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(p. 325) The Basics of Marketing Applied to Private Practice 

(p. 325) The Basics of Marketing Applied to Private Practice
Chapter:
(p. 325) The Basics of Marketing Applied to Private Practice
Author(s):

Pauline Wallin

DOI:
10.1093/med:psych/9780190272166.003.0026
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Subscriber: null; date: 20 September 2017

Marketing is not something that gets most clinicians excited. But these days, when people have ready access to a multitude of resources to help them with their problems, effective marketing is essential in order to attract clients. No longer can you rely on the popular mantra, “If you build it, they will come.” In order to be successful, you must not only build the infrastructure of your practice but must also earn trust and respect within your community and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Marketing need not be drudgery. In fact, once you start seeing results, you will likely get more and more comfortable with it. As your practice fills with the types of clients you most enjoy working with, you may even start looking forward to your next marketing campaign.

It is likely that marketing is one of the most misunderstood aspects of running a business. Unlike billing and recordkeeping, there are few rules, aside from following the standards of professional ethics codes, and results are harder to measure precisely. Many clinicians feel uncomfortable promoting themselves, and may question whether it is even ethical to do so.

Misconceptions About Marketing

Until the landmark 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, professionals in private practice (including attorneys, physicians, mental health professionals, and others) were legally prohibited from advertising or marketing their services. After the court ruled that such bans violated free speech, it took several years before professional associations and licensing boards defined guidelines and parameters for marketing. It has taken even longer for mental health professionals to shake the assumption that any type of self-promotion is undignified or crass. This may be due to the fact that business skills have not been taught in most advanced-degree programs in (p. 326) mental health, leaving graduates confused about the ethics, the cost, and the goals of marketing. Misconceptions include the following:

  1. 1. Marketing is unprofessional. FACT: Some types of marketing do come across as pushy or devious, but there are many other options that will enhance your professional image.

  2. 2. Marketing is too self-serving and will turn people off. FACT: If done correctly, marketing does not focus on you, but addresses the needs of people who might need your help. When they read or hear something from you that is relevant to their own lives, they will be more apt to welcome additional information, rather than to be annoyed by your marketing messages.

  3. 3. Marketing is unethical. FACT: None of the ethics codes of psychologists, social workers, counselors, or marriage and family therapists state that marketing is unethical. The ethics codes do speak to issues such as protecting clients’ privacy and not misrepresenting your competence. However, it is quite easy to market yourself within these parameters. Thus, not only is marketing ethical for mental health professionals, but I view it as our ethical duty. The public is already confused about how mental health treatment works and what type of psychotherapist to choose. If you do not market yourself effectively, people may not know about you and may instead turn to unlicensed and untrained self-proclaimed “therapists” who are ineffective—or, even worse, who could cause harm.

  4. 4. Marketing requires a big budget. FACT: You do not have to spend a lot of money to market yourself. There are plenty of free and low-cost options.

  5. 5. Marketing takes too much time. FACT: Marketing does require investment of your time, especially at the beginning of a marketing campaign. Once you get rolling, though, the time required will diminish. Keep in mind that marketing is an ongoing process. Your goals and strategies may change, but to stay ahead of the curve you will need to build marketing activities into your work schedule.

  6. 6. Only extroverts can succeed at marketing. FACT: Some marketing strategies, such as attending networking events, are easier for extroverts. But as a mental health clinician you can focus on public education and selective individual contacts, which are well within the comfort zone of introverts.

So let’s get started!

What Is Marketing?

The American Marketing Association’s website defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” (para. 1). Essentially, this means locating people who are likely to need and want your services and products, finding out what is important to them, and demonstrating to them that you can provide the services they need and want.

(p. 327) Marketing is different from advertising. While advertising focuses on promoting products or services (which will be described briefly toward the end of this chapter), marketing centers on creating and cultivating relationships with potential clients and referral sources, and communicating your value to them. In fact, you may already be marketing and not realize it. Every time you write a follow-up note to a physician who referred a patient, or you give a free talk to a community group, you are cultivating relationships and communicating how you can help people—in other words, marketing.

