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Therapy Marketing: Part 2: What It Is

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!


Therapy Marketing Part 1: Why It’s Not What You Think

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.

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!

How to Contain Your Therapy Passion

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.

Translating Your Offline Awesomeness Online

I see it over and over.  It makes me sad.  I cringe.  I feel bad.

You see, my father is at the top of the therapy game, knows thousands of people, amazing organizations, researchers, therapists, writers.  I probably won’t have to buy any books as he seems to have given them a testimonial and has the book, or gets free copies as a key player in the field.

Why do I mention this?  I mention this because I know a lot of insider stuff.  Mostly really, really amazing stuff.  Geeky cool research based facts, or insider knowledge on why this particular person is extra impressive.  Or how that organization is doing trendsetting work.

And occasionally I get an email from my dad, with a link to the name or website of someone he recently was impressed by.

And this is where I get sad, or cringe, or feel bad.  Going to the website of these amazing people or organizations.

More often than not, the build up I’ve been given versus their website startling.  And the reason it makes me sad is because I know without an amazing online presence, these people or organizations are losing people, losing potential partnerships, media calls, interns, clients…

So how do you get awesome?

There are lots of factors, but I’d say even more important than what you say is your web design.  You can have amazing words on a horrid website design and you might as well be serving your gourmet food on plastic plates.  And the challenge with design is that it constantly evolves.  You should never expect to have the same website design for more than 3-4 years.  In fact on my therapy directory I run, the It firm has split out design from content so we have maximum ease when we want to update our look.

Organizing what you say is also crucial.  (I have an entire training on this topic because it’s so, so important to your reader and search engines!)  You want to make sure people know where to go based on why they’re coming to your website.  You also want to emphasis whatever is important across a variety of pages.  Afterall, you can’t have everything on your homepage, so how do you ensure the right things are on the homepage and other key information is clearly marked so people click to learn more?

Your Words are a big fat “duh” in being awesome.  For some reason therapists can be amazing in the clinical office, but as soon as they get on a keyboard they diarrhea grad school speak.  The other direction therapists may go is simply being too passionate and watered down in empathy.  There is a fine balance between empathy and explaining why they should hire YOU (vs why they should generally seek therapy.)

I’ve got two services that help with your online impression-making.  But whether you hire me or not, please be aware that you can be awesome in person, have a great word of mouth referral base, but if your website sucks, you’re going to lose people.

The real competitors for therapists

Therapists are a goofy bunch.  Some are very territorial, not wanting to lose any prospective client to a fellow therapist. Other therapists find a great referral source tell their colleagues to join in, even if it’s the same office suite and the same shared client base.  (Love those therapists on the Marriage Friendly Therapist therapy directory who refer colleagues!)

But no, I don’t mean your real competitors are therapists.  Life for mental health professionals would be fantastic if the only competition were other therapists!

The real competitors for therapists are:

self help books with strong claims at easy, inexpensive, or quick fixes

the media – it’s a lot more interesting to talk about bad therapy or awful therapists or my pet peeve – completely exclude mental health professionals in stories that could use some psychological  framing and perspective for the viewer to fully understand how and why something bad happened

life coaches or holistic coaches – the good ones who market well and “don’t know what they don’t know” are able to make bold claims, offer tremendous hope, and walk into arenas therapists just don’t, whether it’s adding in nutrition, fitness, or alternative medicine to psychological healing…all of which may be very useful (or at least enticing) to some prospective clients

past clients of bad therapy – there nothing worse for the profession than hearing horror stories, whether it’s actual abuse from a therapist, nasty insults to clients, or “yeah I just paid $100 and after about 8 sessions and the therapist not saying anything, I gave up and feel totally ripped off!”

cultural bias about therapy – “Why would anyone pay someone to listen to them complain?” “therapy is a crock!” “Why go to a therapist when I have my best friend to talk to?” “I don’t have the money or time” “Nothing is going to change just talking” “I’m not crazy enough to need a therapist” “I don’t have the problem, he/she/they do.”

and my passion?  The reason I spend all this time blogging, writing in newsletters and magazines, helping therapists through consulting, products and services?

bad therapy marketing – yes, that’s right.  There are a lot of great therapists who market very poorly and actually play into the bias against therapy.  The lingo, the incomprehensible discussion of theories and modalities, or playing into the stereotypes of the “woo woo” hippie peace, love, and happiness therapist who just wants you to share your thoughts.   And let’s not get started on the anti-male bias in therapy marketing.  It’s very female driven in imagery and how it’s described.  My husband did a fantastic, intentional job when designing his therapy office to avoid all the stereotypes of therapy (running water, butterflies, bamboo, mountains, smooth rocks, etc.)  Partly he finds all that stuff very cliche, but he also wanted to ensure the atmosphere was welcoming to as many personality types as possible.


