How to Market Your Private Practice

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How to Market Your Private Practice

You’re getting trained in the Gottman Method, maybe you’ve completed Level 1 or Level 2. You’re excited about getting more clients, but the phone isn’t ringing. Your ideal couples aren’t emailing. You’re not sure what’s going wrong. 

Or maybe you just want to grow. 

Just as The Gottman Institute talks about Masters and Disasters of relationships, you have to become a Master of Marketing. If reading that makes you feel uncomfortable, stay with me. In graduate school, you probably heard, “We’re not going into it for the money.” Or maybe you’ve seen people who are really bad at marketing and make everyone around them feel slimy. That’s not what I’m talking about. In fact, it’s much simpler than that. 

Marketing is about helping the right people know that you exist and turning away the wrong people. That’s it. Say your work is focused on affair recovery, that’s who should be contacting you, not couples who are about to get married. 

I’m going to cover the most common myths of marketing your private practice and the three things you have to understand to be a Master of Marketing.  

Private practice marketing myths 

We all pick up business and counseling tips in different ways. Maybe you had a great professor in graduate school, have done continuing education courses, or went through the Gottman Certification Track. The skills you learn in those intentional activities prepare you for the world of counseling couples. 

But we also pick up other things in life. Maybe it’s our parent’s view of money, our understanding of goal setting, or our perceived maximum income level. Either way, we pick up truths and myths along the way. I’ve helped thousands of private practices start, grow, and scale through my podcast, consulting, and community. Here are the three most common marketing myths. 

  • If I am good at my work, they will come to me.
  • I have to be an extrovert to be good at marketing.
  • Counseling is about the relationship, so technology doesn’t matter. 

Let’s look at each of these and examine the truth behind each of them. 

I’m good at counseling, isn’t that enough? 

Nope, it’s not good enough. I take that back, it might be good enough if you don’t want clients right away. Imagine there was a food truck that invented a new kind of taco. What if they were just a white truck parked in a food truck lot?

Sure, a handful of people would walk up. They might taste the taco and tell their friends. The next weekend they might have a few more people. Then over time, it might take off. 

But what if they started doing Instagram stories and Facebook Live sessions as they refined the recipe, months before they launched? What if their website built anticipation about this brand new taco? What if they had a Facebook Group for taco lovers to go deeper? 

These small (and free) marketing approaches would help them have a much stronger launch. 

People love tacos, but do they love counseling? In general, people will share a food truck’s story on social media. They’ll take selfies and promote it. But counseling, not so much. So it’s an uphill battle for practices. Being good is not enough to be successful. 

I’m not an extrovert, I can’t market

The great thing about running your own practice is that you can do it how you want. When I work with consulting clients, we always start with what they love. If I have a client who loves Pinterest, I ask, “How can you do that 2-3x more?” 

I want to help clients to do more of what they love. That’s also going to attract the exact people they love working with. So let’s start with that: do what you like to do. 

If you’re more introverted, what do conversations look like for you? Maybe it’s not a Business After Hours hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. It’s probably more in-depth conversations over coffee or visiting a new referral source’s office. In a way, introverts have the upper hand because they are good at listening and don’t mind the long game. 

Introverts get to know another business, think deeply about relationships, and often seek to provide more value. Extroverts are often natural marketers, but they can also come across as pushy if they don’t do it right. Introverts are usually great at knowing what works for them and consistently doing it. 

Technology doesn’t matter

Being a therapist who uses the Gottman approach means you have a great skillset. You might think, “It’s about the relationship so technology doesn’t matter.” Zig Ziglar, the business guru of the 20th century, talked about how people do business with those they know, like, and trust. 

That means that if someone doesn’t know you, the only thing you have to do is get to know them. Then once they know you exist, they have to like you. Next is to build trust. At each level, you lose people. 

If 100 people find out your practice exists this month, only 20-30 may actually like you. Of those maybe 5-10 will trust you. How does trust happen? 

Today it happens in only two ways. 

  1. Someone else gives the trust: This could be a doctor, friend, or pastor saying, “You have to work with them, they are amazing!” 
  2. Online: Through your blog posts, social media, website, Psychology Today, or Gottman Referral Network profile, a potential client decides if you are a fit for them as a couple. 

Technology matters more than almost anything else you do with marketing. The style of your website, social media, content, and other forms of communication show the client if you have your act together. To research for this blog post, I used a random city generator and typed in that city and “Gottman therapist.” 

The websites I found were terrible. They weren’t clear about what they offered, had random quotes that had nothing to do with couples counseling, and the pictures were grainy. 

We’ve focused most of our time on clinical skills while leaving behind the business skills that will build success. Here are the first three things to do to become a Master of Marketing. 

Three actions steps to improve your marketing

Here are the first three steps to improve your marketing. You can do these today! 

  1. Build a business avatar
  2. Scan your website
  3. Optimize your funnels 

How to build a business avatar

A “business avatar” is a fancy way of saying your ideal client. Clients will always assume a specialist is a generalist, but they will not expect a generalist to be a specialist. Especially in larger markets, you want to specialize beyond just couples. Here are some questions to get you started. 

  • What are the names you want to give your ideal client/s? 
  • What ages?
  • Where in your area do they live? 
  • Do they have children? 
  • How would they describe their relationship? 
  • When they are venting to their friends, what do they say? 
  • How would they describe success as a result of therapy? 
  • What happened the day before they contacted you for therapy?
  • Where do they work?
  • Where do they play or spend free time? 
  • What is the pain they are experiencing, and the outcome they seek, in one sentence? For example: I feel disconnected from my husband and I want to have fun again, maybe even sex soon. 

Once you know who you are trying to attract, it’s so much easier to write copy on your website, create blog posts, and focus on social media they want to consume. 

Evaluate your website 

Once you have your business avatar, go through your website. In five seconds do they know you do couples counseling? Often, private practices have a quote like, “There is hope for your family.” This could just as easily be a funeral home as a counseling practice. 

When a new visitor arrives at your website, they immediately ask two things unconsciously. 

  1. Am I in the right place? 
  2. Can this person help me?  

Right away, a new client should know: Yes, this is a counseling practice for couples. Then, they should see that you have training, outcomes, and can speak to their pain. 

As you evaluate your website remember that a client is always asking, “Why is this relevant to me?” Even on the “About Me” page, it still needs to be about the client. 

Optimize your online funnels

Once you have your business avatar figured out and website optimized, the next step is to look at all the paths to your website. Your goal is to create multiple highways to your website and very few that leave the site. Examples of highways to your website are. 

  • Psychology Today
  • Gottman Referral Network
  • Facebook page
  • Instagram profile 
  • Guest blogs on other websites 
  • Infographics on Pinterest 
  • Tweets about couples leading to blog posts 
  • Local businesses you write for like the newspaper or local magazines

These should be one-way roads to your website that lead to content your business avatar cares about. 

Once you understand that there are myths around marketing and you push back against them, the actions steps become clear: define your business avatar, optimize your website, and evaluate your funnels to the website. In doing this, you’re on your way to becoming a Master of Marketing. 

This post originally appeared on The Gottman Institute Website

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC

joe-sanok-private-practice-consultant-headshot-smaller-versionJoe Sanok is a private practice business consultant who has the #1 podcast for counselors in private practice, The Practice of the Practice Podcast. His podcast, social media channels, and blog help over half a million private practice owners per month. For over 30 FREE marketing tools, resources, checklists, e-books, and other downloads.