Marketing for the Long Haul

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I’d furnished my office, printed my business cards, and met with several potential referral sources. It was my first full week in private practice, and I had no idea when my first client would call and set an appointment. In those first few weeks and months, I spent a lot of time making sure all my marketing materials were communicating what I wanted, and that all my friends and past colleagues knew that I was now open for business.

Despite my excitement of being open for business, there was a big problem: I expected people to send me clients just because I was now available. I incorrectly assumed that people close to me were just waiting until I gave them the go ahead, and then they would flood me with people needing help. Call it narcissism and/or laziness, but the fact of the matter was that if I was going to get busy with appointments, it was incumbent upon me to be actively pursuing avenues to find clients.

My mistake is something I hear other practicians making. It’s enticing to assume the world is just waiting for our availability (and let’s be honest, wouldn’t that be nice?), but you and I both know this isn’t the case. With that said, here are a dozen marketing ideas that you really need to be practicing on a regular basis. These are all active pursuits of creating a demand for your time and counsel. Building a successful counseling practice is not a sprint, and thus these ideas are not intended to give you immediate referrals (though hopefully that will happen).

1. Write good content on your blog. If you don’t have a blog, you need to start one today. Publish regularly (at least weekly) on your blog.

2. Develop relationships with other bloggers and content producers. Share and promote their work, comment on their blog posts.

3. Speak at an event in your local community about a topic you are passionate about. Need help with speaking ideas?

4. Take other professionals out to lunch. Ask them questions, get to know them. Don’t promote yourself. Give, don’t take.

5. Send hand-written thank you notes to those you meet. This is a monumental distinguisher between you and other practicians. Most do not practice hand-written notes anymore. Include your business card with every note you send.

6. Attend monthly peer networking events. Propose to speak at one of these events.

7. Contact local graduate schools, offer to guest lecture on a subject of your expertise.

8. Develop your “elevator” sales pitch. Someone asks you what you do, how do you answer? Someone asks you what you specialize in, how do you answer?

9. Develop additional services for your clients: Groups, Family counseling, marriage counseling, therapeutic separation counseling, etc.

10. Create a Facebook page. Use it for announcements and additional services for your clients.

11. Join online groups on Facebook, Linkedin, or other social sites to help your practice.

12. Set clear and concise goals in regards to all of the suggestions listed above. How many lunches will you make per month? How many events will you speak at per year? How often will you blog? Etc.

13. Bonus! Last but not in the slightest bit least, Do good work. My friend Stephen reminded me of this. If you do good work with people, your name will be shared with others, and you’ll get  referrals.

These marketing ideas need to be practiced regularly. It’ll be easy to not do these things when you get busier, but like the old saying, remember to “dance with the one you brought.” Don’t forsake the activities that you do that bring success.

Need more help with getting your practice up and running? Consider sitting down with Caleb or myself for some consulting phone calls to jumpstart your efforts. Click here for more information.

image courtesy of John Rawlinson via Flickr

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