Over the course of my career, my office has relocated four times to different towns. Each time I lost cilents who just wouldn't drive the extra distance. But, each time was also an opportunity to start fresh in a new community, correcting mistakes of the past, and building a new professional reputation.
In the last couple months I've been hearing from a number of colleagues who are relocating or reconfiguring from a group to a solo practice (or vice versa), and are feeling that same discouragement and anxiety that I did. So I thought I'd provide a checklist to help you organize your marketing for new clients.
And by the way, even if you aren't moving or resizing, these action steps can help a floundering practice get off the ground.
Step 1 -- Do Some Research on Your Competition
It is amazing what opportunities can occur to you when you do a casual survey of the other practitioners in your new location. Maybe no one specializes in couples counseling, or working with children, or hypnotherapy -- and you haven't focused on this previously but are interested now in doing so. Maybe many are marketing DBT for clients who are bipolar -- and that's something you want to do less of now.
I suggest going through the 2 most prominent locator directories for your new area, -- likely GoodTherapy.org and PsychologyToday.com -- and take a strategic look at what is over-offered and what is missing that you can provide to new local clients.
Step 2 -- Rethink Your Ideal Client Pitch
Moving or reconfiguring is such an excellent time to let go of client types and client problems that you don't enjoy working with, and focusing on those who make your spirit soar. If you have been marketing as a generalist, now is the time to narrow your marketing focus to something like:
acting out teens of divorced parents
anxious 25 year olds struggling with getting their adult life started
middle aged women depressed, feeling life passing them by
40-something widows overwhelmed with dating again
Remember, you can change your niche next year. It's simply a device for focusing your marketing. It doesn't really limit who you can take in your practice. Rather, it says you have a specialty or special interest, and that is more client attracting than simply trying to market yourself as a jill of all ills.
If you have listings on more than one locator directory (and you should), focus each of those profiles around a different niche. That keeps the message narrow enough to be client attracting but broadens the populations you can reach at one time.
Step 3 -- Ensure Your Website is Up to Date
If your website was created more than 3 years ago, it's probably looking pretty stale by now. If you haven't read through it from the perspective of a new potential client in the last 6 months, you could be surprised at what you read. People might even question whether you are still in practice if your copyright date isn't current, and move on to looking for another practitioner.
Freshing up the look of your website is a top priority every couple years as a routine maintenance measure, but it's absolutely crucial when you are having a major change in your practice, such as a move or a resizing. Here are some things I've been doing for clients in this boat recently:
brighten up the color palette if needed
change from a multicolored site to the contemporary monochrome design
announce the change in a prominate spot on the homepage or header
rewrite the home page, or redesign so less content is used there
add new niche specific pages with substantial content (700 words minimum)
draw attention to newly focus niches with big photo buttons
make sure your site is mobile-friendly
remove boring repetitive columns that are the same on every page
add a blog with great how-to posts
include links to relevant blogs on your niche pages
add or change photos throughout the site -- or remove them for a cleaner look
re-do your meta-tags and resubmit your site to Google and Bing for an SEO boost
That will do for a start. Making these kind of changes stirs up the energy around your practice. It can be magical the difference it will make if you do things things once in a while even if you aren't relocating or reconfiguring.
Step 4 -- Add Pizzaz (video and info product downloads)
Counselors, social workers, and psychologists often make the mistake of regarding a website like a giant bulletin board, and use it as a place to "advertise". But what attracts clients to therapy is NOT -- let me repeat, is absolutely NOT -- only reading all about you and your credentials and the techniques you employ.
What attracts clients are two main things:
making a compelling emotional connection with their current pain or problem
providing free helpful resources
The first point is taken care of with well crafted marketing messages on your niche specialty pages.
The second point is solved by added how-to videos to your blog, and informational give-aways (downloads) to your website visitors. I'll address videos in a separate blog later. But for now, there are a few things to know about creating give-aways.
There are two types, in the sense of how these are made available to the potential client. First is the tip sheet or instruction that is openly posted on your website. Perhaps it's a page unto itself. Or maybe it's a pdf file that opens with the click of a button. Easy to access, and you have no idea who has done so. This type of give-away is a good preliminary trust and professional reputation builder because you are providing useful information without asking anything in return.
The second type is the give-away that is available on request. Typically, a subscription form has to be completed, and the information product is delivered by return email. The potential client has to risk providign their email address. and once they do, you are free to market to them again by adding them to an email list. They, of course are free to unsubscribe if they only wanted your one give-away.
When you are relocating to a new town, the strategy of using a by request give-away item can be useful in generating interest in your services. It allows you to network at local business and social groups, and invite people to your website to get their copy, without being pushy about becoming your client -- which tends to leave a good impression of you in their minds.
Step 5 -- Do Local In Person Networking
Even if you are an introvert, some amount of local in person networking can be very useful in making referral contacts in a new location. It is really true that people refer to others they personally know, like, and trust. So a bit of "making the rounds" could be necessary as you engage in getting established in your new situation.
Unless you are a chatty extrovert who has no trouble talking about what you do with strangers -- and I know very few therapists in that category -- I'd recommend having one of two items with you at all times when out in public.
1. A smart busines card. What I mean by smart is a card that has a 3-4 step process on the back for emergency help for your ideal client. One of my most successful cards had 4 steps for stopping a panic attack. Conclude the process with your call to action and phone number.
The front of the card is most effective when it has your website address and a 3-7 word catchy tagline, and your name. Don't clutter the card with fax number or street address pr even email, which are all available and easily found on your website. Skip the appointment reminder space on the cards and just stick with marketing.
2. A rack card. Think of these as either an expanded business card or a condensed brochure. Rack cards are the size of a brochure, but only two sided, so they don't open. Published on heavy card stock, they are more durable than brochures and great for pinning on the fridge -- if there is useful info on them.
I'd recommend using one side for a set of self-screening questions, and the other side for a either a helpful process like on the business card, or for basic facts that may help propel someone into therapy. The facts of the costs of stress, or the way anxiety mimics heart attacks can make a valuable "keeper" for a lot of potential clients.
Do these five steps, and you'll have a great start on getting your practice going in a new location or under new circumstances.
And last hint -- follow me on Facebook for all the useful resources I pass along.