Preparation: Before Your First Meeting

NOTE: Some of the materials presented in this lesson are not included in the Facilitator Manual, and are only available in this course. You may want to either print this page or bookmark it for future reference.

You’ve chosen your location(s), dates and times for your group.

Prior to your first meeting, there are still things to consider. This lesson will prepare you to plan your first meeting and your first group.

Advertising

Before you hold your first group, you’ll have to let people know about it. In this section we’ll explore some possible avenues of advertising.

Ethical Advertising

Prior to composing any advertisements for your group, check with your own professional organization’s ethical standards for advertising. All ethical codes require honest and accurate representation of all advertising materials, so make sure you are in compliance before creating any advertising campaign. Ensure that advertisements and publications in any media (such as directories, announcements, business cards, newspapers, radio, television, Internet, and facsimiles) convey information that is necessary for the public to make an appropriate selection of professional services consistent with applicable law and ethical codes. Correct, wherever possible, false, misleading, or inaccurate information and representations made by others concerning your qualifications, services, or products.

If you are going to have assistant facilitators, make certain that their qualifications are represented in a manner that is not false, misleading, or deceptive, and do not represent them in advertising as providing specialized services unless they have the appropriate education, training, or supervised experience.

Types of Advertising

First, let’s look at some types of advertising:

Brochures

Advantages
The most basic form of advertising is the brochure. In the documents for this course there is a tri-fold brochure in pdf format that you may print out for your program. It has blank spaces to list the name of your own agency or practice. Alternately, you may design your own brochure so long as is does not misrepresent the contents or the format of the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Program.

The main advantage of the brochure is that it is relatively inexpensive to produce and distribute. You can have them in your waiting room, or take some to local businesses, or even hand them out at conferences. A cheap and easy way to make brochures work for you is to attend events where the audience might be interested in Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy, and distribute them at the event.

Disadvantages
The first disadvantage to brochures is that they’re easily tossed aside. They’re best used in one-on-one situations where the person has already expressed an interest in what you’re doing. You may also need professional help determining exactly what sort of material to put inside in order to attract customers, and to make the brochure interesting enough to make people want to read it. If they don’t get noticed, they don’t get picked up

Radio

Advantages
Most major radio stations are wide-reaching, and in some cases you can target a specific demographic. For example, if your local station has a gardening show, or a sustainability program, or hosts events related to sustainable living, you can purchase advertisements during those shows or event. If you’re advertising on web-based radio, you can target even more specifically in some instances by running banner ads on the station’s web page.

Disadvantages
Even though radio is wide-reaching, it is also relatively expensive. And since the ability to target a specific demographic is limited, your ads will reach a lot of people who won’t be interested in your program.

Television

Advantages
Television usually reaches an even wider audience than radio. You can target demographics based on the type of shows your prospective clients are likely to watch, and if you have “charisma” you can use it to your advantage in a television spot.

Disadvantages
Television spots, especially in prime time, tend to be more and more expensive, while “cord cutters” are leaving traditional television behind in favor of online streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. It also may take a long time for television ads to work. When’s the last time you watched a television commercial? Most people use commercial time for making sandwiches and bathroom breaks.

Newspapers

Advantages
If your town is still lucky enough to have a local newspaper, then advertising in it is probably a lot cheaper than television or radio ads. This is because newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur. But if you still have a local newspaper, you might want to consider advertising in it. Not only are such ads less expensive, but there’s a “cast off” effect. People tend to give their newspapers to other people after they’ve read them, so that means that more than one person might read the same ad. Also, since newspaper is relatively cheaper, you can run longer ads over a longer period of time to build name recognition.

Disadvantages
When’s the last time you read a newspaper? Most people have abandoned newspapers for social media. Additionally, unless the ad is big enough to catch attention (1/4 page to full page), research shows that most people ignore it. Also, it’s hard to target a specific demographic unless it’s a specialty newspaper catering to people interested in topics like mindfulness and ecotherapy.

