"Helping people who help people"

Archive for the ‘Starting A Website’ Category

Flooding – Yours, Not The Client

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.

Are you online for the long haul? Lessons Learned in 5 Years

I’ve got fifty minutes left of nervous anxiety before I get to “meet” my new website.  Five years ago we launched a marriage therapy directory and were pleased as punch by what our webmaster put together for us.  Little did we know how LITTLE WE KNEW!  After a year and a lot of mistakes, I learned a ton and manually revamped the entire site.  It was loads of work, and then more work, and more.  I chose to spend the time rather than outsource it and am grateful for all that I learned.  The thing about therapy, or marketing, or private practice building, or really any topic under the sun, is that there is always something new to learn.  Even world famous people get mentored and trained, even if they are helping millions of people themselves.

My anxiety and nerves come from a fear of failure.  A failure to communicate well with the IT team.  A failure of culture.  I’m in the therapy culture and they’re in the IT culture.  A failure to launch this new website in a way that doesn’t overwhelm our mostly non-techie therapists.  (This last one I have more control over and think a lot about my HR days and the lessons I learned about launching new systems to people whose primary jobs are not to read FAQ and manuals on all the new upgrades.)

Here is what I’ve learned in the last five years of being actively online, marketing to clients looking for therapy help:

you’ll never know everything or be able to do everything. Chose one new thing to learn, focus, and then be proud!  Bask in the glory of whatever it is, from simply setting up a blog, adding a “share this on Facebook/Twitter” button, or simply learning how to write website content slightly better.  Small victories are 100x better than doing nothing.

there is always tomorrow to add more. Focus on your goals right now and do what you need to do.  It’s been four years now that I’ve had a better sense of what I wanted, and finally I’ll be getting it!  If I had added everything I wanted at the moment I wanted it, I do not believe the website would be as functional as it will be.  Nor do I believe it would have been the best use of our finances to have someone constantly tinkering with the website.

don’t be jealous of others. Sure, your competition may appear fancier, but you have no idea what’s going on, how little traffic they have, whether they’re struggling more than you are.  I’m always humbled when I see fancy websites and learn the truth behind them.  Or discover they are doing no better but have a lot higher expenses because they built too much too soon.

take anything you learn and filter it immediately into your own client base and business goals. Immediately my IT firm wanted to install a fancy shipping tool for our website because it was exciting to them.  We don’t ship things!  We never will!  We use Amazon Associates program to guide people to books we recommend, but are NOT in the book selling business.  That is not a good use of our time, nor could we ever get author discounts cheap enough to make our pricing, shipping and handling worth the work.  We’re a therapy directory, not book store.  Similar to website and IT firms, a lot of marketers have awesome ideas and some just do NOT fit with your client base.  Just the other day my father pointed out that a family friend of ours would NOT do well on Twitter because she sees a lot of borderline patients.  She had her house on the market and all her borderline patients CAME to the open house and commented on everything they saw.  Similarly she may not ever want to offer online scheduling, or offer newsletters, or any other common tool marketers recommend, due to the clients she serves and the damage that could be caused by their actions (booking up her entire schedule, or sending lots of email responses to her newsletters, etc.)

know how your clients use your website. Think about your client, literally, sitting down to find you.  The clearest example I can give you is for my niche – couples in distress.  One or both may realize they need help, and one or both may start searching online for a therapist.  BEFORE they call you, however, they will be sharing your website with their spouse.  Makes sense, right?  Why not then have an “Email Your Spouse” option on your website so you make it super easy for them to communicate with their spouse?  Think about any barrier they have and how to solve it.  You would not believe how ridiculous it was for me when I was first pregnant.  I had a job in a cube with people nearby, and did not have a clue what to do.  I couldn’t call the OB/Gyn with everyone around and of course they weren’t on email.  I had to leave work, sit in my car, and call the dr.  If I had to leave a message, I’d be unable to answer because I’d be back at my cubical.  And pregnancy doesn’t have the stigma that mental health has!!  If there is any other therapist near you, and they offer an email address but you don’t, you can bet a lot more people are emailing them because they were like me and unable to be on the phone during the day.  Clients are surfing for therapists during the work day, but not always able to call during the day.

