In a previous post I introduced a working definition of marketing for therapists.
In this post I wanted to expand on each of the three parts of our marketing definition:
- Understanding the people who can benefit from your talent and skills
- Developing services and experiences that add value to their life
- Sharing this value in effective, compelling and meaningful ways
These three elements involve, respectively, the definition, design and delivery of your value proposition.
What is a value proposition?
Simply put, your value proposition as a therapist is an articulation of the benefits you provide and the value you bring to your consumers, starting with your clients. For example consider the following couple of examples of value propositions:
I help single men connect with their emotions and communicate more vulnerably with their partners, improving the quality of and satisfaction with their close relationships.
I empower adolescent girls who experience bullying at school, increasing their confidence, reducing their shame, and enhancing their self-image by developing resilience and coping strategies.
Note that none of these examples talk about the kind of interventions the therapist uses. They are completely focused on their clients and the impact they have on them. A value proposition does not to be a single sentence or phrase, and it is not a slogan or catchphrase.
Also note that both statements address a specific population. That doesn’t mean that these therapists only see that kind of clients, but that is probably where they choose to focus their practice.
Finally, these therapists ought to be a different statements for different types of consumers. As I discussed in part 1 of this post, it is useful to have a broad view of who you consumers are. This means having a value proposition for referral sources (e.g., why would someone refer you a client?) and other audiences.
Now on to the components of our definition of marketing for therapists:
1. Defining your value proposition
The first part of our definition is “Understanding the people who can benefit from your talent and skills.” This means understanding three things:
- What are your talent and skills?
- Who are the people who can benefit from them?
- What are their needs and how can you help them meet them?
The first question is not about your training and credentials, but about your passion. You came to this profession for a reason; in most cases, a very personal one. Your clinical experience showed you the kind of clients you are best with, the kind of impact that makes you feel most excited. So what are you passionate about? What kind of client? What kind of issues? What kind of topic? Sure, you can work with a wide range of people, but what kind of client moves you the most?
A therapist I met feels passionate about helping children whose parents are going through divorce; another one is passionate about helping people in the performing arts. You don’t need to choose only one thing, but a generic “I help children, adolescents and adults” is too generic and doesn’t do justice to the work you do.
The second question includes your clients and potential clients, who can definitely benefit from your skills and knowledge. In future posts we will talk in more detail about how you can answer the second question. Hint: it is about empathy and putting yourself on your clients’ (and potential clients’) shoes.
There are many more people who can benefit from your talent and skills. A group you care about are your current and potential referral sources. What is it that they may need and you can provide? This include information or perspectives that would enrich their own practice, but there is one key thing they are looking for: someone they can trust.
Don’t stop there. Be creative and go beyond referral sources. Are there any organizations in your area that could benefit from something you have to offer? Not organizations that you will ask something from (e.g., that they send you referrals), but organizations you would give something to (e.g., a workshop or a training on your topic of choice). If you think about it, the possibilities are endless.
2. Developing experiences that add value
Once you have thought about the intersection of your passion and your consumers’ needs, the question to ask yourself is: how can I be of service and a resource to make their life easier?
In the commercial world, this would be about “product development.” Based on what you know about your consumers and their needs, the question is how can you design a product that best meets those needs. When it comes to marketing for therapists, it is worth thinking about this separately for each audience.
Regarding your clients and potential clients, proving a great therapy experience should come to mind first. As a therapist, that is where your focus will be. However, thinking that is the only way to add value to potential clients’ life can be shortsighted. Is there any workshop or any other format that you can use? For example, it is difficult to have couples commit to a long term group for couples – what about a two-day intensive instead? Or another example – you are focused on providing outpatient services, but what about developing an intensive outpatient program? These are types of “products” that go beyond traditional therapy delivery.
When it comes to referral sources or other organizations, the question is similar. Don’t ask “what can I do to get referrals from them?” but “what can I do that will help them?” Focus on their needs first, not on yours. Can you put together a networking event for other therapists to talk about how digital technology impacts your practice? Is there a school in your area that would welcome a presentation about the emotional impact of cyberbullying on pre-teen boys? Is there a small company in your neighborhood that could work with you to offer discounted counseling as a benefit for its employees?
3. Sharing your value
This is arguably the part that makes most therapists uncomfortable, because it is about putting yourself out there and talking about the great work you do. Really understanding your potential consumers and creating wonderful interventions, workshops and presentations is useless if nobody knows about it.
Sharing your value includes at least three things:
1) Delivering experiences
This refers to directly sharing your expertise, passion, talent and skills. Not talking about what you do, but actually doing it. It includes delivering support, empathy and expertise in your clinical to help your clients grow and heal. But it also includes talking about the things you know. How many times have you sat at a workshop where the speaker clearly knew what he was talking about, but his presentation style was absolutely dreadful? This generally happens when we don’t put the needs of our audience first – think about what will be useful for them instead of what we think they need.
2) Promotion and engagement
This includes consideration to the message and the media vehicles you choose to use. When it comes to message, questions you need to ask yourself include the type content that would resonate with your consumers, the tone you should use, how to use visual aides and other design elements (e.g., photos, colors, fonts), etc. Media vehicles include everything from brochures and business cards, to websites and blogs. What is the best way to carry the message? What will be most useful for whom?
As discussed in a previous post, promotion needs to be thought as communication and engagement, and engagement is not so much about telling who you are but who you help and how you do it. Have you every seen a therapist’s website with about 1,500 words of personal biography but no content that would be helpful for someone in need searching for help? That is not a very useful approach.
3) Building relationships
Marketing is based on trust. If I am a potential client, I must trust that you will take good care of me. If I am a referral source, I must trust that you will take good care of my clients. Trust can only be built in relationships, which is why marketing is about relationships, which take time and effort. Exchanging business cards at a networking event is a transaction, not a relationship. This is why, for most therapists, randomly dropping brochures or business cards at a doctor’s office will probably not work. Instead, make an effort to follow up, check in or meet up in person from time to time, proactively seek opportunities to work together, get to know people and be known at a personal level.
Why should therapists care?
It is useful to incorporate this framework to understand what marketing for therapists is about, and help clinicians:
- Start creating a blueprint that will guide their marketing efforts, based on the intersection of our passion and our consumers’ needs.
- Understand that marketing is not a to-do list. It needs to be actionable, but without thinking it through it’s inefficient at best.
- Understand that marketing takes time and it is not a one-time thing. You never know what will come up tomorrow from relationships you forge today.
What do you think?