Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Inner Life of a Basukubotcher

I am a Basukubotcher, aren’t you impressed?

Not impressed? Oh… ☹

Well, let me tell you what I can do!

If you’ve got a bad back, I can cure it. In fact, tell me of any pain you have, I can most likely show you how to get rid of it. (BTW, orchestral musicians can also get better at playing.) Did I mention I can improve your golf stroke, help you sort out that communication problem with your boss and get you faster at running? As well, I can make you more aware of your time management, turn your once strenuous swimming into a pleasurable experience and facilitate more communion with your inner child. And your eyes will definitely get better – you can even throw away your glasses! So there. I can do all that. Yes, that’s what a Basukubotcher can do! Do you believe me?


Who would believe one practitioner of ANYTHING could achieve all that? Now you understand the fundamental marketing problem of an Alexander Technique teacher (which, BTW, is what a Basukubotcher is more commonly known as).

The answer of course is not to claim all these things. However, that’s easier said than done. Why? Because in each group lesson at BodyChance, it is the case that each of the issues presented above did in fact occur.

In 2009, a journalist once visited my group lesson in order to write an article for a prestigious magazine in Japan. She watched these wildly different activities as each student presented today’s “activity” request. At the end of the class she looked at me quite bewildered: “But where is the technique? What is it that you are doing? What do I write about?” I understood her dilemma immediately.

Alexander’s discovery is unfathomably empty of form. Alexander tried to give it form, and what his community ended up with 50 years later is a series of stereotyped activities with teachers arguing about the most inconsequential details – such as: “How far must the hip joint flex before I rise from the chair?” Does it matter?

Not to me. It’s relative, not absolute. It depends on what you want and where you are going. Nothing lives devoid of context and when we imagine it does we do so at our own peril. And Alexander Technique teachers are in peril if they live devoid of the concept of a marketplace.

How is it possible, that 117 years after the first Alexander Technique lesson was given, this work still languishes in relative obscurity? What are we doing wrong?

It’s a question that vexes me every day. At BodyChance we still see growth. Every month, we attract around 50 new faces to our studios for an introductory lesson of some kind. Some are there for the first time, others the second or third. Enrollment in our public membership program is currently at its lowest ever, yet our Professional Teachers Education Program is still powering on – currently 83 students. Our conversion rates have fluctuated between 5% and 45% without any clear explanation as to why. Not that I can figure out.

It's great that we are educating teachers, but we also need to create a market place for them to teach in. That’s what woke me up at 3.30am this morning, bright as a button, wondering and wondering what to do next…

The niche. It’s all in the niche. My newest idea is to coach BodyChance stars – teachers willing to go out there and attract a crowd of loyal followers. Each herd of followers are collected around a niche: a hobby, a profession or a wish that acts as a glue to bind them into one coherent community.

Once you have that, you can then write a convincing AT message-to-market match. Be it running (Malcolm Balk), swimming (Steven Shaw), golf (Roy Palmer), vision improvement (Peter Grunwald), playing the horn (our very own Basil Kritzer) or personal coaching (yours truly), the Alexander Technique message needs to offer just one clear benefit that convinces the niche it is operating in.

Is this the right way forward? I have no idea. I am in a trial and error process. Although Alexander seemed to degrade the trial and error approach, I found Tim Harford’s explanation of it’s positive aspects in a TED talk quite enlightening…

So my trial and error process continues. Who knows where it will end? I do have a set of 7 principles I have recently adopted, but the jury is still out on that. I still carry around my big vision thing, but I am feeling more battered and chipped these days. The constant failure to meet my own expectation is silencing my propensity towards grandiosity. Let's try the humble approach that expects nothing, and is surprised by a just little….