TCM: Community-Based Marketing
I don’t believe in paying for advertising - the kind where I post a bill on a wall of a cafe, or I get a half-page print inside a magazine or local paper. The reason I think this type of advertising doesn’t provide the best return is because it has nothing to do with building rapport in my community.
Large companies pay big dollars for their logo to appear in all sorts of instances. They are building brand equity by brainwashing the general public into feeling a certain way about their products. As a small business owner, I don’t have that luxury of large amounts of capital.
However, what I lack in advertising dollars, I have more in creativity, time and energy to develop key relationships between local community members and other businesses. It’s simple, really: if I help people and businesses, they will likely help me, too.
I must stress that I don’t ask for help and don’t demand anything in return. My goal isn’t to do something in expectation of a result or reward. Instead, my goal is to give to the community I live in because I can't expect anyone to invest in me if they haven’t seen what I can do for them.
Herein I will share a few examples of how I ‘advertised’ my services with either little or no or money involved. Us small business owners have to keep as much cash in hand - using it only for supplies and to put food on the table.
In TCM college we were all exposed to Tai Chi, Qigong, Dao Yin Fa or some other moving meditation that heals. These tools you have learned are perfect to share with the public.
Every two months I lead a Qigong & Community Acupuncture session at the local yoga studio. If you have the opportunity, I also recommend piggy-backing off a yoga session with acupuncture. I also like to offer Qigong and Chinese self-massage for more variety.
Participants come with water, a pillow, blanket, and yoga mat. I have a maximum of 10 per session to ensure I can take care of everyone. Each time I run a workshop, I have a different acupuncture focus such as stress, sleep or digestion.
I lead the class through some breathing and movement exercises for 35-40 minutes and then they enjoy a 5-minute break. After the class has laid down on their mats, I place 6-8 needles in each participant and let them relax for 20 minutes. There is usually another 5-minutes at the end for them to ask questions and me to give some self-care instructions.
I make sure everyone takes my business card and emphatically tell them to call or text if they have any concerns. I also call each participant two days after the workshop to make sure they are feeling well and get feedback.
Every September and January I lead a class of 6-12 people through a 12-week course instructing a simple Tai Chi form. I teach the class for free at the local pool. The pool is a non-profit venture and participants pay a $5.00 drop-in fee that is basically a fundraiser for the pool.
Tai Chi is a little harder to teach to the general public because if a participant doesn’t practice a little they will feel like I have moved on and won’t come back to class. Attrition is normal when teaching Tai Chi but this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. The people who finish the form should be greatly commended for their efforts, for as we age we often have a hard time going through the process of learning something new.
As many of you know I have been involved in Kung-Fu since 1994. I instruct a class once a week for $40.00 per month or a $10.00 drop-in. I price it this way so I could be very shift-work/drop-in friendly. We listen to Beastie Boys, JME and Wu-Tang Clan and punch mitts. Every time someone new shows up I inaugurate them by having everyone partake in 100 push-ups for the warmup. It’s an absolute challenge but it develops a gritty culture - attracting hard-working folks.
I’ve spoken about getting out into the community to offer services, and while teaching at the local pool helps the pool, there are two other instances where I’ve tried to help local businesses.
I approached a local restaurant that has been a long-time supporter in the community and asked them if they could help me help them.
What I proposed was putting table tents in their restaurant asking patrons to take a picture of their meal, use a unique hashtag, and be entered to win a free service for my clinic. If, by way of local jurisdiction, you are unable to offer a service then I suggest giving away a useful product.
Due to the popularity of yoga-puncture, I started combining other words and looking for more ways to help local businesses. Coffee-puncture sounded fun so I asked a coffee shop if they’d entertain my idea where I put a couple of needles and ear-seeds in patrons that wouldn’t affect their ability to eat or drink. The owner said yes and we are currently working out the details.
Maybe you can mash up a few different words and come up with something cool like the studio owners who partake in cat- and goat-yoga.
I Dreamt Life Was Joy
There are so many ways to get involved in one’s community and give to the people you are requesting time and money from. All we have to do is be creative, be brave to ask, and make it about everyone else but ourselves.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. - Rabindranath Tagore