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message_market_triangleIn the past couple of issues of Therapy Marketing Monthly, we’ve talked about why marketing needs to be the number one focus of your practice outside the work you do with clients.

We’ve covered how successfully marketing your practice is the key to creating a steady stream of clients so you can make an EXCELLENT living by helping those who need the counseling and therapy services you provide.

We’ve defined marketing in terms of building win-win relationships with prospective clients and referral sources – relationships that not only help you grow your practice but help your prospective clients and referrals sources achieve THEIR goals.

And we’ve discussed the importance of creating powerful, appealing, and compelling marketing messages and how creating these messages and developing a strong USP (Unique Service Proposition) can help you stand out as THE choice for the mental health services you provide.

Today we’re going to continue from where we left off by covering a few additional things you need to know to create powerful, appealing, and compelling marketing messages that can help you successfully grow your practice.

And, perhaps even more importantly, we’re going to walk through the process of determining the “best clients” for your practice and why, contrary to popular belief, you can actually grow your practice faster by selectively targeting fewer clients.

We’ve got a lot of ground to cover. So, let’s get started…

Features, Benefits, and Stories

While creating a USP for your practice should be the focal point and foundation for all of your marketing messages, it can take some time to come up with a really solid USP. And I try never to be one who’s in favor of waiting to get something just right before getting started.

As the saying goes, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

So, while you should always be working towards defining your USP and then reinforcing it throughout your marketing messages, this doesn’t mean you should wait until you have the perfect USP before starting to communicate and build relationships with potential clients and referral sources. Nor does it mean that all you have to do to create effective marketing messages is create a strong USP.

Another vital aspect of creating powerful, appealing, and compelling marketing messages is creating your marketing story.

Most mental health professionals aren’t using stories in their marketing whatsoever… Most are talking about the benefits of their practice and the services they provide, if that. Many are only discussing the features of their practices and services.What’s the difference between a feature and a benefit?

While I could go into the differences of benefits versus features in great detail, suffice it to say that features are factual statements about the products or services you’re offering. For example, some common features of psychotherapy can include:

  • Anxiety counseling
  • 50-minute sessions
  • Evening and weekend appointments
  • Healing and growth take place through the client-therapist relationship

But features such as these aren’t what make people decide to seek psychotherapy, let alone call and schedule an appointment. This is where benefits come in. A benefit answers the question “What’s in it for me?”

When you try to sell the features of your services, you’re making your prospective clients do all the work to figure out why each feature matters and why they should want it. And you don’t want your prospects trying to figure out why they should hire you!

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to draw the connections for them. For example, you could turn the features listed above into benefits as follows:

  • Anxiety counseling –> While many people can reduce or overcome anxiety on their own for short periods of time, professional anxiety counseling can help you address and resolve the underlying causes of your anxiety so it doesn’t come back.
  • 50-minute sessions –> In as little as an hour a week you can be on your way to achieving the relationships and life you desire.
  • Evening and weekend appointments –> You don’t have to leave work or miss out on other important activities to benefit from therapy and start creating the change you seek.
  • Healing and growth take place through the client-therapist relationship –> The unique relationship created between you and your therapist during the course of psychotherapy can help you work through and resolve the negative consequences of previous relationships by creating new relational patterns that, quite literally, change the way you think and what you believe is possible so you can move forward in your relationships and your life with confidence and optimism.

The best way to understand the true benefits of the services you offer is to focus on the results they provide your clients. After all, our expectation of results is the reason we choose to buy anything, let alone choose to buy one product or service over another.

So, now that you understand the difference between features and benefits, you should review all of your marketing materials (your website, business cards, brochures, advertisements, etc.) and make sure you’re stressing the benefits/results you prospective clients want and will receive by purchasing your services.

Focusing your marketing messages on the benefits of your services and the results your prospective clients want to achieve will make your marketing messages far more effective than those of your competitors.

But if you truly want to stand out from the crowd, create appealing and powerful marketing messages that emotionally connect with your clients, and get them stampeding for your door, you need to use stories in your marketing.

Stories?!? Yes, stories! REALLY!!!

We’ll cover how to use stories effectively in your marketing in the next issue of this newsletter. But, for now, how do you apply all of this to successfully marketing your practice?

Well, in order to develop an effective USP, understand the benefits and results your prospective clients want, and create an emotionally appealing and compelling story that connects with them, you need to…

Know and Target Your Best Clients

As a psychotherapist, you arguably know your clients better than most other business owners… Yet I’m constantly surprised by how many therapists either don’t know or find it difficult to list specific demographic or psychographic details about their current clients. Knowing these details can be vital to marketing your services as efficiently and effectively as possible.

For an example of how understanding the demographics of your current clients can help dramatically grow your practice, let’s take a look at one business-owner I know in the international introduction and dating industry (often thought of as a “foreign or mail-order bride” service). When questioned about his clients’ demographics, he insisted that his male clients came from all types of professions and most walks-of-life. However, after being pressed for this information, he decided to spend several hours reviewing his client list only to “discover” that more than half of them were long-haul truck drivers. Previously, he’d been promoting his online introduction services to everyone, everywhere, which was a huge financial drain. Armed with this “new” information, he began targeting his marketing specifically to long-haul truck drivers and more than tripled his client base and revenues over the course of the next two years without increasing his marketing budget.

