I don’t often think of myself as a business person.
What I really like to do is hang out with folks who are being real and genuine and authentic and creative. And I want to do that as much as possible. So the best way for me to guarantee that is going to happen is to make facilitating sacred art circles my job!
The work I am here to do is creating safe and encouraging spaces for folks to BE themselves. That’s my message and my mission. But I need for that message to be something that people hear in every interaction with me. Not just when they come to a workshop. There has to be a sense of coherence and congruency in all my interactions with potential students, clients and customers. I can’t be all shaming and pushy and harassing in my marketing and then expect my students to feel safe with me.
It simply doesn’t work. And besides, I just don’t like treating people that way. It makes ME feel bad to make someone else feel bad. So I just don’t do it. I can’t do it.
One of my favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt, who rocked integrity better than just about anyone, and she said: “People don’t always remember what you did or what you said but they will always remember the way that you made them feel.”
And I want my students to feel honored, cared for, inspired and safe.
Which is why when I’m marketing my services I really pay attention to how everything I do is likely to make my students feel. And the bottom line is that I don’t want to do things that make my potential students feel pressured or ashamed or inadequate. Ever.
I don’t want them to feel like they have to hurry up and make a decision about something based on a sense of scarcity that’s not real. I don’t want them to feel like there is something wrong with them or they don’t care about themselves or it means that they are somehow messed up if they’re not signing up for one of my workshops or retreats.
I don’t ever want my students to feel manipulated. I want them to feel like they can trust that any interaction with me will leave them feeling empowered and good about themselves… even if they are saying no to me. That’s my highest value. Making someone feel bad in any way shape or form in order for me to make a buck is my definition of sleazy. So if they feel invalidated or like I’m questioning their motives or like I don’t agree with their decision to not do something that I wish they would do ( like come to one of my workshops) then I’m not living up to my highest value for myself.
I operate out of the Buddhist idea of ahimsa- or harmlessness. Which says, “First do no harm.”
People talk a lot about how important trust is in running a successful business. And I put a lot of effort into nurturing that trust. Once I gain it I treat it as sacred. I never want to damage it by making my clients or students feel unsafe. I never want anyone to feel disrespected, controlled or exploited at any point in my interactions with them. I don’t ever want to betray or break that trust by making people feel ashamed, or not good enough or like there is something wrong with them.
There are so many people out there who are trying to game the system in some way… they are using psychological tools as a way to manipulate people… like not showing their prices on their web site, because they want to force potential clients into a conversation with them where they try and convince people that their high end products and services have so much value that price shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know about you, but I look at both price AND value when I’m making a purchase. There are some things that might have great and obvious value but I just think that they are too expensive. And I get to decide what expensive means to me. Nobody gets to define that for me.
Maybe folks are making a buying choice based on price not value. And who’s to say that it is the wrong choice. People need to respectfully be allowed to have their choices and they don’t need me telling them that they should be different than they are in order for me to make more money.
Sometimes the bottom line truth is that people don’t have enough money or it’s just not the right time or they are just plain scared or they’re not ready… and all of these things are totally valid and not something someone needs to have questioned or be talked out of.
The thing I love the most when someone decides to come and work with me is when they know EXACTLY what they are getting themselves into… they know what it costs and they know what they will be receiving for their money and they’ve joyfully made up their mind. At that point they are just so incredibly excited and making a wholehearted “YES” based on their values and their readiness.
I don’t want anyone signing up for something with me with reservations … or feeling like it was my idea and not theirs. If I’m making somebody feel anything except that they are being invited into a huge, creative, magical party then I’m not doing something right.
I like treating people with kindness and generosity. It’s an energy that I like to generate and be a part of. It makes me happy.
For example, a few years ago I got an email from a woman who was writing a paper for a research project that she was doing about creativity and menopause. And she asked me if I had any thoughts or resources I could share with her on this topic. Because this is something I am very interested in and had already thought about I sat down and spent fifteen minutes writing a short response to her question.
A year after that I put the word out about my teacher training, which was my very first high-end, professional level program. And this woman, who I hadn’t heard from since, immediately registered for the program. She told me later that I was the only person, out of all the folks that she approached, who even bothered to respond to her. She was so touched by my generosity that she stayed in touch by signing up for my newsletter. And through all of that had enough trust and positive feeling that she was eager to sign up for my program.
