Offline Marketing: 5 Ways To Connect With New Clients
Updated: Feb 3, 2019
I really struggled with offline marketing when I first started working in private practice.
My initial strategies were likely similar to other therapist newbies. I took my business cards by local doctor’s offices and gave them to the front desk staff. I went to networking meetings about once every 4-5 months with other mental health professionals. I mentioned in passing that I was a counselor and worked with teens and adults with anxiety and depression (I think that’s basically the standard way of saying "I work with everybody," right?). And then I sat by the phone, twiddling my thumbs.
The problem was that I hadn’t yet built relationships with any of the people I was contacting. The doctors didn’t really know who I was, why they had my cards, or who they should be referring my way. Most of the people at the networking events were marketing themselves similarly to me and wouldn’t really need me as a referral source. Those people in passing may have asked me a question or two about their daughter/mother-in-law/best friend’s struggle, but they wouldn’t remember me 6 weeks later when they or someone they knew needed help.
I was essentially "cold-calling" for clients. So, what did I change that I found more effective?
Define A Niche:
Defining your "niche" is essential for marketing your services. You need to determine how are you different from other therapists. What potential client should pick you and why? Know who you work best with and focus on that population.
This helps with marketing because once you define your target population, you can figure out who to connect with in order to support the people that need you the most. You can then contact specific doctors or therapists that serve a complimentary population (ex. a couples counselor may need a referral for a child therapist, a teen therapist may need referrals for a therapist who does group therapy schools, yoga instructors, mom's groups, religious affiliations, etc).
The best way to get is to give. Be helpful to potential referral sources. Ask them what they need from you in order to help their clients.
Here's an example: A group of doctors that refer to me regularly asked me if I had any ideas of how they could support their patients who weren’t sold on the idea of therapy. The doctors understood the need for treatment, but their patients seemed to be on the fence.
I have a 5 Day Anxiety Busting E-Course, which I told the doctors about. I asked them if they would like me to make small flyers that they could hand out and I would offer it to their patients for free. The doctors were so appreciative that they asked for enough flyers to put in each of their waiting rooms!
This helped the doctors provide their clients with a useful resource and allowed me to connect with possible future clients by giving them a small taste of what therapy would be like with me if they took the e-course.
Vette Your Contacts:
Think about who refers clients to you now: Are they past clients? Friends of friends? Your hairdresser? These referrals are coming from people who already know, like, and trust you. Find ways to foster these types of relationships (without violating confidentiality, obviously).
When I started my own private practice, I shared posts about my excitement, growth, and specialties on my personal Facebook page and then invited my friends to follow my counseling page. I was surprised to discover that most of my “friends” on Facebook had no idea that I was a counselor specializing in anxiety disorders! Once the word was out, my practice exploded. In one year I went from working 10-15 hours a week on my own to bringing on 4 additional practitioners to support the client need!
As therapists, we understand the value of relationships. And yet, we often fall short in maintaining relationships with other professionals. Make sure that you send thank you cards if someone sends you a referral. If your client signs a release of information, follow-up with the other professional. This collaboration not only benefits your client but also shows your expertise and potentially builds your referral base.
I guess this technically is online, but I use social media and email to connect with people that I’ve built relationships with offline. I have a mailing list for referrals and for people in the community (remember that e-course) that I send out regularly with tips and tricks focusing on my niche. This keeps me top of mind and I regularly have people reaching out to schedule with me because I’ve continued to nurture these relationships. As a therapist, you are already doing these things one-on-one in session. It’s time to generalize that skill set!
I hope this is a helpful start. Remember, building relationships takes time and energy. Like with most things, consistency is key. But that’s one of the things that makes real relationships rewarding!
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