Success at private practice marketing does not stem from marketing genius. But nor does it stem from hopeful stabs in the dark.
There are a set of principles which underpin all good online marketing and which are relatively easy for counsellors and pychotherapists to grasp if they're willing to invest the mental energy.
This article lays out some of these essentials as well as explains how to apply them to your practice.
You will have heard this many times over, in many different forms -'Find your niche', 'find your ideal customer' - but it is worth repeating as it is extremely important.
The crucial thing is not simply to have a target customer in mind, but rather that your marketing strategy, marketing channels, directory profiles and personal website should all be aligned around this target customer. Without such cohesion, you are unlikely to get traction.
For example, if your target customer is LGBTQ clients, you want to choose the right directories (such as Pink Therapy), consider getting featured in LGBTQ media, and put content on your website that is relevant for an LGBTQ reader. If you do the first two, but make no mention of the fact that you work with LGBTQ clients on your website, you are leaving chips on the table - in fact, your entire marketing strategy might even break down.
Your target customer should be a product of the following variables:
You want to identify who you are best placed to deliver great care to, and who you are realistically able to attract given the above circumstances.
As such, you should think about your target customer as being dynamic and transitive (at least in degree). When circumstances change - a new clinic might open up nearby, you might decide to transition to online therapy - you should reconsider your target customer.
A reminder about why this is important
We mentioned above that this is important. It is. The reality is that every therapist benefits from nicheing in some way.
Here's an example to illustrate this:
Consider two therapists. Both trained with the NCS and work with a similar range of issues. One is a counsellor who works online, the other is a counsellor with a practice in Blackburn.
The counsellor practicing out of Blackburn is at a natural advantage because right out the gate she becomes a viable option for people living in the city. Given the logistical realities of therapy, people already have a good reason to choose her. She obviously has an advantage over therapists based in Derby, for example.
The reality is that all therapists who practice face-to-face occupy a niche by definition - even if they didn't do this consciously after taking a marketing course.
On the other hand, the online therapist's competition is the entire English-speaking world. People have no specific reason to find them, or to book them if they did.
Indeed, this is why this principle is particularly important for online therapists. In order to stand out the online therapist needs to find an angle to become relevant to customers.
The other virtue of having a clear target customer in mind is that it helps you present information to prospective customers in the correct way. Given the many options they have - not just with other therapists, but other methods of managing their mental health - and their likely hesitations around therapy, it is important that prospective customers understand how you, specifically you, can help them. They also need to understand how you propose to do this. The reality is that if you try and craft a compelling case for everyone, you craft a compelling case for no one.
A marketing funnel is the concept that there are multiple stages in a prospective client's journey to booking you. At each stage, progressively more prospects become filtered out until you are left with those who start therapy.
As your marketing gets more advanced your funnels may develop in complexity, but when starting you only need concern yourself with a two-step funnel:
This distinction is important because it has implications about where you focus your efforts. Many therapists only focus on traffic when trying to grow their client base and consequently squander their time and money - if 1 in every 1000 visitors to your site are becoming clients, investing more in directories or content marketing is futile!
Having an online presence that is set up to convert - i.e. reliably turn visitors into customers - is a non-negotiable step.
Ways to improve your conversion rate
Naturally this will take a bit of time; you will gradually find a groove and get better at articulating yourself and positioning your services. Still, there are some standard tactics you can use:
Conversion can actually be split into two steps. The first being the percentage who find you online that send enquiries, the second being the percentage of enquiries which become bookings. Lots of clients are lost and time is wasted due to scheduling back-and-forths, often with clients who have incompatible schedules anyway.
By putting your live availablity on your site and accepting bookings directly from clients, you can remove almost all of this. Asking for a credit card on your site also removes the scope for people who aren't serious about paying for therapy.
We designed Timewith's booking form with this in mind.
Your whole marketing operation should be underpinned by tracking the right metrics and having analytics in place. If you don't know what is happening and what is or isn't working, then everything you do truly is a stab in the dark. There is a reason why people say 'data is the new oil'.
Without analytics you won't know if you're struggling for clients because no one is finding your website online or clicking on your Facebook posts, or whether it's because you have a dire conversion rate.
Analytics give you direction. They also help motivate you.
Motivation comes from positive feedback mechanisms. With marketing this means getting results, even if they are small wins. With no analytics your only way of telling whether things are working is if you notice an uptick in the number of enquiries. But with tracking in place, you can understand whether something has potential earlier in the process.
For example, if your analytics tell you that lots of people are coming from Facebook to your blog after you post, you've learnt that you may have found a reliable source of traffic.
What to track
Here are some foundational things you should be tracking:
With the exception of customer characteristics, all of the above should be tracked on a monthly basis so you can see how your performance is changing - and hopefully improving - over time.
Distinction between tracking and analytics
We've used both these terms above, but it's important to explain what the difference is when we talk about them.
Analytics refers to the use of tools like Google Analytics, our booking form, any dashboards provided by directories, or data provided by your webhosting service.
When we speak of tracking, on the other hand, we mean the manual effort of capturing numbers in a spreadsheet. You need to have analytics in place to capture some of these numbers, but others (like CLV) need to be calculated manually.
With a customer in mind, an appreciation of your marketing funnel, and an idea of where things are and aren't working, you have solid foundations upon which to move forward.
Remember that online marketing is a question of iteration. You don't need to overwhelm yourself and spend hours doing analytics or brainstorming about your target customer.
The idea is that you get into good habits around the above and then seek incremental improvements, dedicating a small amount of time on a regular basis to improving things.
Remember Pareto's Law
A final principle we'd like to share is Pareto's 80/20 principle. This stipulates that 80% of the results tend to come from 20% of the efforts. 80% of your traffic will come from 20% of your channels. 80% of your customers will share an essential 20% of the characteristics (i.e. commute on a certain train line).
What this means in practice is that you should be seeking out the things that do work and then doubling down on them. Focus wins.
Other than directories where it pays to hedge your bets (though the Pareto principle will still apply within this context!), all other channels will only bring you results after concerted, focused effort. It is better to focus on one - and do it properly - than to try everything. Once you've seen that something isn't working, you can then move on.
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.