Practitioners and the perpetual student syndrome

Massimo GaetaniI will define the perpetual student syndrome as the tendency for some professionals to go for new courses and specialisations every time they struggle to get new clients.  They end up within not too long with more qualification than they can possibly list in a single sentence and yet they are surprised that, despite their wealth of qualifications, they struggle to get enough work.  I will analyse in this post how and why it happens and how it can be avoided.

Having spent over 10 years marketing machinery and devices for factory automation I often noticed how many sales people tend to blame their product/service when they cannot sell them; customers are often looking for something which is different, better, cheaper, faster than what’s available.  It’s easy to justify customers’ requests and looking for another product or service than blame themselves for the lack of skill or determination in selling what’s available.

The same principle applies to some of the practitioners I have met. Many of them specialise initially in one treatment, e.g. Swedish massage, and then they follow it up by sports, deep tissue and various others; alternatively an initial hypnotherapy course is followed by NLP or coaching.  In some cases I even saw people with a fair amount of experience in physical therapies to learn talking therapies or vice versa.  This is can be defined growing their skills horizontally rather than further improve their core skill and growing vertically (e.g. being the best hypnotherapist in town who helps with weight loss).  Biggest downside of a horizontal growth is that they often need to rebrand themselves or market the new skill in a different way to what they are used to.

There is an obvious minimum level of qualification and specialisation which is necessary to enable you to work; you cannot practice unless you have a relevant and valid qualification for what you practice.  It could be the case than one extra specialisation can enable you to broaden the number of issues you can treat and, therefore, the number of clients you can see.  On the other hand the incremental benefit of the latest specialisation will be less and less in terms of ROI.

A solution to the perpetual student syndrome is to grow vertically into your profession by specializing what you offer and what you treat to your possible best rather than horizontally into new treatments which might just seem interesting but, likely, will not any easier to market neither more remunerative.

A few tips about leafleting

LaeftletsIn a world where social media has literally transformed the way we (should) market our businesses we can still find many businesses who embark in traditional marketing exercises; good news is that  some of them, if well executed, still work.  This post will briefly discuss leafleting, a form of advertising and promotion which can be used effectively for certain complementary health practices.

By leafleting I mean the design, print and distribution of leaflets into households within a specified geographic area.  Leafleting is particularly effective for a local business interested in reaching out to a well defined local community.  We are here considering an indiscriminate dropping to all household in a particular area rather than posting to a mailing list which will be discussed in a different post.

Leafleting can work well if you can assume that at least one person in each house can be interested in what you are offering: e.g. massage and other wellbeing treatments can lead to successful campaigns.  Hypnotherapy for weight loss and smoking cessation can also work well; very niche treatments for phobias, on the other hand, might not apply to enough people.

There are three essential functions for a leafleting campaign:

  • Announcing something: opening of a new business, changing of management for an existing business, arrival of a new therapist and so on;
  • Running a promotion: money off your next treatment, get three treatments for the price of two and so on;
  • Raise awareness and branding: let people know you exist and they might decide to contact you or buying from you when they have the opportunity.

Each of the above function will have an impact on the message that the leaflet will have to deliver.  In order to maximise the possible return on investment here are the main tips about a creating a successful leafleting campaign.  They are the results of many campaigns run by our clinic directly as well as on behalf of our practitioners:

  1. Decide very accurately the function for the leaflet from the list above and execute on one function only.
  2. Adopt a format which is compact and efficient: A6 (kind of post card), A5 or 1/3 of A4
  3. Have a professional design which uses your colours (from your logo and company image) and your typefaces.
  4. Have a message which is captivating and with a clear call to action: e.g. “call our office” or “Email us” or “go to this website and register”.
  5. If you are running a promotion make sure to have a time limit to instil urgency.
  6. Have the leaflets printed professionally on good quality paper; first impression does matter.
  7. Deliver a minimum of 3000 leaflets per run and run at least 3 deliveries in the same area; there a number of options to deliver the leaflets: you can do it yourself and do some exercise or contact a reliable company which will do it for you. It is essential you have very clear where you want them distributed and have a way to check and measure that they effectively delivered.
  8. Measure results and success of your campaign: in general between 3 and 5 inquiries per 1000 leaflets dropped are considered a successful campaign; anything above that is outstanding. Inquiries will likely arrive within very few days from delivery although sometimes people will save it for later.

