Posted on April 01, 2020
Marketing for therapists can be daunting. We get it. After all, you most likely didn’t attend business school during your training and education to become a mental health specialist. And yet, if you’ve decided to go into private practice, it’s paramount to learn on the job to keep your practice running.
Even though you probably didn’t expect to identify as an “entrepreneur,” that’s exactly what you are. Running your own therapy practice is just like running a business. Though it can be more stressful than joining a group practice with constantly trying to drum up new clients to meet your financial goals, the rewards are great. Having an exponential opportunity for income, freedom, and independence make starting and maintaining a private therapy practice so appealing.
But, unless you have a decent amount of cash starting out, it can be challenging to find the means to advertise and market the way you’d like, or even need. That’s OK. There are plenty of ways to market yourself that cost very little, if any, money. Diverse strategies from digital marketing to using a therapy matching service can keep your business steadily growing. As long as you’re open to putting a little time and strategic thinking into your private practice, your marketing will be able to grow with your business.
Are you wondering how to become a successful therapist? Well, for one, networking is central to any new business plan, regardless of industry, and private therapy practice is no different. It’s important to consider all the different communities you can tap into that could bring in potential new clients. It may seem counterintuitive and competitive, but networking with other clinicians and mental health professionals is actually a great pool of people with whom to connect. Other therapists need you just as much as you need them. If one therapist receives a call from a potential client, and it turns out the therapist isn’t a good fit because of specialization, a full schedule, or they don’t take insurance, it would be nice if they could have some referrals on hand. It would be even nice if one of them were you. Therapists focus on different issues and have busier periods as well as lighter times. Relying on a community of other helping professionals is good for both patients and practitioners.
Another excellent group to connect with is doctors. Most doctors keep a list of therapists and counselors that they regularly refer their patients to. Therefore, they become one of the best referral sources for therapists. Also, if a patient is referred through their primary care physician or pediatrician, they will almost always follow through with making an appointment because people tend to take their doctors’ recommendations seriously. If you aren’t currently connected in the healthcare world, it might be worth seeking out some industry conferences or local meetup groups. It’s also effective to put some resources into direct marketing by way of flyers or postcards. It’s fairly cost-effective to have them created, and easy to drop off at local practices. It’s always possible to use your current clients as a means of gaining physician contacts through coordination of care forms. Have your clients sign a release to coordinate with their physician and send the form along with a flyer letting them know you are accepting new patients.
There’s also general business networking groups, conferences, and webinars. Again, it’s likely that you’re looking for any business or marketing insights. Join other small business owners with general marketing learning opportunities. You’ll learn how to run a business better and meet a whole pool of potential new clients and referral sources. In general, don’t underestimate the power of talking to people, even if it is as simple as describing what you do and handing over your business card.
You’ve likely heard the term “content marketing,” but what is it exactly? It’s the creation of valuable content and thought leadership for your target audience, provided for free, in the hopes of gaining awareness and favorability with said audience. Content can position you as a credible professional in your field, and give you a competitive edge. This all sounds great except that content comes with a price –– your time. Content marketing is great for therapists going out on their own because it doesn’t really cost much to implement, but it is a bit time consuming. This is because things that are considered content are blog posts, articles, podcasts, ebooks, videos, and more. All of these projects are a bit labor-intensive, and some even require some monetary investment.
But don’t let that deter you. You certainly don’t have to create ALL of these pieces of content. In fact, one of the easiest places to start is a blog. If you already have a website for your therapy practice, start there, and if not, it’s simple to create a blog using sites like Squarespace and Wix. Blogging is also a great way to establish yourself as an authority on more niche topics, subjects, and issues, particularly if you’re trying to attract more clients in those areas. Because it offers a steady flow of fresh, keyword-rich content, blogging can also help your website’s search engine optimization, or SEO, which you’ll learn about shortly. If you don’t have the first clue about how to blog, take a course, or ask a web-savvy friend.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself as far as volume of content. After all, your job is not a marketer; you’re a therapist. Shoot for a couple of pieces a month, at the very least.
What’s the point of a great blog post if nobody ever reads it? Creating content is awesome, but a solid network of distribution channels is really key. Personal branding is one of the best ways to develop a successful therapy business. This is where social media profiles, email marketing, and simple SEO tactics come into place.
Social media is a great way to show potential clients that your website is both active and credible. It’s also the perfect place to share all the great content you’re creating and promote your practice. A strong presence on networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter reflect well on your practice, proving that people are interested in what you are saying and eager to interact with you. Your social media accounts should be updated frequently and showcase your personality. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to potential clients before they even reach out with an inquiry.
Social media is the perfect place to experiment with ads as well. Facebook and Instagram ads are super easy and intuitive to set up. They’re also great for private therapy practices because you can be hyper localized and granular in your audience targeting. Whether you're running ad campaigns or simply improving your online presence, using social media should be a key part of your marketing strategy.
Another useful tactic in the realm of digital marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). When someone types a query into Google, the search engine responds with a list of relevant pages. The websites listed at the top of these results are the ones most likely to receive clicks because very few people bother to look at every single page of search results. Wouldn’t you like for your practice’s website to be listed at the top? SEO is how you rise in search page rankings. By anticipating what a search engine is looking for, you can improve your site’s ranking for specific keywords. This mostly involves optimizing your website to include these particular search terms in key areas of your site, like copywriting and metadata. Other tactics could be making the titles of your pages unique, reducing the sizes of your images, so your pages load faster, and link building.
Link building is a subset of SEO that can help your website rise in the rankings. Building links can mean anything from getting your site mentioned in a blog post on someone else’s site to asking a site in a different industry to link to yours as a favor. Search engines take note when other sites link to yours because it shows credibility. A link convinces the search engine that you are worth a higher place in their rankings because you’ve essentially been vetted. A good SEO company can assist you with building links, as it can be confusing to do on your own, but it is possible.
Email is one of the most powerful digital marketing tools. It’s a true 1:1 connection between you and a person. And, chances are, these subscribers requested to get information from you. It’s a totally primed and engaged audience of people that can include past and present patients and prospective clients. Email is a great channel to distribute all the content you’re making, while also sharing news and information with your clients. You can put almost anything in an email newsletter like updated info on office hours, additional resources that complement that type of therapy you offer, upcoming events that may be relevant to your clientele, and small bits of seasonal and relevant thoughts or advice.
Try not to send too many emails, or people will stop paying attention to them, or worse, they will unsubscribe. A couple of times a month should be sufficient for a newsletter roundup of all the relevant content you created and consumed, and maybe an announcement or two.
Self-referrals are one of the most likely ways of getting new clients. That means having your profile listed on directories or matching services like Advekit is one of the best marketing tools to grow your practice, as it allows you to meet your potential clients where they are at.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.