I did it myself at the start. One example was posters. The ones I put up didn't make much difference, so I assumed I needed to put up more. Then I assumed I needed better ones, then I tried putting them in different places. The whole thing was a waste of money and time.
Thanks to FreeImages.com/Javier Daza.
Sure, I got the odd client, but only a few. Nowhere near enough to allow me to keep going and pay my office rent, but I kept at it way too long. As always, I began to doubt my clinical skills rather than look at the evidence; Posters are not an easy way to reach people. Pure and simple.
Posters can help, and if you're well known they can remind people about you, but using them as the first thing people learn about you, gives a low return for high effort.
Yet, they're what we do so much of the time. Chatting with people in several therapy centres, the same pattern can be seen. Someone comes to run a class or open a new one-to-one service. They leave cards around and put up posters all about the area. Then as time comes closer they check in, a bit worried because their phone isn't ringing, they're not getting enquiries, and they're sweating. The usual result is that close to the day of the class, it's cancelled. If it's one-to-one work there isn't the need to cancel, it just fades.
⅔ of the classes I see being organised across various centres, are cancelled or barely go ahead with a handful of people. Talking to the facilitators, it's hugely demoralising. It's nearly always feelings of shame, 'I'm not good enough', or 'people don't want what I have to offer' that come up.
Those are emotional illusions. The problem is not you, your ability to help others, your ability to give value, or anything to do with self worth. It's just that those old ways of filling a room don't work as well any more.
I collaborate with a number of national organisations in the field. They all see the same pattern too. 4-5 years ago they could put 40-60 people in a room with little effort. Now they struggle to get 10 to attend. The same is happening for most organisations. It's a change in how we, as consumers, are receiving information and in what quantity.
We have way more choice than ever.
People are putting that choice in front of us in many more ways.
Our expectations are different in what we want to know before we pay for something.
This isn't a bad thing, but it does require a new way of doing things.
The equation used to be:
If your poster or card does attract someone, that tends to be the 1 person in 10 who is proactive. They hunt out more info, or already have a preconceived idea of what to expect and are ready to act.
One of the big changes in how we access information is that we expect it to find us. This is true particularly when we're paying for something. We expect the service provider to do the work.
If we as the facilitator do so, life gets easier.
Let me give you an example.
When I run a seminar I'm looking for 12 to 20 people to attend depending on how intensive it is. Less than that feels too small, larger than that doesn't allow us to get the same results.
When I started I did the postering thing, put out flyers, cards etc. Now, I know how to use that sort of print media. I can write OK copy, I know where to put them for best returns, and I hired a student to hit all the right places in the town for reasonable money.
The interest in my first efforts was tiny. 5-6 people typically. I went ahead, because I don't like to let people down, and I viewed it as a 'dress rehearsal', and I don't think it helps to get a reputation for cancelling. And yes it was demoralising.
After that, I was speaking to two national therapy organisations about filling a room and both said a lot of it was seasonal, and both mentioned that June and in particular the first half of the month was impossible. One said they'd managed 3 bookings for an event in June when they wanted to put 40 in the room out of their membership of hundreds.
That got me thinking. So I tried a different experiment. I organised an event for early June. I set about trying to get 20 people to attend. I used the same sort of copy, information, pictures etc. but I went a different route. I went entirely on-line.
The result. 21 people booked and paid for the event, and on the day 1 couldn't attend.
So what is the magic of online?
There isn't any. It's not about technology, it's about psychology. It's about how people act and react, and sure the technology gives more options and different ones need to be used a bit differently, but the basics are the same.
Here are the five main principles that I've seen win over and over again in all formats:
1. Some people will act immediately. These are few. More act after seeing something a few times. Even more act when they repeatedly see or hear about your offering.
2. Different people resonate with different aspects of the same thing. One message will not reach them all. You need to put out different view points, different images, different slants on the same message, to help more people.
3. Most people who see your information don't understand what you do or how it might help them. We know too much about what we do ourselves. Create your info so that it is easily understood from their point of view e.g. What it will do for them? how it will do that? and why it's worthwhile, if you want to get to help them.
4. Be brief with text in advertising. Usually less than 30% of the text is read because we put too much in. We're always keen to describe how our skills can help, but in an ad, poster, website, or flyer it's rarely read. Keep it to the key points.
5. In editorials, blogs, or posts you can say a lot more. These reach a different audience. Take the time to tell why, how, when, where, and the value of what you're doing, in this format.
So, why does online win?
It allows you to easily put up different messages on the same topic.
It allows people to repeatedly see different views/slants on the core info.
It allows us to explain what we do and how it helps.
It allows us to put out both brief and long form information so we connect with people who prefer either format.
And the big one... where are you right now? Where are you reading this? Look around you. Can you see posters, flyers, cards, etc.? Very few of you will be in a place which displays them right now. Online is available whenever you want it and wherever you are, dodgy broadband areas excepted 🙂
Now, posters can do a lot of the above, but the ability to give different info and to have a different look is expensive, and it is often hard to get a good quantity of posters up, as competition for prime (and limited) public space is considerable.
So why do we keep doing it? After asking a lot of people that question, the answers seem to include:
I understand it.
It feels useful.
I am unsure of the online stuff.
It's what I see others doing.
It's what I always do.
Consider what you want to achieve. Would it be worth some experimenting with new techniques or learning a few new things to get your current skill-set into greater use and really helping a lot more people?
I hope it is. We all know there are more people who could improve their lives than could ever find help. For all those decades I suffered anxiety and depression, I never knew the help I needed was available 20 minutes away from where I grew up. Guess I never saw the poster...
Please keep sharing your help.
Have a great week,
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John Prendergast is an award-winning Success Coach and and Psycho-Trauma Anxiety Therapist.
He is also the Founder of Therapy and Coaching Success that specialises in helping Therapists, Coaches and other Wellness Practitioners, connect with those in need, build their diaries and earn the income they need.
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