Just by understanding where his current clients were coming from, this business owner was able to focus his resources on the best target market and quickly grow his business.

But the key here isn’t simply knowing where your current clients are coming from, it’s putting this information to work and using your resources as efficiently and effectively as possible by selectively targeting the best markets for your practice.

For another example of the effectiveness of selectively targeting specific markets, let’s take a look at a client of mine who’s a mental health professional. While she loved working with couples more than anything, she worried about pigeonholing herself by targeting only couples. Her marketing had been targeting individual adults, couples, and teens. Consequently, her clients were pretty evenly divided between the three and she was struggling to grow and maintain a full practice. After numerous conversations and some “arm-twisting” on my part, she decided to set up a separate website dedicated to her couples counseling services and changed her marketing messaging to focus solely on her couples work. To her surprise, she quickly filled her schedule over the course of the next six months, and almost all of her new clients were couples, both from the Internet and through referrals from other therapists who didn’t enjoy working with couples as much as she.

So, whether you’re starting a new practice or looking to take your practice in a different direction or to a whole new level, both of these examples illustrate the power of knowing your clients and being selective about the types of clients you’re targeting.

There are three main reasons why you want to selectively target specific clients:

  1. To position yourself and be seen as an expert in the services you provide
  2. To allocate your limited resources as efficiently as possible
  3. To effectively communicate and emotionally connect with your prospective clients

Let’s take a look at the first…

Positioning Yourself as an Expert

If your child was suffering from a medical condition, I’ll bet you’d want to find a doctor in your area who specializes in treating children with precisely that condition. And you’d probably be more than willing to pay more for their expertise. Heck, if the child’s condition was serious enough, many people would be willing to spare no expense and even fly across the country to find the right specialist for their child.

This principle is no different in mental health.

Many couples with marital problems would rather find and work with a marriage and relationship EXPERT, as opposed to a therapist whose practice includes children, teens, individuals, families, and so on. And many couples would more than willingly pay higher fees to be seen by such an expert.

The same is true for parents of a teen with an eating disorder, parents of a child with ADHD, men with sexual and/or intimacy issues, and so on.

If you’re targeting everyone, not only are you spreading your marketing resources too thin trying to target a population much larger than you can actually serve, but you’ll find it next to impossible to be seen as THE professional to turn to when people have a certain problem and charge fees accordingly.

And this leads directly to the second reason to selectively target specific clients…

Efficiently Allocating Your Resources

Every business – even the largest Fortune 500 companies – has a finite amount of resources. And wasting limited marketing resources trying to be all things to all people is one of the surest roads to business failure and bankruptcy. This is even truer for small businesses than it is for large ones.

Despite this fact, most therapists get their best clients only by lucky accident – by throwing out their message to everybody and letting the right people find it. This is like getting a message to your sister in Boston by dropping 250,000 copies of your letter out of a plane as you fly over Massachusetts.

This is “hope marketing” … Hoping your message gets to the people you want to see it most. A few of the people you want to see your message may come across it, but it is a grossly inefficient and wasteful process that can financially ruin any business.

Conversely, any and every psychotherapy practice, from the tiniest to the largest, can convert to efficient targeted marketing. There is a way for you to determine who your “best client” is and then focus your resources on reaching them with a message that’s tailored to them. If you have the will to do it, you can find a way!

Which leads us to the third reason to selectively target specific clients…

Creating an Emotionally Appealing and Effective Message

Parents of children with eating disorders, couples who’ve experienced infidelity, individuals dealing with stress or anger management issues, and families with boundary and communication issues all want different things. Likewise, a young professional woman, a stay-at-home mom, a conservative executive, and an elderly couple are all likely to have different emotional needs and preferred methods of communicating.

Trying to emotionally connect and establish relationships simultaneously with all these disparate groups is a daunting, if not near impossible, task.

Conversely, the more specific you are about the types of clients you’re targeting, the easier it is to convey messages that speak directly to their wants, needs, fears, and concerns. And in order for your marketing to be successful, you need to do precisely this!

You need to create emotionally appealing messages that make your prospective clients feel understood, that your services are exactly what they need, and that make them pick up the phone and schedule an appointment.

How Do You Selectively Target the Right Clients?

Just as there are three main reasons why you want to selectively target clients, there are also three main ways to pick the best prospects to market to:

1) Geographic Targeting

Unless your practice is focused on offering online counseling and therapy, you need clients to come to your office or you need to go out and meet them, both of which require that you restrict the geography of your marketing.

However, this doesn’t mean you should simply target everyone in any and every city or zip code within a 50-mile radius of your office.

Within every geographic market there are divisions or “clumps” of different kinds of clients and you want to rule out hunks of any geographic area you’re marketing in.