How to Begin Marketing Your Practice

The first step is defining whom you want to reach through your marketing messages. To begin doing so, answer these three questions:

  1. 1. What types of people do I want to work with, and what sorts of problems can I help them with? This is your target market of potential clients.

  2. 2. Who has access to these people? Who is in a position to recommend me to others? These are your referral sources, another target market.

  3. 3. Where will I find both of the above, in the physical world and online? Knowing where and how potential clients and referral sources spend their time and money will provide parameters for setting efficient marketing strategies.

Here is an example of how to apply the three questions above to your marketing plan. Suppose you enjoy working with couples. Is there a specific demographic or ethnic group that you are effective with (e.g., interfaith couples, late-life marriages, lesbian or gay couples)? What sorts of problems do you want to assist them with? Have you been successful in helping people with addiction, infertility, or other specific issues? Or do you have a special interest in addressing a particular situational problem, such as divorce or serious childhood illness? Having a firm idea of whom you want to help and what you want to help them with will serve as a basis for deciding on marketing tools and strategies that address the needs of your target audiences.

Next, where will you find the types of people that you enjoy working with, both in the community and online? Will you find them at church? At the soccer field? What types of clubs and organizations might attract such people? What keywords might they be typing into search engines when looking for help with their problems?

Who has access to these people and can refer those who need your help? For couples, the logical choice might be other mental health professionals who do not work with couples, as well as clergy, attorneys, and physicians. But also consider support groups such as Parents Without Partners, as well as real estate agents, hairdressers, bartenders, and others who regularly hear complaints about spouses. Referral sources are easy to find. You know where they work and you can find out which associations and organizations they belong to.

(p. 328) Communicate Your Value to your Target Audiences

Your training, your credentials, and your professional license all provide evidence that you are competent to help people with a variety of mental health issues—but this is true for most licensed clinicians. To stand out from your competition, you must communicate that you offer specific value to potential clients and referral sources.

“Value” is a subjective term that implies some benefit to the recipient, and it means different things to different people. What is of value to one person may be of little importance to another. For example, suppose you have experience in working with autistic children. That would be a big plus in attracting families with autistic kids to your practice, but it would not likely be important to college students with test anxiety. However, other aspects of your experience (perhaps having worked in a college counseling center) might be a determining factor in their choosing you to help them.

Once you have identified potential clients and referral sources and where to reach them, think about how you can demonstrate your value to them:

  • Look for opportunities to give talks and presentations on relevant topics of interest.

  • Write articles and tips sheets addressing the types of problems that your target audience typically experiences. Post them online and/or deliver them in person to your referral sources.

  • Tailor the content of your website and of your online social networking to the people you want to help and the problems you want to help with.

What Not to Do

Do not try to appeal to everyone. The wider the audience you try to reach, the more general and diluted your messages will be, such that there will be little to differentiate you from other mental health professionals. On the other hand, if you focus your marketing to specific groups of people, you are more likely to be perceived as an “expert” for those people.

For example, suppose you want to create a fact sheet on coping with stress. If you try to appeal to everyone, your fact sheet will read like a page from a textbook—accurate, but not very inspiring. Suppose further that you enjoy working with autistic children and their families. Therefore, write your fact sheet to include common stresses that such families experience. This fact sheet will appeal specifically to your intended audience, with examples that they can relate to. Additionally, by focusing other marketing activities to this target audience, you will develop a reputation or “branding” as the go-to expert who can help them. Other mental health professionals in town may be equally competent to help families of autistic kids, but your name will probably come to mind first when one of these families needs help.

(p. 329) Marketing Activities

A major goal of marketing is to gain name recognition and to build your brand as a trusted expert. Of course, this takes time, but it will take less time if people hear your name repeatedly, and if they see or hear frequent examples of your expertise. I am not suggesting that you bombard your target audiences with never-ending reminders. Rather, you can use a variety of approaches that are viewed as helpful rather than intrusive. Here are some examples.