Leaflets have a very short life, usually the time from the front door where they fall to the closest bin. When I initially considered them as a marketing tool it came natural to me thinking that they have little chance to deliver their message and they are a waste of paper and they do pollute indeed.  On the other hand a successful campaign which delivers 10,000 leaflets and converts to just 30 clients will generate, if you charge £40 per session, £1,200 of immediate new business with 5-10 of these new clients that might come back more than once.  By budgeting £300-400 for a batch of 10,000 leaflets you can make a net profit of around £800 per campaign with the advantage of reaching out to clients you would not connect to otherwise.

Ten ways to chase those winter blues away

Naomi-DavidsonAccording to experts Monday 19th January 2015, referred to as “Blue Monday” was the most depressing day of the year.

Apparently down to weather conditions (that’s January for you), the post Christmas/holiday blues (Didn’t it go quickly?), Mondays in general and of course the dreaded “D” word in the form of credit card bills catching up on us after the fun and frolics of the festive season.

I have to say, for me I’m glad that January is almost over. I am at heart a sun worshipper and not particularly fond of the recent biting winds and the damp conditions that seeps right through to the bones. The chill factor makes your muscles tense and makes it feel like spring is a long way away.

Several of my clients have mentioned that they find January a difficult month. They say they feel generally run down with lingering coughs and colds and feel completely de-motivated as a result. So much so in fact that they are desperately in need of a boost and pick-me up.

Their words got me thinking how to beat the January blues and here are my top 10 bright ideas (check out the special offers, at the bottom of the page, which will cheer you up, too):

  • Book your next holiday giving you something to look forward too
  • Write a gratitude list which is a really useful tool to enable you to gain perspective in your life
  • Put on your favourite piece of music and SING and DANCE along to it. It is great therapy!
  • Take up a new hobby that makes your heart jump for joy
  • Watch your favourite comedy and laugh with all your might
  • Meet up with friends and do something fun … a great way to reduce stress levels.
  • Live in the moment and savour each and every experience in the now
  • Exercise or take up yoga classes…get those cheerful endorphins flowing
  • Have a series of regular massages which is great for boosting the immune system and clearing the toxins from the Christmas over indulgence. It is great for relaxing the muscles at the same time as being a pamper treat to chase away the winter blues leaving you feeling re-energised
  • Use the energy from your massage to set some exciting goals for the coming year and really make 2015 count.

Organising workshops and other speaking gigs

Massimo GaetaniPublic speaking is a great way to share knowledge with a group of people and it helps to demonstrate your expertise in a particular field or sector.  Practitioners in Complementary Health, particularly the ones offering voice therapy, can use public speaking as a very effective marketing tool.  Many of the targeted audience at the gig may appreciate the speaker’s expertise and often engage in one-to-one projects.

Speaking at an event organised by others allows a first timer to concentrate on delivering quality content without the need of getting involved the whole logistic of the organisation. I would suggest anyone interested in testing their speaking skills to explore which events could accommodate the topic they would like to showcase.

Often I get asked by our practitioners how to organise an event and I decided to write this post in order to create a simple guide to follow.

The three most important things about organising a speaking event are:

  1. People
  2. People and…
  3. …yes you guessed right: People

In my experience it’s relatively straightforward to take care of all other aspects of the event which we will see below but if the event has no attendance it will have negative effects on both your wallet and self-confidence.  Please take this into account and appreciate the importance of having the audience you expect when you get to the promotion of the event.  Below I will go through the key aspects of organising your event.

Type of event

There are obvious many different events you can organise but for simplicity I will stick to the two most suitable for the sector we are in:

  • Lecture, where you will discuss a topic which should be relevant to your audience; the presentation will be eventually followed by Q&A where people can ask you pertinent questions and you have the opportunity to further showcase your knowledge;
  • Workshop, where you have a more interactive approach and a higher involvement of the audience since the beginning and throughout the duration of the event.

Venue

A suitable venue for your event will have a strong influence on its success so chose adequately. It’s essential to decide how much space you will need which is directly proportional to the number of people you are planning to have and depending on the event you organise:

  • lectures can have the audience organised like a theatre with rows of seats while
  • workshops will work better using a cabaret layout (these are the technical terms which venue owners will be familiar with) where you have tables spread across the venue

Cabaret suits well a long event where a lunch break is included while lectures will work better for a separate are area where refreshments are served.

