Simply put, branding is the identification of you and your business in the eyes of your customer.
If you are a Professional Bowenwork Practitioner and do Bowen exclusively, the essence of your brand is Bowenwork. If you are a massage therapist who does both massage and Bowenwork, you may be primarily seen as a massage therapist (who uses various techniques within your massage). If you are a Naturopathic Doctor who does Bowen, the public see you as an N.D. no matter what modalities you use.
Every element of your business is affected by the amount of clarity you have about yourself and your brand, and your ability to put that clarity to use. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, and who people perceive you to be. How you brand yourself informs your office set-up, your prices, your business name, your promotional material, your target groups, your office hours, even your clothing in terms of your presentation of yourself. First and foremost, you must become clear about what you represent. Your primary task as a professional practitioner is to understand “You, Inc.”
Begin your exploration of your brand by asking yourself, “Am I an amateur or a professional?” You can tell people over and over how much you love this work, but if you are not doing it professionally, then it is basically your hobby. How people perceive you and your service is certainly affected. Your personal branding will be less persuasive than the person down the block who has committed to hanging out a shingle. Who would you choose, if you had a problem and heard that “Bowen” might help -- the hobbyist or the professional?
Next, consider the client experience. From the moment a client walks through your door, every aspect of his or her experience is a branding of “You, Inc.” Is this a professional office? A home office with a separate entrance? Or is it your guest room with the bed shoved against the wall to make room for your massage table?
Even if you have a part-time practice in your home, you can make a space professional. In fact, I would suggest that it is especially important to go the extra mile when you must distinguish it from your home:
Cleanliness: the dust balls in the corner may seem insignificant to you, but will be the deciding factor in some clients’ disappearance after one session.
Personal items: eliminate family photos, spiritual icons, or political statements. Is this space about you, or is it a space for your clients?
Atmosphere: control the temperature (assure client is warm, including warming your fingers), assure client comfort (a soft surface to lie on), peace (general calm and quiet), safety (proper draping and gentle, mindful touch) and uninterrupted time (set aside for your client).
This client may experience Bowenwork at another time from another practitioner, and have a very different experience. Which practitioner’s personal branding will best serve the client’s needs?
I learned my first lesson about branding myself 26 years ago. I was a newly licensed massage therapist in 1984. I drew by hand my first-ever business card. It listed Swedish Massage, Deep Tissue, Reiki, and Rayid Iris Interpretation. I proudly showed it to a successful entrepreneur who was a mentor to me. I’ll never forget what he said: “The impression I get from your card is that you have studied many things, so can be a master of none. Focus! A specialist is always more respected than a generalist.”
I didn’t understand the value of what he had said for years. When I learned Tom Bowen’s work 9 years later, it just happened that soon I didn’t want to do anything else. I benefited enormously by wanting to do only Bowenwork, because it was without the benefit of foresight and just by following my passion that I branded myself clearly. Though few knew Bowen’s work in 1993, once they met me, they learned all about it! Even now when I say to people, “I do nothing but Bowenwork, because it is the most effective healing approach I’ve ever encountered”, their eyes widen. My credibility goes up immediately. My commitment imbues the work with value, and I become the specialist, the “expert”, to everyone meeting me.
It is greatly to your advantage call your work “Bowenwork”, which is a trademarked and registered name of the Academy, instead of “Bowen”, which is not. “Bowen Technique” and “Bowen Therapy” are not trademarked terms, and variations of the work are being done under those names that are devoid of quality controls. Clients around the world have been injured by hard, invasive, and ill-informed work practiced under the name of “Bowen”, and so regrettably, we must accept the fact that those terms have become corrupted.
If someone hears you “do Bowen”, and does an internet search for “Bowen”, they will research a maze of offshoot groups while trying to locate you. Bowenwork or Bowtech are both registered brands of the Academy that distinguish you and your commitment to continuing education. These brands assure the public a level of quality. As offshoots continue to veer from the original work, it is likely that your future success lies in identifying yourself with the profound results obtained from Bowenwork’s minimal, non-invasive, and respectful approach.
Branding Bowenwork starts with an understanding about whether you plan to be seen as a luxury service or an essential health care service.
Even if you work from a home office, it is possible to brand yourself distinctly as one or the other. However, if you are not clear about the differences between them, you will probably give mixed signals to your potential customers, and your business will suffer as a result. Consider the differences:
Luxury services are conducted in association with spas, salons, cruises, resorts. In most people’s minds, massage is in this category. New-age music is usually played. Services are commonly offered in combination (facial and massage; manicure and pedicure). The time allowed for the appointment is clearly set, and the price is linked to the time involved. Practitioners wear either massage-style, yoga-style or casual clothing. The practitioner is often a person-specific business, meaning that clients only schedule an appointment when that practitioner is available. Those in the luxury service industry accept tips.
Essential health care services are conducted in clinics and professional offices, and are associated with doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and acupuncturists. The atmosphere is not especially new-age, and usually involves no music. The time afforded the appointment may be variable, as per client need, and the price for the service is not affected by the time spent. Practitioners wear medical gear or office-style, professional clothing. The business is usually not person-specific, so that a client will be referred to another doctor when the usual one is not available (Brand message: receiving essential care in a timely manner is more important than the practitioner giving it). Essential health care services do not accept tips.
It is clear to me that Tom Bowen’s work belongs in the essential health care category. One description I like is “Bowenwork is hands-on health care.” If we remain clear about this, we can maintain a steady practice even in the midst of a depressed economy. When people are feeling tight for money, it is the luxury services they will cut from the budget. If they have learned that Bowenwork is their most effective solution to pain or injury (from your most effective marketing tool: giving talks and demos) they will continue to pay for it. Properly branded Bowenwork is recognized by clients as an essential support to their recovery, health and well being.
DESCRIBING YOUR BRAND
Can you give a 30-second, one or two sentence explanation of Bowenwork? It is important not to be vague – no one else can understand your brand if you cannot describe your own work simply and clearly. You might say, “It is a fascinating, new approach to healing – we gently stretch, roll, and release muscles and tissues. Each move sends a signal to the brain. Your brain responds, and sends messages back to the tissue to normalize whatever tension it is holding.”
You can highlight details of how Bowen differs from other bodywork, such as “We perform it over light clothing, in a series of gentle, specific moves. Pauses are required to allow your body to respond. Your responses guide us in just how much to do, so each session is unique to the individual.”
Many will take notice when you mention these details. Believe me, there are more potential clients for Bowenwork than for most forms of bodywork. Countless people living with pain would be glad to hear that they might find relief without taking their clothes off. Market your brand to them, not to those who like deep-tissue massage or chiropractic.
Do your research to understand the needs, habits and desires of your current and prospective clients. Don't assume you know what they think; ask questions and cultivate feedback. You must examine the results of your marketing. Is your potential client base, the one that matches your brand, hearing your message? Are they coming in? Are you succeeding at promoting your brand? Build into your promotional activities a feedback loop. Ask on your intake form where the client heard about you. Conduct a monthly survey of your client profiles. Ask your web master to determine what areas your visitors click into, so you know their interests.
We have all learned through our personal relationships that what we believe we are saying and what the receiver is hearing can be very different, haven’t we? The same holds true in business. Cultivate reality checks, so you can determine if you are being true to your brand, and effective in connecting with the people who are looking for you.