Marketing via Public Education

Public education provides useful information to people, often at a time when they are receptive to it or when they are looking for it. Through public education you can demonstrate your expertise without coming across as pushy or as self-promotional. Consider doing some of the following public education activities:

  • Give talks to local community groups.

  • Write articles of interest to your target audience.

  • Create handouts and tips sheets.

  • Get quoted in mainstream TV, radio, and print news.

  • Curate relevant mental health news and other content on social media.

  • Volunteer in organizations that can use your mental health expertise.

While addressing your audience in person, via media, or in your writing, you will be forming a connection with them and solidifying your brand. As they learn more from you, and as they find the learning helpful, they will pay attention to what else you have to offer. At some point they may need your professional help and will then seek you out, or they may recommend you to others.

In other words, when you provide value to the members of your target audience, they will be more inclined to purchase your services, but only when they are ready, not when you want them to be ready. That is why marketing needs to be an ongoing, multifaceted process. You never know when someone will be ready to take action. But when they are, you want your name to be the one they think of first.

Marketing via Your Website

If you do not yet have a website, it is quite simple to set one up within a couple of hours, using website templates. However, if you are not ready to tackle the technical groundwork, hire someone to set up the site for you. From there you can add and change content using the built-in word-processing module.

(p. 330) People may land on your website for various reasons. Some may do an online search of your name on Google after hearing about you from someone else, or after reading something you have written. Others may search online for a psychotherapist in their local area. Still others may type a question into a search engine and find a link to your website within the search results.

When they land on your website, they will not spend more than a few seconds there unless they see something of interest or relevance to them. Your credentials, experience, and treatment approach are important, but that is not the first thing that a potential client would be interested in knowing. Initially, people want to know whether you can help them with their problem, and whether they might like you. Only then would they be interested in where you were trained and in your philosophy of treatment.

Here are hypothetical examples of home page excerpts from two psychotherapists’ websites, paraphrased from a compilation of actual websites. If you were a prospective client, which of the two would make you feel more welcome and curious to know more?

  1. a. Welcome to Dr. Smith’s website. Dr. Smith has been practicing for over 20 years. She specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), neurofeedback, mindfulness and schema therapy. She was trained at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also taught courses in abnormal behavior and biofeedback. Her publications include “A double-blind study of neurofeedback for treatment of trauma recovery” published in the Journal of Adjunct Psychological Methods, and a book, Panic is Uncomfortable, But It Won’t Kill You. Her treatment approach is practical and science-based. Click this link to read more about Dr. Smith.

  2. b. Has it been a while since you felt happy in your relationship? Have you tried communicating without success? People do change over time, but our fundamental needs remain the same. I have helped hundreds of couple re-discover the joy that brought them together in the first place. Most of my clients experience improvement in their communication within eight sessions or fewer. Before you call it quits, consider relationship counseling to get you back on track. Click here to learn more about working with me.

Notice that in the first example above, the entire segment is about the psychotherapist. Dr. Smith certainly has impressive credentials, but by leading with a summary of her qualifications, she misses an opportunity to form a personal connection with visitors to her website. In contrast, the second example draws the visitor in from the beginning by asking a question, and again by giving the person a reason to consider getting help.

When setting up or redesigning your website, think of it as a storefront on a busy street. As people stop to look, what can you have in your window that would encourage them to pause and come in and browse? That will vary, depending on your target audience. However, all websites should be uncluttered, should be easy to read on all screen sizes, and should have clear navigation tabs indicating what is inside. Color is important, as it communicates values and emotions. Images (including your photo) are also important, both to break up blocks of text for easier reading, and because they, too, have emotional appeal.

