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7 Marketing Mistakes Therapists Should Avoid

Avoid These Marketing Mistakes as a Therapist

You’ve trained as a clinician, not marketer. But when you’re in private practice, you must wear several hats—and one of those hats reads “marketing manager.” What do you need to know to effectively market your therapy services? Below, we’ll take a look at the most common mistakes that many well-meaning therapists make, along with useful marketing tips you can implement right away. Let’s get started.

Mistake #1: Forgoing Marketing to Begin With

The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that you don’t need marketing at all. Unfortunately, a lot of therapists make the mistake of thinking that all you have to do is hang your shingle and wait for the appointments to start flooding in. It doesn’t work like that, and here’s why: Most of the people in your community simply don’t know that you exist. Unless you’re intentional about your marketing, you’ll miss out on prospective clients, many of whom drive past your practice to see another therapist across town. If you’ve been avoiding marketing because it seems complicated, remember that marketing is actually about introducing yourself to potential clients. They have a problem. You have the solution, and you’re making the first step toward helping them by making your solution accessible. Marketing is all about connecting the dots.

Mistake #2: Not Having a Website

Having a website is non-negotiable. It’s the 21st century and the majority (if not all) of your prospective clients have access to the Internet. These prospects will most likely use the Internet to search for mental health services near them. If you don’t have a website, how will they find you? While some therapists rely on social media profiles, that’s a risky bet. What happens if the platforms decides to shut down your profile arbitrarily? You do not own your profile on any social media site. Instead, you rent space on those sites. When you create a website, you own that space. You have control over presentation and user experience, and you don’t have to worry that your site visitor is going to get distracted by some notification in the sidebar. Your website will act as the home base for any traffic that you generate through your marketing efforts. You can publish your website address on your flyers, ads, and business cards and direct traffic to a site that adequately represents your practice. Also, a website will help you get found by search engine users. Learn more about creating a website for your private practice here.

Mistake #3: Not Using Social Media

Although social media shouldn’t take the place of your own branded website, it does play an important role in marketing. A lot of therapists forgo using social media altogether. There’s a common misconception that social media is completely taboo for therapists. While it’s true that you must take certain precautions, you can and should use social media to market your practice. Check out this post to learn more about why your private therapy practice should be on social media. One of the most effective ways to use social media for marketing is to pay for it. Many platforms are turning into “pay for play”. It’s a lot harder these days to get found through organic efforts. Facebook is notorious for selective promotion and making it difficult to market organically (read: for free), but it’s also an insanely effective platform for reaching prospective clients. You can create targeted ads (and pay as little as five dollars a day). These ads can focus on specific demographics (such as zip code, gender, job title), relationship (such as parent or dating), or behavior (such as a recent move). It’s incredible how much you can do with Facebook alone. Learn more about how to use Facebook to grow your private therapy practice here.

Mistake #4: Targeting Too Many People

Who is your ideal client? Get as specific as possible with this answer. For most therapists, the ideal client belongs to a very small group of people. Perhaps your ideal client (the person whom you can help the most) is a mother who suffers from postpartum depression. You’ve already eliminated 50% of the population. Now get more specific. This mother lives within a certain zip code and has had a baby within the last six months. You’ve found the target demographic for your marketing efforts. Why does this matter? You’ll spend less money on advertisement when you’re targeting to a relatively small group of people (i.e. less than 5,000, perhaps). You’ll also be able to tailor your marketing message to this unique group. Instead of appealing to the masses, you can write directly to that hurting mama who may not have even realized that she’s suffering from depression. You’ll forge a more powerful connection when you’re able to speak directly to the affected individual. So forget about canvassing the entire neighborhood. Understand who your ideal client is first, then make sure you speak directly to that person with your marketing.

Mistake #5: Not Focusing on the Client

You’re proud of your qualifications and you should be. You earned them. However, a potential client who’s in crisis doesn’t really care that much about your degrees. Of course, they want to know that you’re qualified to help them. But more than that, they want to know how you’ll help them. Make the connection between their problem and your service. Don’t promote yourself, promote your solution. Because you only have a small window of opportunity to reach your prospective client and convince them to try your services, don’t waste it with talking about yourself. Instead, talk about how you can help the client. Do this in your bio, especially on social media where you’re only given a small amount of space anyway. Do this in your ads when you’re reaching out to individuals who need your services. Do this on your website, particularly on your homepage which is where many prospective clients will visit.

Mistake #6: Not Getting Listed

Directories matter when it comes to marketing. While you may or may not choose to buy an ad, you at least need to be a member of sites like GoodTherapy and Psychology Today. Because these sites consistently rank high in Google searches for local therapists, your potential client will visit them. Will they see your profile? If not, I urge you to sign up. You’ll likely pay a monthly membership fee, but consider this an investment into your practice. It’s part of your marketing efforts, and may provide a steady stream of referrals. Be sure that you complete your profile, post a professional photo, and link back to your website.

Mistake #7: Not Tracking Your Referrals

Who’s bringing in the bulk of your traffic? You need to know what’s working (and what’s not) so that you can focus your efforts. If you have multiple streams of referrals (i.e. you’re paneled with an insurance company, you advertise on Facebook, and you have a direct mail campaign), you need to know which stream is most productive. Tracking referrals doesn’t need to be complicated. When a new client calls to make their first appointment with you, all you need to do is ask where or how they found out about your services. Make a note of it and then keep a log. Every quarter, check your referral log and find out which source provides the most leads. Then figure out how you can increase referral activity from that source.

Additional Resources

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