"Helping people who help people"

Good news!  Therapy marketing is not about blasting yourself.  Even those of us extroverts don’t enjoy blasting ourselves.  Therapy marketing is not about putting an ad in your community paper.  It’s not about having a fancy website.  It’s definitely not about having fancy brochures and business cards.  (Or putting said paper products on tacks around town.)

Therapy Marketing (all marketing, really) is

Being in Relation With the Marketplace


What does this mean?  “Being in relationship?”  It does not mean what your Bad Therapy Marketing Instincts may be telling you. It is NOT:

  • Doing informational interviews to get yourself noticed by the big guns in your industry
  • Emailing everyone you’ve ever met that you have the MOST AMAZING book, workshop, coaching program, etc.
  • Joining linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, and spending 99% of your time blasting yourself and/or finding new people to blast
  • Going to networking events like BNI and sharing your business cards and brochures
  • Direct mailing or calling local businesses who serve your client base to let them know about your services
  • Hiring an expensive web designer, PR firm, graphic design team
  • Emailing journalists that you’re awesome and have an AMAZING perspective on a story (already covered 12,000 times in the last week)
  • Writing a book proposal assuming that having a book contract is not just marketing, but will land you a bunch of clients and cash
  • I know I’m forgetting a lot more….basically insert 95% of your ideas in this bullet point😉

There is a word that is so overused, so grossly used by people who are not the word they self-describe, but I’m gonna say it with those caveats.  It’s about being authentic. It’s about honest to God LOVING what you are doing, who you are serving, and coming with your whole heart, ego left at your front door, and figuring out what awesomeness is already going on, who is really amazing out there already, being extremely open to the unknown, and thinking outside everything you’ve ever been taught about what being a therapist is, what therapy is, and what you “should” be doing.

Know there are key allies out there that can help you. You’ve got to find them, not annoy them (that deserves its own blog post!), and try to create a mutually satisfying relationship with them.  It can literally start with a sincere compliment to them.  It can start by reading everything they’ve written to deeply learn who they are, what motivates them, and where you can see a potential connection.

Know you have competition, even if it’s not another mental health professional. Whoever you work with, those folks are doing something, going somewhere, reading something, even if it’s not yet your awesomeness.  Instead of freaking out (I’ve got the charter membership to the freak out club, by the way) when you see people doing things you want to do, only they do it bigger, more boldly, and with more of a budget, consider instead what you can learn from them and maybe whether you can work together.  And if nothing else, remember without competition there is no actual need in the marketplace.  Competition is a very good thing.  In fact, without competition do you really know how you’re differentiated?  And come on therapists…isn’t self-differentiation one of the pinnacles of therapy?😉

I believe this post is still too high, floaty in the sky.  I apologize.  Part of my “brand” if you will is to not be so flighty but REALLY GROUNDED ON PLANET EARTH.  Soft kittens and lollipops are nice to talk about but they don’t leave you with any action.

So.  Action?

One of the most powerful actions you can do is to be on Twitter to network with the marketplace, both locally and internationally.  From the ease of your laptop and a twitter account you can learn what the marketplace is up to, join in, and develop honest, real relationships with people who are in a shared passion with your client base, who are current serving them in a different capacity, or who are your client base and can get you MORE of their kindred spirits.  I’m creating a unique Twitter training for new/intermediate users and am pleased to say it’s gonna be really targeted to what I don’t see therapists doing, and really affordable. Sign up to learn when it’s live!  And an FYI, I’m very into the emotional side of technology so you’ll get a real raw look at the emotional ups and downs of Twittering.

I’m not even in graduate school yet and have made extremely powerful personal and professional connections because of Twitter. (I even have an internship offer in a town overflowing with therapy students, because of a huge amount of time I’ve given writing for local therapists and earning the respect of the editor who would love to help me become a therapist!)  I have many layers of Twitter with my many varied professional and personal interests all in one simple place. You heard me, I’m already marketing and I’m not even a therapist yet.  But it’s a journey.  A sloggy, uphill journey.  This @marriagekids account is my third account and is the one that has the real juice.  (I tried to have a personal account but I’m simply way too holistic in being who I am so I’m following therapists, entrepreneurs, parenting experts, local Minnesotans, and anyone I think is funny, interesting, or awesome.)

Today alone, because of a single Tweet reply, an amazing man not only followed me back, but called ME OUT as an amazing person and someone his 9,000 followers should follow.  WOW!   I thought he was amazing before he followed me.  Now I’m in even more awe of him (not because he thinks I’m awesome but because he took his precious time to read my site, call out what I was doing, and compliment me as a human being.)

