One of the most common questions I get when I am lecturing on private practice related issues pertains to marketing. Many folks appear to think that they need a budget the size of Wal-Mart or Canadian Tire in order to “break into” the business of therapy in their area. The truth is that it is not the size of the marketing budget but the quality of the plan that makes the most impact on a new practice.
It is really not that hard to break into an area provided you have done some homework first. How many places offer services in your area to your target area of specialty? What do you offer that is different (if anything) than the other offices? Do you have any contacts at potential referral sources? Will you open an office under your name or will you use a company name? Either way, is the name memorable, easy to remember and spell?
While I speak at this at length in a book I contributed and on my website; below are a few things that I have found to be the most effective for my practice. I would love to hear what has worked best for you and know more about your area as there is no one set of practices that work. Sometimes something will work wonders in one area but fail in another.
Spending a few hundred bucks on a basic website can give you the best bang for your bucks in many cases. It does not have to be fancy nor complicated. So long as it has basic information on the practitioner, office location, contact information etc. it can do much to help bring in referrals. I have never paid to be listed on the top of searches but I do update my page regularly as that can have an impact on the search engines ability to find and classify you. You can even add features such as payment and scheduling options as well, depending on the service you use.
As a practice gains clients; word of mouth from these clients, provided that they are happy with the services, can be one of the best ways to attract new clients and it is FREE! Free is usually good, it becomes bad only if you have had people that have a negative view of you and or your services. This goes for other practitioners as well. If they feel they can work well with you and have some good results with your services they are more likely to start referring people to you should they be full or unable to take that client themselves.
Things like google maps and similar programs can be good as well. They are typically free but in the growing internet society can be worth more than their weight in gold. I also live for brochures, pens and business card size magnets; having business cards of course is a no brainer. As for pens shop around for good quality products that are low cost. I get my pens from a company that makes them right and prices them fairly. I spend a bit more for click pens instead of ones with caps as some research has shown that once the cap is lost the pen is often tossed. I have recently seen some of my office pens from 2005 still floating around the area. Brochures can be a simple and relatively straightforward way to market a practice. You can design your own on your pc and print it out as needed to keep costs low.
One of the ways that really helped me get started was what I referred to as “Rapid Response Packs.” Rapid Response Packs were packages that I assembled that had a stack of brochures, 250 cards (they typically can come from the printer preboxed in 250 lots so they are easy to package), a handful or so on pens and some magnets. These packs were given out to potential referral sites who indicated an interest in making referrals. I developed these packs in part through an observation of my peers who often make referrals. I noticed that when they had something that they could easily hand to a client they were more likely to make the referral than if they had to take the time to write the information down. While most people only give 5-10 card at most when requested, giving them a bunch ensures that they will be able to make the referrals should they need to. In some cases they will be more likely to give some of the products to other referral sources that they may know.
When considering marketing on a small budget let me offer this humble advice: RELAX. The reality of the situation is that in our field marketing is less and less vital as we become known to an area. Unless your model calls for rapidly expanding the office by adding clinical professionals, you will likely find yourself feeling overwhelmed with referrals that you cannot handle. This can happen in as little as 6-12 months (providing you are offering ongoing counseling services and not just assessments or evals). Try to treasure the time when you look at your medical file cabinet and only see a few charts. While you may fill with dread that they will never have friends to hang out with, these charts will not be lonely for long. In time you may learn to dread not the files but the sound of the phone ringing because you just cannot fit another client in your schedule. Who knows, you just may find that like me, you prefer to have your office number unlisted and never run an ad (we did relent and list the number of our second office and even considered running a cheap ad as we planned on adding several people at once.). The point is, we are not in retail where everything is cut throat and advertising is a must. Let your work speak for itself and everything should work out in short order. Also, remember that we as clinicians are part of a team, if we are employed by the same folks or not. Work well with one another, work friendly. There is enough work for everyone, lets enjoy it.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA