Last week I spoke to group of local therapists on "Marketing Your Private Practice" and a record number of people attended the presentation. Why? Because therapists in private practice feel ill-equipped and uncomfortable with the business aspects of private practice. It's rare that a marketing course is included in a mental health graduate school curriculum, and few internships and practicums offer marketing mentorship. In my graduate program in social work, just the words "private practice" were treated as "bad words," as if making money while helping people was somehow morally wrong.
For some therapists the word marketing brings up feelings of anxiety, even dread. "I am not comfortable with self-promoting," I've heard many therapists say. "I'm not in this for the money so I hate to think that I have to market my services."
Over nearly 10 years in private practice I've learned that marketing isn't as difficult or scary as it sounds. Most therapists already have the relationship skills that make marketing effective. You're already good at building relationships and communicating. You just need to apply your skills differently.
Build relationships of trust
You already know how to market, because marketing is simply building relationships of trust in a different way. Marketing requires reaching outside of your therapy office, and often beyond your comfort zone. Whatever strategy you use: talking to strangers, talking to friends and colleagues, meeting with physicians or schools, or finally getting a website, it's all about building relationships of trust.
Let 2 simple questions guide all of your marketing
- Who is your ideal client? Identifying your ideal client is not just getting clear on the demographic and diagnoses that you like to work with, but also the characteristics, values, and traits that you look for in a client.
- What is your basic practice message? This is a simple message that focuses on one aspect of your work and emphasizes the benefits of your services in layman's terms.
Talk to everyone and anyone about what you do
In graduate school you learned how to communicate, build rapport, and put people at ease. Building relationships of trust isn't just limited to talking with your clients. Effective marketing is simply applying all of the skills you know to a broader group of people. Talk about who you want to work with what you do with strangers in the grocery store, neighbors, extended family members, or online communities, media contacts, or other professionals.
Remember you're promoting your passions, not yourself
Effective marketing isn't about pushing yourself on others, but about letting the things that you're passionate about shine through in every conversation, every blog post, every interview, an every page of your website.
It only takes three
According to private practice guru Lynn Grodski, it only takes a few "practice angels" to have a full practice-three people who will consistently refer your ideal clients to you. You probably already have three referral sources ready to refer to you. All you need to do is warm the connections you already have.
How do you feel about marketing your practice? What works and what doesn't? Share your comments below