That, my friends, is true bliss.  A real, authentic human connection.  It’s the reason I want to BE a therapist, not just talk TO therapists. There is no greater gift, in my opinion, than giving your undivided time and energy to another human being. Especially when you are not doing it to get something out of it for yourself.

Please, then.  Leave your Bad Marketing Instincts at the door.  Breath a sigh of relief!  Start engaging as a real human being to other real human beings.  You know, like you do every day with clients.  (Only this time you get to share your whole self!)  Watch my Twitter account and how many people I talk to, how rarely I tweet my own awesomeness but instead talk with people, share what they’re sharing.  And then imagine all that is happening behind the scenes with these authentic connections.  If I can be a random non-therapist, not-even-graduate-student, imagine what YOU CAN DO!

Please, let me know what questions you have, clarifications, cool things you’ve done, or cheer lead others reading this on your success making authentic connections!

I’ve got a series of blog posts on this topic, so today I’m going to share the myths of marketing a bit.  It’s no wonder therapists hate marketing when they have false ideas of what it really is!  I would never be excited, write 300+ blog posts in a year, and be remotely interested in training you on what YOU think marketing is.  Blech!

I saw an image the other day that summed it up best.  It was “Old School Marketing” vs “Web 2.0 Marketing” and listed the core differences, which I’ll address in the next few blog posts.  I was listening to an audio of a big, wealthy person the other day trying to convince therapists on the call to do cold calling and not worry and oh it’s all so good, good, you get used to it after a while.  I wanted to groan!  No.  No!  NO!  That is simply old school marketing nonsense, ineffective, and a soul-crusher experience.  Plus it’s really gross for most of us and especially for  therapists who need to pretend like having a Masters degree or Ph.D. makes them “above” this marketing nonsense.

When my husband started his private practice we had The Therapist Mindset.  I swear to God, you enter a graduate program and this Mindset is carved into your head or something!  I hear marketing coaches try to undo this mindset on lives calls and I just crack up.  You’ve gotta have a sense of humor to get past the mindset that results in desperation, vulnerability, and a sense that anyone in their right mind would spontaneously pick up a business card or flyer in a coffee shop and spend $3,000 with you on their inner most issues.

My husband and I had what was a slightly better than pure crap marketing campaign.  I knew direct mail didn’t work, but I thought a Targeted direct mail campaign with a cool message in the letter would work. SILLY ME! But hey, let’s wipe our egos off the floor and go into denial we’ve ever done something stupid, ok?  (Or even better, comment on this blog with Your Ridiculous Disasters in Marketing so we can laugh..no no, I mean learn.)  And to defend my brilliant but failed marketing idea with my husband, the idea was an awesome one but requires actual marketing, not what we were doing!  I will be doing that idea the Right Way when I become a therapist.

First: Marketing is NOT ADVERTISING

The best way I’d like to describe is it to imagine the junk mail you get, probably every day, with coupons for local businesses.  That’s advertising.  Most of it doesn’t relate to you and gets thrown away.  Advertising appears out of nowhere, is not from anyone you know, and you didn’t ask for it.

Marketing is when you go on Facebook and ask your friends and colleagues for a recommendation to a vet because you have two new cats (me a few months ago!)  I saw plenty of advertising.  In fact, very “helpfully”, the Humane Society where we got our rescue cats had a 3 pager list, in small font, of all the vets who participate in their first-exam free program.  Wow.  Not helpful at all!

Marketing, then, is best thought of as “joining” with the marketplace, being out in the hearts and minds of people who have worked with you, who have a shared passion, or who deal with your ideal client base.  If my friends didn’t rave about this particular clinic, I would not have gone there.  MY marketplace told me it’s a great place and I trust them.  This is marketing, this is social media, this is simply the way anyone under 40 gets things done!

Second: Marketing is NOT Offering Your Passion/Schtick

OK, so now some therapists get the difference between ads that don’t work because most eyeballs are not interested.  But the next step is they hear “share your passion to your community to market!”  This is only partly true, folks!  Too many therapists have their quirky interest, or their overly broad interest, and give no thought to what’s already out there, who is out there and the best way to deliver the information (workshops, audios, print, private phone/therapy, podcoasts, webminars.)  Therapists forget or pretend that the marketplace doesn’t yet exist!!!  They completely forget there is this thriving environment where their ideal client is hanging out, whether others are serving them, and where other people with the shared passion are in conversation and engagement.

