By: Sharon LaMothe and Deborah Simmons, PhD, LMFT
The world of marketing can be very confusing, especially when services and people, not products, are being sold. There are a number of components to marketing, including sales, advertising and branding. There are several venues in which to “sell” or promote services. Below you will find a few simple steps to help you conquer any concerns that you may have about marketing your unique mental health services on the Internet and elsewhere.
The very first thing to consider is who you would like to serve. By deciding on your desired clientele, you can focus on what is referred to as “niche marketing.” There are many good general therapists around but you have something special to offer. Own it and promote it. If you have several areas of expertise, you can use the same marketing techniques to reach potential clients as well as professional referral sources.
Along with knowing to whom you are marketing and what your expertise is, you need to know what your message is. Why should people come to you? What makes you special or memorable? Do you have unusual approaches, like EMDR, hypnosis, or special experience, or perhaps years working in a fertility clinic? Remember that your services and your “brand”--you-- make up your business and every business has competition. No one likes the idea of competing for clients but if you want to stay current, fresh, and focused in our new economic environment, you need to market yourself actively and differently then you might have been doing so in the past.
Now let’s look at positioning yourself on the Internet. While working with the Web can be daunting, it is increasingly your biggest and best tool. Not only will your personal web site reach other professionals, you will be connecting directly with actual patients or clients in a very personal way. Providing public access and information about you and your practice is one of the most important moves you can make. Google and websites have become invaluable search tools. They are often now the very first place where you “greet” your potential clients. Although it is great to ask other professionals to hand out your cards and refer clients to you, your website can offer so much more. Think of it as a living biography of who you are and what you do, as well as a form of web-based education and resources. You are offering the hope of solutions to people who need both, in your office and through linkages to other resources. With pages regarding your services, your biography (with a photo), your professional resources, events at which you will be available, books you have written or recommend, and a page regarding a personal statement about your practice and philosophy, a potential client can form enough of a connection to entice him or her to pick up the phone and make an appointment. Clients surveyed have mentioned that they were drawn to the photographs, philosophies, and the help that is offered on websites before they even consider making a phone call.
The Internet also offers an opportunity to ‘blog.’ Having a blog, especially if it is connected with your website, allows professionals, clients, and others to know more about you, how you think, and how you approach life. A news article or your comments on a current event allow people to connect with you on a level that normally wouldn’t be available.
Networking is a huge component to marketing your services. You already are doing that when you attend conferences, visit clinics, and join associations like the MHPG, ASRM, EDSPA, APA, AAMFT, or NASW. Networking in person builds trust with your peers and allows them to comfortably refer clients to you without hesitation. Go and meet fertility clinic nurses, doctors, and office managers. Do the same with OB-Gyn clinics. Clients deeply value personal referrals from people they trust. It certainly helps that you have provided several unique business cards to share with your website, blog and contact information boldly printed on them!
Let’s not forget the social networking sites available to anyone who owns a computer. Millions are using Face Book, LinkedIN, and Twitter to name a very few. There, on your “page,” you can list your biography, photo, website and import your blog. You can be easily accessible to potential clients. Take advantage of the professional groups available which will widen your professional net work. The book Ladies Who Launch and its accompanying website, http://www.ladieswholaunch.com/, is for entrepreneurs and who want to connect with others, whether it is about business or new ideas.
It is time to move past introversion and fear of the unknown and to embrace new ways of spreading your own wisdom to a wider clientele. Remember that marketing ‘services’ is all about marketing your professionalism, your compassion, and your approachability—you! Thing big!