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Recession-Proof Your Practice - Page 5


With her focus on services in place, we planned her budget. Looking at her past expenses, I asked her to defend each expense as necessary to the practice or eliminate it. We examined and wrote down all the small and large changes she needed to make, with a timeline for implementing them. We looked at her systems to see which she could automate to reduce her administrative time. Small businesses have advantages over large companies in that they can turn on a dime, making decisions and changes quickly without having to pierce layers of bureaucracy. I asked Dina which areas of her practice were flexible enough to change in ways that would provide better "customer service" and more choices to clients, and she identified four:

- Payment. She received payment from three insurance panels, but half of her clients paid out of pocket. For those clients, she added the capacity to take credit cards and, for those who paid for three months of therapy upfront, she created a discount payment package.

- Services. The usual couples session was 90 minutes. She added a 60-minute option for a reduced price.

- Frequency. Sessions could be as often as once a week, or spread out to once a month.

- Location. Since Dina's office was in a suburban area, she sublet space in a downtown office on one evening a week, so that instead of asking clients to come to her, she could go to them.

These steps provided the appeal of consumer-based choices to potential clients.

Dina liked this plan and was eager to implement it. She agreed to track the finances and other measurable aspects of her practice so she could see the progress she was making. To offer emotional support, I set up a series of weekly check-ins by e-mail between our coaching sessions so she could, as she said, "feel that she had her coach at her back."

Rebrand: Marketing a Unique Selling Point

Now it was time to develop a marketing plan to promote the business model. Dina needed to increase income quickly and attract the most profitable clients to her retooled practice. But again some preparation was required. I asked her to sum up, in a sentence or two, who she was and what she offered. This simple piece of articulation, which I call a "basic message," is at the core of branding. It's the most difficult task for therapists and others who sell invisible, intangible services. In her message, I needed Dina to define her USP—her Unique Selling Point. What about her services made her different from the competition?

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