These therapists wonder why nobody is biting.  They can’t fill classes, sell their wares, and get so frustrated because they see the need out there!  What they’re missing, however, is the entire reason I buzz with excitement, am awed with humility, and have a crush on a tool called Twitter (training info here.)  It’s about building authentic relationships with the wide world out there.  It’s about lowering your guard of professional perfectionism, it’s about putting your ego aside to listen, engage, not assume you have the answers/solution, and it’s about finding shared interests with others.  And it’s about failing in such a huge way that you never again listen that devilish Therapy Marketing Mindset carved in your head in graduate school.

Stay tuned for the next blogs in this series.

Let me just remind you, if I can find this crazy world of marketing exciting, I know I can entice some of you to join me on this journey to finding where your passion meets the needs of the world!   Just call me your enthusiastic techie SEO ninja guide along this twisty, windy road.

And as a personal aside, during the writing of this blog post I got the Call to End All Calls.  The marriage and family therapy graduate program called to set up an interview with me!  My therapy journey humbly begins.

Today I want to address what I think is the oft-ignored topic of a single blog post as it relates to the whole blog.  Most of this information really applies to any web content anywhere.  Remember blogs are not special except you can comment (if you chose to let comments be open.)  You can easily have the “share” options on a website article.  So without further ado, here we go!

The Blog Title

In case you weren’t aware, the title is not only important to get people to read the blog post, but Google also uses the title to try to figure out, in it’s semi-sophisticated robot-brain, what the heck the blog is about so it can match it up with queries it gets.  The title can be a tense  juggling act between a zippy title that gets attention and a keyword rich title that attracts Google readers.

The Body of the Blog

The goal is readership, but then what?  Most blogs have a goal.  Sometimes a single blog post will:

  • convince people to read more blog posts
  • convince people to buy something or hire you
  • convince someone to link to YOUR blog either in their blog roll, their latest blog post, their website, somewhere….you become a clear resource to their readers
  • help a journalist get a better sense of your voice for potential interviews
  • be so amazing that everyone who reads it wants to share it, thus resulting in many more eyeballs than you ever could have imaged

Tagging the Blog

There are tags and there are categories, depending on if you use WordPress, blogpost, or another blog format.  The more analytical therapists will do well in figuring out the right ways to mark their blog posts.  My approach is to think holistically but have a lot of self-forgiveness when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing with these tags.  Eventually something naturally will bubble up for you and you can either go back and tag posts, or just ignore those and start at the point you have an epiphany on how to organize the posts.  For example, I’ve dropped the tags from my blog posts, so I don’t even label them or have the “tag cloud” show up anymore.  A category, by the way, is the most broad theme, and the tag would be less broad within that category.  For example, if you worked with moms, you may have Categories like: Children, Marriage, Self-Care, Health.  But then there may be blog posts that relate to a theme that doesn’t deserve it’s own category.  A tag may then be “Finding balance” which you could easily write about in any of those categories.  Honestly it’s all about who you are, what you’re writing, who your audience is, and seeing what makes sense.  One person’s tag may be someone else’s big category.

The benefit to having categories or tags is that if someone want MORE on that angle, they can click on that category and see everything related to it.  Most therapists struggle because they’re either so broad in their blog, or so narrow it’s hard to splice things down further.  But remember, you hopefully have new eyes every day and they deserve a compass!

Who Are the Eyes On the Blog Post

In any given blog post you’ve got a fantastic challenge!  You have to continue to entertain those who subscribe to your blog and read it whenever you post something.  You’ve got to entice new readers with ONE blog post and hope it does the trick so they read more.  And you’ve got to say something new and interesting every single blog post!  Wow, no pressure!😉

In Totality, A Single Blog Post Will…

Be stacked up against all your other blog posts to create a bigger, more robust view of how you think about your area of expertise.  A single blog post is where the fires burn for book ideas or products or services you could create.  You start to see trends and can build an entire book off single blog posts that you found were wildly popular.   I have literally seen ONE blog post become a wildly successful book, create an entire business, speaking tours, media attention, coaching opportunities.  It’s crazy fun to watch this happen to people.

 

As always, I’d love your feedback or questions.  Are you using categories and tags well?  Having struggles?  Found some blog posts are really inspiring and considering doing more because of it?

Myths, Lies, and Videotape

A lot of things in the land of marketing are a lot more nuanced, obviously, than marketing experts let on.  In no particular order, these are some things you should think about!

