Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Starting Out 4. How Safe Do Your Students Feel?

Giselda (not her real name) is a teacher writing to me from Europe. She’s a mum with a family and loves the work, but still needs a second job to make ends meet. In our Alexander community, her story is repeated more than a hundred times.

She is an intelligent, compassionate woman with a deep wish to contribute to the world - and finds her self struggling to make her Alexander Technique practise work. In a private message on FaceBook (please feel free to do the same) she wrote to me after yesterday’s 5 step plan with her feedback about her students…

I'm thinking about who is my target market and from what I can figure out so far it seems to be women in their 30s up, they all want to look better, feel better, they come because of pain from niggling to chronic. No kids or grown so they have time, middle class.

Ladies and gentleman - this is a cross culture, cross border candidate for your lessons. We have the same two distinct groups of woman coming to us in Tokyo. They dress well, have excess income (or husbands in a good job) and are inclined towards experimentation and exploration as a behaviour characteristic. However, they have distinct boundaries for this exploration. So what do these woman secretly want?

First, when they come to your studio, they want to feel safe. That want to feel cared for, pampered even. That is primary - if you don’t satisfy them on that level, no amount of selling will convince them to return. No way. So ask your self this question: Is your lesson environment coded for safety?

Let me tell you how I learnt this lesson at BodyChance. My first studio was in a suburb called Mejiro. It is on the Yamanote line - a transit line that runs a ring around Tokyo, in much the same way as the Circle line in London, or how Manhattan Island defines New Yorkers (BTW - thinking of you guys as Sandy pushes through). The Yamanote Line is one of Tokyo's busiest and most important lines, but guess which is the least busiest station of all 29 stops? Right - the one we were on!

“Your studio is in Mejiro? Oh.”
Strike one - an unfamiliar location.

Once you got out at Mejiro station, you'd have to walk about 12 minutes to get to our studio. The longer the walk from the station, the more anxiety students start to develop. This adventure is becoming too much of an adventure in the mind of a person already venturing beyond their safety zone.

“Have I come too far? Did I miss a turn…”
Strike two - going into the dark forest.

Finally, our studio was not on the main street. Once you got there, you had to turn down this alleyway to find the entrance, then enter this rather rickety old lift to the 9th floor, where on arriving you are confronted with a lino floor, two steel doors, and no sign to indicate you have safely arrived.

“Excuse me, is this Alexander Technique Associates…?”
(The name itself was a put off, but that’s another blog.)
Strike three - an earthquake dangerous building with a spooky entrance.

Hopeless. I could never get the business I was trying to create to take off. Duh. So we moved, and within a year I had over 80 people as members in our public learning system. We are now close to Meguro, one of the top three destinations on the Yamanote line. We are on the main street. When you go into the building, there is a security guard behind a window to help out. It is a much safer experience.

So what experience do people have when they go to you?

Remember, the 5% of devotees will go anywhere, as far as you ask them to, but they are too few to build a flourishing business. It is the other 15% of your niche that are willing, but picky, who create career success. But if they don't feel safe, they won’t come - end of story.

How do you deal with this? Well, many ways. If you are going to have a studio in your home, rent a place that is in a busy location, has a separate, ground floor entrance that doesn’t look like someone’s home, and make it as close as you can to any other professional environment appropriate to the place you live in. Match their expectations.

If this is out of the question, then think of approaching a Centre of some kind that is already set up that way, and find a way to be a member of their practise. As you grow in reputation, and develop a following, you can migrate to your own studio in time.

These are a few systemic ideas of business building, not just marketing and selling. What I have learnt is that you need to get every bit of the model in place to make it work, so this is a preview of things still to come…

Giselda’s problem in Europe, and yours too, may have nothing to do with your selling skills.

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