by Steve Roh
Hello, I’m happy to offer my latest article for the Banyan Hypnosis E-Zine. This series is intended to help hypnosis professionals by briefly summarizing books from outside of the field, and describing how the information can be applied within a hypnosis practice.
In this issue, we are going to talk about another great Seth Godin book. Last time it was Godin’s “The Dip”, this time it is his earlier book “All Marketers are Liars”.
Actually, I lied, this article is definitely inspired by Godin’s book, but I will not be doing a broad summary like the earlier articles in this series have done. Instead I will focus on one major aspect of Godin’s book: the importance of telling the right stories to the right audience, in order for your marketing efforts to have any impact.
First of all, let’s be clear: there’s no need to get upset, jumping to the conclusion that Godin is suggesting that good marketing requires you to become a liar. Let’s not be so hypersensitive and thin-skinned, shall we? Considering that as helpers, we should be models of being rational and objective. But anyway…
The story that you tell, which is subtly told via your posture in the market, needs to appeal to a specific audience. Think about it, if you wanted to influence science-fiction fans, would you spin them a tale about a lonely single mom who is struggling to raise her teenage children until she enters a relationship with a mysterious man, who it turns out may in fact be a charming sociopath who conspired to murder her husband because he uncovered a shady real estate deal that involved the biggest land-owner in the county? In other words, a story that would be more suitable for the Lifetime cable network?
If you told a story like that to someone whose favorite film of the past 10 years was “The Chronicles of Riddick” starring Vin Diesel, wouldn’t you expect them to zone out once they realized that your story wasn’t going to involve computer-generated interstellar power struggles? And vice-versa?
So why do so many hypnotists tell stories which have nothing to do with the problems and concerns that people in the marketplace have? In other words: why do so many hypnotists tell stories whose main plots revolve around how fascinating hypnosis is, and all the certifications they’ve collected, and how the hypnotist’s own personal journey led to their current state of being a deeply caring, wise and wonderful healer?
Of course, the answer to that “why” is pretty simple. People in general would rather indulge their own interests and preferences for the story they want to tell. There’s nothing wrong with that, if it’s done as a conscious choice and with the understanding that there is a price to pay. But I think many hypnotists struggle to attract clients because they think their job is to convince the public to care about stories that are of no interest to that segment of the public.
On the other hand, many hypnotists seem to allow themselves to get caught up in the drama and the story that clients bring to the table. It is troubling to see hypnotists on public internet forums breathlessly going on about how some client’s history is so dramatic, regardless of whether such details and speculative “analysis” are relevant to solving a specific problem. It’s as if working towards a practical solution is almost treated as a secondary concern.
Hypnotists should keep in mind that they are there to solve a problem, not to indulge in emotional vampirism or to sympathetically encourage a client to wallow in self-absorption and rumination. I think we should ignore the client’s story (the one that is consciously told during interviews and intake), except to use their telling of it to identify hooks into their personality and thought processes that can be used to facilitate a solution.
Anyway, back to the subject of targeting a specific audience for your story…
Be clear about who your audience is. If you aren’t clear on that yourself, you will send a confused, unfocused message that doesn’t connect with anyone.
Hypnotists often seem to focus on an audience that really doesn’t matter: the audience of family and friends. If you are serious about helping people with hypnosis as a business, who cares what your family and friends think?
Here’s another thought: your audience is probably NOT other hypnotists. So why do so many people in this field seem to direct their marketing towards other people in the “health and wellness” industry?
You know what I mean: folks who shape their messages to appeal to other people who do the same thing they do, using jargon, titles, terminology that would only mean something (if very little even then) to other practitioners.
It seems to me that if you are offering solutions to problems related to poor health and lack of mental/emotional wellness, the last people who really need to hear about those solutions would be people who have the same certifications, and who attend the same conventions that you do!
It’s as if many are afraid to really get out there into the marketplace and tell the story of how hypnosis solves problems, to people who are outside of the field! I know, it is easier to just chat with other hypnotists about this or that, you won’t face the unbearably painful possibility of rejection or indifference that you will get by taking a chance and offering your services to PEOPLE WHO MAY NEED THOSE SERVICES.
And my goodness, what if…. what if… you COMMIT to making a living by helping people with hypnosis and you experience FAILURE? Oh no, not that scary F-word! And not that even scarier C-word!!! Run away!!!!
This cowardice and self-doubt is often excused and disguised by justifications about how one is more interested in the lofty principles and ideals and study of hypnosis and The Subconscious Mind, not sullied or concerned with the base and lowly acts required to make a living by HELPING PEOPLE IN EXCHANGE FOR PAYMENT OF CASH MONEY.
In other words, “I love hypnosis so much that I don’t want to do it on a full-time basis or for money, people who do that are just greedy.” When you have forever been in the mode of “thinking about maybe getting your practice started someday”, it feels comforting to believe a story like that, doesn’t it?
And so the constant chatter amongst hypnotists between themselves, collective self-absorption, leads to “marketing incest”… where over time the generations become more and more ignorant of how the outside world operates, and what people outside the “community” really want and could benefit from.
After all, it’s safer and more comfortable to just chit-chat with people in the community about techniques and theories and training and shared experiences and the next bandwagon for everyone to jump on… it’s so nice and supportive and fuzzy in there, isn’t it?
This fearfulness is often manifested by defensiveness among many hypnotists, who seem obsessed with negative media portrayals, and who seem so concerned about hypnosis not getting enough respect. Signs of this defensiveness can include a bizarre preoccupation with making sure that people know that you “aren’t going to make them quack like a duck”.
Why would you want your first message to a client to be a patronizing pre-emptive denial that insults their intelligence (I’m assuming here that your target market is not primarily composed of dunderheads… if it is, maybe you should upgrade your target market, as they might prove more profitable).
You might as well put a sign on your head saying “We don’t get no respect” like a hypnotic Rodney Dangerfield. Sweaty and reeking of desperation for approval and acceptance. “Please, can’t you see that I am a Certified Clinical Hypnotist and that you should take me seriously? Come on, guys… this isn’t a joke or a stage act… take me seriously will ya?”
And then people wonder why their pre-talk isn’t instilling confidence. Gee, let’s go over that pre-talk again and add even MORE vehement denials about how hypnosis really really won’t hurt the client, and about how the client really really is in control at all times, and about how hypnosis and the hypnotist needs to be taken seriously… there’s nothing to be scared of… OMG PLEASE DON’T BE SCARED of HYPNOSIS… I’M NOT GOING TO HURT YOU WHEN YOU “GO UNDER”, I SWEAR!!!
See how important the story is, even the one that you aren’t intentionally trying to tell?
Another major theme of Seth Godin’s book “All Marketers are Liars” is that the stories we tell ourselves, or our customers, have more impact upon subjective experiences than reality. So place appropriate care on the story-telling that you offer to your market.
You do not want to have glaring holes in the plot, incongruities that break the suspension of disbelief that enables clients to free themselves from their limited patterns and helps them to get “better”. After all, that is what we are here to do, right?
Well, I hope these perspectives are of use to you in your practice. Some of the opinions are expressed in ways designed to provoke possibly uncomfortable changes in thought-patterns, but I’m sure you can handle it.
© 2009 Steve Roh