Video buzz

Yes, video is hot.  There is no denying it.  And yet let me be a little Debbie Downer here for a minute.  Video is hot when you have the right audience,  the right topic, and the right person talking.  Look at your website stats (or hire me to help teach you) to determine when people are visiting your site.  I’ll bet you anything, as I run several therapy websites, your biggest traffic is daytime, weekday, peaking at lunchtime.  What does this mean?  People are at work seeking therapy and especially on their lunch breaks.   A lot of folks may not be able to watch a video of you unless they email themselves your website and check at home…away from loud TV’s, kids, spouses.  Make sure your content is also written out if the video content would be useful to non-video watchers.  And for the love of God, people, do not have anything automatically run an audio (song, video) on your therapy website.  There is nothing more off putting than Enya blaring out of speakers when seeking a therapist or a video starting to stream, freezing up ones computer.

The other buzz kill for you is that unless you have GREAT lighting, a great script, and great energy, your video may backfire on you.  It’s VERY hard to be bubbly on video, mixing the right level of gravitas and joy as you want to do as a therapist.  The thing about video is you look heavier, paler (or darker, depending on your skin tone), and flat when talking normally.  It’s also really easy to come across as preachy instead of conversational.

Learn what you can to make it really good! Death by dull therapy videos is not what you want for your prospective clients.  And video experts agree: a bad video is worse than no video.  So DO a video… but learn everything you can to make it awesome.

 

Positioning of  Website or Blog Elements

This is a general vent about statistics taken from websites that get millions of visitors a day, week, or month.  The N has to be high enough for statistical differences!  Every year “they” decide it’s best to have your newsletter on the right hand side, or left hand side, or have this or that positioned here or there.  These are usually e-commerce websites and very high traffic.  Most therapists, I’m going to guess, average 100 visitors a month – some a lot more, many a lot less.  That is just not enough people to say that paying your webmaster $75 to move something to the other side of the web page is really going to make a difference.

Obviously if you’re starting out, or can edit your own site, it’s fine to listen to what “they” say to do.  But my point is pay attention to the industry’s in the analysis and realize you’re in a low-traffic world with a niche audience.  You aren’t a pair of Ugg boots that is sold on 100,000 websites, trying to figure out how to maximize sales for your particular website.  You are a relationship and long term investment compared to shoes, music downloads, or e-books!

Myth: You have 30 seconds to make an impression

This is only sort of true.  If you take a web surfer trying to find a general answer, yes, they’re scanning really fast and will bounce quickly to different websites.  But if your web visitor has done the work to find your website, is pre-screened to want what you offer, they are going to give you more than a few second impression!  You’re not Target or Best Buy where they expect perfection on a website.  They know you’re a low budget therapist.  Unless your website is really awful, or your content is impossible to read, they are going to give you more time than thirty seconds.  This is especially true the more niched you are or the fewer competitors you have.  People only jump off your website if they know there is something better a few clicks away.  (Hint: if you’re in California, land of abundance of therapists, you really have to have a more top notch website because you may have 50 other therapists in your same zip code!)

Lie: You HAVE to be on Social Media

I was very pleased when I went to a book tour event for my favorite marketer, a hyper social media guru, because he came to visit my table and he affirmed my belief.  Not everyone needs to, or should be, on social media.  He used to say everyone should be, but he’s realized it just ain’t so!!  And this guy makes his living off social media, so you know he’s come to see the light when he can say that.

Why is this a lie?  Because social media at its core is about engagement and thinking outside a purely self-promotional box.  You can’t throw out a few tweets every day and succeed, unless you’re super famous offline.  And then I’d argue you’re still not doing social media, really.  You’re one-way preaching to your followers in the latest format they’re using.

I see more therapists spending wasted effort on social media when that precious time and energy can be spent elsewhere.  I’m 100% supportive of those therapists who want to learn and try it, but I’m also 100% supportive for those (like my husband) who say no way.  The world is not going to end.  Clients will still come to you (because they are not going to Twitter to engage with therapists anyway!)

Myth: Heavy Website Traffic Websites Guarantee Success

Trust me, I know it’s hard to not believe this one.  To show you how hard it is to not believe it, I was an ACTIVE user of a website that I then chose to advertise on.  My gut knew the facts, but my greed wanted the sales pitch to be true.  So, $125/month times six months later, guess what?  Total failure.  And because the real point of the website was about community and message boards, I literally had more hits to my website just being myself, a true member of the community, than advertising!

A lot of website traffic seems hot until you break it down.  Any website with a message board is going to have repeat visitors, sometimes 2-3 or 4 different times a day on different IP Addresses.  (IP address is like stamping that you’ve visited a website and is used, among other numbers, to tell advertisers how many web visitors you have.)  So the more forums and message boards, the more visitors you’ll have, but these aren’t the visitors who trust ads.  They are on because they trust their peers!

