How inbound marketing can help you get more therapy clients

On the standard checklist for “how to start a private practice” you often don’t see anything about social media or modern marketing strategies. In fact, most ideas in marketing for therapists are based on old school outbound marketing concepts. Traditional outbound marketing is not only expensive but generates a very low return on investment. The other problem with outbound approaches is that outbound efforts take money to sustain or they simply disappear.

Don’t feel bad! Marketing isn’t something in most behavioral health curricula, however, if you are interested in building, creating or sustaining your private therapy practice, marketing is even more important that the selection of the couch in your therapy office.

What is outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing is “push” marketing. What that means is that you are pushing your message out to people with the hope that they respond to the message and book a therapy session with you. It’s an interruption by definition. Very few people actually seek out advertising; it comes to them. Some examples of outbound marketing that therapists employ:

  • Advertising in local newspapers, magazines or even on TV
  • Brochures, fliers, tacking business cards on bulletin boards
  • A big sign outside your office
  • Phone book advertising

The problem with outbound marketing is that as soon as you stop paying for it (either with money or the time it takes to go hand out business cards,) it stops working. It’s dead. It generates no ongoing value to you. It could be argued that outbound marketing doesn’t generate value for your audience either. It’s just a “buy from me” solicitation and nobody likes those!

What is inbound marketing for therapists?

Inbound behavioral health marketing is no different than for any other business. It’s “pull marketing. It brings your audience to you — willingly! Can you imagine that? Customers coming to you because they want to, not because your phone number happened to be largest in the phone book. It’s is an exchange of value between you and your potential customer.

It’s all about creating remarkable content that attracts people to your therapy practice.

What is remarkable content? If it is worthy of a “remark,” then it’s remarkable.

Here is an 8-point checklist to determine if your content is remarkable:

  • Would your audience share it?
  • Does it offer a unique perspective on a topic (controversy welcome!)
  • Does it have original data or insights?
  • Is the presentation of the information different than is typical for that type of information?
  • Is it thought-provoking?
  • Is it timely?
  • Is it easy to understand?
  • Is it high quality?

Read this article from the marketing experts Hubspot for detailed explanations of each point.

Why should you do it?

To get more clients. It’s that simple. There’s a little more to it to that because, by definition, all marketing is designed to get more clients. However, what makes inbound special?

It’s the gift that keeps on giving. When you publish a blog post, create an interesting piece of social media content or provide some kind of other valuable and remarkable content, it doesn’t just die. It lives forever on the internet. Search engines index it. Then the real magic starts.

Let’s say you wrote a blog post called “Ways your cat can help you reduce your social anxiety.” First of all, that title just begs to be clicked. I’d read that article. It’s a unique take on a typical problem.

After you write the post, you share it on your social networks. Perhaps it gets retweeted, reposted, shared or linked to. However, once the social boost loses steam, Google starts to find it. Now, what happens if someone searches for “How can I reduce my social anxiety.” Your article will show in the search results. Of course, the longer that content has been on the internet, the more likely it will start to rise in the rankings. If it’s quality content, other people will link to it and that will provide a significant boost in the search engines. Everyone loves quality content! Everyone hates content that consists of “buy my product because it’s awesome.”

Every time someone searches for keywords that are contained in your post, a potential client finds you. Since your post offered them something of value, they’ll be much more likely to seek you out if they want a therapist. How much did it cost you? Maybe 30 minutes of time — for a lifetime of residual marketing value. Not a bad investment right? As you create more and more content, the effect multiplies exponentially. At iCouch, for instance, we’re still getting traffic from pages and content we created years ago — for free!

How do you get started?

It’s easy. You don’t need to start with grandiose ambitions to get thousands of visitors to your online profile, booking dozens of sessions. It starts slow. It builds momentum. But, you must start! If you want to create a sustainable pipeline to get more therapy clients, you have to start somewhere.

First, let’s start with why therapists should use social media. This is controversial in some circles, but the simple answer is this: you are a business. Your “product” is your awesome therapy ability. Social media is where to customers are! Just be sure to keep your private stuff private. It’s best to have separate accounts for professional use, especially for Facebook.

How to get social

Create a Facebook page for your therapy business.

Start posting and sharing other people’s remarkable content. Think like a curator. What kinds of things would your potential clients find useful? Encourage your existing clients and office visitors to “Find me on Facebook” Add your social accounts to your business card. Post a small sign in your reception area. This will build a small, but supportive core audience. They’ll be the ones that’ll likely share your content first (they already like you right?)

Create a Twitter Account

If you already have a personal Twitter account, be sure the existing tweets are reasonably professional in nature. By “professional” it doesn’t necessarily mean always about therapy related topics. Just don’t have tweets that are politically charged or excessively controversial. Think “What would my clients think if they read this?” If they’d be turned off or if there’s a slight feeling that they might be, then either delete the tweet or create a new professionally-oriented account. It’s definitely recommended to show your personality! If you have a passion for cooking, let it show! Share recipes, post tweets about healthy foods. You are a therapist, but you’re an interesting person first and foremost! Some therapists on twitter have thousands of followers. You can bet that they are doing fairly well for themselves in terms of getting new clients.

