what you have to offer. It helps you to articulate (and your following to understand) you point of view. That’s vital for building trust.
Clarify the rest of his platform. Right now, Tim’s got a fairly clear niche. It’s a fairly clear journey from the Island A of Self Doubt to the Island B of Confidence.
What’s not clear is what his point of view is about that journey. I want to know his sense of the steps, the process, the elements needed to make the journey. I want a clear sense of his ‘take’ on the journey and the blunders he sees healers making when they try it on their own. What are the myths surrounding the journey and what’s the truth?
I’d love to have him give me a metaphor for what the journey is like that could sum it up simply.
Clarity is power.
As Tim expands out, there’s a need to keep rooting deeper in clarity. Right now his platform is getting clearer but his container is a bit weak. A common error is to get the inklings of a platform and then want to promote it high and wide, but I would tend to encourage a bit more slowness and developing the business a little bit to be ready for it. It would be like getting the idea for a theme party and then inviting everyone over to your house that night before you’ve had a chance to tidy (let alone decorate) when it would be just as easy to do it the next week.
Redo his website for this niche of healers. Right now, I’d give his website about 30%. It feels a bit cluttered. My sense is that he’s well outgrown his website and needs to upgrade so that the external perception of his work matches the internal reality. I was in a similar place for years where I came to hate my old website but, until I met Jaime Almond, felt trapped. If you’re in that boat, get help. But, in addition to a general upgrade and makeover, I would love to see the homepage and his bio (and website in general hone in this niche of healing for healers because, right now, that doesn’t jump out to me.
He started with a niche project which is brilliant. Instead of jumping into a website redo, he started with creating a forum as a part of his existing website to experiment. Brilliant. Start small. Start with a niche project that can allow you to see if the niche really feels right. He’ll know when he’s ready to take the next step. But it’s far better to go a bit more slowly than you need than too fast where you over commit to something you aren’t really ready for that doesn’t feel like a fit.
“I’m a New Age hippie, and I do New Age hippie things.” – I love this. This might just be one of my favourite ways of introducing oneself I’ve ever heard. It’s so honest, self effacing yet composed and such a clear filter. It’s funny and will evoke either a leaning in response or a leaning out response. It’s a good reminder to see if you can find a ‘hook’ when you introduce yourself. Sometimes that will come from an oxymoron, sometimes from something like this. I think what I love about it is that it makes it clear that he doesn’t take himself too seriously – there’s a humility there. Arrogance is not attractive.
More Content: In addition to blogging, there are more forms of content. The Healers’ Voices is a great idea. It reminds me of the Soul Filled Cafe idea that my colleague Heather Gray has used to successfully grow her practice. Doing interviews (audio, video or transcripts) and then offering those as downloads (free or paid) would be a great way to build things.
Develop a Signature Talk: While his work may not end up being a fit for TED talks, I would love to see Tim hone his message down to a twenty minute talk he could put up on his site. I’ve been thinking about this a lot for clients of mine – developing a ‘signature talk’ that communicates the heart of what you have to others.
Free Offer: I would love to see Tim’s site offer a ‘free gift’ to anyone who signs up on his email list. Something targeted directly towards healers. It can make a dramatic, positive difference in who opts in to your email list.