The second main issue with heavy website traffic is branding and conversion.  Do people love the overall website and don’t really pay attention to who is writing what article?  Do the web visitors visit to get general education or are they actually seeking ways to spend their money to solve their problems?  That’s a big difference!  (An example, my father wrote a blog post on a big therapy website that got about 30,000 visitors – a TON!)  But those people were not going to visit him and his website.  They only wanted to hear what he said on that exact topic.

I am a firm believer in experimenting and trying new things.  But just go in with eyes wide open and be sure you can get out of any paid contract easily!  We were stuck in an expensive experiment for six months.

Myth: Ranking High is Vital

First of all, what does ranking high mean?  There are many, many ways people find websites, not just one word or phrase.  In fact Google generally has a full50% of it’s hundreds of millions of daily web visitors type in something unique… meaning Google has to instantly match quirky questions with every website that exists!  This means you can get web traffic from a lot of different phrases that tie into what you do.

Secondly, if your website sucks you can rank high and people will bounce right off to the next website that shows up on their search results!!  And on that note, please don’t have Google Adwords running if your website sucks.  It’s the same problem.  Sure, you can guarantee web visitors, but if you’re really bad, nobody will “convert” to an actual client.

Second point on ranking high is you may be better off paying to advertise on high ranking directories and then putting your effort elsewhere to attract other types of web visitors beyond those who are searching on Google.  This is where Twitter shines – you can build relationships with other website owners and, without spending a dime, expand your audience by sharing your expertise with their web traffic.

 

What other things have you discovered are myths or lies?  Every therapist seems to have been schnookered into something that just turned out not to be true or didn’t quite fit their business model.  Share in comments below!

Clients are dealing with loss, divorce, solo-hood, mental health, family dysfunction, etc may be emotionally flooded to the point they aren’t even sure therapy can help.  And therapists are being flooded with buzz words, marketing tips, experts who can make you have full practices with all cash-paying clients, plus tons of magical extra money through multiple streams of income. All while trying to see their current clients, keep up with the latest therapy research, attend CEU trainings, maybe be a spouse, parent, friend. How to balance it all?

My goal for 2011 is to help you stop your marketing flooding.  Stop the pounding you feel from every direction to do it all – BLOG! Social media! Get a website but not a static one (and you think, my website doesn’t give me static, what do they mean?) Network!  Give presentations and workshops!  Get video on your website. Go mobile! On and on it goes.

My problem is seeing therapists who stumble around, trying whatever the last marketing expert told them to do.  They aren’t sure why they’re, say, on Twitter, nor do they know what it would be like to have a strategy on it.  They start blogging and hope that’ll fix their problems. They buy a $40/month shopping cart system when they don’t yet have a product to sell, nor anyone to actually sell it to.  They don’t trust people on the internet.  (I’m with you on that one, so not sure if that makes me a self-hater seeing as I’m on the internet selling stuff, too!)  They put a lot of money into Google Adwords and have a horrid website, thus defeating the point of drawing people in to convert them to clients…

What is missing?

Perspective.

Perspective on how it ALL fits together.  On what personality types and skills best match all the options out there.  Honesty on what it takes within each marketing option to really do something real with it.  And honesty about just how much effort each of these ventures take, and honesty on whether it’s worth another $10,000 a year of earnings for you to give every non-therapy hour to a bunch of tasks you may not enjoy…or to throw a bunch of money at virtual assistants to do the grunt work, not knowing if success is around the corner.

I also see no discussion on the dark side of self-promotion as therapists.  I’ve seen it for years and I have private conversations with therapists who watch their peers go down the dark path.  You go from being a solid person who helps people, to a business card, book-pushing, email-spamming self-promoter who becomes blinded to anything that doesn’t result in you selling your books, filling your classes, or getting email addresses for your lists.  You view any potential venture strictly in terms of how much cash you can make, and donating time, energy, or effort feels very naive.  It’s like there is this vortex and once you get sucked in, it’s very hard to get out of it. It’s not all about greed, either, but about ego.  It’s highly unattractive when self-promotion gets out of balance and simply put, it makes me sad.

What do you want to see?

That is my huge task.  To help give perspective.  What questions do you have that I can try answering in this blog post?  And if you had this “big picture perspective”, should it be in a teleclass, written, video, or in a short-term teleseries where I do some teaching and some on-the-fly consulting with people on the call, recorded for others to hear who couldn’t make the call?

