What Therapists Should Know about Marketing Their Business
When I talk with therapists about the benefits of using business blogging for online promotion I get one of two responses: puzzlement or disbelief. Yet business blogging is one of the best ways to promote your practice online, establishing a relationship with clients even before they meet you and widening your professional reputation. This negative reaction from psychotherapists and counsellors seems to touch all online promotion and yet many therapists are still struggling to fill their diaries.
Why do counselors and psychotherapists often find it so hard to promote their practices?
It’s not just the psychoanalytic community that disapproves of therapists promoting themselves online, there seems to be a faint air of disapproval in the whole therapeutic community of any online promotion, especially blogging and social media. The expectation is that clients will arrive by referral and directories, which is fine. IF it works.
There is a crucial technical divide between the under and over 40s. I reckon that if you had email when you were in your 20s, you are likely to feel relatively comfortable with technology. For younger people in their 30s, social media is as natural as breathing. For the over 40s who didn’t have email at university, computers and social media can be a struggle.
I speak from personal experience; having wrestled with technology to build my practice, I have found ways to reach people I could never have managed to speak to when I started out. As most supervisors, trainers and heads of the governing bodies are over 40, the sense of distrust and disapproval pervades.
Most counselling and psychotherapy training does not teach students how to talk about or promote their work; so it’s no wonder it’s perceived as a bit of a ‘dark art’. This does new therapists, and the community as a whole, a great disservice. In an increasingly narcissistic world, therapy is more valuable than ever, looking beneath the surface and leading people from pain into self-acceptance. But this can only happen if therapists can clearly articulate what it is they do and be found online by the public. It is no surprise then that most therapists lack confidence in promoting their practice, when they haven’t been taught how to do it.
Remember the queer looks I get when talking about blogging? One reason for this is that therapists are unaware of the difference between lifestyle blogging, which is about what you eat, buy or play and business blogging, which is a tool to de-mystify the work, explain to clients how it can help and improve your website’s visibility on search engines.
Business blogging can also improve your reputation amongst your peers, eating disorder expert Harriet Frew reports. “My business blogging got me an article in Psychologies Magazine, something I’d aspired to achieve for ages but wasn’t sure how to make it happen.”
Revealing personal details can of course limit the effectiveness of the therapy and any disclosure required careful consideration. Each therapist will feel out their own level of comfort with disclosure. Karin Sieger, working in private practice in London has written movingly about her thought process around disclosing her experience of cancer. She told me, “Maybe my clients would make assumptions, such as ‘I don’t know how long she’ll be around for’, but actually, that goes for all of us.”
Ask a roomful of therapists if they run a business and how many will put their hand up? Are you a business owner as a therapist? Is there a conflict between selling a service and helping people to be well? Did you make a business plan before you started out in private practice? There is a different attitude to perceiving yourself as a business owner; working out who your market is and where they are and how you’re going to meet them, promotion, planning and profitability and marketing all have to be included in your week. For many therapists, these tasks are seen as optional.
Most therapists are introverts and not naturally comfortable with ‘selling’ their services. The fear is that they will be perceived as too ‘cheesy’ or ‘salesy’ and raising or distorting expectations. Eating disorder expert, Harriet Frew was told by her business coach to “Get over myself and think instead of how your service can help other people!”
It’s not about you, it’s about what your service provides for the public that needs to be communicated!
There is training in marketing and promotion for therapists to suit everyone; online workshops like the ones I offer, live workshops and ongoing support from a business coach and all great ways of acquiring new skills.
It takes time to find your voice. When writing short articles (a.k.a. business blogs) for your website, start small with short, helpful articles that speak directly to your clients issues. Providing valuable information will start the process of building a relationship, says Karin Seiger. “The key is be make it authentic and real, people don’t want to come in and say ‘I didn’t expect you to be like that’. I still have people who say ‘I read this article and had a choice between a few people and that gave me a feel for you’. ”
Business blogging can not only draw clients in, but also educate and inform. Not sure what to write? Think about the questions clients ask in the initial phone call:
- How often should I come to therapy and why?
- How long will it take and why?
- What happens in a session?
- Why am I in pain?
- What do your clients need to feel safe?
A good website
When looking for a therapist online, clients can be faced with drab and generic websites. Once they’ve filtered by location and gender the websites are almost identical, the standard imagery consists of suns rising over a cloudy horizon and explanations of the style of therapy. These websites do the therapists no favours and by speaking to everyone, may be putting off a large number of clients.
Here are the top five essentials for a good website:
- A good, friendly-looking, professional headshot of you
- Lots of white space and a simple design
- Clear contact details visible
- Written in your clients’ language
- Articles that educate and inform
If you think clients would be alarmed by seeing ‘blog’ on your website menu, can call the page ‘articles’ or ‘more help’ perhaps. Writing for other sites, such as welldoing.org, will also get you noticed.
Ideal client profiling
There is much that therapists can learn from ideal client profiling, Sara Macgregor, a psychodynamic therapist in South London told me: “Therapists fear that getting specific about the target audience will put clients off and result in fewer inquiries.”
Of course we all have to find our own niche, for some it works to invite a wide range of different people but for Harriet, a specific narrow audience has been a great success: “Ideal client profiling was really helpful, I attract my ideal clients through blogging, which helped to draw in more people. They’d read my blogs and already started to build a relationship with me.”
There are a number of benefits to modeling your ideal client, it can -
- Show you are clearly different to others in your modality
- Make your clients think “She’s talking to me!” when she sees your website
- Save you time in choosing where to network
- Save you money on advertising
- You won’t have to ‘persuade’ or ‘explain’ so often because more clients will already be educated to find solutions and will be searching for you
- Help you to see which social media platform is most appropriate for your practice
- Help you to write interesting and engaging copy for your website
Kate Codrington’s online courses, which teach therapists how to love promoting themselves, are enrolling until October 16 and therapists with a listing on welldoing.org can receive a 20% discount. To claim your discount on a course at Kate Codrington Online, email kat[email protected] with a link to your welldoing.org listing