But, the other thing I want to make perfectly clear is that I don’t think of kindness and generosity as business strategies.
It’s not something I can fake or try to do. It’s just who I am . Really, it’s who we all are, and it’s about trusting that being real and human and connecting to each other in a real way is enough. When I’m being kind or generous to someone, I’m not thinking ” This is a killer business strategy.”
This is just the way I like to run my business. The fact that it works to bring me business is just a byproduct.
The other thing about approaching marketing from a place of sensitivity and feeling is that I am pre-screening my potential students and clients. I only want to work with people who are interested in being open and real and generous and kind. I want to work with people who are ready to do the hard work and are interested in taking responsibility for themselves. Who aren’t looking for me to save them.
I have no interest whatsoever in being a guru and the person who has all the answers. I mostly have really, really good questions.
If people want a guru and they come and work with me they are going to be very disappointed. I make it very clear from the start about who I am and how I operate so that people have a pretty good sense about what they are getting themselves into by signing up with me. So marketing in this way is not only about bringing in enough people or enough business but bringing in the right people who are going to resonate and work well with me and my approach.
I also really enjoy sharing my gifts. And I have the gift of being able to help people to grow and heal and to become more whole through creative self expression. Exercising that gift and bringing it into the world is another thing that makes me happy. Maybe this is a bad business strategy but, truthfully, making money has never been my primary concern. I like making money. And I do make plenty of it. But I have always been waaaaaay more interested in the work itself.
Like someone once said to me, if this was just about money, there are a lot easier ways to make bank than doing healing work.
In the beginning when I was first starting out in this business and I was putting out much more energy in terms of getting clients and customers than I was getting back and I wanted to quit like a million times a day ( except that my husband wouldn’t let me) I got really, really clear that this was what I was here to do. And in a way it didn’t really matter how many people showed up. I’m just grateful that enough folks did so that I didn’t have to get a job someplace else in order to make money.
There’s also the element of luck, and of being in the right place at the right time. I can’t take all the credit for my most recent successes. My business has boomed since the US economic crash of September 2008. But that’s because since that time more and more people want to spend their money on experiences that are going to allow them to grow and give their life meaning. People are realizing that just buying more things isn’t going to bring them the happiness and satisfaction that they want. And it just so happened that I had a well developed business that could meet those deeper spiritual and emotional needs.
Fortune also favors the stubbornly relentless. And the lunatic optimists. If you keep trying different things… if you don’t let yourself be daunted … eventually something will work out. Never, ever, ever, ever give up. On something that you really, really want.
It’s not like I don’t use traditional marketing tools in my work. I have a web site and a blog and I write sales pages and send out newsletters. But I do those things in my own way. And everything I do has that underlying concern of how is this going to make someone feel? I actually enjoy marketing, because I like connecting with people. And I like helping people.
So there are four principals that I operate from when doing my marketing.
One: I do what I want. What makes me happy. What works for me. No matter what anybody else , including so-called experts, might have to say.
Two: I don’t ever do anything that’s going to hurt someone or undermine them in order to make a sale.
Three: My business is totally my responsibility. I don’t ever want to make my clients/students/customers responsible for my success either financially or otherwise. And if I have to resort to manipulation tactics to make my numbers or sell enough spots in a workshop then I am doing something wrong. If I need more money, or students or clients that means I need to shift my strategies.
Four: The other thing is to recognize that you have way less control over things than some of the marketing gurus want you to think. Maybe I want to make x number of dollars off of a certain product or experience. And that’s just not happening for reasons beyond my control. Maybe I need to admit that sometimes things are NOT in my control. Maybe things don’t always go my way. And that’s OK too.
You don’t always know what’s going to work in terms of bringing in business. So it’s important to try a lot of different things. Experiment like crazy . And have as much fun as possible.
I’m always open to the mystery factor. The wild card factor. The synchronicities that occur for no reason that I can see.
I know this sounds terribly woo-woo and hippy dippy, but so be it. It’s all about just being in the big creative flow. I work hard. I make myself and my offerings visible. I’m not hiding out. But I’m also not pushing anything on anyone.
I remember reading somewhere that a lot of what birds are “saying” when they are singing is “Here I am! Here I am.” over and over again. In the prettiest and most attractive way possible So that’s what I’m doing on some level. Just being full of my own song.