Sunday, September 30, 2012

What’s A Viable Niche Market?

I laughed yesterday when Larissa, an AT teacher in Canada commented that she was interested in her students, but not as much as I encouraged in yesterday’s FaceBook post! But interest in others is related to interest in you, and this in turn relates to the power of teaching into a niche market. What makes a niche market viable for you?

Well, it starts with being fascinated by the hobbies, skills and interests of your students! Of course that’s easy when they are doing something you love. So harness your passion to their passion and you have the first ingredient - your passion is onside. Next you need to check this: are there sufficient people geographically close enough to come to you for sessions? | How do you figure that out? Well, there’s a formula that’s pretty accurate…

I got reminded of this formula from an exchange with Martin, a new AT teacher in Australia. He’s just starting out, wondering how to make a business work, and I realized how it helps to have some math to lean on…

The formula for figuring out your niche’s profitability is based on the Pareto principle, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. In BodyChance we have seen this 80/20 phenomenon in another way - of every 100 people who visit our studio, 20 sign up as members (and 4 go on to become teachers = 20% See?)

So with no other basis to go on, this is a time-proven - but slightly wobbly - basis to plan your teaching success. I’ll assume you’ve already decided your niche - if that is not true for you, I’ll address that in another post. What are the total number of people that are in your niche? (If you need help with that, let me know.)

Now, assume that only 20% of the whole niche is yours to enroll. So if your niche has 15,000 people in your local area, only 3,000 of them would ever take sessions with you. 1% of these (30 people) will be easy to enroll – a website, some well-placed flyers and networking will draw them out. This kicks off your cash flow. The next 4% (120 people) are harder, and you will need to be outgoing to capture them. Together this 5% gives you essential survival, for a period at least.

However, real, sustainable career success is in that final 15% and that’s where your real work is. Think of a reluctant lover: (s)he needs a lot of persuading, but feels charmed to be wooed. You will need all your marketing and selling tools to bring them on board – USP, CTA, websiteS, social media, “stick” strategies, multiple lead generation streams, high CTR, tempting optins, landing pages, squeeze pages, sales pages: the methods are many. None hard to do - but you need strong, conscious intent.

Most AT teachers, in my reckoning, capture that first 5% and then give up. They continue their old job, or take another one, instead of taking on the 15% where a successful career lives.

So how do you capture that 15%?

No single simple answer to that (see my list above) but here’s one essential task to get you started… Alexander’s concepts are universal – you will find them in any skillful behaviour. Once you’ve determined that your niche percentages stack up – i.e. this is a genuine business opportunity - make a list of all the jargon, slang, meaningful stories and folklore that exist in your niche. If you don’t know this, it’s essential homework!

Put all the key concepts into a list, then alongside that list, mark next to each the corresponding Alexander concept. This is the beginning of communicating with your niche. Start with that. From now on, use their words in your marketing materials, NOT AT words. Get it?

Love to hear if anyone's doing this already, or tried my exercise: please share. It encourages me to go on.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Selling In Your Teaching Room

When you start a lesson with anyone, you want to be totally fascinated with that person. Wholly absorbed, as though you were considering a life time relationship, which actually you are.

Is that how you approach teaching?

No agenda, no plan, no form – just utter fascination and curiosity. Listening, watching, waiting – letting your unconscious feed off the millions of packets of information hurtling their way through your sensory system into your brain for processing. At some point this process prompts you to say or do something in response: this is the process of exploration with your student. People who are averse to marketing and selling need to understand that their teaching process is fundamentally the same in nature…

For the ethical marketer, or the ethical seller, the student is of primary interest. People who have a “thing” about selling just have to make the well-being of their student their top priority. What you want for them is what they want for them – but often out of suspicion or doubt, they walk away from the very thing that would help them the most. Don’t let them walk away until they acknowledge that they are walking away.

Your job, as a marketer selling something, or as an AT teacher, is to engender clarity for the student about their choice. To get them to a clear yes or a clear no about how they are living their life day to day. If your lessons are full of “maybe, probably, possibly” language, my guess is that you are struggling to find students too.

Take responsibility: “Understand that you create pain which gives you the capacity to undo it.” That’s an AT message, and that needs to be your sales message too. Except when it comes to people giving you money, you blink. Right? And if you could video how you move, my guess is that you are being coordinated by old fears and prejudices, not conscious intent.

Marketing and selling is not something that happens outside the teaching room – it is fundamentally what you doing when you give a great lesson. You are “selling” an idea, and quite a radical one to today’s socially validated victim, but do you really sell this idea? How much do you compromise based on your intent to be liked, to look good, to avoid uncomfortable silences? If you have never experienced an awkard confrontation with a student based on principle, my bet is that you don’t know how to sell…

So what do you do?

