Sales & Marketing for Your Private Practice
Ugh. Sales & marketing.
The entire concept of marketing your private practice (much less having to do something as distasteful as sell) might feel gross. And yet unless your practice is consistently full, it's something you'll probably need to give some thought to. And if your practice is consistently full, I'm betting sales and marketing is something you have given some solid thought to (even if those aren't the terms you used).
Sales and marketing doesn't need to be gross. I think of it this way: they both are simply specialized forms of communication. Not manipulation, not anything distasteful, just honest yet directed communication.
1. Marketing & Brand
What's marketing really all about? I think marketing is really about sharing hope.
Marketing I view as a one-to-many form of communication. You're getting your message out there. And what is that message? At its core, I believe your marketing message is really about spreading hope. You want to communicate to potential clients that you see them, you understand their problems, and you have the tools to help them make their life better.
Marketing lets the world know that you exist and that you can help make things better. Why wouldn't you want to spread that message?!
The resources I've linked to below well help you begin to think through your marketing and messaging. And, yes, the concept of defining a niche definitely does come up!
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Private Practice Skills Blog post: Build your brand story in three steps.
When building out my marketing messaging, I also found the book Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller to be quite helpful. In hindsight, I probably didn't need to complete the templates of that book as rigidly as I did. Nonetheless, he explains the basics of branding in a very easy and accessible way.
Have you heard of a Zynnyme? If you haven't, you might soon wonder how you lived without it. Founders Kelly and Miranda provide so much amazing content for running your therapy practice, it's impossible to summarize. Check out this article on 11 Free Private Practice Marketing Strategies. And if you like what they have to say, be sure and check out some of their other great resources - they offer a ton for free.
Another guide to check out is The Complete Therapist's Guide to Marketing a Private Practice put together by Create My Therapist Website.
If you've thought of the PERFECT brand name to house your practice under, the next thing you'll want to do is consider if you need to file a DBA. What's a DBA? It's a "doing business as" filing.
I'm no lawyer, so I can't give you legal advice here. But if you don't have a formal business entity, like an LLC or Professional Corporation, which bears your brand name, you likely will need to file a DBA. And if you're just operating as a Sole Proprietorship and want to do business under any name other than your full legal name, you'll also need a DBA.
These filings aren't that difficult or expensive to put in place. I filed a DBA through LegalZoom and it was under $200. It was a bit of pain, but not honestly that bad.
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Your website will likely be a big part of how you share your marketing message with the world. Check out the thoughts and outside resources I've included below.
You also may want to check out the website section of my main Private Practice Resources page. There I list a number of companies that help therapists build and maintain their online presence.
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Websites are confusing. There are so many different options. To give a real quick way of how I see it, there are three different approaches.
First, you can totally DIY it and launch your own WordPress website. WordPress is open-source software, meaning anyone (including you!) can download and use it for free. The downside, is you need to do all the backend infrastructure upkeep yourself. If you're not super IT-forward, this might be a tough road.
Third option is to use a more white glove service, where website hosting, design and optimization are all offered together as a package deal. Most of the companies listed on my Resources Page offers services in this way.
Want to get ideas and inspiration for your website? Check out these "best of" therapist websites from Private Practice Elevation.
Strong Roots Web Design also offers this article examining Ten Great Therapist Websites.
Last but not least, here's ten more websites to check out, courtesy of Level Up Your Practice.
What's the deal with selling?! Gross. 🤢
Is this ever something you'd have to do as part of your practice? Well, in a word... yes. But it doesn't need to be gross.
Whereas marketing is one-to-many communication, sales I view as a one-to-one communication. Sales is what you do when you first interact with a potential client (whether you realized it or not). Like marketing, selling doesn't have to be all gross and pushy like a used car salesman. And it really shouldn't be, either.
Good, ethical and effective selling is collaborative. In a collaborative selling process, the first task is to understand the potential client's challenges. Once you've gotten a handle on that, you help the potential client learn whether (or not) your services are the right fit. In other words, you are helping them understand their challenges a bit better and then helping them decide whether to move forward with you.
If you're not the right fit, you'll help them see that and maybe even point them in the direction of some alternate resources. If you are the right fit, that means that you truly believe you can help them. And, yes, in that case you will gently encourage them to get started with you. The resources below will help begin to think through this concept of "collaborative sales."