How to Succeed at Quackery (Without Even Trying): Part 1
In medical quackery, a niche is pretty much synonymous with a disease or disorder (or range of disorders). Every type of quackery, whether you’re peddling devices, drugs or diets, needs a disorder to cure (or prevent). And picking the right disorder can make the difference between success and failure.
Keep it simple:
A few people have been successful with quackeries aimed at a broad range of disorders (see HR Clark), but these are risky ventures. A person starting out in quackery, unless they already have a great deal of name recognition, would do better to stick to a single disorder or a small range of similar disorders. This allows you to tailor your approach to the concerns and issues of a specific group of potential marks. Trying to address too broad a range of sufferers can cause you to be less attractive to any of them.
One possible exception to this is “cancer”. To the majority of the lay public, cancer is a single disease, so cancer is one area where the novice quack can safely address a broad range of diseases. In fact, trying to focus on a single type of cancer will often backfire, since that is precisely what the “allopathic” medical community does. By claiming to have a cure for a particular cancer (e.g. melanoma), you lose the “alternative” cachet that is so important to becoming a successful quack.
Keep it vague:
Ambiguity and vagueness are the greatest assets for a budding quack. When you pick your niche, be sure to find a disorder that is poorly defined or difficult to diagnose. Disorders that are not recognized by allopaths are excellent choices, since there is no way that anyone can accuse you of misdiagnosing them. The best are disorders that are purely imaginary, since the marks will be so appreciative when you don’t say that it’s “all in their head”.
Think long and hard before choosing a disorder that has a well-established and unambiguous diagnosis, unless you are willing to put in the time to convince people that the accepted diagnostic criteria are wrong. If you are just starting out, this may be too much work – save it for when you are an established quack. At all costs, avoid disorders that the mark can diagnose themselves – promising a “cure” for freckles will mean that you actually have to deliver on your promise. It is much better to pick complaints that are vague and subjective, like fatigue, malaise or depression.
Good choices: Chronic fatigue, Autism, Gulf War SyndromeLikewise, keep your claims vague and hard to quantify – never, ever promise something that can be objectively measured, if you can avoid it. Promise the marks a “50% increase in immune function” or a “200% increase in energy”, but not a “50% increase in red blood cell mass”. Don’t make it easy for the quackbusters (or the FTC) to get a bead on you. If your particular niche makes hard number unavoidable (e.g. weight loss quackeries), be sure to cover yourself well in the fine print.
Bad choices: Fractures, Angina, Pneumonia
Pick a winner:
Although there are lots of people who have made it big pretending to treat incurable diseases (like the cancer quacks), you can save yourself a lot of trouble by picking a disorder that is either self-limited, fluctuating or imaginary.
The imaginary disorders are without a doubt the easiest to deal with – convince the mark that you’ve cured them and they’re out the door poorer but happier. That’s why imaginary disorders are the ones most sought after and – as a result – why there are so many quacks treating them. You can either crowd into an already established imaginary disease (or move to an under-served area) or you can make up your own imaginary disease. Either way, it’s more work to get started but a great payoff once you’re established.
If breaking in to the imaginary disease field sounds like too much work, your next best choice is a self-limited disease – something like colds or muscle aches. The main problem with self-limited diseases is that you need to constantly be out on the street hustling for new patients. These diseases are most profitable when you’ve gotten established and have a product on the shelves of the health-food or supplement stores.
The problem is that the window of opportunity – the time between the onset of symptoms and when the disease runs its course – is so short. If they can run to the quack store and buy your nostrum while they’re still feeling rotten, you get the credit (and their money) when they get better. If people are getting better before you have a chance to see them, you lose their business.
In some ways, late stage cancer can also be seen as a self-limiting disease, since the mark will often die (or be too sick and preoccupied with dying) before they realize that your “cure” has failed. And the grieving family will usually not want to take legal action, especially if you’ve done a good job with your bedside manner and hand-holding. It may seem perverse, but the families will often mistake your end-of-life bloodletting (in a monetary sense, if not literally) for a true attempt to save the life of their loved one after all the allopaths had given up. It’s sick, but it pays well.
If imaginary diseases are too much work and self-limiting diseases require too much hustle, then you might want to look into one of the thousands of chronic fluctuating disorders available. This part of the field is truly under-exploited, especially now that the allopaths are helping more people live to a ripe old age. And old age is full of chronic fluctuating conditions.
Almost all of the chronic medical conditions have fluctuating symptoms, better on some days and worse on others. Your job, in this lucrative area, is to convince the mark that you are responsible for the good days and they are responsible for the bad days. It’s as simple as that. If that seems to harsh for your mindset, you can squeeze out a little more profit by telling the mark to use your nostrum or device more often on the bad days, in the certain knowledge that good days are coming. Either way, you’ll look like a regular miracle worker. If you’re really good, your marks may even offer to wash and wax your BMW on their good days out of gratitude.
Next Lesson: Running your Quackery Business