Start working on selling ideas in your teaching room. Notice if you use a “forgiving” language too often: ask why you do that? Is it to make the student comfortable? Or is it actually to make you comfortable? Be honest. Decide you will open your awareness to catch moments where a choice is presented, and skillfully guide the student to make that choice. Keep the moment alive, stay with it until they choose. Be open to hearing no and yes, not just one outcome. Notice when your pupil tries to wiggle away “Oh, I am tired to-day” or “This stuff is too hard” Help them understand it is actually easy – it is their habit that makes it hard. Support them to realize their own potentialities in the process of developing their art of living.

How well are you selling Alexander's ideas in your lessons?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who Am I Doing This For?

The Alexander world is full of them – people proudly beating their chests saying: “What I do works.” I guess I am one them. J However, my message is different: I am not a traditionalist. I am not a purist. I don’t believe the past is where you look to understand what will happen in the future. The old argument (that I have used too): “This is what Alexander did, so it must be right…” was more convincing half a century ago just after he died. Today is a very different world from the place Alexander lived. Different solutions for different times. Some people will not agree with me and you know what? I don’t care. That person has already decided what they want and that’s great. Good on them!

So what I am about?

I am here to help this person: You love this work, you believe Alexander's Discoveries can make a significant positive impact on Society, but you sometimes wonder and doubt your ability to deliver on that promise. You also want to earn a decent living. AT Teacher Education can cost as much as a degree at College or University, so at the very least you expect to earn enough to pay off a mortgage, run a car, take a nice holiday every year, and tuck some money away for a rainy day.

This is a minimum requirement for any serious profession. But in own recent survey of teachers, only 27% are achieving this. The other 73% do not. I’d love to change that – this is my mission in Japan. I’d like to see 73% of our graduates moving into full-time employment!

How can we make our profession such, that any person wishing to enter into education has a strong chance to earn a full-time living upon graduation? That’s the question I have, and I have been holding that question since 2005 when I got serious about Alexander Technique as a business. So if you are serious, keep coming back here and visiting my blog – I plan to give away everything I have learnt for free!

But if you didn’t read my blog yesterday – please do. Tomorrow I will carry on my series “Marketing in the Teaching Room.” You have to regear how you teach, not just how you market. The two are not that different. You change one - you change the other too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marketing In Your Teaching Room

One of my big lessons in the evolution of communicating the value of this work to wary listeners, is that the skills in the teaching space utterly reflect the skills to communicate outside it. Marj was an innovator here – understanding that the motivation to learn can not be supplied by the teacher. Sure you, the teacher, feel safe when you know that you have “procedures” to follow, such as “Alexander’s teaching procedures” but the hard question you’ve got to ask your self is this: who is really interested in that? In “chairwork” or “tablework”? You know it works, I know it works – but are they interested in that or not? If not, you’ve got your self a major marketing problem before you are even out of the gate!

Some people will always stay with you. You could ask them to hang from their feet for 10 minutes in the hall until your lessons starts, and they would probable do it. Those people will accept whatever you dish out. Those people need no convincing, but those people will not build you a successful practise. Every AT teacher gets these people, but they don’t sustain a practise. That’s the problem.

They are the 5% ers of the AT world, still leaving you the other 95% to convince.

That other 95% - they don’t want to get in and out of chairs every lesson. They really don’t. It feels irrelevant to their life. They don’t know they don’t want that, they just don’t come back because… “It’s weird” or “I don’t get what they are doing?” or “No-one explains it to me.” These are uncommunicated negatives in the teaching room and guess what? These problems exist outside the teaching room too.

What can you do? Just start adding some simple activities. Teach them to sit at their desk and move a mouse. Show them how to stand at the station. Get their iPhone or Android out and teach them to touch the phone with their thumbs, not their head. Ask them to pretend they are talking on the phone to a difficult customer – do anything that is simple, relevant and applicable to whatever they do every day. This is simple stuff. Anyone can do this – no matter how you were trained.

If you do, your less enthusiastic pupils will start to get it. They can see why they study this, and (more importantly for you) can explain it better to their friends! Remember – we are talking about the ordinary person, not the devotee. Devotees get it. You don’t need to convince them.

Being successful as an AT teacher means looking not only at your website, your blog, your twits and your info documents (BTW - have any of those?), it also means looking deeply at the service you offer and asking: Can you deliver something that ordinary people – and there are MILLIONS - are willing to pay for?