For the first 20 years of practice, I thought there might be a way to outsource our marketing. Why couldn’t I hire someone to take that burden off me? After all, what did I know about marketing?
We did not have a sound system for generating referrals. And frankly, I did not know how to build one. Furthermore, my motivation fluctuated between low and nonexistent.
I casually tried to find someone I could hire to generate referrals. But something was holding me back from aggressively pursuing and hiring a marketing director or outsourcing marketing some other way. Yes, I had heard of the frustrations of other practice owners, but I think it was more than that. The hesitation to outsource marketing was within me.
Only when I understood what my clients were purchasing did my procrastination make sense. They were not buying a product, like a sofa or a car. In my view, they were purchasing:
- An experience that relieved them from their pain
- An individualized and tailored-to-their-unique-situation solution to their pain.
All therapists agree with Part 1 of this statement. But our field has resisted accepting that many clients inherently resist protocol-driven, cookie-cutter methods. They want Part 2. Some clients insist that we treat their pain as unique, and they insist on a treatment that embraces that uniqueness.
If one accepts that clients believe that treatment for their problems should be unique, then marketing must highlight that message. What client’s want to hear in their marketing is:
- While your suffering is terrible and unique
- we, the people in this organization, have the skills
- to develop a relationship with you
- that help you to learn what you need to understand or do in order to solve your issues
The keywords in our marketing message
Let me break our message down a bit more.
First, our marketing should highlight a real appreciation for the clients’ suffer and pain.
Second, we are announcing that we have the skills to do two things:
- develop a relationship with you
- utilize that relationship to help you find solutions to your pain
If you agree with me that as mental health providers, these are our messages, then the marketing challenge is:
- What are the best methods to spread these messages everywhere?
Can we outsource these marketing messages?
After many failed attempts, I concluded that only a therapist could SHOW the messages we wanted to send. Marketing professions could help us TELL the news, but that was the limit. They could not show it to our potential audiences. For example, could a branding professional show potential clients:
- Empathy for the pain? Only a therapist could show that.
- Demonstrate the ability to build a relationship? Again, only a therapist could show that ability.
- Show the problem-solving abilities clients need in their lives? Therapist again.
Indeed, a branding professional can help us craft the materials and events that are the platform for these messages. And let us hire them for those tasks.
But they could not credibly SHOW these messages. We cannot outsource our marketing, itself.
OK, you convinced me. How do we do it?
The “how” takes us back to the message. Therapists are going to do the best practice building when we are in front of people SHOWING the audience our empathy while demonstrating our relational and problem-solving skills.
Getting in front of people, then, becomes then the marketing challenge.
I have written elsewhere on some of the marketing activities that are the best at accomplishing these goals. Since we cannot hire it out, it is up to us to do it and do it consistently. Here is how:
- The five best marketing favorites in psychotherapy practice
- Developing deeper referral relationships: How to broaden your reach
- How to convert solid referral relationships into fan clubs
And in these posts, I describe the methodology that we eventually developed to teach our staff how to sustain their marketing efforts:
- A community-based marketing method: Community Connection Plans
- A marketing video on a practice-wide marketing system
And if you are interested in reading about my many failures, though not about outsourcing marketing, read this: