Updated: Jun 22, 2022
You don't have time to do everything -- learn the most effective steps of marketing for therapists.
I know many experts in our field have advice about marketing for therapists. They cover everything from how to get more LinkedIn connections to how to design your logo.
While those things are important (sometimes), I’ve found that there’s a shorter list that makes the biggest difference, especially when you’re starting out. And if simpler strategies work, you can forget about 70% of the remaining marketing advice.
That saves you a lot of time worrying about getting clients, which is good, because you’ll be busy in sessions!
Below I’ve summarized the routes that have gotten me the most clients over the years. My intent is to break it down for you, plain and simple, so you don’t have to research until you have the equivalent of a marketing degree (which is basically what I did myself)!
Let’s get going.
1. Have a side income
I know this isn’t technically marketing, but it will help you significantly. You don’t want to be in a situation where you feel overwhelmed, give bad advice, or pressure clients to schedule because you need the income.
Find some way you can have a steady backup funding source, so a client canceling doesn’t crush you and shake your confidence.
However, also don’t depend on that income as a long-term crutch (unless you want it that way). Starting your own practice is a big change, and you don’t want to get sidetracked back into your old habits.
You might even consider an income that’s totally different from therapy, so you have a bit of a mental break. (Also, steer away from online platforms that want you to do as many sessions as possible for a fraction of what insurance pays. Nothing will burn you out faster.)
2. Start with Psychology Today
If you're a mental health therapy provider, start with a Psychology Today profile. Whatever you think of it, this listing will get you clients to start out with. Don’t expect several new clients a week from your profile. In some markets you can expect just a handful of calls a week, which will add up to two to three clients a month.
That doesn’t seem like a lot, but within a few months that could mean 9 clients from this one source, and then you’re on your way! Plus, this won’t be your only source of clients, so it won’t make or break your practice in the long run.
Other profile services can be helpful as well, and there seem to be new ones all the time. I think they are worth taking a look at. But if you need to prioritize time and money, this is where you should start.
(Need some help with this? Check out this other article just on profiles.)
3. Focus on your Google business profile
I often see this as a side thought in marketing recommendations. It usually goes something like, “Fill in every part of your Google profile.” Of course you should do that, but there’s a bit more to it. If you can get your business to show up at the top of Google’s recommendations, you may find that most of your contacts come just from there.
(This is different from SEO, which we’ll get to in a moment.)
Although I like to keep it simple, I feel like I could write a whole book just on this topic. But for now, here are a few quick tips:
Ask colleagues to write recommendations for you. This way you can avoid the whole legal and ethical dilemma around client reviews.
Keep your profile updated. Google likes to show accurate information. This will help you stay towards the top.
Answer messages through your profile. Google has an internal messaging option. Respond to messages to let people know you’ll contact them from a work address. This way you’re not getting into details through questionable messaging, but you’re able to follow up with potential clients. (And Google likes you to keep active communication with customers.)
Connect your website. Google will consider a combination of your profile information, your reviews, and your website content to decide where you show up in the business searches.
I have a few more tricks up my sleeve when it comes to Google business profiles. I’m working on a guide where I can go into much more detail. Stay tuned!
4. Publish a simple website
There’s so much advice on how to set up your website. It’s mostly accurate. But really, you only need a few elements to make your site work for you. These include:
A front page, which can also be a detailed page about your services and how to set up an appointment. (Sometimes this one page is all you need.)
Specialty pages, especially if you have multiple areas you like to work in. For example, you’d want a separate page for trauma versus couple’s therapy. To get going, I’d just start with one and get it published.
Clear instructions to contact you. You can’t really go too far when it comes to helping your potential clients get in touch. Pick one main way, such as a contact form or a way to digitally schedule a consultation, and sprinkle links to it throughout your website.
For example, you may have links within your text, a button that says “Contact me,” or a specific call to action like, “Schedule your free consultation here.” Have all of them go to the same place. This is called a marketing funnel.
You don’t want five ways to contact you, because it may become confusing or overwhelming. But you also can’t have too many links to funnel to your one contact form.
People skim, and you want to do everything short of a big red arrow to your contact link (although really that would be okay too).
5. Choose your funnel(s)
A marketing funnel is a path to get your customers to do what you’d like them to do. The narrow end of the funnel is pretty straightforward – you want them to contact you for a consultation or fill out a contact form. The broader end of the funnel is what can vary.
Examples of marketing funnels for therapists include:
SEO (website content) and/or blogging
Word of mouth