As a practice-building coach for the last seven years, I've met a lot of therapists who are working hard to implement marketing strategies that just don't work in today's therapy environment, although they worked well in the past. So what's changed?
One word: the Internet.
From grade-school students to my 80-year-old dad, everyone is searching the web these days. It's estimated that there are 500 million Google searches every day. More and more consumers are using the Internet to find products, services, and service providers. They're searching the web for counselors too. Yahoo gets about 150,000 search requests each month for marriage counseling. I predict that, in the coming decade, online searches will be the primary way therapists attract clients.
As therapists, we're comfortable in face-to-face interactions, and we've spent a lot of time mastering therapeutic theories and techniques. But our anxiety rises when we think of plunging into the world of electronic interactions. The idea is especially daunting for seasoned therapists, who've never had to market their practice before. But marketing yourself online can also be an enjoyable experience.
Here are three things you need to know in order to get started:
- Establish a "web presence"---a way for people to find you on the Internet
- Help web browsers get to know you and their practice
- Make it easy for browsers to become clients
Establishing a Web Presence
How do you create a web presence? Here are a few possibilities.
Develop a website. The most obvious and common way to create a web presence is through a website. A website doesn't need to be a complicated, multipage entity, with fancy graphics, photos, articles, links, and whatnot. It can be a simple, one- or two-page affair, and still be effective. Constructing a site can be easy. Some web-hosting companies, such as LunarPages.com, offer templates that let you to fill in the blanks, click some buttons, and create a website. If even that seems too daunting, computer gurus and graphic designers can help.
The availability of vast amounts of information about products and services on the web has spoiled consumers. As a result, even a prospective client who's received a referral will no doubt want to do a personal web check of the clinician before calling for an appointment. So put yourself in your ideal client's shoes and figure out what that person would want to see. What clients really want to know is whether you'll understand what they're going through. Make sure this comes through in your website text. Open your website with headlines that speak to the client's worry: "Parenting a teen can be a very tough job." Or "Tired of having the same old fight with your mate?" Or maybe "There's been an affair. Now what?" Then in the next paragraphs, speak more about the problem."
Once you have a website, put your web address on everything---on your business card, your stationery, and in your e-mail signature. Make it easy for people to find your site so they can get to know you better.
Start a blog. Instead of a website, or in addition to it, you can create a blog---short for "web log." Originally blogs were online personal journals, often with daily---or hourly, or up-to-the-minute---entries. They're inexpensive, easily updatable alternatives to websites. In fact, many therapists' websites are actually blogs, and no one can tell the difference just by looking at them. If you can send an e-mail or create a Word or WordPerfect document, you can create and maintain a blog.
Setting up a blog takes some technical skill, but it isn't difficult. For those just starting out, I recommend the blogging service at TypePad.com. They have many templates to choose from and take you through the steps to create your own look and feel. Hosting a blog can cost between $9 and $15 a month.
Join a Therapist-Locator Service. A third way to create a web presence is to subscribe to any of several online therapist-locator services, which are now considered the new "Internet yellow pages." How do they work? For a fee (between $9 to $30 a month), you can post information about yourself and your practice on these services. When people search the Internet for a therapist, say by going to Google and typing "therapist, Framingham, Massachusetts," these services will come up high in the rankings. Potential clients can enter their zip code or the problem they're having, and the therapists matching their entries will be displayed.
Both Find-a-Therapist.com and Counsel-Search.com are great places to get started if you don't have a web presence, but want to start one in a low-key way. Your listing with both of these services will come up as a one-page website for you. It will display whatever information you put into your listing; it's basically a one-page site where you create the content.
Marketing on the Internet seems scary at first to many therapists, who tend to be wary of technology, but with a little help from their techie friends at online companies set up to get them started, it really isn't, as they say, rocket science. Basically, what you want is some sort of noticeable web presence, which makes it easy for your web visitors to get to know you and become your clients.
You can do it, too. If the Internet continues to grow in importance as a communication and information medium, as it almost certainly will, it'll increasingly be the most effective way for you to attract clients. Getting started on the web really isn't that difficult, and there's plenty of help out there, so, I say, go for it!
This blog is excerpted from “Beyond Technophobia". Read the full article here. >>
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