My case against printed adverts

Massimo GaetaniWhether we accept it or not we live in a world dominated by social media; it’s easy for anybody to publish content which can potentially reach every person in the world which in theory sounds just great. This factor is however a double- edged sword because everybody can do it and the level of competition is far higher today than it was just a few years ago.

I know I am not saying anything new when I state that potentially, any company and individual interested in offering a service or product to the market place, is in the media business as well. Everybody can write blogs, be active on a variety of social media platforms and create a brand for themselves.  For many this is becoming increasingly difficult because the only thing they want to do is provide their products or services but… here we go, there is no going back.

Those companies that were traditionally in the media business like newspapers, magazines, radio and TV find their market share taken away by new media and by an increasing number of business people who are investing their advertisement budgets in new technologies which offer more traceability and increased control on how they are targeting their adverts.

Because of the reasons described above I personally suggest to all of our practitioners to steer away from adverts in magazines and newspapers; this is my case against printed adverts for practitioners in complementary health.   It’s not about whether printed adverts work at all; it’s simply that the return on investment (ROI) they offer is way less than it used to be.  Many of these media companies still live in their ideal world and keep their prices as they were in 2007.  Here are a few examples of how the world has developed a total permeability to printed adverts:

  • We spend an increasing percentage of our pause time, e.g. lunch, travelling, waiting rooms and so on, reading updates on our phones; the probability of seeing one of these adverts is therefore diminished.
  • We are so bombarded by adverts in every media that our minds simply don’t see them.
  • It’s already difficult for an on-line advert to convince us to click through (think about it: when was the last time you clicked on an advert? What was it advertising?); it becomes virtually impossible for us to follow up on a printed advert (same exercise: when was the last time you saw an advert in a magazine or newspaper and decided to buy that product or service?).

The main reason I advise people against printed advertisements is ultimately budget and low ROI, particularly when advertising complementary health services such as massage or similar therapies.  If you offer massages at £50 per session and the typical advertisement in a local magazine will cost you £300 for a half page (+VAT = £360), you will need to have at least 8 people in that month that see the advert, are in the right mood and mind set to receive a massage and pick up the phone and ring you immediately;  if you are available to pick up the phone at that time and you can speak to these individuals and arrange an appointment that suits both them and you.  Even if 8 people are actually committed to arrange an appointment there are at least a couple of scenarios which can play against it:

  • they might decide to do it at a time you are not answering the phone or they want to meet you at a time that doesn’t suit you;
  • the massage concept stays in their mind but not the details of your advert; they search “massage” on-line and find one of your competitors and book with them;

In short I just find that the probability of these 8 people to successfully arrange a massage is incredibly low, hence I suggest against it.

Of course there might be good reasons, for certain companies, to advertise in magazines and newspapers: that should be when the value of just one purchase might pay for advert by itself.

Hints and tips for newbies and prospective practitioners

Massimo GaetaniThe majority of enquiries from practitioners interested in working at our clinic in Cambridge can be grouped into 4 main categories:

  • Experienced practitioners working for the NHS who decide to go private, either part or full time
  • Experienced practitioners working at other clinics who appreciate the free business and marketing support they can get at Salus Wellness
  • Experienced practitioners who have built up a home based practice and decide to take it to a higher level by working from a professional establishment
  • Experienced practitioners with an established practice in another town interested in creating a presence for themselves in Cambridge

To the best of my knowledge we are the only clinic in Cambridge with a clearly stated work with us page and we invest a substantial amount of time and resources to help our practitioners to learn how to grow their own practice.

This is the main reason why we have recently been receiving several enquiries from people who have literally just qualified or even from some who are months away from qualifying. All colleges and institutions teaching complementary health are offering some kind of marketing preparation in some shape or form.  Very often information is delivered as just a few hours of tuition and perhaps a booklet with little substance about the real details and intricacies of running your own business.

So here are my tips about starting your private practice:

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail. Have a plan in terms of how many clients you are going to see and how much you will charge, check what the common price is for your market in your geographical area; if you need a simple idea about how to plan your numbers check this post
  • Define a precise marketing image for your practice. Will you work with your own name or with a different brand? Once decided you need to go ahead and prepare and get ready with your marketing material; the essentials are discussed in this post; remember that everything takes a long time to develop, usually longer than you expect so if you wait until you are qualified you will have weeks or months of delays before your marketing material is as ready as you are
  • Find a place to practice; some people assume that working from home is a good idea but you are exposing yourself and family to lots of strangers.  Be aware that the journey to self-sustainability for your practice will take time, as I wrote in this post; therefore it’s best to find a place that will not cost a fortune when you start but also will not charge a large percentage of your income when you become successful
  • Be ready to face fast times, slow times, stressful times and again and again; starting your own private practice is effectively like starting any other business. Just months or years of consistent and good quality work will ensure the complete establishment of your practice.

Having done lots of mentoring work with start-ups, I often remind them that most projects will take twice as long, cost twice as much and will generate about half of the revenue you calculated in your initial forecast.  It is easy to be optimistic about our own plans but when they don’t work we feel very frustrated.  So it’s a good idea to have a plan, perhaps using a scheme I previously described above and be realistic/pessimistic about expected outcomes.  If we can be of any extra help please contact us via our standard phone numbers and email addresses.

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.