To be successful and run a thriving practice, therapists need to be strategic with their marketing.
Over the last 10 years, it has become increasingly apparent that practitioners must develop their marketing skills to strengthen their businesses and attract new clients (Gottlieb, 2012; Schofield, Ponzini, & Becker, 2020).
Potential clients are less interested in buying therapy and more concerned with finding the right solution to their problems. After all, therapy is an intimate experience. The individual must feel connected to the person they see on a webpage or posting on social media.
If therapists wish to help others and maintain a financially viable business, it is imperative to invest time and money in compelling and well-thought-out online marketing.
Before you continue, take a moment to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology, including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your (future) clients once you have followed these handy marketing steps.
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Marketing for Therapists: A Step-by-Step Guide
Marketing has changed drastically since entering the digital age, with businesses no longer relying on traditional methods (Wood, 2020).
Yet for most therapists, marketing may feel beyond their expertise and outside their comfort zone. After all, they entered the field to help people, not to sell products.
However, a therapy practice does not merely survive by being good; it must solve people’s problems. As Seth Godin (2019) writes, “marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.”
Having the right image is crucial for any business, particularly therapy; people want something in their lives to change, and that needs to be captured in a brand (Gottlieb, 2012).
The good news is that marketing can be learned, and by going through these steps, your confidence in your marketing efforts will grow, as will your customer base.
Putting together a marketing strategy is a vital first step, but like all good things, it takes time.
A straightforward way to get your toes wet without overwhelm is by first registering with a leading therapy directory such as e-Counseling.com. It can be a great way to get a practice up and running and be immediately visible with minimal setup.
e-Counseling.com offers a clean and professional showcase for therapists to register their qualifications and expertise, and present their services. The website also provides valuable content that is both engaging and reliable to help users understand their therapy options.
User engagement is highly intuitive and straightforward. The potential client enters their location and the type of session they require before being rewarded with a focused list of therapists and counselors who meet their needs.
Now that this essential first shortcut is done, let’s look at your long-term planning, starting with the ‘why,’ ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘where’ needed to shape your strategy.
Why we need a marketing strategy
The Wellness Institute (n.d.) suggests that because insurance companies are covering fewer sessions and the pharmaceutical industry continually pushes for medication over talking, the market for therapy is shrinking.
As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to connect therapist services with those who need them most.
If done well, marketing can:
- Help clients find the provider that is the best fit for their needs
- Provide mental health services to the local community
- Allow the therapist to focus on clients rather than finances
- Meet the needs of those who depend on the business for their living
Once we recognize the value of good marketing for ourselves, our clients, and the community, we can create a marketing strategy that lays out how our business will achieve its goals.
Effective marketing begins with understanding the market and our value as therapy practitioners, requiring us to perform the following steps (The Wellness Institute, n.d.):
Research the market – Who is looking for therapy services?
It is essential to understand who requires therapy, whether their needs are being met, and where our skills and interests lie (such as helping adolescents, couples, or seniors).
Consider the following questions:
- Who do you want to target?
What is your ideal client’s age group and gender?
How much do you want the client to pay?
Where will they be based (locally or online or both)?
- What is the potential market?
What existing services are already in the area you are planning to cover?
Is the marketplace crowded?
Can you offer therapy remotely?
Identify your niche – Who will be your ideal client?
Once you understand who you can reach and their needs, you can consider the treatment to offer.
Ask yourself the following questions to identify how to adapt your services to cover the gap in the market:
- Are there groups of individuals who are not getting what they need?
Veterans, adolescents, seniors, etc.
- Is there a therapy that is not currently available?
Schema, art, relationship therapy, etc.
- Is there a mental health issue that requires focus in your area?
Eating disorders, relationships, etc.
- What skills do you have or can you develop?
Not sure? Then read our Strength-Based Skills article to identify your strengths and skills as a practitioner.
Research the target client – What are they looking for?
It’s useful to imagine the sort of search a client would perform when looking for a therapist.
- Think about the search terms you would use if you were looking for therapy. Try it out online. What results do you get?
- Google Keyword Planner offers a more focused approach. It’s free and enables you to see how often people search for a particular service in a specific location.
Networking – Connecting with your ideal client
While digital marketing is highly effective, (manual) networking and referrals from other clients or professionals can still be productive.
You can get your business off the ground promptly by going out to your existing network and finding ways to make it grow. It can be as simple as visiting local healthcare providers, sending emails, making calls, or having a casual conversation with a local business.
Networking doesn’t require pestering or annoying people – this will soon cause them to disengage – but rather making people aware that you have a valuable service to offer.
5 Digital and Online Marketing Strategies
There are several online marketing strategies, typically with the goal of gaining more business or clients.
A good starting point is to be clear about what you are selling.
Understand your product and its reach
In This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See, Seth Godin (2019) provides questions to consider when working on your digital marketing approach.
Ask yourself the following questions regarding the services or products you offer (modified from Godin, 2019):
- Who is it for?
- What is it for?
- What is the worldview of the audience you’re seeking to reach?
