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The 5 Steps to Marketing Your Private Therapy Practice

Markos Tsirekas

Markos Tsirekas

Friday, 3rd April 2020

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What is the first thing that springs to mind when you think about marketing? If you are thinking of complicated designs, labyrinthine internet flows, and numbers, think again!

The root of all (good) marketing is structure and clarity.

When building your practice you’ll come up with new ideas, things will change and opportunities will arise. In other words, things will get complicated. Choosing what to do next will not always be an obvious choice.

To handle this effectively you need to be treading on solid strategic foundations.

With that in mind, here are the 5 steps to take before you start marketing your private practice.

5-steps

Define your vision

This might sound like a vague and fluffy word but is crucial to keep firmly in sight. Your vision represents where you want to go. The best way to think about it is to think of the difference you have made in the world when you’ve successfully completed your plan.

And since therapy is all about the change you make in your clients’s lives, this is something that you should be able to answer clearly.

Here are some questions to consider when defining your vision:

  • What will your impact be in your clients’s lives?
  • What is the purpose of your practice?
  • What will the future look like in 5 years if you have accomplished your vision?

This is the textbook information.

And here’s the truth in practice: your vision is not something set in stone. As you grow, your vision will grow in step.

What you want is to start with a vision statement that reflects your values, passions, and beliefs. Your vision statement is the north star that sets your direction and guides you in the absence of hard data or evidence.

It might help you to think of other practitioners you know and ask:

  • “How am I different?”
  • “What is it that I want my service to stand for?”

This will be invaluable later on when you are growing and is important you are clear on from the get-go.

Start by doing this:
Here is a link to a framework to help you structure your vision statement.

Do Your Research

Once you have set a vision you are aligned with, your next step is research. Research your customers and your market.

Researching your customers

Marketing is an investment and so you need to invest wisely. The number one parameter for making your buck go a long way is knowing your customer.

We are humans and therapy may just be the most human profession, so the deeper you understand your customers, the better your return on your investment. And if you understand them well, your marketing needs to reflect that too.

If you have any doubts about the importance of knowing your customers in detail, think about this simple example: you are about to hire an accounting firm to submit your taxes. You have two options:

  1. A reputable accounting firm.
  2. A reputable accounting firm that specializes in working with therapists.

Is there any point in asking who would you choose? Clearly, there is a compelling reason in choosing the second. They understand your needs. And that can go a long way - including how much they charge you.

So, let me ask again: Who are you targeting and how well do you understand them?

To test how well you understand your clients, here is a template of a Persona. Personas are a common way for internet companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook) to conduct qualitative research on their clients. This is part of how I do research too.

Here is an example.

Persona

Knowing your clients means you understand what they do with their time, what they care about and what they like and dislike.

The most important marketing tool you have at your disposal is knowing your customers.

Start by doing this:
I created a template for you to use and fill out your persona. This will help us define your marketing.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/15kg1FZIfaAjyxEkbb9MphZSPoFuIm_LzptR5n7x4pCg/edit?usp=sharing

Researching your market
The other bit of research you need to conduct is market research. What you are looking for here is three things: what does the competition look like, what are the forces that are affecting the market and finally how to position yourself.

What does the competition look like?
For the sake of this example let’s assume that you are an EMDR therapist specializing in trauma seeing clients in London Bridge and online.

This means that your competition is everyone who directly or indirectly can serve your customers. In this case, a therapist in the same location as you treating patients with trauma is a competitor, but so is the NHS or a mental health hospital. An online interactive mental health app should also be considered. Even if you are not providing the same service it may very well be a substitute service in the eyes of potential clients.

Start by doing this:
Keyword research on Google. Start with your location (London Bridge & Online) and area of counselling (Trauma), therapy modality (i.e. EMDR) and search for a combination of the above. Example searches can be “EMDR therapist London Bridge” or “Trauma therapy”.

Looking at the first and second-page results will give you a good idea of your chances for appearing in the result set.

What are the forces shaping the market?
Here you are looking for a version of a “PEST” analysis, the abbreviated form or political, economic, social and technological research.

This is a fancy way of asking yourself: Why are things the way they are today? What forces can change the way things are?

For instance, as I am writing this article online therapy has exploded. This is the direct impact of Covid-19 which has led to political intervention, enforcing a lockdown.

As another example, consider the advent of fibre broadband technology which makes video calling seamless and allows you to have your sessions with clients online. This would be an example of a technological force.

Equally, you should research the contribution of the current legal and social status quo on your market and the provision of therapy. This not only allows you to be informed now but also sets you in an advantageous position should changes arise.

Start by doing this:
Describe the political, economic, social and technological forces that are influencing your market.

How do you position yourself?
Positioning entails everything about how you present yourself in the market. Your narrative, your service list, your tone, your language and what your message is.

For instance, you might find that psychoanalysts prefer to convey a more distanced, authoritative persona on their presence, whereas CBT therapists might be more descriptive about their sessions, transparent with the process and specific with the timeframe of their treatment. This would be part of your messaging.