The content of your website will include your address, phone number, and other details of your practice. But as noted above, it should focus primarily on the needs and interests of the members of your target audience. Once they have decided that you can help them, they next need to decide (p. 331) why they should choose you over another clinician. At this point they may be interested in your credentials and where you trained. They may also be interested in your exact location, your fees, whether you accept their insurance, whether you have evening appointments, and other details. This type of information need not be on the first page, but it should be quickly accessible via the navigation tabs.

If you do have something unique to offer, this should go on the first page—for example, Sunday office hours, free babysitting, free parking, home visits, free initial consultation, or fluency in a foreign language. Depending on the needs and preferences of your web visitors who are ready to get help, they may make the decision to work with you based on one or more such conveniences.

Marketing via a Blog

While the content of your website does not change very often, a blog (truncated from the term “web log”) is a series of articles and postings in chronological order, with the most recent at the top. Blog posts are a great way to be found via search engines. Every post—even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs—is considered a separate page in Google’s index, and gets its own line in search results. If you write one blog post per week, after 20 weeks you will have 20 separate hits on your name in Google search results just from your blog posts alone. If others quote your post on their blogs, you will see additional hits in the search results.

Needless to say, I urge every clinician to have a blog—even if you do not have a website—because blogging can help you quickly establish an authoritative online presence. It is easy to set up a blog for free at blogger.com (owned by Google) or at wordpress.com. Sign up for an account; choose your blog title; select your template; start typing; save and publish. Your blog post will show up on the search engines within seconds.

If you already have a website that was built or updated in the last five years, you can probably add a blog to your site with a few clicks. Check with your web host or web designer for how to do so.

Once your blog is set up, post regularly on the topic(s) that you want to be known for. Not only will this help boost your search engine rankings, but also when people visit your blog they will see a recent date and relevant content in your last post—which communicates an active online presence on your part. In addition, encourage interaction from visitors by inviting them to post comments. Make sure you set the comments to be moderated and approved by you, so as to prevent postings by spammers. Do respond to comments when appropriate, but avoid giving specific clinical advice. In fact, it would be advisable to have a disclaimer on your blog (and on other writing for the public) that the content is for educational purposes only, and not intended as professional advice.

Marketing via Social Media

According to Pew Research (n.d.), a 2015 study found that social media engagement among the public has continued to grow over the past four years, with Facebook showing the least growth (perhaps because it had already experienced its growth spurts and had stabilized). The majority (p. 332) of people who are active on social media use their mobile devices, which makes it easy for them to check their accounts frequently. Thus, you have the opportunity to be on their radar at various times during the day. By posting links to high-quality information and by engaging in social media discussions, you can become recognized as a trusted source in your field.

There are hundreds of social media platforms. However, for marketing purposes you just need to be active on those that are most popular among your target audiences.

LinkedIn is useful for connecting with other professionals and with the business community. Fill out your profile as completely as possible so that you can be found by someone who is searching for a professional with your credentials, experience, or interests. Next, explore some groups to join. At the time of this writing, groups are accessed via the “Interests” tab at the LinkedIn website. To get the most out of LinkedIn, participate in group discussions so that your name becomes familiar.

Twitter (n.d.) has 320 million active users. It is most popular among people under age 50, but it is also widely used by journalists, who may look for story leads and/or post links to what they have written. As with LinkedIn and other social media accounts, you should include lots of detail in your Twitter account profile so that people can learn more about you.

For marketing purposes, use Twitter to post links to interesting content online, especially content that reflects the areas for which you want to be known. Thus, for example, if you want to develop a reputation as an expert on relationships, you would post links to press releases or news articles describing current research on the topic. You might also post links to noteworthy blog posts or other online resources that can help people in their relationships. In addition to posting tweets yourself, follow other experts and journalists, and re-tweet their postings. Since some of these influential people have opted to receive notifications when their tweets are re-tweeted, they may start paying attention to your tweets and follow you on Twitter.

Pinterest, a visual bookmarking site, is used primarily by millennial females. If that is one of your target audiences, then you should consider developing a presence there. Compared to Instagram, which is strictly photos, Pinterest “pins” do connect with your website.

