I had the pleasure of interviewing Courtney Bancroft, Psy.D, a licensed clinical pychologist in private practice in Manhattan, specializing in insomnia treatment (but providing full-range clinical services as well).

Jennifer: What are some marketing (referral generating) strategies that you have tried, which have not been successful?

Courtney: Mail strategies have not been too successful for me. I created informational cards along with business cards and sent them via mail to many different primary care centers in Manhattan with a personalized note. These were costly, and took a lot of my time, and unfortunately, I’ve not received many referrals from this(and the few I have were inappropriate, as they were for patients wanting to use insurance only.

I feel that the informal nature of mailing is not as useful as creating and establishing a relationship, even if it’s a brief meeting, and so I think in the future I will direct my energies to meeting others in person or visiting sites directly.

Other unsuccessful strategies thus far have been creating a business Twitter and Instagram page. Both of these take up a lot of time and energy and I haven’t seen one direct referral from them. Something I am considering though would be Instagram or Facebook ads, but I think that would be different than having an account that mostly friends and family follow. Additionally, while my blog brings traffic to my website, I’m not positive that I’ve gotten direct referrals that way. I think guest blogging and keeping up with the blog more regularly might help, but again, hasn’t been the most successful and can take up a lot of my time.

Jennifer: What are some marketing strategies that you have tried, which have been successful?

 Courtney: First successful strategy for me was to create a niche. After creating two websites that I wasn’t in love with, discussing and outlining the melting pot of skills/competencies I had acquired in a decade’s worth of schooling, I decided that in a saturated market like NYC, a niche was something that would help me stand out.

Then, while deciding on what specialty to choose, I read a business book that talked about certain steps someone might want to take prior to starting a business, and one point really stuck out to me- it had me list three columns: what did I love doing; what special talents/skills did I have; and what was needed by the demographic?

From there, I was able to make these lists, and one thing kept coming up, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia. It was something that I had been specially trained in (that was not too popular yet, but very effective and would soon become the leading treating for insomnia, even above medication) and while I didn’t know of the amazing growth it would have at the time, I suspected it would be very needed.

Additionally, since so few providers were trained in this (realm), I figured it would be an area of great need. Plus, since it’s so effective and low risk, I figured it would be a great place to start since it would be the first time of me being on my own. Additionally, I loved this treatment! I found the work to be so rewarding and effective for the patients with whom I had used it.

So after CBT-I came up across all three categories, I started brainstorming different slogans, sayings and created a logo.

One that came to me and really stuck was that I would be doing sleep treatment in the city that never sleeps, so I used the phrase, “In the city that never sleeps, become someone who does” and my fun with marketing began there.

I second guessed myself a lot as I created my own website (using Wix) and as I began to employ what some would call out-of-the-box marketing strategies on my business cards as well. I heard the traditional academic voice I had been trained in saying that I should stick to the basic “reeds blowing in the wind” cards or “pile of mindfulness rocks” designs that we so often see therapists using. However, I decided to be bold. I made very sharp looking, eye-catching black business cards with white bold writing and I put different sayings on them.

One says,“BE BETTER IN BED” and then says my name and “insomnia specialist” at the bottom, with my information featured on the back.

The others say things like “YOU LOOK TIRED,” “STOP COUNTING SHEEP” and “TALK TO ME.”

I have gotten too many compliments on my business cards to count and truly find them to be one of the most successful strategies I employ. They help me to reach my target market as far as age, demographic and the type of person who is a bit more out of the box and bold. I find that my patients love them and ask for multiples to hand out. I think they convey my personality as well and give “therapy,” which as we know can have so much stigma, a really light-hearted vibe.

Additionally I made some other printed materials that include more educational information about what the treatment is and how it works/how they can contact me.

My website also is very user friendly, simple and conveys the information, ease of contacting me and design to keep people interested. I used wix to keep costs down and have found it to be great. I designed the site myself www.drcourtneybancroft.com and added a blog (which I don’t always keep up with) but has been fun too.

After creating all these materials, which I received wonderful feedback on, I felt good enough to launch.

I also listed on the very popular Psychology Today and was pleased to see that in all of NY, I was only one of a handful of providers for sleep!

I was ready to go… I launched, and waited….The phone barely rang. What I realized is that while I had done a great and thorough job on the front end, I had not thought so much about how my demographic would be searching for me. I began to take a step back and re-think this portion and it was very helpful.

I began to think about if someone I knew couldn’t sleep and realized that they would likely not think to search for a “talk therapist.” Most people ask an MD (their primary care doc) or go to sleep clinic or see a psychiatrist. Also, most people think that the best, most effective treatment for insomnia is sleep.

My treatment was too new to be searched.  With the help of a few MDs and psychiatrists who I either worked with at previous organizations, contacted via message on Linked in or found through the area, I have been able to re-think my referral system so that it targets these doctors.

I have also worked to provide education around CBT and its benefits. A few New York Times articles helped me in that regard in the past few months as well, and so that has been helpful to bring about awareness about CBT.

Also, those who have been successfully treated are usually so happy that their word-of-mouth referrals have been helpful. When I sit down and meet with another provider, even other therapists and tell them about what I do, this (approach) is also effective as it helps to build relationships and since I have a specialty, I’m not so much competition for other therapists and so they are happy to refer me patients.

Jennifer:  How much time and money do you devote to marketing each month?

Courtney: $30/mo Psychology Today every two to three months, blogging/podcast etc. to put my name out there(can take hours at a time), going to meet with other providers/messaging others on professional sites/groups/listservs to meet/hear what they do (one hour every two to three weeks), $20/mo to keep website up and running (one hour a month to update website) and $200 every few months for more marketing materials.

Jennifer: Are there marketing tips that you can share that are specific to therapists who do not take insurance?

Courtney: Joining an organization such as private pay therapist groups (you can find many on Facebook ) can really help with support/tips about starting a practice that does not take insurance (though be weary, not all of these dealings/discussions are always ethical/ appropriate).

To create a network of other providers with different specialties, I suggest reaching out to them and offering to hear about their specialty, so that you can use them as are referral source. I’’ve found people are more likely to meet/talk this way versus when you try to sell your own specialty/practice. When you do it the first way, people often quickly reciprocate and ask about you. Also helpful is using popular sites, thinking about who your demographic is and where they are looking. This is the number one thing that was helpful for me.

Jennifer: How did you learn how to market your private practice?

Courtney: I learned through the use of business books that I read in my own time/my own innate creative voice. I also spoke with some friends/colleagues who worked in marketing to get opinions every now and then. Ultimately I went with what I felt was right for me and what I felt conveyed my personality while using other as a soundboard.

Also, ( I learned)  through trial and error–making mistakes and re-thinking strategies–when the phone wasn’t ringing.

Jennifer: If you could give advice to someone just starting their private practice in terms of generating referrals what would you say?

Courtney: Think really hard about your strategies: who are your demographics? What are you offering that’s different? Do your materials convey who you are and your values?

I read a great business book called “Start with Why” that talked about utilizing your values to get you long lasting customers instead of selling a how. While I recommend becoming an expert in something (even if it’s in addition to a general practice), you have to truly believe in what you do and tell everyone you know about it.

If you don’t want to take insurance, make sure to be a part of some sort of network. My best referrals come from others.