The other attendees looked doubtful, but several wanted to know how they could get started. I said there are three things they needed to do to get under way:
- Establish a "web presence"—a way for people to find them on the Internet
- Help web browsers get to know them 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. A great resource for web designers is Elance.com, where you can "post" what you're seeking—for instance, "Design a simple, two-page website"—and freelance designers will bid on it. All you have to do is view their portfolios and select the designer and bid you like best.
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. A common mistake therapists make is to talk mostly about themselves and their services on their website—their degrees, their specialties, their philosophy of treatment. But 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. "While it may not have been easy for your parents when you were teens, today's parents worry about everything from the Internet to life-threatening STDs. It can be scary raising a teen today. Even the best parents have questions. If you could use some support, I'd like to help." Contrast that approach with websites that open with "I am a cognitive-behavioral therapist with EMDR certification who has a specialty in adolescents."
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.