Marketing For the Evidence-Based Therapist

The following is a guest blog post by Jason Luoma from Portland Psychotherapy that he has graciously allowed us to share with you here.  Jason is Director of the Portland Psychotherapy Clinic, Research, & Training Center in Portland, Oregon. In addition to directing the center and conducting research, he maintains a clinical practice focused on helping people who suffer from chronic shame, self-criticism, and low self-esteem.  Jason has been studying ACT for about 15 years and spent 4 years at the University of Nevada, Reno studying ACT with Dr. Steven Hayes.  Jason is an internationally recognized trainer in ACT, former chair of the ACT Training Committee, and president-elect of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. He is author of Learning Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, one of the best selling ACT books for therapists. He has conducted research on interventions for shame and stigma for over a decade and recently published the first randomized trial of an ACT approach to shame in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

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As a large body of therapies have been identified that are demonstrably effective, the field has shifted toward dissemination and implementation. For those who are out in practice, a main way we get evidence-based therapies to clients is through effective marketing. As the director of a growing clinic who has worn pretty much every hat (e.g., entrepreneur, biller, therapist, manager, bookkeeper, receptionist, accountant, janitor), I’ve had to learn a lot about marketing over the last several years. In particular, I’ve found that online marketing has been especially fruitful for our business.

In the process of doing some of our online marketing, a colleague asked me to make some recommendations for key books relating to marketing a private practice. I realized that I had no one book that covered most of the material that I had learned, but instead had learned through a variety of resources over the years, many of them online. Below lies a smattering of links and resources on online marketing that I’ve found useful over the years as well as some general comments about the important elements of a building a business as a therapist.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

Once you build a website, you need to hire someone to help you optimize your site and drive traffic to it. Just building a website is near useless if you don’t figure out how to get people to visit it. You should be able to get someone who can help you drive traffic to your website for $400 a month or less. You need to spend money on marketing in order to grow your business (or even to have a business usually). Marketing works, that’s why we have so much of it around us. It changes behavior and will bring people to your doorstep. SEO professionals know how to bring more clients to your door. This is money well spent, once you have a website already up.

Some links to get you started on what SEO is and how to do it:

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-beginners-checklist-for-small-business-seo

Private practice marketing

If you need some help with business strategies overall, most areas of the country have a small business development center. Look up your local center. They often provide very affordable and expert training that is perfect for mental health professionals trying to expand their business knowledge. I’ve learned a lot from my local SBDC. http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-development-centers-sbdc

Some good articles can be found here: http://www.uncommonpractices.com/articles.html

This is my favorite book about running a private practice in terms of recommendations on how to do marketing: Getting Started in Private Practice: The Complete Guide to Building Your Mental Health Practice

Website design

Three tips:

1) Put a contact form on the front page of your website and the contact page, rather than relying on people to call you. You’ll get a lot more contacts that way.

2) Learn how to use WordPress to set up your site. It’s simple and easy to use once you’ve learned how to set it up.

3) Get your site noticed and convert visitors to clients:

Business blogging and writing good content

Here’s a basic primer on writing good blog posts by a leading blog developer: http://www.davidrisley.com/blog-writing/

One of the oldest and most prolific blogs about blogging: http://www.copyblogger.com/blog/

General online marketing

Here’s a graphic to help you see all the possibilities for online marketing and organize your thinking: http://assets.unbounce.com/s/images/noob-guide-to-marketing-infographic-1800.png

Some basics on online marketing: http://counsellingresource.com/lib/practice/internet-marketing/

Some webinars if you like to watch those: http://www.hallme.com/archived-webinars.php

Social Media Marketing

Some tips on how to embrace social media and the latest changes in Google to your advantage: http://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/recentissues/2012-mayjune/item/1708-in-consultation

A psychotherapist’s guide to Facebook and Twitter: Why clinicians should give a tweet - http://www.psychotherapy.net/article/psychotherapists-guide-social-media

Dr. Keely Kolmes’ private practice social media policy - http://www.drkkolmes.com/docs/socmed.pdf

Online business models

You might want to write a business plan. Here’s a template:

http://www.copyblogger.com/smart-people-business-plan/

I don’t know of anyone better at it and who produces better content on running a business online than Pat at Smart Passive Income. His podcast is super-popular, interesting, and very relevant: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)

Really the only place you need to advertise is with google adwords. It’s not too hard to set up a basic account, set a budget and try it out. Here are some ideas on how to do that: http://adwords.google.com/select/Login

Adwords for therapists: http://www.uncommonpractices.com/adwords.html

Optimizing quality score: http://www.redflymarketing.com/blog/how-to-improve-quality-score-the-ultimate-guide/

Newsletters

Before putting your efforts into blogging, first create a following with an email list to directly connect with local, potential clients in a more direct way

http://uncommonpractices.wordpress.com/2009/04/22/why-blogging-is-a-waste-of-time-for-private-practitioners/

http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/email-list-strategies/

I like Mailchimp because the interface is very simplified and you are able to get a feel for creating and using newsletters for marketing your business without having to invest right from the start.  Your account is free as long as you have less than 2,000 subscribers and you send less than 12,000 emails per month.

http://mailchimp.com/

Other popular services include:

http://www.aweber.com/

http://www.constantcontact.com/

Face-to-face networking

My favorite book on this topic is: Never Eat Alone

And if you are looking to improve your social skills, speaking abilities, and ability to just interact with others and make conversation, I don’t know a better place than Toastmasters, which I have been a member of for years. To find a meeting near you: http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/

See if there is a meetup group in your area either of therapists or other professionals in your area of interest.

Finding your passion

And Don’t do any of these things if it doesn’t align with your passion: http://zenhabits.net/the-short-but-powerful-guide-to-finding-your-passion/

Team Up

Check with your state’s psychological association to see if they have any events scheduled to learn more about marketing.

See if you can find a “practice buddy” — another local mental health practitioner who has similar goals and who can meet with you to brainstorm ideas regarding seminars, networking groups to attend, accessing each other’s networks, and setting goals for putting these tips to work.

Do you have favorites? Send me a message about those and I’ll check them out. Who knows, maybe they’ll make it onto the list.