It’s important to remember that too many people cramped in a small venue will make everybody uncomfortable; on the other hand a large room with just a few people will look like an unsubscribed (a.k.a. unsuccessful) event.

Depending on where you are based there might be lots of possible venues available in hotels, business centres, conference centre, community centres and so on.  Some of them will let their venue by the hour others by the half day or day.  Be prepared to inquire exactly what you need and have a budget in mind.  Also some venues might want to charge you a booking fee or to pay in advance for the booking, with little or no negotiation on cancellations or change of date.  I would always try to pay on the day of the event or after, ensuring that a cancellation doesn’t incur in charges if done by a certain cut-off date.  This is the date when you will get charged if the event gets cancelled. Things can go wrong for a number of reasons and, ideally, you do not want to pay for an event you are not going to run.

Duration

A lecture can last up to a few hours, a workshop even an entire day or multiple days.  You must have very clear in your mind the format and the content when deciding duration as attendees will plan their day around your event.

Date and notice

It is important that you chose a date a time that suits your audience; if you’d like to attract office employees then an evening or weekend will work better than on a Tues morning.  If your audience are likely to be mums then take into account the school run timings.  Once taken into account the above go ahead and chose a date which is not clashing with other similar events in your area as it might impact on your audience.  When organising a new event I would suggest giving between 2 and 3 months’ notice to allow proper promotion and distribution of invites.

Tickets and bookings

Whether you decide to charge for your event or offer it for free it is very important that attendees take it very seriously.  I suggest automating the ticket and booking process by using an automated system.  I personally use Eventbrite which is free for free events and will charge a small commission if you want to use it to sell tickets.  Eventbrite can be quite daunting the first times you use it but it’s really great.  Just make sure you have handy all key information about the event and they all have a place within Eventbrite.  Make sure to fill up important details like cancellation policies and ensure that booking doesn’t end on the day of your event.  You must have a bit of time for yourself to prepare material and to decide eventual last minute manoeuvres. Once you created an event and you have a URL for it you can then go ahead with the promotion.

Promotion

There are many different ways to promote an event; traditional marketing will suggest having posters hanged up in relevant places and small flyers can be printed and distributed.  If you have a list of relevant contacts you can Email them an invitation with the URL of the event you created in Eventbrite.  If you have lots of followers on relevant social networks like Facebook or Twitter you can also use those.  It is essential that you spend a substantial part of your time and energy promoting the event and you mention it to everybody you know, whether they are part of your target audience or not.

Minimum attendance and cut out date

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph having an audience is essential for your event to work.  You might have done everything correctly in order to prepare the event but you realise that there are just 3 people out of 20 expected (or 15 out of 50) a few days before the event.  In my opinion is best to cancel the event and refund the money (Eventbrite will issue full refunds without even charging their commission) rather than having a much undersubscribed event.  Your decision should be taken before

Delivering the event

I have to trust you know what you are talking about if you decide to organise a speaking gig.  Please make sure to be at the venue quite a few minutes earlier to setup and be ready; early birds always happen at every event and it could be quite disappointing for them to find out they are there before you.  Another important thing is to make sure you finish exactly on time so that people with tight time constraints or relying on public transport can leave without feeling that they are missing out.  At the same time remember to have enough time to hang around as several people might want to ask you something which they preferred not to share with others in the Q&A section.

Make sure you carry several spare pens and notebooks as many people forget that taking notes could be useful.

Event’s exclusive offer

Your own event offers a unique opportunity of speaking to people who are interested in you and in the topic you are discussing.  Once you have their attention it makes sense to offer them something extra which could be sold at a promotional price.  This would usually apply to other workshop or one-to-one work.

Collect feedback

While people are at your event they have very clear in mind what just happened.  Take this opportunity to distribute a short questionnaire that can collect key information about how the whole experience was for them.  You can always do this later but the success rate, both in terms of number of people replying and the quality of their content, will be lower.

Follow up

A few days after the event send a message where you thank your audience.  This will keep the conversation alive while it might give you an extra opportunity for those people who did not take the opportunity to buy extra services from you at the end of the event.