Creating a private practice is an ambitious and brave endeavor, particularly because our training as clinicians more than likely didn’t include any business education. When beginning a practice, new therapists sometimes struggle with how exactly to “market themselves” (read here for my suggestion on rethinking marketing as instead creating relationships, educating and serving the public, and building trust). What strategies work…and what ones don’t? James Joyce wrote that “mistakes are the portal of discovery,” so we opened up a discussion on this topic to see where some of our Facebook community went wrong in the specific aspect of marketing. Here are 4 common marketing mishaps to avoid:
1) Wasting Time and Money on Advertisements
By far, the most common response we heard from those who chimed in had to do with the waste and inefficiency of paid advertisements, particularly Google Adwords and pay-per-click marketing. Unless you’re an expert, navigating the technicalities of these campaigns can be confusing, time-consuming, and expensive. Also, it seems that (at least in the experience of those in our conversation) therapy is not something that individuals seek out through browsing ads, either online or print, and there is simply not a good enough return on investment for you to pay a newspaper or site to promote your services. Not to worry, though; there are much more efficient ways for you to create a thriving practice.
2) Not Having a Functioning, Optimized Website
While paid advertisements are generally not a successful strategy for attracting clients, an informative and frequently updated website is a proven way to build a flourishing practice. Neglecting to have a website or blog that is aesthetically pleasing, well-kept, and optimized toward one’s ideal client can cost you business. A clinician in our Facebook group explained that she made the mistake of promoting her practice before she had even finished putting together her website. You do not want potential clients to come across a 404 Error Page or “Coming Soon!” reading when they view your site, so make sure it is complete! Remember that your website is your storefront and should clearly and confidently declare your message, expertise, and how you can help your clientele.
One therapist recalls how she initially wanted to be as cost-efficient as possible, so she built a website that was free but was not particularly attractive or professional-looking. Fortunately, she was able to recreate her site into something better with the help of a web specialist (unlike paying someone to create and maintain an ad campaign, hiring an expert to help with your site is a valuable investment).
3) Seeing Anyone as a Client
This is something that comes up over and over again. Working with “mismatched clients” doesn’t benefit anyone. While it may be initially tempting to agree to see any individual who inquires about your services, you will be much happier and successful in your work if you first identify your ideal client (and create an “elevator speech” that you can use to communicate who he/she is), then graciously refer out to colleagues those who are a better fit for someone else.
4) Not Seeking Out the Right Mentor or Community of Support
Many therapists responded that they wish they had found a community of like-minded, experienced professionals to help them on their journey. Remember that others have been in your shoes, just starting out in private practice, learning by trial-and-error, and having to navigate new responsibilities and challenges (related to marketing and business), and you don’t have to go it alone!
One clinician described how she did frequently talk with others in the field, but they were negative and discouraging. Finding the right support, individuals who energize, inspire, and educate you, will be critical to your success.
If you’re looking for ways to increase the number of clients you see, check out my Rock the Media School to learn more about attracting individuals through social media.
What marketing mistakes have YOU made?
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