Again, although it may seem counter-intuitive, you want to REDUCE the size of your prospect universe so that you are using your resources efficiently and can spend more time on each “best” prospect because you’re spending less, little, or nothing on bad prospects. As an obvious example of this, if you only want to attract full-fee-for-service clients to your practice and you charge upwards of $200.00 per hour, it makes no sense to be targeting the “low-rent” districts, no matter how close to your office they may be geographically.

It’s important to remember that your marketing success will be determined as much by your diligence with these discriminatory selection processes as by anything else.

2) Demographics and Psychographics

Demographic data refers to the statistical information – such as age, sex, household income, family size, number of credit cards, media preferences and so on – of your target clients.

Psychographic data refers to the value systems, philosophies, habitual behaviors, mindsets, primary hot buttons, fears, passions, etc. that make your target audience especially receptive to your services and practice.

Demographic and psychographic selection can be as simple as targeting a preferred age group or as complex as targeting women from forty-five to fifty-five years of age who have professional careers, read both the Wall Street Journal and Parenting, carry the American Express card, and travel by air at least twice per year.

While psychographic data may be more difficult to come by outside of the clients you currently see, chances are you have a pretty good handle on at least some of the psychographic data for those clients you enjoy working with most, assuming you spend a little time thinking about it.

As for demographic data, almost every media resource has and can provide detailed demographic information about its readers, listeners, viewers, or customers and you should take this information seriously when making decisions about advertising in a newspaper or magazine, on TV or radio, or when using direct mail.

You should also collect as much demographic and psychographic information about your present clients as possible – this can be accomplished through your own note-taking and need not only be collected through a survey or intake form – as biases and commonalities in your present clients can be used as criteria for future targeting.

3) Affinity or Association

One of the most effective means of marketing your psychotherapy services is by targeting groups of people based on association or affinity. Think of trade and professional associations, chambers of commerce, Toastmasters, Jaycees, other business and civic groups, church groups, PTAs, and the list goes on and on…

Despite the almost complete lack of demographic commonalities amongst the members who belong to such groups, they often share similar psychographic details and they definitely share the same business activities, experiences, problems, and concerns that have led them to join a specific group or association. And, if you belong to such groups, you’ll get to know them and they will get to know you.

In fact, one of the best things you can do for your marketing and your practice is to get out of your office for 4-8 hours each week to join and actively participate in a number of these associative target markets. Then, instead of advertising to a neighborhood, or online, you can advertise to your fellow members!

Now, you may be thinking that this is all well and fine if you know precisely the population you want to target, but what if you’re not sure who you should target?

Well, if you’re starting a new practice or looking to take your practice in a different direction, let me begin by saying that choosing a niche doesn’t have to be a complicated process… So don’t make it one.

I’ve known far too many mental health professionals who’ve agonized over the question of the best niche to target, or, more specifically, what’s the “right” niche for them.

Choosing a niche or target market need not involve transcendental philosophy or quantum physics, and your decision to target a particular niche need not be set in stone for the life of your private practice.

So, with those caveats in mind, here’s a simple niche selection exercise…

Start by making a Venn diagram:

Choosing the Ideal Clients for Your Psychotherapy Practice

  1. In Circle #1, list the type of work and clients your passionate about.
  2. In Circle #2, take stock of your experience, both professional experience as well as personal experience.

You should focus on niches that you either have a lot of experience in already or that you’re passionate about.

If you already have a lot of experience in a given niche, you’ll already be perceived as something of an expert and marketing to it won’t take as much work. If you’re passionate about a given niche, all of the work you need to do to market to it won’t really feel like work at all.

Ideally, the niche or niches you target will be from where the circles intersect and involve work that you have a lot of experience in and about which you’re passionate.

For example you may love working with kids and have a lot of experience helping people cope with and overcome ADD. If so, an ideal niche might be working with elementary-age children with ADD.

Why not just target everyone with ADD? Well, you certainly can… But, as we’ve discussed, you’ll realize success much faster by being more selective in your targeting.

Targeting a smaller population will make it easier for you to establish your positioning as an expert, use your limited resources efficiently and effectively, and emotionally connect with your prospective clients. So, you should be looking to drill down and be as specific as possible when choosing a niche.

Once you’ve established yourself as the local, state, or even a national expert on helping elementary-age children with ADD, you can back it up a step and become the expert who helps children and teens with ADD. Then, once you’ve nailed that market, you can back it up again and help children, teens, and young adults with ADD. Or, alternatively, you could help the parents of children and teens with ADD.

By initially drilling down and becoming an expert in a specific area, you can more quickly establish your expertise, build a prospect and client following that values that expertise, charge higher fees because of your expertise, and then back up and expand your expertise and your niche as your resources grow and allow you to do so effectively.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Therapy Marketing Monthly, in which we’ll delve further into how targeting one or more specific niches can help you create an emotionally appealing and compelling marketing story that has clients beating a path to your door. And don’t to share your questions and comments below!

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