Polish your Linkedin Profile

Most therapists have (or should have) a Linkedin profile. Ensure that it shows your qualifications as a therapist in their best light. Don’t delete old jobs or other experience because that stuff could be interesting to a future client. For example, if you once worked for the circus, that’s pretty interesting; potential clients would have one more way to relate to you.

Start a blog or guest post on other blogs

Blogging is the single most important marketing tool. Start a simple blog, commit to posting once per week. Guest blogging on other blogs (ensuring a link back to your online therapist profile or website) is one of the greatest ways to “piggyback” off the success of an existing blog. You get your remarkable content out to a wider audience and it links back to you, thus driving more traffic. If you’re on iCouch, you can submit guest posts to our Waiting Room blog, which is a blog for the general publish on topics such as wellness and relationships. You could also post to this blog, but your goal isn’t to get more therapists to find you, but more potential clients to find you. However, there’s also a benefit to blogging to a therapist audience as well — it establishes you as a thought leader, which will make clients more likely to seek you out. Guests posts on the iCouch blogs link to your profile, which drives clients directly to you! Also, add a link to your blog on your iCouch profile, this adds substantial weight to the value Google places on your blog because a well known, reputable therapy site has linked to your blog, thus giving it more credibility in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.

Blogging is what provides Google with the “fuel” needed to help people find you when they search. The key to blogging success is regular posts. If you can’t do a weekly post, then try a monthly post. But whatever you do, post regularly!

Expand your client pool globally

If you have online therapy capability in your practice, your reach for potential clients is now global. While online counseling isn’t appropriate for every client, there is a huge potential client pool of patients that would love to have a secure video therapy session with you. Even if you don’t want to add online therapy to your existing practice, a high-quality marketing strategy will pay off. When someone searches for “Great anxiety therapists in Orlando” is your name at the top of the search? If not, then you need to start inbound marketing. If you are in the top results, then you also need to start inbound marketing to keep that position, otherwise, another therapist reading this post will move to the top of the list!

It’s all about therapist branding. With over 100,000 therapists in just the United States, how does a potential client choose you? With traditional in person therapy, it’s generally a question of geography. However, even if you’re the only therapist in your town, how many people in your area aren’t getting therapy that need it and would benefit from your expertise? How do those potential clients even know that you might be able to help? Through your inbound marketing of course! Outbound marketing only works for people that already want therapy. Inbound marketing brings more people in contact with your brilliance — people that might one day come to you as a client, even if, at that moment they are only interested in reading your remarkable content.

There is a lot of information in this post and it might be overwhelming, however, remember you don’t have to start big, you just have to start. Hopefully, this post got your feet wet.

What have you traditionally done to market yourself? What areas were the toughest? Please share your ideas in the comments!

Published by Brian Dear

Brian is the cofounder and CEO of iCouch, Inc. He has an extensive background in software engineering, inbound marketing and mental health practice management.

Join the Conversation

9 Comments

  1. Hello Brian! I’m a counseling student and I have to design a group counseling as part of an assignment and I just want to say that your content is helping me a lot!! I’ll definitely keep this info for future reference… Thank you!!
    Ps. of course I’m giving you proper credit 🙂

  2. Hi Bryan, I have a client who has a blog and she has mentioned me and my practice and how I have helped her, in some of her posts. I think her posts are very well written and helpful for anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I would love to post them to my own social media platforms (Facebook business page, my blog as a guest post) but wonder if this is crossing any lines. Of course, I would ask her permission and tell her I respect her privacy completely if she would rather I didn’t. It does seem like she doesn’t care about the privacy though given she blogs openly about it and has said my name throughout. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks very much!

    1. That’s a tough ethical question! If it were me, I’d not share them. You aren’t violating anyone’s privacy because they’re already public, however it’s really close to the line because you are directly connecting her content with you and your practice as opposed to her doing it by herself. The APA Ethics code has this to say about testimonials:

      5.05 Testimonials
      Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.

      So while the patient is willingly writing the blogs, there could become an unspoken expectation around those blogs since you are in a position of influence. So by sharing the content, you’re “encouraging” more of that content — which gets awfully close to the solicitation of testimonials. It’s not the exact same thing, but I would feel a bit cautious about sharing client content for the reason that they might start to feel that they “need” to share in order to get your approval. Tread carefully.

  3. Hi Brian,
    I am a Chinese Medicine Practicioner and like you said I have relied on old fashioned marketing and word of mouth which is very slow. I have been thinking of writing article on many topics that could really help people. I love sharing knowledge. Could you tell me how to post an article on a blog that doesn’t belong to me. I am not really proficient in social medias and not very active on my facebood account. Should I open a business account like you said above or just use my personal account. Does the business account target the same people? As about Twitter I have never tried it. And I am not sure I know how it works. Isn’t linkedin specialised for finance and economy?
    I used to be a foreign language teacher. My mother tongue is French, I taught both French and English and now I reside in Israel. In which language should I write? All three?
    Sorry for bombarding you with questions. I am not sure how to start. As you said a good quality article will be remembered and shared so would an embarrassing one!

  4. Hi Brian, Should I be concerned about HIPAA regulations when collecting and storing anyone contact information if they sign up for my Blog?

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