We’ve been talking about how you can hurt your practice when you aren’t clear about who your audience is, when you’re focused on trying to advertise your modality, and when you try to appeal to too many people.
The first issue we addressed was that you may have learned in your modality training that you are prepared to help everyone—but in fact, even your modality isn’t for everyone on the planet.
Then, last time, we talked about the fact that even within the group of people who could be helped by your modality, there are people who are not your clients.
Now we’re going to look at problems you create for your self when you try to help everybody in the entire world. We’ll also see what can happen when you focus on finding your best clients.
Before we get going, I want to address the fact that you might feel resistance to the idea that you have “best clients.” Lots of practitioners tell me they like all their clients and they want to help each and every one of them.
I don’t dispute that, but at the same time, I do believe that every one of us has the ability to do our best, most individual work with some—but not all—potential clients. Finding out who those clients are makes it possible to help more people and feel a lot better about yourself and your practice.
When I speak about your “best clients” I am talking about the people you are uniquely capable of helping, because of your entire life journey, all your training and your personal history of experiences in the world. There are many advantages to finding your best clients—that’s why I keep talking about them!
Finding your best clients may require a willingness to entertain counter-intuitive ideas, and I know this particular one has befuddled more than one hands-on practitioner:
The more people you say you can help, the fewer clients you’re likely to find.
I know this is hard to understand because the more people you can help, the bigger it seems your potential audience must be. Let’s look at a few specific examples of why this isn’t actually better for you, especially when you need clients.
EVERYONE IS SPECIAL
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of having to decide to hire someone, get help, make a choice among people. Everyone has to do it from time to time, for various reasons that range from the mundane—finding help for a clogged drain, through the personal—discovering the person who knows how to cut your hair the way you like it, and possibly all the way to the death-defying—getting a referral to the physician who can save your life.
Research shows that people don’t want general solutions—even for the day-to-day stuff, we’re likely to call on a specialist.
Just yesterday, we had seriously clogged drains and we went looking for someone to fix the problem… a company with the right equipment, the right experience and the right public statement about what they do, that helped us see instantly that they solve the problem we had.
HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS FOR HANDS-ON PRACTITIONERS?
Vastly more important!
Your clients are looking for an average solution or practitioner. They see themselves as unique—and why not? We know that a large majority of people consider themselves above average.
So it’s not simply about the diagnosis they may be reeling from—it also has to do with the degree to which they are incapacitated by it, their age, their desire to “be fixed” or help themselves, what they want in life, the amount of money they want to spend, how far they are willing to travel, whether they feel more comfortable being touched by a man or a woman, the specific chemistry they have with you… the list is endless.
Taking the time to think about your best clients helps you to understand who they really are. When you know them like the back of your hand, you can find more of them much more easily than when you try to appeal to everyone in town.
YOUR CREDIBILITY IS AT STAKE
You may feel compelled to make your modality better-known. Since your modality can help such a wide variety of people, it seems natural to advertise that you can do that, too. But you might be unaware of the effect that can have on your own credibility.
Look at how differently these two scenarios could be considered, and how they affect both your own reputation and that of your modality. Both involve putting up flyers at your local food co-op, but that’s where the strategic similarity ends.
There are 5 flyers from people trained in your modality. Each one, including yours, lists a long stream of conditions and people each practitioner can help.
What you may believe
You know your work doesn’t have anything to do with the specific conditions your clients have, and that’s why you can help everyone who comes. Seeing all these possible “clients” listed in your flyer will help people will understand that your modality can help everyone… not only the person reading it, but everyone they know. They will be inspired to try it and they will tell their friends how great it is that you can help them all.
What you might be missing
As a casual reader of the bulletin board, getting my first impression, I see those 5 flyers and the list of ailments they address is overwhelming. I could easily think that all the practitioners are over-stepping, maybe even guilty of hyperbole.
How could they know very much about any one of those problems? I can’t imagine that they would have time in their practices to delve into all of those areas of expertise to the degree necessary to really help someone in serious difficulty.
