When therapists, intuitives, healers, coaches, and other advisors first go into business, there is often a dizzying array of terms and strategies to learn -- none more confusing than the world of communicating to the public and potential clients what services you offer and why they should trust you. There are many ways to do this, and some are free or free after an initial set up, and others will break the bank.
I think of marketing and thereby the marketing plan as the overall umbrella for all efforts dealing with "putting yourself out there" and "gaining visibility" to establish professional credibility and trustworthiness in order to attract ideal clients, and even to cultivate referral sources.
Opinions differ on whether advertising and public relations are part of marketing, or something different. From the solopreneur's perspective, that doesn't really matter because you are just one person doing it all anyway. But it helpful to know what these terms refer to more precisely.
Every time you talk to others on the soccer field or at Starbucks, or distribute business cards at the PTA or chamber breakfasts, publish a blog, or post on social media where the focus is on who you help solve a specific problem, or on what you know about a certain issue, or what you advise about resolving some pain, you are engaged in marketing your practice.
You could say that marketing is comprised of both planned strategic actions and seized opportune moments to talk about how you help people understand, resolve, heal, or change something that's bothering them. You might have read my blog posts on the three main approaches to marketing:
Marketing for coaches, healers, intuitives, and psychotherapists starts with having a well designed and written website. In today's world, no business can afford to be without one because almost everyone uses the internet to find or research what they need.
If you need consultation on getting the most cost- effective and tax deductible website for your practice, see DeWriteSites.com. Once you have one, there is practically no limit how you can use it to promote your business and in ways that most days will feel almost free.
Advertising is the word typically used when clinicians and other solopreneurs want to get more clients. Advertising is almost always something you have to pay for. Think Adwords classified ads campaigns, and Facebook ads, which have virtually replaced newspaper classifieds.
Many of us pay monthly fees for locator directories like Psychology Today and Good Therapy, which have virtually replaced newspaper, magazine, and phone book display ads, and technically is a hybrid form of advertising and marketing.
Those of us who have written books or ebooks, or have produced meditation or visualization audios, or have created insight cards, and so on, would use advertising for these products. An Amazon listing would be advertising. A sales page on your website would be advertising. A dedicated website just to sell that product, would be advertising.
For the most part, advertising is useful for selling products, or time-limited service discounts, such as introductory offers or holiday specials. It is more effective when the placement of the ad you are running can be targeted for a specific population with a well self-identified need, and whose buying habits are known.
It has been my experience that paying for advertising rarely works for psychotherapists and other solopreneurs in the healing and helping arts. This is because most advertising operates on an interruption model -- information is put in front of an audience without regard to whether anyone in that audience is at that moment actually wanting and looking for the item that is advertised. It literally interrupts our train of thought, and comes of feeling annoyingly pushy.
Advertising is great for the middleman because it usually takes people 20 or more exposures to an ad before they take action on it. So tons of money can be spent before gaining even one new client. It's not a cost effective form of marketing for clinicians on a shoestring budget.
Then there is PR, or public relations, which is rarely discussed by clinicians. However, business networking can be considered a form of engaging in public relations. Any chance to speak about who you are, how you became interested in what you do, and what your services contribute to the health or wellness of your community might be considered PR.
While you may have to pay for membership in a networking group, or for the monthly meals served, the opportunities to schmooze with other business people -- meaning, potential referral sources -- are usually free after that investment.
Public relations is most often recognized when it comes in the form of a press release sent to a local news outlet announcing a new and unique service, or a professional honor you have received. For example, one of my clients sent a press release on opening a concierge practice in which she meets with clients in their homes, offices, and even aboard their yachts.
To get published a press release must contain information deemed newsworthy, rather than being a thinly disguised ad for your business -- unless the piece of your business that is highlighted is unique, first, or otherwise distinguished in the community.
Other reasons to send out press releases might be when you are given a humanitarian award for participating on a natural disaster team, or when you are appointed to a governor's commission on mental health. While this kind of PR focuses on your professional reputation and good community citizenship, it makes only brief mention of your range of therapeutic services. and unless you pay someone to write a press release for you, they are usually free to produce, and it's unusual for newspapers to charge for publishing them.
While the distinctions I make between marketing, advertising, and PR may not be as crystal clear to you as they are to me, I hope this blog gives you some idea about how the terms are generally used in the world of business.