Marketing without Advertising


By Joshua Myrvaagnes



Advertising Is a Violation of Boundaries


Nearly every time you advertise, you are using "wrong speech"--you are crossing a boundary. If the advertising is not consensual, then the person viewing it is being invaded upon. If you put an ad in a magazine, the person reading an article is interrupted without her/his consent by a distraction, and his/her attention has been hijacked. Actually, if you put an ad in a magazine, 10,000 people are being interrupted--the entire readership.  That's 10,000 times the "bad karma" if you just interrupted one person walking down the street.  No wonder holistic healers don't like marketing!  And who really wants the stress of having 10,000 people bearing a mild grudge against you?


In American culture, this experience of having your attention hijacked is so commonplace that we take it for granted--but that doesn't make it ethical.  Imagine a world in which people never put signs up in your way to sell you things, but instead only put beautiful things up that were meant to inspire, to bring higher spiritual forces into a form where they could energize and revitalize you! Life could be an art gallery! That's a vision every holistic healer, every human being, can get happy about. In a truly win-win world, all advertising would be a) beautiful and b) desired by the person viewing it.


That is why there is a great invention: the community bulletin board (and the phone book, classifieds, and on-line community board such as Here is a place where it is ethical to post something, and it's more effective too. It's ethical because people expect to see information about businesses there, and even want to see them. For this reason, it is also more effective. If someone is already looking for an ad, maybe even looking for an acupuncturist even, then he/she is far more predisposed to respond favorably to an acupuncturist adÑor even to read the thing all the way through.


What an Advertisement Can Contain


Before going further, let's look at what, in the best possible scenario, is inside the advertisement that has interrupted or not interrupted the passerby.


If people don't know about your gift, your product, they won't buy it. So you need to teach them, or "educate" them, about its non-obvious benefits. We're not talking about "educating them about how your product is better than others," which is just self-aggrandizement, or pressuring them into a belief. Instead, we're talking about offering them information, non-coercively, about what qualities to look for in making a purchasing decision _in general_, so they can make a more informed decision about what's best for themselves.


For example, let's say you're creating an ad for your acupuncture business. Most Americans don't know what to look for in an acupuncturist. You might create an ad that lists five things everyone should expect of their acupuncture treatment, so that it won't merely give them a good feeling for three days and then leave them feeling pretty much the same as before. For example, they should ask if the practitioner monitors your progress and makes meaningful records, if the acupuncturist listens carefully to your whole medical situation and history without jumping to conclusions, that the acupuncturist is healthy herself and has benefited and continues to benefit from acupuncture rather than selling you something she does not actually believe in herself, etc. Now maybe every acupuncturist already does these thingsÑbut not every healer does, if you count allopathic medicine (M.D.'s almost never have the time to take a comprehensive intake interview and history)Ñso by telling people they should expect this of a healer, you're elevating their expectations of healing they receive in general.


Marketing Without Advertising


Now, you may or may not need to advertise to market. There is a crucial distinction here: to market is to facilitate the purchasing of your service or product in general, and can include simply explaining it to people who happen to run into you and who express an interest. To advertise means to put announcements about your product out into the world. Some people can work solely through word-of-mouth marketing, through referrals. My nutritionist is one example. He's so good I and others still refer people to him even though I haven't myself been in for a consultation in over a year. He has never run an ad, as far as I know, and yet he always has his pick of which clients to work with (he picks the ones whose cases for which his tools are most able to be helpful--;for example, one time he declined to work with a severe diabetic since that's out of his range, and referred him to an M.D. he regards highly). Some plants reproduce without pollinating, by sending out root structures from one set of roots. You can "market" in this way, without any advertising. And this is where strategic marketing (perfecting the words you use) helps you the most--since it allows you to get clear for yourself about what's valuable in your product or service, and this clarity itself can alone boost your sales and increase your effectiveness in serving the world.


But most businesses will need to spread the word. Some plants reproduce by pollinating and then broadcasting seeds, and as long as your marketing is "non-toxic," non-intrusive, non-pressuring, and adds value wherever it goes, you may well be justified in "pollinating." If you package your message in a nutritious fruit then it's perfectly ethical to spread seeds this way. (This is where my personal mission comes into play, to bring poetry into marketing and advertisement: to encourage unique and living language in advertisements, words that nourish people's psyches). And if you're going to advertise anyway, certainly it's better to do it in an informative way than in a desperate, platitudinous, vague, "we're the best so buy us," or pressuring way.


De-escalating the Advertising War


The "education" vision, described above, in and of itself doesn't necessarily imply advertising, and doesn't mean there is an ethical imperative to advertise. However, there is another school of thought: de-escalating.  

Think about it this way: your clients are in need of healing and happen to be reading through a magazine during their day. There they see several mediocre ads for uninspired healers (hypothetically) who, anxious about making a living, are seeing clients that aren't optimally in alignment with their potential gifts.  They see ads for health insurance companies.  And meanwhile you just happen to have the exact solution for these clients' particular problem.  Wouldn't you want to run your ad there next to your more-toxic competitor?


If you say yes, then consider this: even if your goal is not to advertise at all, wouldn't you start out by running slightly fewer ads than your "non-holistic" or "non-green" competition, and then as holistic or green comes to dominate the marketplace you can begin to phase out advertising, to do it less and less until you don't need to do any at all? The important thing is not to escalate the advertising war. (And again, if you want to advertise less, then it makes sense to optimize each ad, and strategic marketing--perfecting your words--is the way to do this.)



You Don't Have to Let Fear Stop You from Giving Your Gifts


What I also find in my experience with clients is the idea that some people may be refraining from marketing, or from advertising, because of fear, self-doubt, an inaccurate perception of the world, an under-perception of their own gifts' value, or other emotional hang-ups, rather than the real ethical reluctance.  It may be tricky to distinguish between the two in the hurry of our stress-filled, Darwinian- market lives. I myself have been in many of these fear-based categories. If misperception is the case, consider the paradigm that says, "Valuing the gifts Spirit has given you is what Spirit wants for you and it is wholly permitted," and that when there are competitors advertising, your using advertising is ethically more than justified as a way to give alternatives to people who will then have saner options to choose from. It's best for the people who are not cutting corners to be the ones selling more.


However, what is stopping you may be the real resistance to violating others' space.  In that case, try this:  value your gifts more--simply have all the confidence in your own work that your work merits.  For this, writing advertisements to show only to yourself (or a consenting friend) is a very powerful exercise.  You can try it out right now: write an ad for yourself and then read it back to yourself--or if you have a tape recorder, tape it and then listen to your own voice speaking it back to you.  It is even worth having a professional collaborate with you to create an advertisement that shows to yourself the full value of what you offer.  Seeing yourself in print like that can put things in perspective and help you know what your value looks like as compared with someone else out there who is running advertisements.  Spend 5" each day reading your ad to yourself--it's worth the time.  You will gradually begin to have an increase in word-of-mouth sales since each time your friends or acquaintances ask you, 'What are you doing these days?" your answer can truthfully and with inspiration educate them about the gift you offer, and give them a wider view of what this world's possibilities.




Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness that most frightens us.


We ask ourselves -- Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?


Actually, who are we not to be?


You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people do not feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the Glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone.


And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.


--Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love (Often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela, who made the quotation famous.)


Joshua Myrvaagnes


This article may be freely reproduced as long as it is not altered and attribution is kept.  Thank you.