YouTube is a versatile marketing tool. You can create a video greeting and embed it on your website. You can also make short videos to share tips or to do a demonstration such as deep breathing. For more ideas, check out the videos of other mental health clinicians at youtube.com.

Blogtalkradio is great for creating audio, either by yourself or by interviewing another expert. It works via telephone, and you can invite your audience to call in as they would to a radio talk show. The call is recorded, and after you are done it is automatically stored in your account for on-demand listening. It is also indexed by Google.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned Facebook as a marketing tool. Facebook is used by some clinicians as a substitute for a website. It is easy to use and there are no hosting fees or other costs. You can circumvent potential ethics issues, such as friend requests from clients, by setting up a Facebook business page, which allows only “likes,” not friend requests, and which does not give access to your private Facebook profile account. However, you have to abide by Facebook’s rules and you have no control over the way your content is presented. Furthermore, Facebook has sometimes arbitrarily and abruptly shut down people’s pages without notice. There is an appeal process, but in the meantime, the page is offline for days or weeks.

(p. 333) One of the benefits of social media marketing is that individual readers and visitors have the option to forward your messages or links to their social networks, thus extending your reach exponentially. They will be more likely to do so if your content is relevant, novel, and interesting to them. An analysis by Dan Zarrella (2013) of millions of tweets and re-tweets found that the most frequently re-tweeted word was “you.” He also found that writing about oneself correlated with lower follower counts and fewer re-tweets. Zarrella emphasizes: “The bio is the only place you should be talking about yourself.”

Marketing Offline

While marketing online gives you wide exposure to an international audience, it is unlikely that anyone will make an appointment with you based on your Twitter feed. Your best sources of referrals are current and past clients, and other professionals and business owners in your community. If clients are pleased with your service (not just the professional aspect, but also customer service details like a clean, comfortable office and prompt attention to administrative requests) they are likely to recommend you to others. It may take a while to build a clientele through word-of-mouth referrals, as people are not always ready to take the big step at the time they hear about you. Some may wait months or years. One of my clients contacted me almost 20 years after she had heard me speak at a community event.

Other professionals who work with the types of people that you want to help are great referral sources. However, many of them may already have trusted clinicians to whom they refer clients. Thus, it might be better to focus first on those who are new to practice or new to the community, because they are less likely to have established referral patterns. As you build relationships with these referral sources, consider making them referral partners to whom you will refer your clients.

When marketing to potential referral partners, you need to do more than simply send a letter or drop off a stack of business cards. As with any marketing activity, the relationship is key. Look for opportunities to get personal introductions from mutual acquaintances. Ask for a five-minute appointment to visit them at their office. When you do meet them face to face, show interest in them before describing what you do. When describing your practice, emphasize how you can be of help to their clients, patients, students, or other people they serve.

Stay in touch with referral sources. Send them articles they might be interested in reading. If they are mentioned favorably in the local news, send them an email or a card acknowledging the mention. For clients who are referred to you by another professional, get their permission to coordinate care (when appropriate) with the referral source. When you have a client to refer out, ask the person’s permission to briefly discuss his or her case with the other professional.

Show Up!

Actor and film director Woody Allen once said that 80% of success in life is showing up. To become better known in your community, be visible. Get involved in nonprofessional activities, such as at your house of worship, with your kids’ school or sports teams, with service clubs such as Kiwanis or Rotary, or in tennis or golf leagues. Serve on community boards and volunteer for organizations (p. 334) that can use your expertise. Such activities are less intimidating than attending networking cocktail hours, and they are more productive, too. Through repeated contact with the same groups of people you will develop an informal network of friends and acquaintances, each one a potential client or referral source.

Marketing via Presentations and News Media Commentary

Giving talks to community groups and to professional groups provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise. If your presentations are interesting and helpful to your audiences, a few of those people will likely contact you for an appointment, or recommend you to someone they know.

