by Lisa Dion, LPC, RPT-S

Therapy will always be about what happens inside the relationship of client and clinician; that’s the meat of the matter. But, therapy is a business, making what happens outside the relationship – among the social media posts and direct mail cards – important too.  That’s because it’s hard to be a therapist when you have no one to give your services to.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to market yourself without shelling out a lot of cash. And some of these include:

Use social media: These days, the easiest and most affordable way to advertise is through social media. If you don’t already have a presence, get one (and, no, Friendster doesn’t count). Post content (either your own or someone else’s) that engages people and gives them something useful. Content that’s shareable – research that’s groundbreaking or a list of solutions to a common problem – is most ideal.

Offer a discounted consultation: Once again, from the top: the most important aspect of therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. It is that relationship that heals. But to cultivate a relationship, there must be the potential for a connection. Not every therapist will gel with every client. That’s where a discounted consultation helps. Offer an initial meeting to see if you and your potential patient are a good fit.  But make sure you don’t give too much away discounted, because you are worth it!

Remember that you’re a brand: It may be funny to think of yourself as a brand, picturing your face sewn on the back pocket of a pair of designer jeans. But you are a brand and promoting yourself as such will attract clients. An essential element of this is finding your niche – what is your specialty? Someone known as the “best play therapist in the city” will draw more attention than someone known as “a therapist who gives therapy or something.”

Be responsive!: When you get busy, it’s hard to respond to every phone call and email inquiry, but strive to. Even if you have a full caseload, it might not stay full for long – therapy is a revolving door with people coming and going at will. So, keep potential clients on deck in the event space opens up for them.

Cross-promote: Cross-promotion is a type of promotion that benefits both parties involved – you advertise for them and they advertise for you. It can be a highly effective form of promotion as long as you cross-promote with the right type of business. Partnering with a yoga studio or daycare (if you’re a play therapist) will likely warrant you more interested clients than partnering with something that doesn’t make much sense… an accountant.

Hire outside help: Marketing is one of those things that’s always put on the backburner: talking to clients, not tweeting to strangers, is your priority. Yet marketing is still a necessity – to come to you, people must know about you. If you don’t have time to give marketing some sort of TLC, put an SOS out to an external source and consider hiring a marketing company to do the work for you.

Remember the basics: As helpful as the internet is to our lives, sometimes going back to basics works too. You don’t need to get archaic – advertising by carrier pigeon probably won’t work – but consider the effectiveness of word of mouth. A referral program, where you offer discounts to clients who refer others, is specifically useful in this regard.

The above tips help you market yourself in a productive manner, but don’t expect an influx of clients right off the bat – be patient in getting patients! Building businesses, any business, takes time.

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