I find out soon if I get an interview, then find out in March hopefully, that I got into graduate school.  I’m not going anywhere long term, but for the shorter term starting in the fall I’m not going to be as helpful.  I feel very blessed, however, to have hundreds of therapists friends who can support me emotionally in graduate school and in the internship.  Maybe this blog will turn into YOU supporting ME!🙂

This is currently on my roster: nuts and bolts book on therapy profiles, book on informational interviews (what they are, strategy, their power), Twitter for therapists (micro-trainings, really affordable!), a 3 part series on journalism for therapists (plus hopefully more smaller ones on, say, new therapists and journalism).   Finally, a really affordable Google Adwords service/product (hopefully launching soon!)

I do all this with an unwaivering passion to provide rock solid information without jazzy hyped up marketing fluff.  I want to help make therapists more rock-star like in order to attract more clients.  My secret mission is to rebrand therapy in our culture and by sharing great information with YOU, more people consider therapy for the first time based on how you market yourself and market what therapy actually is.  And my not so secret mission is to give energy to therapists. Without energy nothing else matters.

I know.  I aim so low, don’t I?

But seriously, comment and I’d love to find a way to help a bunch of you who have the same  struggles.   Ultimately I believe marketing is identical to therapy.  It’s an internal journey first, and a practical journey of skill building and behavior changing second.

After talking yesterday about Rock Star Therapy Bloggers vs Regular Therapy bloggers I want to address a really common problem for therapists.  Don’t laugh because it’s very real:

Too Much Passion.

This may be too much passion for “healing”, too much passion for theory talk, too much passion for research, for emotion talk….

You’ve probably heard the stereotypes of therapists, which include being sappy, drippy, overly-emotive, all about feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings, anti-male, and it’s all about feeling goooooood.  I’ll address the anti-male marketing message in a separate post.

The dangers of too much passion in MARKETING your therapy practice, in my opinion, include:

  • everything you write and say becomes about you, not the client
  • you talk at a 5,000 foot level when prospective clients are in the dirt with the problem
  • you can lose sight of what people really want because you’re so focused on what you want to do or say
  • being blinded to any feedback from friends,  business coaches, or clients regarding what you’re doing or how you’re doing it
  • missing a huge window right “next” to your passion, where potentially a lot more people are wanting or needing your services

Let me give a few examples to illustrate.

If your website has a lot of “I” talk with passion-filled emotion, do some checks and balances to see if you are really speaking to the client or writing a personal diary.  Why on the world should someone care that you love a particular topic?  They don’t unless most of the words are directed to their pain or pressures.  Your passion should simply be what solidifies that not only do they feel heard and empathized with, but they feel excited that you’ll be thrilled to work with them because you have a lot of experience or training in their issue.

A common one in my world at the 5,000 foot level would be something like:

Marriage is hard work!  It requires a lot of effort, so if you focused at least half your energy on the marriage as you are on the wedding…”  I despise this!!  Stop it people!  Right now those people are in the throws of wedding planning drama.  They are putting on the biggest event of their lives, at a time when they’ve just gone from island-happy selfish boyfriend/girlfriend land, to creating inlaws and becoming a branch on a family tree.  And I am crazy intentional, have a great relationship with my husband, and in premarital counseling at the 5,000 foot level we didn’t have a lot of issues.  We weren’t living together, we’d never had a family holiday together, we couldn’t even budget since we didn’t have a home to budget for yet.  But had we been asked about wedding planning… oi, YES, there was a lot going on.  It’s almost impossible to have a simple, easy wedding where every stakeholder is equally relaxed and pleased.

The grounded approach would be to talk to their real pressures so they understand where you’re coming from and that you can, in fact, help them.  “Are you in the throws of figuring out who is on the inside club of wedding invitations?  Are you mad for the first time at your future in-laws who you thought were rather pleasant until they insisted on inviting 70 family members you’ve never even heard of in 3 years of dating?”  THAT is on the ground!  I firmly believe that wedding planning IS marriage planning because it’s all about communication, teamwork, money, family of origin.  Why in the world would you talk generic when you have such rich fodder to delve into what’s actually going on?  (A plug: If you want a free copy of Take Back Your Wedding, email me at elizabeththomas [at] thefirstdance <dot> com and I’ll send you the e-book!  I’m in the process of creating a website just for the book, but we have revenue sharing on the e-book for your couples.)

On to what people really want vs what you want.
 