trust what’s going on for you. It can be hard not getting intimidated by all your options, all the marketers, all the ways you can improve.  But I always, always start by asking therapists how is it going?  Everyone has their own story, experiences, goals and personality.  The last thing you want to do is destroy what is going well by adding in new tools or processes that won’t jive with the reasons you’re successful.  And adding new tools, bells, and whistles may backfire on you, making you more stressed and distracted from what you really want to do.  If you’ve got awesome clients with an outdated, horrid looking website, well, maybe that awful website is quaint, makes you more approachable, or your clients may not even be on it if you’ve got a large word of mouth presence.  One therapist I know said it was time to update his ten year old website when a young client said, “wow, I love your retro website.”

study your competition. Look at what they’re writing about, how they’re organizing their website, study it like an anthropologist, learning how they do business, to get new ideas, learn what you like and don’t like.  I know, for example, some of the new content we’ll be writing will have big competition – entire websites dedicated to one small aspect of marital distress.  I also know, however, that we’re better branded and trusted to respond to the same content they write about.  We’re also going to be taking it another step beyond what our competition does.  Our audience is different from their audience, so I can take the best things they’re doing but filter it back to my audience.

OK, so I’ve got ten minutes left before my IT guy shows up.  This was a good use of my anxious energy.  I welcome blog comments if you have any questions!

What a Therapy Website Can Be

The Co-Founder of Marriage Friendly Therapists is Kathleen Wenger, whom I get the joy of seeing about once a year in Laguna Beach.  She works at Pepperdine University, where this therapist intern went to school.  This is how I know this guy early in his still-young career experienced burnout after highly successful internet marketing.  I know he put a lot into Google Ads, and I have to say, his website to my marketing eyes is both exhausting (to imagine all the work he put in!) and AMAZING.  It really is a dream site in many respects.  I will definitely be using his website as a fantastic example as I build my own private practice website some day.

After you surf around, consider he gets $150/session.  He’s still an intern-level therapist in California.  And you’d never really know he’s an intern as a prospective client based on all that he has to say on the site.

The part that scares me in general, and part of why I’m so passionate about helping therapists with their websites, is this guy has a lot less experience than many of you reading this, and yet to a prospective client, he may appear more experienced and more competent.  This is not a put down to THIS therapist, but more an encouragement and reality check that many of you do not appear even remotely passionate or interesting on your websites compared to someone like him.  And yes, in some ways he’s going to draw a certain type of client over someone else.  You have to trust your instincts and know who you are as a therapist.  My husband, for example, is super against ‘quizzes’ and things he views as more Cosmo-magazine and less demonstrative of the gravitas of therapy.  Of course, this California therapist likely has a lot more clients, so it’s a battle of integrity, marketing-saavy, and what works for your practice and level of comfort.

Which Comes First: The Idea or The Website?

This post is my “coming out party.”  It’s the most unimpressive party ever because I am announcing to the world that I want to be a therapist!  My friends are all saying, “uh, duh?”  or “Finally!”  One friend admitted that when I announced this news, she forgot in her head that I had never actually said I was going to be a therapist.  She simply knew that was part of my future.

However, for ME, it’s been a slow, swirling process of late that culminated in a “thunderbolt” date with my husband.  I asked him in almost a resigned manner, “so, should I be a therapist??”  His reaction, then my reaction to his reaction, then a long conversation… created that thunderbolt moment where you’re never the same again.  Reading two great books and more soul searching later, I have been going public!  The first book I read was Letters to a Young Therapist (Art of Mentoring) by Mary Pipher.  In pursuit at the book store for the classic On Becoming a Counselor: A Basic Guide for Nonprofessional Counselors and Other Helpers I happened to see another book that caught my eye.  And yes, it had a better design which is important!  I ended up buying On Being a Therapist by Jeffrey Kottler.