- What problems do they face?
- What change are you seeking to make?
- How will it change their status?
- Why will they tell their friends?
- What will they tell their friends?
- What assets (for example, training, guidance, tools, etc.) are you building?
If therapy is considered a product, the above questions become valuable to reflect on when defining your marketing approach.
Create a website
It is vital to have a strong, professional-looking online presence that ensures your business appears favorably in online searches performed by potential customers.
Not only does it make you more visible digitally, but potential clients can review the services you offer and consider whether you are someone with whom they could form a connection (The Wellness Institute, n.d.).
While it’s worthwhile to work with professionals to create an attractive website designed to rank highly in online search results, it is also useful to understand (at a high level) what it takes to build and run a website:
- Choose and buy a domain name.
Most likely, this will be a name similar to yours or your business’s.
- Build the website.
Create your own, ask someone else to build it for you, or use a web platform that provides ready-made templates for you to choose from, such as Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Brighter Vision, and TherapySites (the last two are geared toward private practice).
- Make it accessible.
Design your site to ensure it is readable on all devices, easy to navigate, and includes your photo.
- Add detail.
Include your background, what you offer, location (including remote if available), and the price you charge.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
The goal of SEO is to get search engines such as Google to list your website when clients use specific keywords and phrases in a search and, hopefully, to land on the first page of the search results.
Only 10% of people searching for something on the internet look beyond the first page of results, and most importantly, 30% click on the first result (WebFX, n.d.).
It is important for your therapy website to be on that first page.
The market research you did earlier will be essential for this step. Keywords that relate to your service, your area, and your prospective clients should be strategically included in your website copy.
This makes it possible for search engines to list your website when responding to a search query.
Pay-per-click advertising (such as Google Ads) can be a cost-effective marketing strategy and an easier way to rank your website on the first page of search results.
By bidding on keywords, your business ads will show up on the first page of the search results when prospective clients enter a pre-defined search. You pay a small fee if the user clicks on the link to your website.
Email marketing is extremely cost effective for retaining existing customers and finding new ones.
Tailored marketing emails with useful content can help keep your business top-of-mind. However, it is vital to ensure that you offer the audience value with each email and a reason to stay signed up.
Over the next few sections, we will cover the benefits and best approaches for other marketing strategies including social media and content marketing.
Social Media Marketing Ideas
Social media marketing is not an option, but a necessity in modern business. And yet, as Godin (2019) writes, “the goal isn’t to maximize your social media numbers. The goal is to be known to the smallest viable audience.”
Your aim is to increase awareness of your practice as a therapist to potential customers.
The most popular international platforms include:
Social media can present ethical dilemmas for you as a therapist. Some useful guidelines include (modified from The Wellness Institute, n.d.):
- Keep personal and professional social media accounts separate.
- Develop and stick to your social media policy.
- Never share information about clients.
- Do not request that clients follow you or like what you post.
While there are many social media channels, we cover two of the most popular below. Many of the considerations extend to all of the platforms.
There are about 1.56 billion daily active Facebook users, with each one on spending an average of almost an hour a day on the platform (Conley, n.d.).
While many are personal pages for people sharing their pictures and thoughts with close family, friends, and groups of like-minded people, others are businesses promoting their goods or services.
Two of the most common ways for a business to promote its services include:
- Using a Facebook page as a second (or first) website for your business
- Using a Facebook presence to attract and engage with other Facebook users by posting advice, thoughts, videos, and links to interesting articles, or making constructive comments on others’ content
Typically, your approach to Facebook will be a combination of the two.
Good content will catch your audience’s attention in their newsfeed and ensure awareness of your brand, service, and presence in the market.
Ensure that the ‘About’ section of your page is completed thoughtfully with searchable information that provides a solid overview of what your therapy business offers, along with links to your website. Then build an engaging community by being active, posting helpful content, and responding to messages quickly.
The Page Insights tool provides a useful seven-day snapshot of activity on your Facebook page. If you wish to drive additional awareness of your brand, Facebook advertising campaigns offer a proven way of driving more leads to your business (Conley, n.d.).
There are over 1 billion active users on Instagram per month, and it is the second most accessed network behind Facebook (Decker, n.d.).
The platform is a valuable vehicle for businesses and brands to inspire, showcase, and sell. For a therapy practice, Instagram can make people more aware of who you are and what you do.
First, you need to create and maintain your profile. Set up an account with your business email, name, and picture. Then create a bio. With a 150-character limit, it is vital to develop a concise summary of what you offer while retaining personality and remaining professional.
You can tailor your settings to manage who can see and reply to your Instagram posts. Selecting a Professional Account shows that it is a business profile and provides tools to help you promote and analyze engagement.
Educational or inspiring photos and videos can be valuable approaches to engagement while promoting expertise and amplifying your brand values (Decker, n.d.).
Instagram Stories are also increasingly popular. Disappearing after 24 hours, they can be more organic, less polished images and videos that avoid clogging up someone’s feed. You can also use Instagram Live to share content in real time, perhaps to showcase your practice’s opening or new services offered.