Speaking opportunities are plentiful. Service clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary meet weekly, and they are always looking for speakers. Local organizations, such as support groups, bar associations, hospital staff, and other professional groups, also welcome speakers on topics of interest to their members. Meetup groups, organized through social media apps such as meetup.com, are becoming more popular. Most meetup groups are informal and focus on a specific hobby or activity—biking, cooking, pets, retirement, ethnic culture, and the like. Not all schedule speakers on a regular basis, but if you can address a common problem or challenge faced by their members, they may be open to having you come to do a brief presentation.

Whenever you give a talk, distribute a handout summarizing your key points. On the handout include your contact information, your website, and/or your Twitter handle. Some people will keep your handout (maybe even post it on the fridge), and perhaps contact you in the future or recommend you to others.

You probably will not get paid for your presentations, and your audiences may not be large. However, each person has made time to come to hear you speak, and each person is a potential client or referral source. Furthermore, the fact that you are being hosted by a given organization is an implied endorsement of your expertise—something that will enhance your overall professional credibility and reputation.

To boost your authoritative status even more, look for opportunities to be interviewed or quoted by news media. When you appear on TV or radio, or when you are quoted in newspapers or magazines, these are tantamount to being endorsed by the media as a knowledgeable expert.

Reporters routinely interview professionals who can provide helpful information related to current topics of general interest. For example, if a pedophile was recently arrested in your community, it is quite likely that many parents are concerned for the safety of their own children. This would be an ideal time to contact the news director at your local TV or radio station and offer to give a few tips to parents on how to help keep their kids safe, without overreacting in panic. If interested, the news station will send a reporter to your office to record an interview with you. If you do a good job, you will be called frequently to offer commentary on mental health issues, which will enhance your professional status in the community.

(p. 335) Using Business Cards for Marketing

Given the ease of finding information online, people no longer need your business card for your contact information. However, business cards have other uses. For example, on the back of your card you can write a bit of information that you would like to share with someone, such as your private cellphone number. The person receiving this information will be more likely to keep your card, and to be reminded of you when looking at the information on the back.

You can have different business cards for different purposes. Besides your contact information, include a few words that describe your expertise vis-à-vis the interests of the recipient. Thus, a card you give to cardiologists might say “stress management.” A card you give to divorce attorneys might say “psychological evaluations for child custody.” A card you give to the program chair of a professional organization might list the topics you can speak about in a keynote address. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure that you are professionally qualified for any specialty that you list on a business card.

To encourage word-of-mouth referrals from current clients, place a stack of business cards in your waiting room, with a sign next to them that says, “Take one.” Those two words will increase the likelihood that people will take a card—and maybe pass it on to a friend or family member.

What About Advertising?

While marketing focuses on growing your reputation and on building relationships with potential clients and referral partners, advertising is a direct offer of service. Years ago, it was expensive to advertise. A small ad in the Yellow Pages could lock you in to paying hundreds of dollars per month for an entire year. TV and radio advertising was way beyond the budget of most mental health professionals. Now you have many free and low-cost options to advertise your practice, most of them online, where people generally go for new information these days.

First, sign up for a free account at “Google My Business,” which adds you to the Google map that appears at the top of local search results. For example, if you are a marriage counselor in Cleveland, and someone in Cleveland runs a Google search for “marriage counselor,” your office address will be included as one of the virtual pushpins on the map. You do not need to have a website to be included in Google My Business, but if you do have a website, your listing can link to it.

Psychotherapist directories, including PsychologyToday.com and GoodTherapy.org, charge a monthly fee, which can be offset by income you receive from clients who found you through your directory listing. These sites also have good search engine optimization, such that people who do not know about psychotherapist directories will still be able to find you through a Google search. If their keywords match what you are offering, their search results will include links to your listing at PsychologyToday or at GoodTherapy.

The number of referrals you will get from psychotherapist directory listings depends on many factors, including the description in your profile and whether it appeals to people who need your (p. 336) services. As described earlier in the section on websites, write directly to the person who is reading the description of your practice.