I’m now reading The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science which has been very interesting.  The talk about psychotherapy and the brain is interesting, though I have a feeling some would strongly disagree with some of the analysis in the book.  Even if the ENTIRE book is barely truth, I am enjoying it.  The science is important because I am not a “life coach” sort of person and I really need to wrestle with the idea of what therapy is in its truest form and feel good about articulating how and why it works and my desired goal(s) in that profession.

So the title of this post is the idea or the website?  I won’t even be applying for graduate school until this coming winter, to be admitted the fall of 2011.  Then two years have to pass before I can even pursue private practice.  So does this mean I sit and wait or can I do anything about my future private practice, web-wise?

I’ve already been writing down potential website names, noodling on their short term vs long term viability (based on what the heck I end up wanting to REALLY do post-graduation.)  And yes, I’ve been having loads of fun creating OUTRAGEOUS website names that I’d never actually use.  The crazy thing is there is nothing to say I can’t actually start building a website while in graduate school.  Or even today as I am absorbing a lot of books on areas I find interesting.  I could get some great content on this new website with all the book reviews and ruminations, maybe get a fun blog going.  The idea would not be to “convert” people into my practice, but to slowly build content, collect emails from people who find me interesting, see if I can find readers who are interested in what I have to say, and potentially have “guest articles” written by people in the various areas I’m contemplating.  Or even just the “journey to becoming a therapist” may interest some people.

Now for some of you this sounds worse than poking your ear drums with a toothpick.  Why would you EVER go through all that effort without getting money in the end???  Here are a few reasons:

If I can get the website to exist online and do all the things I teach (content building, linking from other websites, using the right keywords) then Google will know I exist.

  • Google also loves “older” websites. The newer the site the more likely your email will get put in people’s spam folders, if it’s not outright rejected.  The reason is spam websites newly exist on day 1, blast 1,000’s of emails, then vanish.   There is  a date tied to your domain name, and email programs don’t like new ones.  I’ve had this problem with every website I’ve owned.  Google takes time to rank your website high for the area you are claiming to know something about.
  • If I can build an interesting website and/or blog, I will get fantastic input from people as I pursue my graduate studies and contemplate my various interests.  How cool would it be to consider X or Y idea and have real people (who might be the people you’d want as clients), giving you feedback.
  • People love real people talking about mental health.  Professionals are trusted, but “real people” can seem more down to earth and relatable.  If I can actually be both a “citizen professional” and a therapist some day, I will resonate with more people and have maintained my “real person” voice as I get indoctrinated into the world of psychotherapy.  For example, the psychology of money is fascinating to me and I have a lot of personal stories I can share to demonstrate why I find nearly all financial educators advice falls flat.  (But before I make that blanket statement I will have read a lot of books, done book reviews, and explain where I see the gaps.  I’ve already read one money book this weekend that left me cold…even though it’s a very public money expert)
  • If I have a “future home of my private practice” online, it allows me to reference that website and start to be known “over there.”  Right now my voice is one of internet guru and marketer.  Where would I send people I start networking with, therapist-to-prospective-therapist?  Or people I talk to in the community as I build relationships for potential therapy business services?  Or my future fellow students?  It would be to this new website.
  • From a “branding” standpoint, few of my customers and professional contacts know the “real me” in my professional interests.  This website would let me bridge in a new way, the people I know, the resources they can offer me (books or people to connect with, etc.)  I think I’m a rather interesting soul… but right now I’m quite restricted to “website marketing.”  Blah blah blah, right!  I become one-dimensional.

So there you have it.  Strategic, long-term, marketing reasons to find a home online.  And as the Domains CD talks about, there are pros and cons to using your own name.   Right now I own my own name and there are reasons (some mentioned above) why I am not likely to use that website for professional therapy purposes.  And in case you’re interested in the website name training…it is as much business consulting and strategy building as what you may THINK of as “just the name.”

