We observe a common thread among the healthcare practitioners in a dozen specialty areas with whom we have worked. Private practice marketing is simply not taught to aspiring practitioners while in school. It’s also not immediately intuitive. But like most things, practice helps.
Below are 7 common strategies we’ve implemented or observed among our therapist clients successfully. Keep in mind that each of these techniques can be combined for maximum effect or select from piecemeal depending on your inclination.
Ultimately, your goal in private practice is to develop a large client base over time that refers you additional clients. That fundamental approach, supplemented with a strong, visible reputation will convince those referrals and entirely new clients to contact you for your therapy services.
Your mission is to help people, and the more people you know, the greater the odds of finding new clients. If you specialize in marriage counseling, eating disorders, sex therapy, or some other specific field, then make sure you communicate that via a business card or verbally when discussing what you do.
Many therapists are self-described introverts, so it may seem awkward at first to self-promote in-person, but it gets easier over time. You also may choose to skip this entirely in favor of more passive yet equally effective means of promotion, such as Internet marketing.
It starts with your website, but it ends with a clear path through which a website visitor can understand who you are, what you have to offer, and how you can help them. Therapy websites are unique in that potential clients are typically in a very vulnerable place (as opposed to say, someone shopping for clothes online).
As a result, your website visitors are looking for answers, comfort, and – help – which a carefully developed website can provide. A therapy website should, at minimum, include the following information:
New clients and/or referrals will use your website to determine if you are a good fit for them, long before choosing whether or not to contact you. Potential clients are also using other websites from other therapists to help them make a decision. The more authentic, warm, and detailed your website, the greater the likelihood that the right clients will find their way to you. Further, the right website will improve the returns from any energy or budget you spend toward a different marketing strategy
In the past, therapists benefitted from an extensive referral network that far exceeded every other part of a therapist’s marketing network. Today, even referrals stop at Google to find more information about you and other therapists in their area. Obtaining high “rankings” for terms like “marriage counselor + your location” and a variety of other term and location variations will help new clients find you.
This is even more important if you have a highly-specialized service. For example, a specialist in coping with addictions may benefit immensely (in addition to providing a highly useful resource) by crafting a blog entry focused on available resources (e.g. AA meetings, rehab clinics, etc.) in the area. That blog post would then be localized per that therapist’s area of service, yet also specialized per their unique area of expertise.
Google AdWords is a good way for improving broad awareness of your therapy services. The challenge is that other therapists are also using the service locally, which drives up costs for everyone. Thus, your goal should be to have a compelling website for AdWords visitors to see, in addition to seeking out terms that are less expensive than others. For example, “marriage counselor washington dc” is an expensive term with which to use AdWords, however, “help with my marriage” may be a better term if focused only on searchers within the Washington, DC area.
The language “Googlers” use to find information on Google is made public by Google. Use this information to help you help others.
Therapists should use Facebook to share content from their own website in a targeted manner that reaches people within the area they serve. Therapy marketing on social media is odd in that you may not expect people to “Like” your Page, given the sensitivity around sharing information publicly that one may want to see a therapist; however, Facebook is an excellent means of reaching people at a given location or at a specific stage in their life. For example, a specialist in child counseling, may want to share a blog post about acclimating your child to a new school. Via Facebook, that blog post can be Promoted to moms and dads in the local area.
We are not referring to journal articles, but instead something simpler. For example, we frequently provide our clients with exposure to popular websites with writers who frequently require an expert resource on any number of subjects. This exposure provides links back to the therapist’s main site, which not only helps their respective website on Google, but it also improves their overall exposure.
These exposures yield new clients. The same effort can be made with TV journalists (if you’re up to that, of course). Speaking publicly can have a similar effect, while also adding to your professional network.
Psychology Today is the most popular directory for psychologists and it receives a lot of web-traffic. Once your website is up and running, adding yourself to this directory and a number of others will help increase the Internet traffic to your website and add to your base of clients.
The holy grail of therapist marketing is word-of-mouth referrals, which is exactly what you’ll have once you establish a large base of satisfied clients. Once you get there, supplementing your practice with fundamentally marketing strategies will help ensure that you have a thriving practice. You may need to raise prices, hire another therapist, or limit your bookings altogether. Still, that’s a very good place to be in. Your dream was to make a living helping people – congratulations, you’ve done it!