How to Do Marketing and Not Feel Gross


If you’re anything like me, you might have heard the words “marketing” or “networking” and envisioned awkward small talk, and some sort of exchange of business cards (and where do you even put those business cards anyway). But, something I’ve learned over the years is that marketing is actually nothing like that, and I’ve even grown to really love it, and dare I say, find it fun! This post is about how you can find some fun with your marketing plan too!

Mindset Shifts

Before you get to have fun, we have to start with some shifts of mindset:

  • You can’t help anyone if they don’t know you exist. I know you didn’t get into this profession because you love selling yourself, however, you do want to help people, but the bottom line is, the only way you can do that is by letting people know you are out there.

  • Marketing is really all about building relationships, and you’re a therapist, so that’s already kind of your whole thing.

  • You can and should make a marketing plan that aligns with you and your personality, and what you want for your business. Don’t do the things you hate doing because you think that’s what you are supposed to do. If you do that, it’s not going to go well-you either won’t do them, or you’ll be as resentful as hell.

  • YOU NEED A GOOD WEBSITE. End of story. Once you’ve made connections with people, they are going to look you up, and if you’re hard to find or not out there at all, the likelihood of connection continuing decreases. Your website won’t do all the work, but it’s a crucial part of the overall strategy.

  • Think of marketing like planting seeds. You might not see the results right away, but keep tending to the seeds, and they will grow.

  • Don’t let perfection get in the way of good enough!  You can always go back and revamp your plan if it’s not working.  Just give something a try. Start somewhere!

Before you do anything else, stop and do this exercise:

Getting Clear on Your Ideal Client

You can’t really make a marketing plan if you’re not clear on who you are marketing to. It’s important to get a really clear sense of who your ideal client is, what their pain points are, and what they are looking for, and what you have to offer them. This is like a brainstorm, so there are no right or wrong answers here. Consider the following and jot down your thoughts:

  • Think about one of your favorite clients.  What did you like about working with them? What were the characteristics and dynamics you enjoyed about that working relationship? Were there anything particular about their demographic that was energizing to you (age, gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, occupation, etc.)?

  • Think about the different things your favorite client did in their day-to-day life, where did they spend their time on a weekly basis? Where are some places you might reach them?

  • What were some of the pain points your client came to therapy looking to get relief from?  And what outcomes were they looking for? Use their words, not clinical jargon.

  • What outcomes did they get from working with you? What services did you provide? What value did you provide?

Feel free to do this a few times by reflecting on other clients. When you’re done, pull out themes that you see.

As you think about different marketing options, you will now have this template you’ve created, based on your ideal client, in mind.  This will help you choose which strategies to put your energy behind.

The Marketing Menu

We all bring something unique to our practice, and so it follows that our marketing strategy should be unique to us as well. I’ve put together a “menu” of many different strategies you can use. Just pick a few things off the menu that speak to you. No one is going to do all of these strategies, and certainly not all at once.

The Marketing Menu .png

Face-To-Face Networking

A lot of people cringe the sound of this one, because it conjures up the aforementioned “business card and small talk” awkwardness mentioned above, but actually you might already be doing some of it and not realize. Here are some examples of face-to-face networking:

  • Seeing your own clients and doing a good job with them (seriously, so many of my referrals have been from my clients).

  • Telling family and friends about your new endeavor of private practice (again, this surprisingly can lead to referrals or other connections).

  • Going to training events on topics you are interested in.  You will meet therapists with similar interests, and you can tell them about your practice (and hear about theirs).

  • Making referrals to other therapists.  It sounds weird but it’s a great way of making a connection with another therapist getting your name out there on people’s minds.

  • Getting together with other therapists you know and like and talk about your practices. Make a lunch, coffee, or wine date. Most therapists in private practice are busy, but also fairly isolated and welcome the chance to actually socialize.

  • Doing peer supervision (this has been a huge one for me, people develop trust in these groups and a greater sense of you and your work, and it will lead to referrals).

  • Volunteering at an organization, becoming part of a committee or helping with an event.

  • Joining a professional organization, and attending their social events.

  • Joining a board of an organization you are passionate about.

  • Introducing yourself and your business to local chaplains and/or churches.

  • Joining “listservs” for professional organizations and making and responding to posts.

Paid Therapist Search Sites

Psychology Today is the biggie. But there are other cool up-and-comers like ZenCare (which is currently local to the Boston area only, membership will also get you your very own video that they produce and you can use however you choose), and TherapyDen (which is bigger right now on the West Coast, but trust that it’s growing with its social justice lens for search categories and emphasis on reaching a more diverse clientele).

Having An Awesome Website

I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s a must. If you are going to make your own website, I personally love SquareSpace, since it comes with built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools (and if you don’t really know what that is, don’t worry, I’ll have more on that in future posts, coming soon). You can also build your website using something like Brighter Vision that is tailored to therapists, and your subscription includes unlimited help with SEO. I have never used them, but have heard good things. You can also hire someone to make your website, which will cost you a lot more money upfront, but that may be worth it to you. You have to consider what you enjoy doing, how much your time is worth, your marketing budget, and the potential value to you.

Using Social Media

This one also makes a lot of people cringe, and for good reason. Many clinicians do it to varying degrees of success. The key seems to be to decide which platform you enjoy, and complements your practice well, and then stick with that. If you try to have a presence on all social media-unless you hire someone to do this for you full-time-you will have a hard time keeping up and doing it well. Social media needs constant tending, it’s not something you can just set and forget. I’ll talk more about the ethics of social media, as well as how to use it as a therapist in future posts.

Signing Up With EAP’s

The upside to doing this is that you will get referrals, however, much like getting on insurance panels, you will generally have to accept their rate which will be lower than your fee. However, if you’re just building your practice, this might be something you’d want to consider. There’s a lot of thinking that goes into such a decision, but I wanted to make sure to include it here as an option.

Doing a Talk, Podcast, e-Course, or Blog

Basically, give something away for free.  It gets your name out there, and establishes you as someone with expertise.  There are things that you know about that other therapists don’t know and want to learn about. You likely take those things for granted, so maybe ask a colleague to give you some outside perspective if you’re stuck!

I hope this has been helpful. It kind of turned into a mega-post (whew!). As with all topics covered in the blog, I have a thousand more things to say on the topic, so if you’d like to learn more, get in touch. My small group workshop Practice Build is open now!


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Melissa KellyComment