Offline Advertising

Offline advertising can be a good investment if your ad is likely to be seen by the people you want to reach. For example, if your target audience includes teens and their families, you might place an ad in the school musical program brochure. Parents tend to read these from cover to cover and to take them home. If and when they need mental health help, they may recall that they saw your ad, and then contact you.

The Yellow Pages phone books are still around, but unless you have a large number of clients who found you this way (you can find out by asking them), I do not recommend advertising in the Yellow Pages. Not only do you have to commit yourself to a full year of monthly payments, but you are also stuck with the ad for the full year; you cannot change it.

Refine Your Marketing and Advertising for Better Results

The success of your outreach is not always immediately evident. It is quite common, for instance, to see a delay between talking to a family physician about how you can help her patients and booking a client referred by her. Over a period of time, however, if you ask new clients how they found you, you will see patterns emerging.

Use a spreadsheet to track how clients heard about you, as well as how much income you received from each. After a year or so you will probably notice that some sources yield more referrals and/or greater income than others. This will help inform your decision about where to focus your marketing efforts going forward.

For example, assume that 25% of your clients were referred by Dr. Smith, but most of them were covered by the insurance plan that pays you the least. Would you want more referrals from Dr. Smith? Or might it be a better use of your marketing efforts to focus more on Dr. Jones, who sent you only 5% of your clients, but they all paid your full fee out of pocket?

Similarly, if you received many inquiries from your PsychologyToday listing but very few actual clients, you will then need to decide whether it pays to continue with this directory. At the very least, if you have recouped the annual cost (about $360), then you might decide to leave the listing in place for the time being. But check your stats periodically and be ready to change the content of your listing or discontinue it altogether if it costs more than you earn from it.

For the individual professionals who send you many referrals, it’s a nice gesture (not to mention a powerful reinforcer) to show your appreciation by bringing in lunch for their staff or sending boxes of treats. Many mental health professionals do this around the holidays, but it is appropriate at any time. In fact, your treats may have greater impact in the middle of the year, when they are not overshadowed by other people’s holiday gifts.

(p. 337) Find What Works and Keep Doing It

You need not do all the above marketing activities. Start with one or two that you feel most comfortable with and that address the needs of your target audiences. If you get a positive response, continue.

If you get no response after a few weeks or months, this may mean your target audiences are not noticing, or that your message is not resonating with them. The most common error made by mental health professionals in their writing and speaking is being too complex. It may help to narrow the scope of your messages and to simplify the language.

As with any new endeavor, marketing has a learning curve. Assume that your first efforts will be your worst, so do not aim for perfection. Marketing is an ongoing process that will change and evolve, depending on your goals and on the opportunities available to you. The more experience you get with marketing, the easier it will be to determine the strategies that work best for you.

Final Words

Marketing encompasses skills that you already have—writing, speaking, being helpful, and understanding other people’s perspectives. Your greatest challenge may be not so much in knowing what to do, nor in how to do it, but rather in overcoming the resistance of procrastination.

The longer you put off getting started, the more daunting a task seems. Fortunately, as you have experienced countless times, once you do take action, your anxiety usually dissipates quickly, and you feel newly empowered.

Ethical marketing has few downsides and many upsides—building a reputation and brand, making new friends and contacts, and finding new opportunities, to name a few. In the current competitive environment, such advantages are essential to business success.

Think of marketing as an investment in your business and in your career, where you invest on a regular basis through some of the marketing activities described in this chapter. You won’t see results right away, but over time, consistent, targeted marketing will help you build a solid practice, filled with the types of clients you most enjoy working with.

References

American Marketing Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.ama.org/AboutAMA/Pages/Definition-of-Marketing.aspx

Pew Research. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/

Twitter. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://about.twitter.com/company

Zarrella, D. (2013) The science of marketing: When to tweet, what to post, how to blog, and other proven strategies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Find this resource: