Jennifer: How should someone starting out in practice begin to organize their marketing efforts? i.e. do you recommend a marketing plan, if so what books/resources do you recommend in creating one?

Allison: What I recommend is knowing the marketing options first, writing them all down, then taking a look at the few that are the most natural fit with your personality and what you want for your practice. I think that’s what’s missing in the practice marketing space is an emphasis on what the individual clinician is naturally more adept at. There is no one size fits all.

So many people will create a list of all the top marketing strategies and feel like they have to do all of them or they get shiny object syndrome and want to try Facebook ads now because someone in a Facebook group was having luck with them. It dilutes their marketing efforts if they to do too much. The more we try to squeeze into our limited time and energy, the less impactful and more rushed the effort.

I didn’t feel like there was a book or resource out there to help people in the way that I’ve learned they need it. There are great books like Casey Truffo’s “Be A Wealthy Therapist,” which lays out options and how to’s but there’s no opportunity for deeper conversation or questions. It’s not the “how” that stops people; we’re a fairly resourced group who are good at learning new things. It’s the “I can’t’s” and the bad “what if’s.”

There are a lot of great private practice consultants out there but consultation is super-expensive and not everyone starting out can make that kind of investment. So they turn to books for the knowledge and muddle through the other stuff.

I actually spent six months this year creating my Marketing Fundamentals eCourse, sussing through what personality traits make certain strategies better fits, best practices for each strategy. Next looking at the common blocks for each strategy I’ve seen having worked with over 1,000 therapists building their practices. Plus, there’s resources and action planning. It’s robust. Because it’s a part of my membership site, there’s also a community aspect and I’m available to answer questions if someone’s up against something. And it’s inexpensive because I really want the people who are barely scraping by to get what they need to have the practice they want.

Jennifer: For someone just launching their private practice, where would you recommend they start when it comes to marketing? As it can often feel very overwhelming for people to know where to begin.

Allison: A fantastic website and networking are the two best starting points. They’re the only non-negotiables in marketing in my opinion.

By fantastic website, I don’t mean you need a custom built $4,000 website, though those often are great. You can get great images and write great website copy (the words on your site) and pop that puppy up on square space and be good to go.

Networking isn’t the slimy business-y thing some folks think, either. It’s what you’re naturally good at: building 1:1 relationships. Listening. Being present to another person. Asking good questions.

Jennifer: Should people focus more on online or community marketing,or is it best to have a balance?

Allison: The website + networking thing allows you to dip your toes in each pond. Outside of that, I think it’s fine to skew slightly to one side. My natural talents are NOT in tech. In building my private practices in the three states I’ve had them, I’ve relied heavily on offline strategies but always had the kind of website that made my ideal clients want to call me as soon as they were ready to do the work. Because of my consulting business, I end up doing a lot of techy things but I’ve also built up to this over years. I’ve also had too many fantasies about snapping my computer in half.

Jennifer: When it comes to networking are there any common mistakes people make when it comes to their networking efforts? How can people network more effectively in terms of actually generating referrals?

Allison: Don’t sell yourself! Create an actual relationship with someone and don’t treat the other person like they’re a business transaction. You don’t have to be BFF’s but getting to know the person you’re having coffee with is truly more of the point than pitching your business.

Be strategic in who you network with, especially if you’re low on time or social energy. Make sure it’s people who have contact with the client population you want to work with.

Also, if you’re an introvert or just really hate big networking events, don’t bother with them. Standing in the corner looking at your phone, or wishing you were, isn’t going to make a great impression anyway. The only exception is if there’s a truly aligned event that you want to go to, like if your ideal client is working on trauma from a sexual assault and your local sexual assault center is holding an event. But only if you want to go. Feel free to bring a more outgoing friend to make it easier, as long as you don’t hide behind them.

Jennifer: What are some things that you’ve tried or you commonly see people trying in terms of marketing strategies for a private pay practice that arena that are very effective or don’t have a great ROI?

Allison: I see print advertising, like in local newspapers and magazines, as effective only in smaller towns. And if you choose to do that, don’t DIY your ad. Have a graphic designer do it. The ad space itself is expensive. Don’t waste your opportunity with something janky.

Also, networking with community mental health or agencies that rely heavily on Medicaid populations may not be a great fit if you’re needing clients that can pay a good bit for therapy. We also sometimes need to train referral coordinators at doctors offices how to refer to private pay therapists since they’re so used to the insurance world.

Jennifer: What are some specific strategies that you’ve found to be effective for people in marketing their private pay practices?

Allison: There’s no escaping the power of a niche. The niche drives all your marketing efforts and makes it so much easier to know where and how to market. It’s especially important for private pay.

Jennifer: Are there any unique or special considerations when it comes to marketing a private pay practice (vs. an insurance based practice)?

Allison: The marketing is the same but there must be much more intentionality with marketing a private pay practice. Positioning yourself as a go-to in your niche is vital, whether you’re doing that online or offline. Consider it from the potential client’s perspective: if they’re given three referrals, why should they choose you over the person that takes their insurance and the person whose website is talking exclusively to their specific problem?

Where can people go to learn more about you?

Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group, and join Allison in the Abundance Party where you’ll find courses (including Marketing Fundamentals), trainings, and community. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.