Travelling light.

Playa El Toro, Panama
I am writing this post after waking up to the sounds of birds, and starting my first day here with some coffee, papaya, huevos revueltos, and a walk on the beach. My work and inspiration space for the coming month will be a simple but beautiful and airy room, with views of the ocean by day and an incredible sky full of bright stars by night. Everything I brought with me fits onto two shelves and two coat hangers.

I am pretty excited by that forecaset – because of the escape from the cold and wet Portland winter, obviously, but also because of the simplicity of the whole endeavor.

So that’s the theme I am going to suggest for the first draft of your marketing plan for 2013: What would you carry over into the New Year if you had to make do with only a fraction of the brain space, budget, and time you have available now?

Here is what’s on my packing list so far:
– Meet new people, online and off.
– Tend to my website.
– Care for my relationships with allies.
– Listen.
– Acknowledge the support I receive from my community.

If you’d like some feedback on yours, feel free to send me a note – deities of the internet permitting, you’ll hear back from me within a day.

Time to quit.

Let Go by Pinelife

Before you dive into your marketing planning session* for 2013, take this last month of the year to quit** a few things.

Mini Case Study: Educational Talk Fatigue

A couple weeks ago, an acupuncturist told me that for a while her main marketing activity was to give educational talks to the local community. It’s a solid marketing strategy, and she was actually really good at it – people found her talks helpful and inspiring, and she connected with one or more new patients almost every time.

There was just one problem: those talks were no fun for her at all. Just not her thing. She felt stuck – it worked, so she had to do more of it, right? She eventually realized that it was time to quit before her educational-talk-fatigue would start to shine through.

Did she miss out on some opportunities to meet new patients? Probably. Did her practice go under? Not even close. She shifted her focus and found other ways to be helpful and connect with her people that better suited her style.

Make Some Space in Your Marketing Plan.

Are there any pieces in your marketing plan that you just dread every time? If you have done your best to learn the ropes and get good at whatever it is, and you still feel more worn out than energized by it, maybe it’s time to quit.

Kick it off your to-do list. Make some space for your best ideas yet.

*Didn’t have a planning session on your calendar yet? No worries, we’ll get to that in a couple weeks.
** You may substitute the verb “to let go” for “to quit” at any time during this blog post.

{Photo by pinelife on Flickr.}

Strangers with Needles: Marketing Acupuncture

marketing acupuncture - photo by  -{thus}-
Lately I’ve been immersing myself into the everyday realities of marketing acupuncture, and it’s been super interesting to look at this world from different perspectives. I have had several treatments here in Portland, interviewed a couple of very inspiring and successful acupuncturists, and read my way through the library catalog and online universe.

Side note: If you know of any awesome blogs, books, or articles on the subject, I’d love to hear about them!

Public Education, a.k.a. Marketing

The book I just finished is ‘Making Acupuncture Pay‘ by Matthew D. Bauer (you can read some of the chapters for free here).

Another side note: That title makes me think that somehow acupuncture screwed up and now it has to pay for it – but that’s of course not the point of the book at all. Acupuncture has been behaving very well over the past millennia, and Dr. Bauer has only the kindest intentions for it.

The book’s main goal is to help recent graduates build a sustainable practice, and it calls for more public education – a.k.a. marketing – to create a nurturing environment for those practitioners:

I keep using the term ‘public education’ but this could also be called ‘marketing.’ Some people seem uncomfortable with the idea of marketing as that sounds like advertising and of questionable ethics. We need to get over this attitude. Educating the public about acupuncture’s potential and the training of Licensed Acupuncturists is a public service and absolutely ethical.

Lost in Translation

Dr. Bauer’s point is that there are plenty of people who could be helped by acupuncture, but they are not (yet) coming to your door because concepts like qi, meridians, yin/yang or Five Elements are just completely foreign to them. To help them understand and trust acupuncture, you’ll need to do some translating.

Some of that education will happen one-on-one, patient by patient. Dr. Bauer mentions the intake as one perfect opportunity:

To them, you are a stranger who wants to start poking needles in them for a fee and with no guarantee about the outcome. […] This first meeting […] begins to establish your working relationship.

Last side note for this post: I love how the deeper I dig into the topic, the stronger the argument for defining marketing as relationship-building becomes.

How to: 4 Ideas for Education

Here are some ideas for integrating education into your everyday marketing strategy:

Wherever you write about acupuncture, get rid of any jargon or technical terms that your people might not be able to follow. Don’t dumb it down, but be as clear and to the point as possible.

Be generous with your knowledge. That might mean offering a free initial consultation, giving workshops in your community, or explicitly inviting your patients to ask a bunch of questions during the first visit.

It’s helpful to have a metaphor or a simple, evocative phrase for the way acupuncture works with the body. For example, Dr. Bauer talk about “boosting the boy’s own natural healing resources.”

Your people might come up with more questions after the first few treatments, but – for various reasons – not ask them. Keep the communication going: update them about the progress you see, what stage they are in, and what to expect next.

As always: Focus on clarity, communication, and relationship-building.

If you’d like my eyes and brain on your website or other materials, or if you’d like to hear about the beautiful marketing strategies and attitudes the acupuncturists shared with me, feel free to say hi!

{Photo by -{thus}- on Flickr. The book title is an affiliate link and will teleport you to Powell’s Books virtual shelves.}