Most therapists are rather obsessed with making their hourly rate in the work they do.  Make sense but it can be really destructive.  I know very creative therapist wanting to offer awesome services but to get her hourly rate, nobody will sign up.   One therapist is offering a really cool communication aid by email about a particular niche (I don’t want to give it away as she’s still trying to market but hasn’t hired a business coach so it’s slow going.)  She needs to risk not making an hourly rate to instead think about membership models or ways she can make the service appear affordable and useful rather than what is now – email her and you’ll pay $50+ for a response.   I gave her about 15 minutes of fabulous information but this marketing and business model stuff is very overwhelming stuff to learn fast and requires a HUGE time output, without pay, to get this sort of thing off the ground.  There is no way greed works when it comes to marketing effort.  You are paid in passion dollars at first.  :)

Another great therapist wanted to offer a workshop at a really high rate.  When I learn it’s for engaged couples, I had to tell her it’s insane.  Turns out she was putting in all the time she’s spent working on the workshop into the final cost per couple.  Nope – not the way it works.  It’s all about what the market will pay, not what your hourly rate is.  To her credit she heard the message and has gone back to the drawing board on what she wants, how much she’ll charge, etc.

The final example I’ll give comes from my work with search engine optimization as well as my understanding of the stigma of therapy.  

Think about your client and look what is “nearby” and figure out if that is a way to get in.  Examples: working with pregnant or post partem women, find doulas, lactation consultants, baby planners, baby furniture and clothing stores.  They are stigma-free concrete places women go and you can reach out.  Marriage counseling is a tough one, but married couples have lots of activities they do from remodeling, home decorating, date nights, travel, etc.  (Hint: this is part of my creative blog in the works and “grand ideas” locally.)  For my wedding relationship website, I have had to find what their pressures are (WEDDING STUFF) and talk to that in order to get them to land on a premarital counseling website.  When you talk to their real issues (who to invite, divorced parent drama, procrastinating bridesmaids, annoying siblings) they will not only find you, but may actually be interested in the “other stuff” you offer.  You know, the stuff you’re passionate about.

And a big hint: you don’t find clients on Twitter, but you find those people who WORK, PLAY, or ENTERTAIN your clients on Twitter.  I’m building authentic relationships with a huge variety of Minnesota Twitter folks because it’s fantastic fun but also really important in networking as a therapist to see what’s out there and figure out how to reach your audience.

I’m also nearly complete with a robust e-book on writing therapy directory profiles.  It’s really exciting to be able to share nuts and bolts information on such an important topic!  Too much passion and too much therapy speak, or major “messaging problems” are at the core of most therapy profile statements. If you’re interested, give me your email here and I’ll let you know when it’s done.

I’m way excited for today’s post and it’s taken a week to get it organized as I wanted the blessing of the three people I am going to call out as Rock Star Therapy Bloggers.  I have a lot of opinions from my wide lens at this world of blogging, marketing, therapy, social media,  corporate life, being an active member of message boards and just generally still being a “normal person”, not yet a graduate student or licensed therapist with all the bias and baggage that comes with that path.

The big reasons I’m excited to share Regular Therapy Blogging vs Rock Star Blogging?

1 – it defies some of the marketers advice out there (I love being a contrarian!)

2 – it defies the sense that you have to look like a gross marketer/self promoter to be successful (a struggle new therapy bloggers have)

3 – it fits my strong belief that if you do good and have a bigger vision than self-promotion, good things will happen

4 – with all my experience, this is the path I plan on taking.  I recently talked to my therapist husband a few weeks ago on My Big Idea and he’s tentatively in agreement which means we may be launching our first mental health blog…I’m naturally psyched and he’s  exhausted already at my energy towards writing and marketing. hah!)

5 – the rock star bloggers are super inspiring, very real, and successful.  Who doesn’t love that?

Warning: Nobody can tell you that you suck or are doing things wrong even if they’re telling you that you’re doing things wrong. Success comes in many forms and we all have unique talents, abilities, goals, and missions.  Never take any marketer advice as gold (including mine) without seriously consulting your own emotional reaction, researching, and figuring out what you can do within all your abilities and limitations.  We are all biased and the following information has a bias towards a certain way of being in the world that may not fit for you.  Not every therapist has the temperament, drive, time, or interest in being a rock star blogger and I say good for you for knowing who you are!  There are countless ways to reach people with your message.

Warning in plain English: Please don’t feel awful if you think your blog sucks and please don’t redo everything you’re doing just because it’s the opposite of what I’m saying here.

Biggest Roadblock to Therapy Blogging?

The real challenge to start and maintain a therapy blog is about MINDSET and long term goals for a blog.  The goal will dramatically impact your success and how you go about blogging.  While there is no “right way” to blog, in my view there is a gap in thinking and action between a normal therapy blogger and a rock star blogger.