My challenge to you is to think about ALL those reasons people may read your website, or therapy profile, and may not be convinced to seek therapy generally…or seek you in particular.  I’ve written (though it’s not yet published), some great “Myth Busting” on my therapist husbands private practice website.  It can’t hurt and at best, will be that final nudge for someone to call.  Try it on your website, too.  It may just help.

Therapy Skills Help In Marketing

Yes, it’s true!  While many or most therapists have a huge negative mindset around marketing, the core skills marketers use already exist in therapists, both naturally, and from graduate training.

What are these skills? Why do so many small businesses fail as a result of not having these skills?

Deep Listening

Listening for Solutions to Client Problems

Flexibility to Adjust

Deep Listening is inherent in therapy and is money well spent in marketing in businesses

Do you think General Mills or Target is going to put 40 million dollars into a new product without listening to their prospective customers?  Of course not.  So big corporations hire agencies for big bucks, gather all their highly paid execs, to create a plan for deep listening.  This may be  focus groups, surveys,  testing out ideas in smaller locations and then doing some analysis.  One of the reasons I LOVE the CBS show Undercover Boss (Sunday nights) is because CEO’s take a week to go under cover, being trained on the ground by real employees, listening for the first time ever to the real issues the employees face and ways to improve the company and customer experience.

Listening for solutions to problems is the core of therapy and is the heart of all new successful product or service creation

Therapists are not out to serve 40 million people.  And the very nature of therapy is deep listening to solve problems (even if you can’t “solve” bipolar, you can help with the problems that arise.)  You are actually seeing clients in your sessions, listening for their problems and helping them find solutions.  What if some of those solutions are more affordable or even more effective out of the therapy session?  (Think different products or group services you could offer on specific issues they face…otherwise referred to as multiple streams of income.)

Therapists still need to do research, as marketers do, to see what may be missing.  Just because you got your Ph.D. in a cool mental health topic doesn’t mean you have a clue how to translate the actual on the ground need, with your expertise!  I have a new service – niche research, to help you find allies, competitors, learn more about your niche, and help you discover new ideas for how to serve your population.  I’m wicked fast and resourceful at this type of work and have created the service in 30 minute “units of time” to maximize your wallet and risk aversion to spending money.  Why not hire me rather than flail around, not knowing how to find multiple streams of income or ways to serve your ideal client population?  My latest research gig was great fun – doing search engine research to come up with a great domain name and topics for a therapist writing a book about homework and parent stress in helping their kids.

Therapy is a constant dance of adjustment to the therapeutic alliance and client progress, while businesses are constantly calibrating to waste as little money as possible while earning money

Unlike many entrepreneurs who get fixated on ONE IDEA and drain their savings trying to get people to see how amazing their idea is, therapists are used to trying and failing, getting client resistance and trying a new approach or tactic.  Therapy is complicated and therapists are well aware they can’t go into helping a client with a “it’s my way or the highway” mentality.  Why would you ever try to market a theory of therapy when you could be adjusting how you frame the problems, figuring out which one resonates and brings in the most clients?

So there you have it.

Did you know you already have fantastic skills that marketers and entrepreneurs try to learn in order to be successful?  Pat yourself on the back, then get moving.  Hire a coach (there are a lot of us out there though I consider myself more on the ground guidance than general coaching), read (lots of books and websites out there), and then go forth.  The best part?  There is inherent beauty in your marketing journey because the final result is healing hearts, minds, families and communities.  That is way more fun than trying to market a better inseminator for cow breeding, or convincing women they need longer eyelashes.

I’ve been slowly adding new products and services with a new website relaunch, so check them out and never hesitate to contact me with questions or struggles.  I love to listen, find solutions to your problems, and adjust my consulting business to incorporate your struggle.  (See?  Marketing isn’t that gross!)

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