In this episode, Gordon talks about marketing strategies for your counseling and therapy private practices. Ultimately, marketing is about helping people find you and helping you connect with your ideal client. Marketing can be done in two ways, online and offline. Gordon talks about the strategies of doing both and focusing on the ways that fit you and your personality best.
A few weeks ago, I did a survey of with the Practice of Therapy followers and listeners. The purpose of the survey was to find out what people want the most help with in their practices. The number one response was help with knowing how to market their private practices.
I think the reason for this is that there so many people that go into private practice that feel a sense of anxiety and pressure by not having the volume of clients they had hoped for when first starting out. Then there are also those people who maybe started out in private practice with some established clients that they transferred from another practice they were working in, only to have the “well run dry” after a few months.
Then there are those that hit a “dry spell” in their practice and they are not sure when the phone is going to ring again with their next new client. They know they need to market their practice but they are not sure where to start or the best way to go about it.
Marketing is not selling
“Marketing” is something, for many therapists and counselors, that we tend to get a little bit nervous about. We are naturally very polite people and would never do anything to come across as pushy or underhanded. But there is something about “marketing” that, for many, feels a bit sleazy. The fear is that we think it requires use to “sell something”.
We would much rather have people ask US to come to therapy, than us ask THEM to come to therapy!
But it really does not need to be that way…
There are people out there that truly need and want our services. My friend and fellow private practice consultant Allison Puryear put it this way, “marketing is simply helping your potential clients find you..” I think it is so helpful to think of marketing your practice in that way!
Referrals come in 2 ways
In the counseling and therapy, fields referrals can come from any number of sources. But at a very basic level, people are either referred by someone else or they self-refer. What I have noticed in my own practice is that self-referral is usually the way most people come in the door. They are having some sort of personal or family difficulty and it occurs to them that they might benefit from some counseling.
The other way referrals come is through the recommendation of others. Doctors, clergy, family, and friends might encourage a person to talk with a professional about what is going on for them.
The key is to know where you are most likely to get your ideal client…
Branding and Referrals
Ultimately, marketing is about developing relationships with people on several different levels; relationship with you individually and/or a relationship with your “brand”. The individual relationship is an easy one to understand. Your “brand” though, has the potential to be a little broader and have a farther reach.
When I think about good branding, I think of some of the more popular ones. A good brand is something that we identify with a particular product or service. For example, GEICO. When you see that brand name we think of the funny commercials but we also know what it is and what it does. It’s an insurance company that “saves you money”.
Another brand I think of is Nike. When you see the Nike “swoosh” you know the name of the company and know what it is; sportswear and equipment. That’s good branding.
So if you think about your private practice, do you have a brand? And if someone sees that brand on a website or sees your name, do they know what you do and how you can help them with their problems?
First of all, have a plan. So many times we tend to try a lot of things and “throw random darts at the board” and hope it works. A better strategy is to pick a few marketing activities that you are consistent with over time. The other thing is to pick something that you enjoy of find less intimidating to do.
For example, if you are wired more as an introvert, social media and internet-based marketing will be much more comfortable than making those face to face contacts and “cold calls”. For an extrovert, getting out and doing the face to face networking would probably be more appealing. Do what fits your personality best.
Needless to say, one place to focus is on making sure you can be found online. It is so important to have a good, UP TO DATE, website. It is where people generally go first to find a therapist. And even the people that want to refer someone for counseling will go to the internet first.
We don’t have time to go into the building a website stuff, but I will say that if don’t have a website yet, it should be one of the first things you do when going into private practice. A good choice for doing private practice websites, unless you want to build it yourself, is *Brightervision. They specialize in therapist and counselor websites and do a great job at getting you a great looking site that will rank well in Google (SEO- again a whole other topic)
*These are affiliate links, which simply means we get a commission, at not extra cost to you, if you purchase a product or service using these links.
A few things to remember about your website:
- It should be about the client and not about you… In other words, talk about the problems potential clients might be having and how you will help them with that problem. DO NOT put a bunch of stuff about your qualifications on the front page of your website
- Less is more… Make it simple to navigate. Use a lot of pictures and things that draw people in…show pictures of happy people instead of unhappy people…
- Have your contact information front and center. So many times when I look at therapist’s websites, you have to scroll down or search for how to get in touch. Your phone number or email address needs to be blatantly obvious “above the fold”, in other words, no scrolling necessary.
- Have a call to action. Don’t be afraid to say on your website “call today”. Another good idea is to offer a free 10-minute phone consultation.
Take advantage of directories
One of the best ways to get found is to take advantage of various directories. A good way to approach this is to spend some time just doing some Google searches for specific problems or counseling services in your area. See what comes up at the top of the page. Most likely, one of the things will be the Psychology Today directory. , which consistently seems to be a great return on your investment if you list with them. Take note though of what comes up and see who else is listed in the various directories.
Also, pay attention to several of the free directory listing available out there. Check out this blog post I did on Free Directory Listings that Get Overlooked..
When thinking about marketing on social media, the thing to be aware of is that it is constantly changing. The one key thing to remember is that “social” means social! Regardless of which platform you use, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or any of the others, is that they are designed for interactions between people.
So, keep your posts professional but do respond to other people’s posts. In many ways, social media is a form of networking. By posting, commenting, liking, sharing and reposting (or retweeting) you are acknowledging others and interacting with them. And that is just good marketing…
Blogging and Writing
One of the things I always encourage people to do is to blog and write regularly. Part of marketing is simply getting yourself in front of others, both in person and virtually. Blogging not only gets you out there but helps establish your expertise in and on various subjects.
Another thing to consider is doing some guest blogging and/or being a contributor to other websites and blogs. Look into joining HARO (Help A Reporter Out). HARO is a service that reporters use to do research and find experts on topics they are writing about. With it, you will get an email, 3x a day, with requests for people to contribute.
Flyers and Rack Cards
It is important to not overlook “low tech” options for marketing as well. Something that has been successful for me in my practice is sending (by email or FAX) a practice flyer to doctors and other professionals when I correspond or interact with them. I have a “coordination of care” form I send to the PCP’s of current clients along with a practice flyer that has given great results
You can also get rack cards made to take to doctors offices or give other referral sources that they can display or simply give to potential clients. This does take a lot of footwork, but it is a good investment of your time and just a little bit of money that can bring in more clients.
Personal and Face-to-Face Contacts
The truth of the matter there is no better referral than a personal recommendation. This is why it is important to be active in your community and make those personal contacts. If you think about it, would you rather find therapist online or have a close friend or doctor recommend someone?
Start with your personal PCP and also let all of your friends know that you are taking new clients. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to get new clients.
Marketing your practice really does not have to be intimidating or hard. The key is to be consistent with it and find the ways that you are most comfortable in marketing. As said earlier, its all about developing relationships and doing your best to help people find you!
Meet Gordon Brewer, MEd, LMFT
Gordon is the person behind The Practice of Therapy Podcast & Blog.He is also President and Founder of Kingsport Counseling Associates, PLLC. He is a therapist, consultant, business mentor, trainer, and writer. PLEASE Subscribe to The Practice of Therapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. Follow us on Twitter @therapistlearn and Pinterest “Like” us on Facebook.