Magazines

Advantages
With magazines it’s even easier to target a specific demographic than with newspapers because of the specialized nature of magazines. If you advertise in magazines with topics that cater to mindfulness or ecotherapy, then you know that many, if not most, of the readers will at least glance at your ad. Magazines also tend to have even more ‘cast off’ value than newspapers, as magazines tend to have longer shelf life (my dentist has magazines in his office from ten years ago). Some magazines are regional or even local, allowing for even more select targeting of demographics. Such local magazines will increase the likelihood of attracting clients from your own area.

Disadvantages
Magazine ads tend to be more expensive than newspapers. Also, magazines usually only come out monthly, so there’s not as much ‘market saturation’ as there would be with a daily or weekly newspaper. Finally, how often do people actually pay attention to magazine ads unless they’re actually looking for something specific?

Newsletters

Advantages
Newsletters have gone digital. This means that you no longer have to run to the copier every time you want to publish one. Instead, online newsletter mailing services have made it relatively easy to design professional looking products that are inexpensive and can be distributed worldwide. Because of the nature of online newsletters, it’s much easier to target a specific demographic. If someone subscribes to your newsletter you know they’re already interested in some aspect of your services. In some cases digital newsletter services even offer free packages, so the only investment in your newsletter would be time and effort.

Disadvantages
Online newsletters don’t always have a lot of shelf life. I probably have about a dozen of them in my email inbox right now that I’ve been meaning to read but just haven’t gotten around to. If you’re going to get noticed and read, you have to offer catchy content every time your newsletter comes out.

Online

Business Cards

Advantages
Even in the digital ages, business cards are still the go-to form of advertising. This is because they’re generally the best form of quick advertising when networking. You can hand them out to prospective clients or just leave them in restaurants, book stores, seminars, coffee shops, bulletin boards, etc. They’re also fairly inexpensive and a convenient size for slipping into wallet, purse, etc.

Disadvantages
The first is that they’re easily tossed aside. I have a basket full of them on my desk that I’ve never given a second glance. They’re best used in one-on-one situations, and not for mass audiences. Unless you’re a graphic artist, it’s hard to make your card stand out, and if they don’t get noticed, they don’t get picked up.

FREE Advertising

Advantages
In general, the best type of advertising is FREE. This includes online services like Facebook, Google, Youtube, LinkedIn & other social media. You can target demographics by joining interest groups or creating blogs, videos, and other media. Many platforms also offer paid advertising. You can set your budget (once you reach your target amount, the ads don’t show any more). By far this is the best ‘bang for your buck’ in advertising, especially since you can specifically target demographics based on a wide variety of parameters.

Disadvantages
Due to the global nature of such forms of advertising, it’s sometimes hard to target local demographics. If you’re willing to pay for ads, you get more control and more options, but in general people using social media are not usually thinking about buying something, especially therapy services (less than 2% return). Most social media buys are impulse decisions. Because of this, free advertising doesn’t always work unless you have to have a fairly high budget to get consistent results. On the other hand, if you have a niche market like Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy services, free advertising might work to your advantage.

Preparing for Your First Group

Once you’ve created a successful advertising campaign and attracted enough clients for your first group, you’ll need to prepare them for what to expect. If you’re planning to use the Mindfulness-Based Ecotherapy Workbook in your group, they will need to purchase a copy. I usually have them read the first chapter prior to the first group, the second chapter prior to the second group, and so on. This is so they have a good basic grasp of the concepts before attending the group.

You can have a sign-up form on your website to collect contact information so that you can inform them of meeting times. I always try to send a reminder of each session a day or two before the event. I also prepare a basic “what to expect” email instructing them what to wear and what to bring. For example, if we’re going to be hiking that day, they might want to bring snacks, water, insect repellent, and a walking stick. If we’re going to be sitting on the grass that day, they might want to bring a blanket or a camping chair. I usually send such emails prior to each session along with a reminder of the time and the location of each session.

Now that you’re prepared for your first session, in the next lesson we’ll go over what to talk about in the first meeting.