Learning about marketing your private practice and actually doing it are very different things. I recently interviewed several successful private practice therapists about marketing strategies that have worked for them in the "real world".
My goal is to inspire you to effectively market your practice. You don't have to do all of these to build a successful practice. Just start with one that speaks to you and build from there.
1) Public Speaking
Public speaking not only educates your community, but also raises visibility and attracts clients to your private practice. "I did a lot of public speaking in neighborhood institutions - schools, churches, synagogues, hospitals to get my name recognized," says Dr. Roberta Temes of New York City. Parenting After Loss founder Amy Luster, M.A., LMFT also offers community presentations on on her specialty areas: infertility, high-risk pregnancy, and miscarriage patients as well as to the health-care providers that treat them as part of her marketing strategy. Presentations on hypnotherapy have proven tan effective marketing tool for Dr. Mary Sidhwani. "The community learns more about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy and also creates exposure for my practice and services," Sidhwani says.
2) Dynamic Website
Emma K. Viglucci, CFT, LMFT, CIT launched her practice website before most therapists had even considered it. "Marketing my website online has been the most effective marketing tool for me." Private practitioner Esther Kane, MSW of British Columbia agrees. An effective website has been the best way to market her practice and says it's an added benefit to be married to a website designer.
3) Say "Yes" to Social Media
While some therapists are hesitant about using the social media to market their practice (and I'm not one of them), others are finding it to be an effective marketing tool. Viglucci says, "I've embraced this new aspect of online marketing at the beginning of this year, and was able to reduce my marketing budget by a 1/3 within 3 months." I echo her enthusiasm for using social media to build your practice. Facebook is the #2 traffic source to my private practice website Wasatch Family Therapy.
4) Connect With Other Professionals
Professional networking is crucial for success in private practice, especially if you have a specific treatment niche. In addition to public speaking, Luster focuses her marketing efforts on building strong professional referral relationships with health care and childbirth providers, and parenting educators who work with her ideal clients.
Shannon Purtell, an anger management specialist finds that that getting involved in local professional organizations helps build her practice.
I found one of the best marketing strategies was to get involved with a local chapter of EAPA (Employee Assistance Professionals Association). I served on the board for 2 years as secretary and 2 years as president. These positions put me in regular contact with other mental health professionals, representatives from local and national EAP's, and marketing representatives from a variety of treatment centers. I was able to build professional relationships that have provided me with a steady referral base for years.
5) Everyday Life Networking
Networking as a marketing strategy need not be confined to other professionals. Therapist Diane Spear LCSW-R markets her New York City private practice by thinking about networking in everyday life.
The biggest thing has been learning to network in everyday life--there are millions of opportunities to mention what I do and that I'm expanding my practice, and educating friends and non-therapist professionals about how to refer their friend, colleague, or patient to me.
6) Word of Mouth
Sometimes just being an effective therapists has its own marketing benefits. There's nothing like the power of a strong recommendation from a friend or family member. Clients want to go to a therapist whom they can trust and they're more than willing to borrow that trust from someone else. "The best marketing strategy is word of mouth," says Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore. "Colleagues, pediatricians, and former clients who know me and know my work are my best referral sources!" Dr. John Duffy echoes the importance of word-of-mouth marketing. "Over the past several years now, the vast majority of my clients come from client and former client referrals."
7) Expert Media Appearances
Texas therapist Shannon Putrell, LPC recently had an amazing national TV appearance and additional visibility and credibility to her private practice.
I was contacted by a client that was participating in a reality program on MTV called True Life: I Need Anger Management. I worked with her and was featured in this episode of the series. The exposure that the program brought me helped to solidify my reputation in this niche, and increased my referrals to my program.
Regular local news, radio, and television appearances continue to help build my practice and provide a platform to educated thousands and thousands of people in one shot. As my clinic has grown, I've also trained therapists in how to pitch to the media. Watch some of our recent TV interviews here.
(Read more about building your practice through TV interviews)
8) Write For Papers & Websites
Writing for local papers, websites, or blogs is a great way to familiarize your community with you and your specialty areas. Dr. Mary Sidhwani found that contributing articles to a small local paper increased her exposure and familiarized the community with her practice.
For a couple of years, I wrote for a local magazine, Wasatch Woman, who's readership closely matched my ideal client. Not only did it help get the word out about my practice, it added to my credibility and drew clients to my practice.
What marketing strategies have worked in your "real world" experiences? Please share your ideas below.