Ultimately, I might think the practitioner—and probably the modality, too—is offering a panacea at best; at worst, I might associate it with some kind of fakery, because it seems unreasonable to me that anybody could be an expert in so many areas.
Knowing virtually nothing about your or your modality, if I talk about it at all, I am likely to say something less-than-desirable (from your standpoint). It’s unlikely I would refer anyone to you because neither you nor your modality seem credible to me.
There are still 5 flyers from the same people, but this time, each practitioner is talking about a one way of focusing their work:
- One might talk about helping horse lovers feel more comfortable in the saddle.
- Another could focus on helping people with brain injuries.
- Perhaps one addresses challenges older people face in trying to maintain their independence.
- Maybe the fourth is aimed at athletes and performing artists, and
- The last speaks to the issues people have to deal with when they are recovering from surgery.
What you may believe
If you feel resistance to this idea, it will probably be easy to come with a variety of reasons you think it won’t work… for example:
- You will most likely think that you are diminishing your chances of getting clients and that people will not understand how great your modality is.
- Quite possibly, you think that you are going to lose referrals because you don’t say you help all the friends of all the people who see your flyer.
- You could quite possibly feel like you’re in a very competitive situation because you know you could work with everyone those 5 practitioners talked about, but they’re not going to call you.
- If you love variety, you imagine you are going to be extremely bored working with “one group” of people.
- You may believe that this approach is antithetical to your principles, it will never work and/or it’s a waste of time and money to print the flyer.
What you might be missing
Again as a casual observer—when I see a flyer that addresses an issue I have, I am more likely to read it completely because it hits home as soon as I see it.
Because it speaks to me in language I understand, and shows that you fully comprehend the problem I have, I am more likely to believe that you have the level of expertise I imagine you will need in order to help me.
When I see several flyers that address different areas of expertise using the same modality, I am likely to believe that your modality has a wide range of applicability, and am less likely to question that it could be effective in helping such a big variety of people. That’s already a familiar concept to me from other areas: every doctor practices medicine, whether they specialize in dermatology or gynecology or anything else; attorneys may practice civil or criminal law, or may use their training in many other ways, but all have a similar foundation in their study of the law. I can believe that your modality can help lots of different kinds of people.
You get more referrals, not fewer… and not all of them will be for the “specialty” you are advertising. Here’s why:
Imagine that I come to you as a horse rider. I ‘m hurting myself when I ride my beloved animal and don’t want to give it up. I experience your skill and learn more about what you do and the philosophy behind it. I know you, I like you, I trust you. You have helped me more than I can say.
Then I think about my mother—who has arthritis and finds it more and more difficult to garden; joy is missing from her life. I want t help her.
It won’t be long before I have a talk with you and say “You know, I’ve been thinking about my mom. She has pretty severe arthritis—do you think you can help her even if she doesn’t want to ride a horse?”
At that point, you can decide about working with my mother… because the concept of narrowing who you advertise to doesn’t rule out taking any client you want, who finds you in whatever way they come.
Or… maybe my mother doesn’t live locally, and I want to know if your modality can help her, and whether you can make a referral to someone in her area.
The person standing next to me in front of the food co-op is reading a different flyer. Different problem, different practitioner, different way of presenting the issue. The chemistry that comes through in your flyer is different from what comes through in others.
Five practitioners know different people in the community. When they’re not competing, it’s easier to increase awareness of their modality and far more people will get to know about it.
The more exclusive you are, the more people you’ll find who want your help.
That’s the bottom line, counter-intuitive as it may seem at first blush.
I couldn’t believe it myself at first, and resisted the idea like crazy. Then one day, I asked myself —
How bad could it possibly be to have more clients, even if they all had something in common—a problem I knew inside and out?
What bubbled up were thoughts about how it would be awesome to have more clients. It would be so good to have a full schedule. It would be incredible to help more people.
When I finally decided to try it and got the help I needed to make it work, I was astonished to realize that more than 90% of new people committed to having at least 10 sessions with me!
So… what do YOU think? How bad could it be to have more clients?
I blog so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how to build your hands-on practice! If you find it helpful, subscribe to make sure you get all my posts and tips, plus occasional information on opportunities to grow your practice and your self.