When I ventured into business ownership, the idea of marketing made me sick to my stomach. I thought, “I’m fine with all other aspects of running a business, but if someone else could do this whole marketing thing, that would be greeeaaat.”
To those of us who were trained to be therapists, marketing seems like the antithesis of the work we’re trying to do in the world. We want to help and hold space for people, not shove something down their throats with marketing. We want to allow, not force. We’re trained to cultivate patience and wait for our clients to come to their own decisions, not make decisions for them.
The idea of selling and advertising our services feels like the opposite of therapeutic.
But the hard truth is: you own a business. And if you want your business to survive, you’ve got to let people know you exist. And at it’s essence, marketing is just letting the right people know you exist.
Here’s the thing though: marketing doesn’t have to be difficult, or manipulative, or sleazy. Marketing doesn’t have to feel forceful or controlling. There are ways to market your private practice with authenticity, integrity, and ethical awareness.
Authentic marketing is about being yourself, and helping the people you want to help without expecting anything in return. It’s about providing value, first and foremost. It’s about creating change before the client even walks through your door.
Because if someone has a positive experience by interacting with your online presence, they’re going to form trust in you, and they'll be much more likely to work with you when the time is right for them.
In this way, clients are making their own decisions about whether or not to work with you. You’re providing valuable tools, resources, and experiences, and it’s up to them to utilize them or not - just like in therapy. The key is that when they do engage with your online presence, and have a desirable experience, they will be much more likely to pick up the phone and schedule their intake appointment than someone who doesn’t know you or your therapeutic style at all.
I’m going to outline three ways to market your private practice online, and give you examples of how to do each one in an authentic way.
1. Your Website
Your website is your most important asset for marketing your practice online. While your Psychology Today profile, Facebook Page, and Instagram (among others) will offer great exposure, your website is the place that prospective clients can really get to know you, connect with you, and decide whether or not they want to work with you.
Make sure your website is an authentic representation of you and your practice by putting time and attention into your design. So much of your personality, your therapeutic style, and your energy can be communicated through visual elements. When your website has a boring design, too many words, or looks the same as everybody else’s, it’s hard for your prospective clients to really get a sense of what it would be like to work with you.
2. Your Email List
Aside from your website, having a list of prospective clients that you email relevant content to regularly is one of the best ways to build relationships on your own terms. Again, social media is great for exposure, but platforms are changing all the time, and it’s hard to build solid relationships on shaky ground.
Let’s say you’re an expert in Anxiety. Publishing a weekly email newsletter in which you share helpful tips and strategies for coping with anxiety would be a great resource for people struggling with anxiety. As people opt-in to your list, you’re automatically growing a group of prospective clients who you’d be perfectly suited for. As your list members gain value and positive results from your emails, they’re going to want to work with you one-on-one.
3. Social Media
Your website and email list are absolutely foundational, but once those are set, you can utilize social media to broadcast your authenticity and get your message and mission out into the world.
Using social media to market your practice with authenticity is about knowing who your ideal clients are, and meeting them where they’re at (aka on the platforms that they use). Again, let’s say you’re an Anxiety expert, and your ideal client is a 25 year old artist, dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It’s highly likely that this person will be using a visual platform such as Instagram on a regular basis, so if you were to post inspiring and helpful images/captions on Instagram, this ideal client is likely to find them and gain value from your Instagram page.
I had a professor in grad school who made the following analogy about therapy:
Therapy is like trying to get a squirrel to eat from your hand. If you run up to the squirrel, and try to force an acorn down its throat, it’s going to freak out and run away and probably never trust humans ever again. Therapy is about holding the acorn out in your hand, in plain sight, and letting the squirrel come to you.
Marketing your private practice is no different. You’ve got to let people see what you have, and let them choose whether or not they want to come to you. Avoiding marketing is like standing inside your house, with no acorn in your hand, wondering why the squirrel isn’t eating out of your hand.
Like it or not, clients decide whether or not to work with you not because of your credentials or specialties, but because of how they think you will be able to understand them. It’s your job to market your practice in the most authentic way possible so that potential clients can make the most informed decision for them.
How do you feel about marketing your private practice online? Comment below and let me know!