Hi everyone! We’re back this week with another exciting interview. I hope you guys never get tired of interviews, because I certainly don’t. I love learning what makes people tick and how this applies to the success they’ve discovered in their lives. And of course, I love learning their tips and tricks to help the rest of us succeed as well.
Today I’m very excited to introduce Andrea Bailey, owner of Lightbox Communications, a marketing company that focuses entirely on holistic health care practitioners. Andrea is based in Portland, Oregon, but regularly takes on clients outside of Portland, thanks to Skype and Google Hangout. Three cheers for the internet connecting supportive people around the world!
Andrea is a unique marketing professional in several ways, and that’s why I wanted to interview her today.
First of all, her focus on wellness practitioners is amazing – it’s pretty hard to find a marketing expert who works only with the complementary wellness community! Having such a specific niche makes her an outstanding resource for us as acupuncturists.
In addition, Andrea coaches her clients in several different ways, all of which offer unique benefits. She offers one-on-one training as well as group sessions. Her one-on-one sessions are all about finding an individualized approach to marketing that works for that one specific client. She plays to the client’s strengths and helps them realize that marketing, in a way that feels comfortable and authentic to them, is something they really can do.
And the group session concept is brilliant because it allows a small group of practitioners to come together for a few hours and share what they want to work on, what has worked for them, and what hasn’t. Sounds a lot like what we try to share on this blog, eh?
The best part – you don’t have to be in Portland to join these discussions. Andrea regularly holds these brainstorming sessions (which she calls Lightning Rounds) on Google Hangout (for free!), so that people from around the world can be inspired and learn from each other.
Let’s learn more about Andrea and her tips to make marketing easier and more successful for acupuncturists. Be sure to check out her free online resources for acupuncture marketing at the bottom of the interview!
1. Where did you go to university? What did you study there?
I studied Applied Cultural Sciences in Northern Germany and in New Zealand. (It’s mostly about communication, and about looking underneath surfaces.)
2. Have you always known you wanted to be in marketing?
No, that wasn’t at all on my list, and I really disliked the concept. While I was in school I thought I would do PR for an arts & culture nonprofit, or work for a European government agency, and much earlier than that I wanted to become a writer.
3. What did you do before you started your own business?
Selling books, working at an indoor farm stand and in the PR department of a large cosmetics firm, and booking gigs for a German reggae band were a few highlights. After graduating and moving to the U.S. almost nine years ago I began working with a nonprofit organization, doing program coordination and taking on more and more marketing responsibilities over the years. That’s when it started to dawn on me that good marketing really is about connecting with people who care about what you do. Simple as that.
4. How long have you been in business?
I just celebrated my third business anniversary on March 1st. Yeah!
5. What kinds of services do you provide?
Most of my work looks like one-on-one consulting. I also teach continuing education classes at healing arts colleges, and I host quarterly marketing support sessions here in Portland and online (I call those the Lightning Rounds).
6. What made you choose to focus on holistic wellness practitioners?
A couple of ideas came together for me here – I had been in the field as a client for many years, and liked both the people and the approach to health and medicine.
At one point I looked into becoming a provider myself, and in my research found a statistic that a large percentage of graduates close their practice after just a few years. They are amazing practitioners, but perhaps don’t have the training or support they need to also make the business side of things work out. I thought I could use the skills and experience I already had to support the same cause. And I really like the idea of playing a small but relevant part in a shift in healthcare.
7. What kinds of practitioners do you see most often?
All kinds, really. Right now, I am working with an acupuncturist, a doula, a voice teacher, a clinic owner, an ND, a relationship therapist, a nutritionist, and a yoga teacher. It’s so great to have this breadth within my client community because it naturally brings opportunities for me to make connections – for example, an acupuncturist and a therapist who both work with artists and could refer to each other when it makes sense for their patients, or collaborate occasionally, or just share resources. Actually, I was just on the phone with a client who told me she had connected with someone she met at the last lightning round and they might collaborate on a program for teenage girls. That made my day.
8. Do you work with new graduates or established practitioners? What about students – do you ever work with students before they’ve graduated?
Most of my clients have been in business for a few years, some for decades. I have been visiting a business class at an acupuncture and a holistic nutrition school to have conversations about marketing with students, and later this year I am planning workshop for students, too.
9. What’s the most common issue that practitioners bring to you?
I think I hate marketing sums it up pretty well. 🙂 Often that statement comes from feeling overwhelmed, i.e. too damn many marketing tools to choose from, and more marketing advice than they could ever need or want.
Or it’s because marketing has been frustrating for them because it simply didn’t bring the response they’d love to see.
And sometimes it’s because honestly, there’s a lot of awful marketing out there, the kind that aims to create pressure or make you feel less-than or incapable or like you’re missing out if you don’t click the buy now button this very second.
When we work together, we often start with redefining marketing in a way that’s much more aligned with the way my clients want to do business and the kind of relationship they want to have with their patients. We prune everything that doesn’t suit them or just isn’t relevant right now, focus on the essentials and on what works for them, and integrate it into a clear, actionable plan to accomplish their very own goals for their practice.