In no particular order…

Where the blog exists

A regular therapy blogger has a blog under their counseling website.  Like therapistjane.com/blog

A Rock Star blogger has a separate URL for a blog and very likely maintains a separate website for counseling and clients to keep the two worlds separate.  They are hyper aware of the sacred nature of therapy-client relationships and their blogging audience is not really likely to be their clients. (Rock Star Bloggers give a lot of thought to this issue and work within their comfort zone on the blog vs therapy side of their business.)

Blog Look

A regular therapy blogger has a simple blog, probably a free template

A Rock Star blogger pays good money for a well designed, customized, well functioning blog. And even more? Every year or two they pay MORE money to complely revamp. Why? A web design reflects who you are and what you’re doing. Rock Star bloggers have momentum which requires constantly growing and changing their look and functionality.

Why the blog exists

Regular therapy bloggers are told to blog because that’s what you do, darnit!  It’s the smart, savvy way to get clients, say the therapy marketers.

Rock star therapy bloggers have a passion they can barely contain!  They want to help people who may never seek therapy and they want to express their passion as widely and loudly as they can!  They have big dreams and know if they can create a mini-universe online, good things will happen (including the side effect of, yes…getting clients.)  They treat their blog really as its own business whose revenue is simply helping and media attention.  (See a future blog hopefully this week on a book review that ties closely into this topic of “free.”)

Note the huge difference in motivation!

What the Blog Does or Says

Regular therapy bloggers have a general sense of the blog topic, maybe.  It may be all over the board however, discussing anything mental health related.  Every blog post may be a big of a struggle.

Rock star bloggers have a big umbrella, or a tight niche, but either way they know what container they’ve got with their topic and they’re busy plugging away, filling the “holes” not yet discussed in the broad or narrow topic they have chosen.  Often blog inspiration comes from seeing themes in the therapy sessions with clients.  They want to “give away” what people are paying them to hear so they can help others.

Readership

Regular therapy blogs don’t have a ton of readers, not a big audience.  They’re quiet little blogs.

Rock star therapy blogs have big audiences that mushroom even bigger every time the blog is mentioned in a new publication, radio, TV, website.  You can just “feel” the audience even if you can’t “see” them, when you land on their blog.  The blog takes on a life of its own.  Perhaps in part because it doesn’t feel like a “therapy blog” with all the stigma of therapy?

Writers Block and Frustration, Oh My….!

Regular therapy bloggers get frustrated, writers block, not sure “why” they are blogging or what they’re getting out of it.

Rock star therapy bloggers get exhausted for sure, but built the blog for a passion to help the broader culture.  Since they’re really “out there” they have a beat of what people want to know and are rarely at a loss for what they could write about.  Their natural momentum plus their networking and media attention keep the blog hot, hot, hot.

Attraction

Regular therapy bloggers work for a labor of love, trusting their marketing coaches that readers will come.  Afterall, blogs are magical, right?  The search engines loves them!

Rock star therapy bloggers use their blogs as a huge marketing tool.  They’re weapon of mass attraction is a lively, energetic, snappy blog they proudly share with the world, and because their passion and website are so great, people take notice and have them be guest blog writers, quote them, link to them, give them cool opportunities.  May find ways to build e-products to make money from the blog, but it’s more like a bookstore on the blog rather than empire building by collecting emails to sell a bunch of stuff.  They may get paid in creative ways but it’s very clear to the average reader that you can absorb a ton from the website without hitting a “wall” requiring payment to learn anything more.

The Start of the Blog

Regular therapy bloggers are eager to collect email addresses as they’re told the point is to be able to sell them stuff, let people know about e-books, workshops, etc.  There can be a hunger and obsession with collecting email addresses and a sense of failure if that isn’t happening, or as fast as you would want.

Rock star bloggers are not in this game for emails.  These therapists build a blog without trying to be a sales website, without having lots of signups for things and may even have NO sign up except “get emails for this blog.”  Their primary goal is to have free, open information which naturally keeps people coming back.

So who ARE these rock star therapy bloggers?  I don’t doubt there are quite a few out there, but three I am specifically wanting to call out today and who confirmed this blog is not just blowing smoke….

Soapbox Therapy Twitter @SoapBoxTherapy

Relationships in the Raw @Estes_Therapy

The Toolbox at Lisa Kift Therapy @LisaKiftTherapy

Each are busy, each have their own stories, and each are proof that you don’t have to be a 30 year veteran therapist to get great media attention and grow a passion-inspired practice.

Please, if you’ve had success, tell us what you’ve found so others reading this can learn from you!

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