Monday, January 07, 2013

W02.01 Making an Alexander Technique Business That Can Support and Sustain You For Life…

How do you make an Alexander Technique business work?

This has been my question since 2005, and I am sure it is a question you have been asking for a long time too. I only got serious answering this question in 2005, because my two daughters and wife depended upon me making my business work. I got to the point where the horror of the alternative drove me to find an realistic answer. Here’s what I have discovered so far…

First, you need to understand that an Alexander Technique business is industrial. You won’t build a sustainable business in three months, nor even three years. Second, you have to be total. In the beginning, you need to wake up planning your business, spend time each day working on your business, go to bed wondering about your business. Third, you need a plan. Running around willy-nilly, trying out a different approach every few months - that doesn’t work.

On the first and second points, most teachers are already on board. For you, Alexander Technique is a lifetime passion: if possible, you would rather do only that. The real challenge is you need a realistic plan. It was what I needed, and the reason is I didn’t have one is that I failed to appreciate that Alexander Technique was a business, just like anything else.

When it comes to business, plenty of people fail at that too. Your Alexander Technique practise starts as a small business and there are plenty of studies around that show something like 80% of all small businesses fail within 5 years of starting. So start by understanding that your first challenge is not Alexander Technique, your challenge is the same one faced by any small business owner.

Business itself is the challenge, regardless of the product or service you want to sell others. The core issue of any business is how to convince a person to part with their money for your product or service. It really isn’t complicated - if they see a need for your service, they will buy it. If they don’t see a need, they won’t buy it. It’s very easy.

So how do you convince a person that they need you? In that sense, as I have written previously, Alexander Technique is something a person doesn’t know they need until they have it, then they can’t do without it. You are not like a dentist or doctor - people understand when they need them. They don’t understand they need you.

So how do you convince a person to buy a service they don’t know they need? The answer is you don’t. However, most Alexander Technique teachers try to do that, and most fail at it. So do a lot of small businesses. You think you have to sell your product or service. You don’t sell your service. You don’t sell Alexander Technique. Period.

So what do you sell? You sell a solution. People want solutions, and they will you pay you when they are convinced your solution will do what they want it to do. So what do they want? Good question! This question directs your focus away from Alexander Technique and towards the needs of your prospective student. What do they want?

The is an impossibly wide question. I can’t be sure what my daughters want half the time, so how the heck am I going to figure out what a stranger wants? Now we are at the gritty edge of why so many businesses fail, why so few Alexander Technique teachers ever manage to make their full-time living from teaching.

There is only one way to effectively answer this question: research it! Your opinion does not matter. The only opinion that matters is the person who pays you. This is why the concept “the customer is always right” ever came into being. Customers are made to be right (even when they are wrong) because you want their money, so their opinion about how they are willing to give you their money is the only opinion that matters. It’s not a moral issue, it’s a practical one.

Therefore, you must understand and respect your potential student’s opinion: if they want exercises, give them exercises. Once they come, they will see the fallacy of their ways, but it is not your job to interrupt their thinking at the point when they are considering your service. No one wants to be told the way they think is wrong - give that message in your marketing, you risk having an argument you will lose. They stop listening to you.

Your research needs to tell you how they are thinking, what they are wanting… Your job is to match that thinking, blend in with it, then delicately lead them to your service. In marketing it's know as the Collier principle: "Enter where he already is." A small business selling baby toys already knows their potential customer is a person having some personal connection with a newly born baby. From that they can guess their customer’s specific motives, thoughts and needs. However, you are a small business selling Alexander Technique as your service: your customer is anyone who moves.

How can you research that?!

The answer is you can’t. This is the kind of research that companies like McDonalds, Toyota & Coke engage in. Realistically, you can only research one small group of people and that is what we call a “niche” market. This week, I am going to take you through the process of deciding upon who your niche needs to be, and how to research it, so you can succeed financially as a teacher of Alexander Technique.

TOMORROW: Who's the partner as important as the one I marry?
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