Ultimately, your drive must be to convert Instagram followers into potential clients. Instagram Ads is a valuable way to encourage users to learn more about the services you offer. You can target potential clients according to their age, location, gender, behavior, and work status.
How to Apply Content Marketing: 10 Tips
People no longer need to enter your office to know what you look like, what you do, or the services you offer.
Most often, people either look you up directly online or find you when performing a broader search.
Content marketing is a valuable way to be noticed, encourage repeat visitors, and be seen as an expert who can help solve problems. Content marketing is highly effective, producing 54% more leads than traditional methods (WebFX, n.d.).
As an experienced and qualified therapist, you have a lot of knowledge and advice to offer. By providing free content on your website, you are more likely to be found in a search and become recognized as offering advice that people can trust.
Consider creating videos, podcasts, and/or articles that:
- Establish you as a reliable, trustworthy source of expertise for clients and other healthcare providers
- Demonstrate your knowledge, experience, and professional background and training
- Show you understand what people are looking for and how you can help
- Increase your ranking in internet searches by producing quality content
The overriding principle of producing content is to create value. The more helpful the content, the more likely it will be popular with search engines.
The aim of attracting visitors is to get them to subscribe to regular updates, read other articles, supply information (email address, etc.) in return for downloading a larger article, or contact the practice to arrange an appointment.
Consider the following when creating content (The Wellness Institute, n.d.; WebFX, n.d.).
- Answer common problems.
For example, I am worried about my child’s excessive use of the internet; my partner and I don’t talk anymore; I am having trouble motivating myself at work.
- Offer advice.
What sort of advice are you continually sharing that would benefit your reader?
- Answer the questions that clients typically ask when they arrive.
Explain the process behind your treatment and what a client can hope to gain.
- Post regularly.
Newsworthy articles may grab the reader’s attention, yet they are soon out of date, and your website may appear stale. Consider creating evergreen content that will age more slowly.
- Engage your reader early.
Make the title and first paragraph captivating.
- Aim for quality.
Review your work before posting. Check for readability, accuracy, and good grammar.
- Become a source of truth.
Ensure that what you write is backed up by research and theory.
- Avoid big blocks of text.
The modern reader is often on a mobile device; smaller paragraphs are easier to read.
- Don’t give up.
Being recognized as a place to turn to with a question takes time and regular, high-quality content.
- Optimize the content.
The content should target specific keywords that your potential client base is using in their searches.
A Look at Video Marketing for Your Counseling Practice
Video marketing is an effective and engaging way to create informational content for your target audience (WebFX, n.d.).
Video marketing typically includes:
- Events, such as opening a practice
- Announcements, including the start of new types of therapy
- Behind the scenes. Perhaps less relevant, but could include setting up the offices
- Instructional. Could comprise breathing and relaxation techniques
For example, a well-put-together how-to video on mindfulness could result in a follow-up call and a future client wishing to regain control in their lives.
A Take-Home Message
The most effective marketing campaigns are now overwhelmingly performed online. If you want to gain sufficient business to focus on your clients rather than worrying about your finances, it is crucial to understand the market, your skills, and how you can reach potential clients.
One of the primary goals of digital marketing is to increase traffic to your website. Once there, individuals can explore the services you have on offer and learn about you as a practitioner to understand if you can help with their problems.
Your ultimate aim is to become either top-of-mind when someone has a problem or easily found during a search.
Successful marketing will also drive awareness that you exist as a practitioner and are available to help. This has a positive effect on the local community and, if you are offering specialist services online, much further afield.
Ultimately, the best assessments of your marketing strategy are revenue and the capacity to meet your clients’ needs. Identify how new clients found you and invest time and money tailoring your marketing appropriately.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article and are eager to get started. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Psychology Exercises for free.
If you wish to access more tools for your practice, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 350 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their work.
- Conley, M. (n.d.) Facebook marketing. HubSpot. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.hubspot.com/facebook-marketing
- Decker, A. (n.d.). Instagram marketing. HubSpot. Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.hubspot.com/instagram-marketing
- Godin, S. (2019). This is marketing: You can’t be seen until you learn to see. Penguin Business.
- Gottlieb, L. (2012, November 23). What brand is your therapist? The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/magazine/psychotherapys-image-problem-pushes-some-therapists-to-become-brands.html
- Schofield, C. A., Ponzini, G. T., & Becker, S. J. (2020). Evaluating approaches to marketing cognitive behavioral therapy: Does evidence matter to consumers? Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 49(4), 257–269.
- The Wellness Institute. (n.d.) Web guide: Marketing for therapists. The Wellness Institute. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.wellness-institute.org/marketing-for-therapists
- WebFX. (n.d.). 7 Digital marketing strategies for your campaign. WebFX. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.webfx.com/internet-marketing/actionable-digital-marketing-strategies.html
- Wood, M. (2020, June 14). A quick guide to digital marketing for newbies. Forbes. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2020/06/14/quick-guide-to-digital-marketing-for-newbies/