Domain Names: Is your name helping or hurting? Price: $49.99

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Having a Website Strategy

This blog title cracks me up considering my origins of websites was to have the idea first, then hire the webmaster, then get confused with the questions he was asking, then see the website done, then hope our idea took off…not having a clue about the thousands of errors I made.

Now I exhaust myself working backwards, knowing the various strategies that are at play with the internet.  For example:

Strategy: your website name can, by itself, create a ton of free traffic (hence I have a Domains CD on the 3 ways to think about your website name and each of their pros/cons…and how, even if you have a website name, you can redo it OR add a second name strategically.)  This is why this website blog is called “private practice psychotherapy”.  It hit a popular phrase and it gives me immediate trust with Google that, as I blog, I seem to know something about therapy and websites and marketing.

Strategy: forget about tons of energy into YOUR OWN website.  Focus on finding OTHER WEBSITES were you can embed yourself as an expert.  I know people who are experts on The Knot and NJ Weddings – two big wedding planning websites.  Basically the strategy is to use other people’s work and web traffic to get your face out there.  Your website may suck, but those folks are going to trust you because you are where they are.

Strategy: have a beautiful, or informative website and trust that as you try to get people to it, they’ll really like it, stick around, share it with others, and you’ll basically grow as would a funky boutique  on a busy street in a hip area….people spread the word for you.

Strategy: hire experts in website design, search engine marketing, and social media.  Add a business coach to help you keep your ducks in a row.  And probably have a therapist as you deal with the emotional rollercoaster of all those experts often contradicting each other and all demanding a lot of your money.  (But seriously, this is a viable strategy to hire out all types of great minds.)

These are just a few strategies you may employ.  I have a new project that I am not going public with yet because this is what I’ve got going on:

1 – talking to strategic people about my idea to see if my idea can be inside their website…thus giving me an immediate audience.  But also talking to a few people about the idea in GENERAL.  (Something may sound great in your head and awful to other people.  It’s especially important to talk to the audience you’re trying to reach about your idea so you don’t waste your time or efforts pursing something only YOU like.)

2 – researching the phrases used to figure out the best website (domain) name, but also to see what people are searching for online.  This is like market research – what does the world want?  VERY different from “this is what I WANT the world to want.”

3 – figuring out the short and long term ramifications of where to PUT this project.  Is it really its own domain name?  is it a free wordpress blog?   Is it under my Elizabeth Doherty Thomas website?  And the nature of this project demands a level of differentiation from ME so that begs the question of how best to keep this project separate from the “rest” of me.  Where I do personally start and end and where does my work start and end?  The fuzzy lines can cause a lot of headaches.

4 – know thy audience!  My audience can’t handle things that are high tech, confusing, and my audience will need to know HOW to plug in.  I need to make this extremely simple.  I also need to protect expectations (mine and theirs) so launching this carefully will be important.

5 – legalities.  Some projects require ethical and legal considerations…information sharing, making sure you’re keeping all laws, HIPPA, whatever you’ve got going on.  It’s not about something clearly ILLEGAL, but about making sure there is no slippery slope.  My idea could potentially launch a new product so the question is how the interactivity with my audience ties into the product, ownership, etc.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know as much as I do.  I would move so much faster.  But then I see others doing all the things I’ve done wrong over the years and I remember my mistakes.  And I’ve learned.  Slow, steady, and strategic will win in the end.  And besides, it’ll be more fun to make NEW mistakes than make the same ones over again.

Great Website Example: Content

I just wanted to share this therapy website.  Obviously I like it in part because she does a lot of things I want more therapists to do.  For example, instead of having bullet points of human suffering, have DETAILS, articles, content, describe how you help people with those presenting problems.  I say on this blog and in my website audio-trainings like a broken record…imagine your entire world has crashed into bits.  You are totally shattered and are looking for help online.  You’ve been vomiting, not sleeping, snapping at everyone around you, can’t focus, can’t stop crying.  You begin your online search.  This could be for any reason.  Your spouse is cheating.  Your kid tried to kill herself.  You saw a horrendous car accident or your nephew just died.