Or for instance, you might do your research on how to set your counselling fees and discover that in your area you should be increasing your fees. Your price is another part of positioning yourself.

Have the right strategy

Have you ever successfully done something you disliked or didn’t quite want to do? I haven’t.

The good news is that this is your private practice and you get to define everything about it, so before you jump on any marketing strategy for your private practice make sure it is something that appeals to you.

So, before investing in marketing strategy ask yourself:

What are some activities that you like or would like to try? This can include things like:

  • Writing
  • Video
  • Analyzing data & technical information
  • Teaching
  • Designing
  • Social networking

These are just examples but the above can be complete marketing strategies that make your platform grow.

If you like writing or video creation you could consider investing in content marketing which can be a long-term sustainable method of client generation.

Or for instance, you might prefer to have referrals come from directories and other platforms. That is also a legitimate strategy but since you will be paying more money you should invest more time in analyzing how to get more clients from directories and make sure you have a therapy profile that entices visitors to reach out to you.

But above all, make a list of all the types of activities you are interested in doing. A common mistake we see with therapy practices is jumping on a fad or some “expert” advice and investing in activities that are not a good fit for practitioners.

The result? Spend money, invest time in the short term, lose interest and/or the ability to maintain the original investment, and throw the work down the drain.

Here are some common examples you will recognize:

  • Creating fancy and technically complex sites without any interest in learning technical skills.
  • Investing in podcasting/video creation kits only to realize that this is not a medium you can express yourself in comfortably.
  • Subscribing to every directory under the sun without any intention of monitoring your marketing costs and against revenue produced.

The second thing you need to think through is your resource allocation. Your main resources are your time, your money and the mental effort you want to put in.

And since nothing is free you will need to decide how to allocate your time, your mental effort and your money to grow your practice.

For instance, you might want to hire a marketing agency to do everything for you. This might have a low mental and time effort but it will cost you a lot.

Or you might decide you want to invest in learning how to master paid advertising. This will require some money, time and mental effort.

You get the point.

Be honest with yourself: How much time, money and effort do you want to invest? This will be crucial in the next steps when you will be defining your marketing channels.

Start by doing this:
Write how much time, effort and money you are willing to allocate to your marketing.

List all activities that you enjoy doing and those you would like to avoid.

Set SMART goals

Your next step is to set goals. If your vision statement is your north star, your goals are all the checkpoints you need to hit.

Some goals will be short term (e.g. add two clients to my private practice in the next two months) while others will be long term (e.g. publish a book). However, those two are interlinked; what you do today affects what you will want and be able to do tomorrow.

As such, your short term goals need to be aligned with your long term ones.

The key to succeeding in any goal is to make each complex goal as simple and clear as possible.

If our goals are not clear, we don't know if we are moving in the right direction.

Therefore, you have to describe your top-level goal in a specific way.

A simple formula for now is: My goal is to is to <action> <what> by <how much>, by <how> by <when>

e.g. My goal is to increase my private practice by 10 clients via paid advertising by the end of 2020.

The more specific, the better. For instance, see a more specific version of this:

My goal is to add 10 clients who are business owners via social media paid ads by the end of 2020.

My suggested framework for setting personal goals is the S.M.A.R.T method.

Start by doing this:
Write your 3-month S.M.A.R.T goals and your 12-month broad goals.

Choose your marketing channels & tactics

Now you can start your marketing efforts. You are clear on your vision, you have done your research, have set your strategy, and defined your goals.

Time to start defining marketing channels and tactics.

These might be short-term:

  • Directories & therapy platforms
  • Joining a clinic
  • Running paid ads

Or long-term:

  • Build a word-of-mouth brand
  • Getting good at content marketing
  • Generate a following on social media
  • Start a newsletter
  • Build an offline community of people interested in your area of counselling
  • Create a facebook group to support people who your expertise can help (i.e. mothers with post-natal depression)

See a list of 19 potential channels here.

For each channel, define the effort, cost, competition and potential pay-off. Weigh things up carefully.

Tactics may sit within channels, or run across them.

For example:

Targeting smaller, more niche directories sits within the 'directories' channel. Whereas gaining clients from social media, creating a newsletter, and then selling to your subscribers, spans many.

Whatever you choose. Make sure to track your efforts, and make sure your website and profiles are set up to convert people. The first part of this post explains how to think about this.

Successful marketing is iterative process. 10,000 hours don't make an expert, 10,000 iterations do.

Start by doing this:
Create a system for tracking your efforts, reviewing your results, and iterating on your tactics.

So without further ado: time to start!

Reaching out to us

Have a suggestion or a topic you want answers to? Join our group, send us an email with a topic you'd like us to write about or [book a private practice audit](https://calendly.com/mark-tsirekas/1-on-1-practice-consultation to discuss your own challenges with a member of our team about your practice.

For full details on what we offer to support therapists to grow their private practices, head here.


Markos Tsirekas

Markos Tsirekas

Founder & CEO, Timewith.