What do you think of when I mention the word “marketing”? What does marketing mean to you?
If you immediately think of advertising or sales, you’re far from alone. Marketing often has negative connotations for therapists and other business owners. In fact, just mentioning the word “marketing” causes many to think only of used-car salesmen, annoying TV commercials, and junk mail.
While advertising and sales are indeed pieces of the marketing puzzle, they are not its essence.
So, what is marketing?
Before I answer that question, let me ask you another: “What is the purpose of your business?” And, yes, make no mistake about it, your practice is a business.
Regardless of the specifics, all businesses exist to serve the wants and needs of their clients. This is the raison d’être of a business. Yes, businesses also exist to make profits for their owners, but profits come only as a consequence of serving clients’ interests. A business without clients, or one that doesn’t meet clients’ needs and expectations, won’t be a business for long.
Regrettably, nobody is going to walk into your office and ask for whatever it is you’re offering unless they know that you and your products and services exist. Running a business is no Field of Dreams. Just building something doesn’t mean anyone will give a hoot. The way you make sure prospective clients know you exist and can help them is through marketing.
Think about all the various aspects of your business – from your ongoing education to all you do to try and be the best therapist you can be – with the exception of providing the best products and services possible, none of them has a direct impact on the number of clients your business will enjoy or on how well you’ll serve them. Marketing is the only means your business has of connecting with potential clients and letting them know about your products and services. Therefore, other than providing the best products and services possible, marketing is the most important aspect of your business. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that all businesses, if they want to be successful, are in the marketing business.
Unfortunately, the importance of this is something that most therapists and wellness professionals underestimate.
All businesses rely on customers to keep them afloat. Without customers there is no business. And attracting customers is one of the biggest challenges any business faces, which is why you need to have an effective marketing plan.
But, before we get to the planning, we still need to define marketing…
What Is Marketing?
Marketing is the process by which you understand the needs and desires of your prospective clients, create products and services that meet and exceed their needs and expectations, ensure prospective clients know your products and services exist and can help them, and deliver your products and services in the most convenient and effective manner possible, thereby turning clients into advocates for your business.
At its root, marketing is all about creating win-win relationships based on understanding your clients’ wants and needs.
As a therapist, you’re already ahead of most business owners in terms of understanding both the importance of relationships and your clients needs and desires. So, understanding marketing in terms of creating win-win relationships that help your clients shouldn’t require much effort to integrate. But, just like therapy, marketing and private practice success is not only about the relationship you create with clients, it’s also about your relationship with your business and yourself.
It should be obvious that when I talk about marketing I’m not interested in textbook definitions of the term. I’m not interested in academic theories or impressing some financier with a marketing plan. I’m interested in creating win-win relationships with clients and I’m hoping you are too.
If you truly feel that the products and services you offer can benefit people, then letting the people who need them know they exist should be a no-brainer. But how does one go about doing this?
In this light marketing can and should be thought of as getting the right message to the right people via the right media and methods – effectively, efficiently, and profitably.
A Quick Digression…
Before we break apart this second definition of marketing, I want to draw particular attention to the word “profitably.” I used to use the word “affordably.” While you do need to make sure you can afford your marketing investments, I’ve found that focusing on affordability reinforces most therapists’ inclination to try and get new clients as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately, these attempts to spend as little as possible on acquiring new clients mean many therapists rule out the best opportunities. Not to mention, trying to spend as little as possible in order to attract a new client who’s worth thousands of dollars to your practice’s bottom line makes little financial sense.
What most therapists and many other business owners miss, and what you need to understand, is that the comparative costs of different marketing methods are irrelevant. They mean nothing. It’s the comparative return on your marketing investments translated into net profit that matters to the success of your practice.
For a quick example of the importance of profitability vs. affordability, let’s assume your average client pays you $125 per session and attends 20 sessions. If you try to do your marketing on the cheap, you may spend $50 per month on a marketing method that generates one or two new clients each year. So, by investing $600 per year ($50/month x 12 months = $600) you make $2,500-$5,000 ($125/session x 20 sessions) for a net profit of $1,900-$4,400 ($2,500-$5,000 total – $600 cost). That’s a return on investment (ROI) of between 316% and 734%… Not bad. But, let’s say you spend $200 per month on a marketing system that generates a new client each month. So, by investing $2,400 per year you make $30,000 per year. That’s an ROI of 1,150% and, even better, a net profit of $27,600 per year that goes directly to your practice’s bottom line.
I hope this helps clarify the importance of focusing on profitability, as opposed to focusing simply on affordability, when it comes to your marketing. Now back to our definition…
Dissecting Our Definition
In order to create a marketing plan for your practice, we’ve defined marketing as getting the right message to the right people via the right media and methods – effectively, efficiently, and profitably.
To reiterate, this is not some textbook definition. It is not designed to impress anyone. It is, however, designed to dissect some vital questions about your business and your marketing:
- Message – Is your marketing built around the most powerful, fascinating, intriguing, persuasive, and compelling message possible? (Or is your message ordinary, me-too-ish, dull, mundane, unexciting, easily ignored, forgettable, or, even worse, about being cheap or having the lowest price?)
- Market – Have you determined precisely whom your message should be for and figured out how to put it in front of them – hopefully at the exclusion of all others? (Or are your services for anyone – and thus for no one? Are you dissipating rather than focusing your marketing efforts, trying to be noticed and heard by a population far greater in size than you can serve?)
- Media – Are you wisely investing in the most appropriate media to deliver your message to the prospects in your chosen target market? (Or are you using media because everyone else seems to be, because a salesperson said you need it, or because it’s the way you’ve always done things? It’s important to note that different media are best for different businesses and different target markets at different times.)
- Effective and Efficient – Is your marketing both effective and efficient? (Or are you choosing the easiest, simplest or most efficient means out of laziness, ignorance, because you’re too busy, or because you’re surrendering to poverty consciousness and a lack of abundant thinking?)
- Profitability – Are you accurately measuring the true, net return on investment from each of your marketing investments? (Or not? Are you guessing or carrying around opinions not verified by facts?)
If all this sounds overwhelming or far too complex for you and your practice, think again.
Asking and knowing the answers to these questions is even more important for you than it is for some Fortune 500 company. While I encourage you to outsource the day-to-day operations of your marketing as much as possible, you need to micromanage your marketing. When income is small, every good opportunity missed and every bad move made have big consequences.
Our objective with the Therapy Marketing Institute is to equip you with the fundamental and most reliable marketing success factors that I use as a consultant and my mother uses in her practice so that you can create the most powerful message possible for your products and services, choose the most appropriate media and use it in the most appropriate way, and get your message to your most valuable market. Your objective should be to put the success factors together into a plan that makes sense for you so you can put that plan into action and grow your business.
Personally, I detest planning, although I do a great deal of it. The entrepreneur in me naturally tends to prefer the “Ready? FIRE! Aim.” approach. If you start muttering, “Plan? Geez, let’s just get me some more clients,” I get it. But the well-honed marketing plan is worth having.
Trying to market and grow your practice without a marketing plan is like setting sail without a destination in mind or a map to get you there. You may find land – you may even discover a beautiful island – but doing so will be solely up to the winds of fate. If you want to be sure of achieving your goals, you must first know what they are and then chart out a course for achieving them. And that’s precisely how we intend to help!
Now that you know what marketing is and why it’s so vital to your success, it’s time to start developing a marketing plan. But, first, assess where your practice and marketing currently stand by asking yourself the questions posed above. And let us know your answers by leaving a comment in the TMI forum or below this article…