By Susan Giurleo
Marketing your Practice Online: The Start-Up Kit
You know that if you have an online component of your therapeutic practice online, you will need to market your services online, too. And while the entry costs to marketing on the internet are low and there are many services out there offering to do all your marketing for you, the truth is effective online marketing requires you strategically leverage the online space to pull interested clients into your practice. The tools listed below are the basic platforms you will need to leverage if you hope to grow a practice online. Let’s take one at a time.
Online Marketing Start-Up Kit (in order of importance)
- A professional practice website. Every legitimate online business has their very own stand-alone website. Think of your website as your “online office.” It will be the place where people learn about your work, how you can help them and how to contact you. But more important than that, it can be the place where you express your professional identity, offer services and products that will support your clients and it’s where people will pay you.
Many therapists use online listing services, but these are not adequate for an online office. Your own site is the only place online where you will be able to fully showcase your services and powerfully leverage the full potential of online marketing.
I encourage therapists to have their site professionally designed. A site that looks unpolished looks unprofessional. Remember, people will come to your site and give it 2-5 seconds before they decide to read more or click away. First impressions matter online.
- A blog (integrated with your website). A blog (or web log) is a great way to write briefly about your treatment specialty area and educate readers about the benefits of psychotherapy and online services. Blogs do wonders to increase your credibility and establish you as an expert in your field. They also serve the dual purpose of always providing fresh content for your website that will position you well for search engine optimization. One blog article a week will do wonders for your online marketing.
- A free report or e-course. Online marketing starts with giving interested prospects something for free. This is true for any industry. You can offer a free report, a multiple email course, or an audio recording. The topic should be focused on your treatment specialty. People who want access to your course will need to “opt-in”* by giving you their email address. Once they agree that they want your information, an autoresponder can send them the freebie. Which means you will need an….
- Autoresponder. An autoresponder is a platform used to send specific email to specific people at specific times. For instance, someone can opt in to an autoresponder for a free report, as outlined above. Once they opt-in their information is contained in a list and you have permission to send them future emails in the form of e-newsletters. Using the autoresponder you can send them regular follow up e-mail communication weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. The regular follow up is a key for effective online marketing. The most popular and dependable autoresponder out there is Aweber.com. There are several others includeing MailChimp, MyEmma and MadMaggie.
- An e-newsletter (or e-zine). Once you have your opt-in report and autoresponder, you will need a way to regularly connect with interested potential clients. I’ve found e-zines to be extremely effective for this purpose. Your e-zine can include a short note from you, an article related to your practice specialty and an occasional offer for a service or product you want to sell. The ratio of valuable information to sales pitch should be 90% to 10%, meaning 90% of the e-zine is free, useful information and 10% is a sales offer. Your readers will come to expect your newsletter and look forward to hearing from you. Once they know, like and trust you many will be likely to engage in a working relationship.
- A Twitter account or Facebook business page. A social media presence will be an important means to drive potential clients to your website. I suggest starting with Twitter OR Facebook since managing both at the same time can be a bit overwhelming (I started with Twitter). Which platform you chose will depend on where your ideal client “hangs out” online. Do some preliminary market research to determine where most of your clients spend their social media time.
In my next “Marketing Toolbox” we will explore how to do the market research necessary to determine where your clients are online and what information they want. This information will allow you to tailor your marketing and service offerings to your clients’ needs ensuring your practice success.
** “Opt-in” is an online marketing term describing the process someone must go through to receive free information on the internet. All autoresponders will give you the HTML code to place an opt-in box on your website, where interested readers put their name and email address. They then receive an email asking them to click a link to get the information they want. This process ensures that no one enters their email address fraudulently. If you offer free reports and utilize email marketing, you must use an opt-in procedure. It’s the law called CAN SPAM and is closely regulated by the FTC.
Susan Giurleo, Ph.D. manages www.bizsavvytherapist.com, bringing mental health support to people via social media and online technologies. She is based in Massachusetts, USA. Her column, Marketing Toolbox, appears in each issue of TILT ~ Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.
This article first appeared in the September 2010 Premier issue of TILT Magazine ~ Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology a bi-monthly magazine published by the Online Therapy Institute.
Link to original publication: http://issuu.com/onlinetherapyinstitute/docs/premier/42
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