Friday, March 13, 2009

money for nothing

i go to a brilliant young acupuncturist called mona chopra who is just beginning to build her practice.

and since work is quiet these days, i asked if she wanted to do a trade - branding, copywriting, design, marketing strategy - for treatments. three days work at $500 a day - though of course it would be well more than 3 days for someone just starting out, but that was my cap.

she said, oh no, i don't think i can afford to invest that much in my business!

so i said, you will have to invest in your business whether it's in time or money, but i suggest you start some supercheap, viral marketing.

step one: sit and figure out your strength/point of difference. describe your practice in one sentence. and see why that makes you better or different than any other acupuncturist (or magazine or dance company or rainforest organization).

if it helps to brainstorm with someone, do it. but make sure they know a bit about the field and the competition across categories.

also, make sure they are going to brave enough to help you cut back on all your adjectives and long explanations.

last of all, make sure you make your description simple, short and clear.

make your name fun and friendly.

people want to be able to categorize you. that makes them understand you and have a platform to engage with you. otherwise, you are a hazy cloud.

if you seem to be something incomprehensible, undefinable - it's too much work - people will just walk past. especially right now. when the world feels so strange and scary.

so you need to give yourself a position that doesn't just make sense to you, but that makes sense to people who've never experienced - or even thought about what you do.

my friend mona worried that if she defined herself too much, she'd limit her audience.

i had to explain that the more you draw your lines, the more space there is to grow. it's a structure. and, right now, niche branding is appealing.

you know what you'll get.

and that's what you want.

step two: set up a facebook and a twitter account, a basic website and a blog. use your new positioning to describe yourself. put up a couple of posts so there's something for people to discover.

build a facebook group for acupuncture or join one and write a lot of comments.

make your website an informational site on acupuncture itself.

this is also your platform to describe yourself more fully. like a newspaper article - put the immediate stuff upfront, your position, your who-what-where-when-how and then slowly descend through the whys and back up to expand on the hows.

this allows the reader to learn about you at their own pace. or level of engagement.

step three: get out on the street. for instance, if you're an acupuncturist, you should go to spas, hair salons, vitamin shops, the whole body section at whole foods, juice bars. and hang out and talk to the people who work there.

tell them why you're so great. why acupuncture is so great. offer them a free treatment. give them your card and - if they enjoyed it or found it effective - tell them to pass it on.

put up your flyers and cards in gyms and yoga and pilates studios. take a class and make an effort to talk to the teacher afterwards.

and the thing is - if you really believe in your product - so will everyone you tell.

step four: take your needles out on the street. if you go to a party, take a small travel case and offer to show people quick remedies. or use acupressure to explain.

if you're sitting in the park on a nice day, have a friend sit on a folding chair and do a live acupuncture performance. explain to people who are watching what you are doing. give them a card. or a free mini-treatment. offer to talk at any events that need experts on chinese medicine or acupuncture.

step five: get online and look for blogs and websites that discuss acupunture and chinese medicine, then post comments. and make sure it includes your contact information.

the point being there are a lot of cheap pricks.

simply paying for advertising is too easy.

plus, no one believes it any more.

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