10. How do you usually work with your clients – one on one, Google Hangout, group meetings, etc.? What are the benefits of the group sessions?
It’s mostly one on one. With clients who live in the Portland area, I usually meet in person, and with everyone else via Skype or Google Hangout. The group sessions happen once every season, one here in Portland and one online. It’s awesome to have six to fifteen smart, dedicated people in the room who understand each others’ work and challenges and intentions and can share their own insights, experiences, and resources with each other. I so appreciate how generous and open everyone is in these sessions, every time – there’s no suspicious eyeing of the competition, but a sense of being on the same team.
11. What would you say your guiding principles are for what you do?
Integrity, for sure, and individualization. And independence (I do like alliterations).
By individualization, I mean that I believe there’s no one-size-fits-all in marketing. I find it makes the most sense for each client to take their individual strengths, style, and intentions into consideration – and their schedule and budget, too. And by independence I mean I’m excited when my clients confidently make their own decisions in marketing, and when we create a marketing routine they can implement and sustain on their own (if they want that), or with their team. I see that most of them are actually great at marketing, once they find a style that suits them – which is part of the integrity principle, too.
12. You can work from anywhere in the world. Where’s the most interesting place you’ve worked from?
A small cabin on the beach in a small town in Costa Rica, the backyard of a mixed media artist in Santa Cruz, a coworking space in my hometown in Germany, an Airbnb apartment in Reykjavik, Iceland, and the living wall garden at O’Hare Airport come to mind.
13. Can you share one or two common tips that you give to your clients that the audience can put into action right away?
I think defining marketing for yourself is often a good place to start, or to check into when things aren’t going great in that area. I like the very straightforward definition of bringing what you’ve got to offer to the market. Think of it like being a farmer who grows, say, baby bok choi. If we just stay out on our farm, we’d rely on people having the insight that what they really want is baby bok choi, finding out where we are, and making the trek to the farm. Bringing our product to the market means making it accessible, creating opportunities for conversation, for sharing both information and enthusiasm, and for sparking and deepening connections with clients and with others in the field. In that sense, marketing really is a service.
14. In your most recent blog post, you discuss how doing something imperfectly is better than letting perfectionism prevent you from doing it at all. Can you go into a little more detail about this and why it’s important?
Why yes, thank you for stopping by my blog! You know, I wrote that post because several practitioners had told me they had been wondering about the best solution for a DIY marketing project for a long time – the best website building platform, or the best way to reach out to an MD, the best title to put on their business card. And that’s a smart question to ask, of course, unless it gets in the way of taking action. When we end up not building any website at all, or not reaching out, it really doesn’t matter what the best move would have been. The second best website beats no website any day, and with most choices, there’s the option to adjust and evolve as needed in the future, once you have some real-world insights in what works or doesn’t work for you.
15. When you take a new client, how often do you usually meet with them? For how long? Is the kind of relationship where they can continually contact you when new issues come up?
It varies quite a bit, depending on where each client is at with their practice. Sometimes all a practitioner needs is one session to make a decision or clarify the next step and then confidently move forward.
With others I work together over the course of several months to grow their practice to the next size that’s right for them, or to shift it into a new direction. In that case, we typically meet every two weeks, and check in on action items in between sessions, too.
And yes, after that some clients keep coming to the quarterly group sessions, or they reconnect with me after some time when their practice has evolved and is presenting new challenges, or when they have a new idea or opportunity they want to pursue.
16. What’s your favorite part of your job?
The stellar people I get to work with. No doubt about it. And I love that this work lets me leverage my strengths and the way I think.
17. Do you work with people outside of Portland?
Yes, absolutely. I think my farthest client was in Brisbane, Australia. (Thanks to Google calendar for making the date and time difference work smoothly.)
18. What do you do to relax in your downtime? Hobbies, interests?
I swing kettle bells in the neighborhood park a couple times a week, and I just started a basic climbing education program. I read a lot – I’m at the library almost every week. And I love to travel. This summer I am heading to Alaska for the first time – I am so excited for that.
19. Favorite food? One thing that is always in your fridge?
Eggs, and avocado. I like simplicity when it comes to food, and eggs and avocado (plus whatever greens I have around) has been my breakfast almost every day for a couple of years now. No wondering what I need to buy, or what I am going to make – saves me some decision making power for the rest of the day.
20. Do you offer any free marketing resources for acupuncturists?
Absolutely, yes. There are the online Lightning Rounds I mentioned – details on when, where, and how to RSVP here.
I have also put together a couple of tools in an eBook called the Marketing Matchbox, and that is on the house as well.
And I very much welcome people to book a short call with me – also free – if they have a burning question or want to get some feedback on an idea or a project they are working on, anytime. Here’s the link for that.
Thank you so much for your time, Andrea!
It’s been a pleasure working with Andrea and I encourage anyone who is interested to take her up on her offer of a free phone call to chat about your marketing efforts. She’s very easy to talk to and she’ll help you realize that you can handle this marketing thing, and how to begin.
Have questions for Andrea? Leave them in the comments section below!