Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Marketing AT

These are some comments I made recently on the Alextech mailing list on the subject of why AT is not faring so well these days. If you want to read other people's comments, please go to this URL - http://groups.google.com/group/alextech

1st Post
I do think AT is living in a dinosaur era when it comes to marketing - we get too precious about not giving the wrong message to people, that there is no message getting out at all! Sometimes I think we are writing our marketing messages for each other, not the public. It has to be 'so right' and not 'misrepresent' the work.

In Japan I have decided to drop the name "Alexander Technique" and begin marketing it under a new name, currently applying for a trade mark. This is easy to do because this is a foreign culture, nobody ever heard of AT anyway, so why translate a rather difficult name for marketing purposes? Why not just invent a new name that resonates with consumers? Of course we are NOT inventing a new technique. As people get past the trumpets, the dear old AT will still be there in it's pure form. It's great work, but people need a handle on it BEFORE they come.

The cringe factor has set us all back I think - oh, you can't say it's about posture (for example). Well why not? That's what people first understand, that's how they think. In my teaching practise I begin where people's thinking is, not expect them to be already thinking as I want them to be BEFORE they even had a lesson!

People want "to do" something. OK - let's give them a "to do" something in the marketing. And of course you are clever - you never actually lie about what you are doing. You just use a language that makes more sense to people.

So when they come, IF THEY COME, that's the time to begin the lesson. I admit this approach will fail with many - when they get there and find out there is no "to do" in the way they understand it, they will leave disappointed. "Where are the exercises?" But there are also who come with that idea, become surprised to discover it is nothing of the kind, and eventually have their lives deeply enriched by coming into contact with the work.

2nd Post
One distinction that is important when you are talking about the market, is to know WHICH market.

I think most AT teachers market themselves towards what I would call "non-consumer" market. This includes musicians, educators, other therapists, professionals in their own field - generally the kind of people who want a lot of detailed information, who don't mind complicated explanations, who want to read a book or two before coming. This is a very tough market, but the one in which Alexander himself succeeded very well. And, as we seem to do with most things, we still copy FM and try to continue to marketing ourselves towards this group.

Alexander, from the anecdotal evidence, rarely seem to come into contact with the ordinary, everyday consumer. They couldn't afford his lessons for a start, let alone understand all the talk of non-doing, learning nothing and you-already-have-it but-lost-it talk. I have been a past-time offender when it comes to this.

But this group - the consumer group - that the likes of yoga, pilates etc. have been so successful at cultivating, is where AT has failed so dismally. I wonder how Alexander's vision of the resurrection of humanity can be achieved by basically ignoring the largest group of people around?

Even within the consumer market, there are groups - and the language, approach, message will differ depending on which group you are communicating towards. In Japan, we have decided to specifically aim our marketing efforts towards single, working woman between the ages of 25~40. They are affluent, have some interest in "improving" themselves, and have time to pursue their interests. They have money to spend on a massage, a nail manicure, a film and dinner, a reflexology session and, hopefully, a coaching session in "TBA" at the "TBA" studio. They are hotly contested, so unless you utilize professionals to show you the techniques and principles that have been developed over many years to reach these people, you haven't got a hope.

My analysis is that the people who want to train to be teachers very rarely have the skill set to also set up a business and market themselves. These skills are themselves another career! So my idea is to build a company in Japan that employs AT teachers, and pay people who have marketing skills to do what they are good at, so the AT teachers can do what THEY are good at. This is why other groups have succeeded where we have not - they have banded together to make a business which then has the economic muscle to contest within the market place. AT is such an individualist culture, that this has tended not to happen. Actually - can anyone name me a Alexander teaching based corporation?

I want to create a culture in Japan that becoming an AT teacher is a viable career. I think there are many people in the West who might want to become AT teachers, but if they have a young family and financial responsibilites, the model they are presented is not very promising. AT teachers seem to fare as well as actors these days. Who can seriously entertain an idea of becoming an AT teacher and managing to raise a family at the same time?

Until we change the culture of AT, and demonstrate that it is a viable career (as well as a calling - it is OK for it to be BOTH, right?), our training schools will continue diminishing as anecdotal evidence seems to suggest is happening.