You’ve done it. You took the plunge and started a private practice. You’ve got the office, everything’s all set up. Now what? You need clients! Sure you have a few legacy clients who followed you from your previous office, but how do you attract new clients? Or, if you’ve been at this for several years and you’re struggling with a lull, how can you jumpstart your business?
Marketing can feel daunting for most private practice owners, as they have an education and background in mental health, not business. Opening your own practice can feel like a crash course in getting an MBA.
In order to market your private practice effectively, you’ll need a healthy mix of inbound and outbound marketing. Most ideas in marketing for therapists are based on old school outbound marketing concepts. Traditional outbound marketing is not only expensive but generates a very low return on investment. Outbound efforts often take money to sustain or they simply disappear. While it’s important to have in your marketing plan, it’s not the only way to get clients. Inbound marketing is a great approach when it comes to new business.
Outbound marketing is also known as “push” marketing, meaning you are actively pushing your message out to people with the hope that they respond to the message and book a therapy session. Unfortunately, very few people actually seek out advertising. Some examples of outbound marketing that therapists typically use:
The problem with outbound marketing is that as soon as you stop paying for it (either with money or the time it takes to hand out business cards), it stops working. It generates no ongoing value to you. It could be argued that outbound marketing doesn’t create a ton of value to potential clients other than awareness. While the tactics can be a bit shallow and in your face, they do have a place, but a savvy marketer will not put much budget towards it.
On the other hand, inbound can be thought of as pull marketing by bringing your audience to you — willingly. Customers come to you because they want to, not because they happened to catch a brochure. Inbound marketing isn’t just you offering your information, it’s providing real value to your potential customer through content that attracts people to your therapy practice.
Inbound marketing content should be:
Simply put, inbound marketing can get you more clients, in both the short and long term.
It’s truly the gift that keeps on giving. When you publish a blog post, create an interesting piece of social media content, or provide some kind of other valuable content, it doesn’t just exist for that day –– it lives forever on the internet.
The magic of inbound marketing starts with one piece of valuable content, like a blog post. When that link is shared across social media, it experiences an initial surge of attention. But after the timeliness fades, search engines start to index it. Now, what happens if someone searches for that topic, your blog post will show up in the search results. Of course, the longer that content has been on the internet, the more likely it will start to rise in the rankings. If it’s quality content, other people will link to it and that will provide a significant boost in the search engines.
Every time someone searches for keywords that are contained in your post, a potential client has an opportunity to find you. Since your post offered an answer to their search, they’ll be much more likely to seek out your services. When you consider the investment of maybe 30 minutes to an hour of time writing as an investment for a lifetime of residual marketing value, it’s not a bad return.
You don’t need to start big to see real value in this approach. Though, it is a bit of a long game, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t see thousands of website visits at launch. It starts slow and builds momentum. If you want to create a sustainable pipeline to get more therapy clients, you have to start somewhere.
Firstly, it’s important to decide to use social media as a marketing tool. Creating the content is half the battle, but distributing it is the other half of a successful inbound marketing program. This is controversial in some circles because of obvious privacy concerns, but you are a business. Your “product” is your awesome therapy expertise, and social media is where customers are already looking. The easiest solution is to have separate accounts for professional use, especially for Facebook.
Create a Facebook page and Instagram for your therapy business. While your blog is getting ramped up, it’s a great idea to start by sharing other people’s content. Think of yourself as a curator, finding and sharing like minded colleagues’ ideas. Consider what kinds of things your potential clients might find useful. Encourage your existing clients and office visitors to follow you on Facebook and Instagram and add your social accounts to your business card. You can also post a small sign in your reception area. This will build a small, but supportive core audience. They’ll be the ones that’ll likely share your content first because they already like you right?
If you already have a personal Twitter account, be sure the existing tweets are reasonably professional in nature. By “professional” it doesn’t necessarily mean always about therapy related topics. It’s not a great idea to have public tweets that are politically charged or excessively controversial. Think “What would my clients think if they read this?” If they’d be turned off or if there’s a slight feeling that they might be, then either delete the tweet or create a new professionally-oriented account. It’s definitely recommended to show your personality. If you have a passion for cooking, let it show. Share recipes, post tweets about healthy foods. You are a therapist, but you’re an interesting person first and foremost. Some therapists on twitter have thousands of followers. You can bet that they are doing fairly well for themselves in terms of getting new clients.
Lastly, most therapists have (or should have) a Linkedin profile. Ensure that it shows your qualifications as a therapist in their best light. Don’t delete old jobs or other experience because that information could be interesting to a future client. For example, if you once worked at a non-profit, potential clients who work in non-profits might decide you’re a good fit for them since you understand their career and work dynamic.
Blogging is the single most important inbound marketing tool. Start a simple blog, and commit to posting regularly, whether that means once a week or once a month. Guest blogging on other blogs (ensuring a link back to your online therapist profile or website) is one of the greatest ways to “piggyback” off the success of an existing blog. You get your valuable content out to a wider audience and it links back to you, thus driving more traffic. Blogging is what provides Google with the “fuel” needed to help people find you when they search. The key to blogging success is regular posts. If you can’t do a weekly post, then try a monthly post. But whatever you do, post regularly.
Track your results and overtime you will learn what works and what does not, but it is important to give each new marketing vehicle a true test. For example, websites and directory pages take time to be indexed by search engines. The longer a web page is active, the higher it climbs in the search engine results pages. Social media might be a real traffic driver for you. And, over time, you’ll also be able to tell which topics are the most resonant so you can narrow your focus on what’s working. Stick with it, iterate, and you’ll see results from inbound marketing over time.