You discover The THING That Has Ruined You is just a bullet point on a therapists website.  A bullet point?  That’s all my pain is worth to you?  Are you sure you are an expert in “MY pain?”  And if you have a bullet point list of human suffering, what happens if my particular issue isn’t on your list?  Does that mean I’m only worthy of…gasp, an “excetera?”  I’ll probably go to someone else who talks more about my pain and how they can help.  Or, if all else fails, at least find myself on a bullet point list on another therapists website.

I made the link of that therapists website to an article I really appreciate because it hits an issue directly “what is a counselor vs friend?”  In a few minutes on her website, do you feel like you know her?  I do.  It’s a good thing to “ooze” your personality!  It makes it more likely you’ll be contacted.  Or, at the very least, help someone even if they don’t call you for therapy. And notice she doesn’t sound like a used car salesman with slick marketing talk.

There really is so, so much you can write about.  I hope her website whets your writers appetite!

Where is your website traffic? A guide

I was asked by a therapist where she can find her website traffic.  So here is the long, complex, simplified, confusing answer.  Ready?

We need to break you down by type.  I’ll start with those who can edit their own websites then move on to those who have a webmaster.

If you can edit your own website, you will want to go to the main area where you log in.  Start poking around to see if they provide anything already.  Ideally they’ve got a program installed that automatically tracks your statistics.  You may find an “on/off” switch that lets you START tracking things.

Sometimes all you can see is total number of page views.  Or visitors.  Or not a whole lot else.  In that case you will want to get a piece of code put at the bottom of every website page.  HOPEFULLY you have access do the code behind the scenes, but if not, ask customer service.

The best FREE source of getting website traffic is Google Analytics.  You have to create an account with them and then get your personalized pieces of coding.  Just an FYI, Therapy Sites makes it easy once you set up an account, to “plop” the code into one area and they make sure the code is on every page of your website.  I’m sure some other hosting companies do the same thing.

If you do not have access to editing your own website, this means you have a webmaster, friend, or family member who is helping you out.  Hopefully they’re still around and not annoyed any time you want an update!  You will also have to set up an account with Google Analytics and ask them to put the special code on your website – on every single page.

Then, the game is to wait!  From the moment you put the code on your website, it will start to track anyone who comes to your website.  If you have a low traffic website that means you’ll want to wait at least a month, if not longer, to even log back in and see what’s up.  A lot of business decisions can be made, a lot of how to rearrange your website can be made, and some VERY interesting learnings can be made from your website traffic.

I talk about website traffic and business decisions at length in the Website Content CD.  But one example is a page I think is very useful (Why Do Parents Care?) on The First Dance website gets a much lower readership than other pages.  I need to figure out where it’s linked from and potentially move it to my homepage or somewhere else.  I also decided to Tweet the article and got about 20 more people to read the page in one day.  The idea is… more people read it, find it interesting or insightful, share it, or, at the very least, get a slightly better sense that we’re not “just another” wedding advice website.  Or maybe they never did visit my website even while following me on Twitter for a year, so this is their first visit.  They get to look around.  Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but I had someone by 10 copies of our book from Amazon sometime after I Tweeted that article.  And that may have because we know of someone (the matriarch) who ordered 25 copies for her entire family to read, so while wedding planning, they all knew the emotional and family drama that often unfolds (and DID unfold for her family.)  I mention that 25 copy story on my website as a way to inspire people and get them to think about how and why they may want to buy our book.

I hope I haven’t lost you!  It’s a wild crazy world online…lots of twists and turns, web surfers who start in one place and end up in an entirely different place 5 minutes later.  This is the fun side of the internet and the reason I love this stuff.  And hey, my random article, on Twitter, may have linked someone to getting premarital counseling who wouldn’t have otherwise…because he or she would have seen we have tons of counselors all over the nation.  That makes the article worth it.

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