This is part 1 of a 2-part blog on how to effectively use networking and community marketing to build your counselling or psychology business. 

The majority of this blog has been about online marketing and how to connect with prospective clients online using Internet marketing, SEO and social media. However, community marketing and networking can also be an effective way to build a referral base. Any effective marketing strategy has a diversified approach, so it’s essential that you don’t do all your marketing online, but that you also connect with other professionals and practitioners in the field.

A lot of counsellors and therapists falter when it comes to networking and talking about their services with other professionals and laypeople. They either choke when it comes time to talk confidently about what they do, or they avoid the topic altogether from fear of embarrassment or being seen as ‘selling themselves’.

It’s important to think of yourself as an advocate for your business, rather than ‘selling yourself’. This important distinction can make all the difference when it comes to speaking with others about what you do.

Here are my tips for effective therapy networking so that you can be known in your community and communicate your marketing messages effectively:

Networking tip #1: Create and practise your elevator speech

Before you even think about connecting and networking with other professionals, you need to be able to communicate in a clear and succinct fashion about what you do and how you help people.

This is often called the ‘elevator speech’, meaning it’s a short and succinct speech that could be said to someone in an elevator as you ride between floors. For this reason, you need to be able to say what you do and the benefits you offer people in less than 1 minute, and probably within 30 seconds is even better.

When creating your elevator speech, remember to:

  • Keep it short.
  • Keep it quick.
  • Keep it niche focused on your ideal client.
  • Keep it benefit oriented.
  • Make it something that will encourage questions.

Here are some examples of therapist elevator speeches:

” I’m a family therapist who helps parents learn how to effectively communicate with their teenagers so they can build strong and loving relationships.”

or

“I’m [insert name] and I’m passionate about helping  couples create healthy, secure and loving relationships that bring them long-term joy and satisfaction.”

or

“I’m a counsellor who helps people who have experienced traumatic events overcome their fear and anxiety to create happy and rewarding lives.”

Are you getting the idea? Now it’s time for you to create your counselling or therapy elevator speech and practise so that it rolls off your tongue.

Networking tip #2: Seek to serve others first 

Many therapists make the mistake of asking people for referrals when they are trying to build their therapy practice. While it’s important to let people know that you’re available for referrals, it’s a much better strategy to seek to serve your colleagues first.

One of the ways you can do this when you meet with colleagues and allied health professionals is by changing your position. Rather than coming from a position of ‘I’m looking for clients and can you give me any?’, change your approach to ‘I’m growing my therapy practice and looking for colleagues I can refer to. Can we meet so I can understand who are the best clients for me to refer to you?’

Notice how different this feels from the first position? This is not about pretending you’re going to refer to your colleague. Any thriving therapy business needs a good list of therapists and counsellors you can refer to. You’re not going to be able to take every person who contacts you. And it’s only good professional practice to screen all clients and refer on the ones that are not appropriate for your counselling service.

You can also use this approach when connecting with doctors. In fact, you’re pretty much doomed to fail if you approach a doctor and ask for referrals straight-out (and you can’t offer the Medicare rebate). However, if you approach a doctor with a mini-article in a flyer that can actually help his patients, this is a great way to get your foot in the door. Again, your approach would be:

‘I’ve created this helpful pamphlet on [insert problem or issue] for [insert target market] so that your patients can get some quick tips on how to handle this issue. I thought your patients might find this beneficial, so would you mind if I left some in the waiting room?”

If you take this approach, make sure you have a small biography at the end so clients can contact you if they want one-to-one counselling for the problem you’re writing about.

So are you seeing the structure here? It goes like this:

  • I’m interested in serving and supporting you
  • I have knowledge and skills that your clients/patients can benefit from
  • I’d like to help you help your clients/patients
  • Let me know how else I can help you and you clients/patients

This is really a paradigm shift, but it works well because most people are interested in meeting with someone if there may be some benefit in it for them.

When you think about it, we’re all so busy these days, do you have time to give to someone you don’t know who wants something from you with no clear benefit in return? Not likely.

Networking tip #3: Form a peer supervision group for support and referrals

Forming a peer supervision group is a great strategy on a number of levels. On one level, it’s just great to have a small group of colleagues where you can go to get support, share resources and reduce the isolation of this business. On another level, this can be a great source of ongoing referrals.

What happens is as you build your relationships with your small group of peers, you begin to intimately know and trust the approach of your colleagues. What’s more, you also get to know the work of your peers- their strengths, passions and the types of clients they do their best work with.

This then means you can refer on clients that you won’t be working with, feeling confident and self-assured that this client is in safe hands with someone you know.

I am part of a small peer supervision group of fellow couples therapists that have met regularly over a long period of time. As a result of us knowing how we work and building our relationships with one another, we are consistently referring clients to each other.

So consider:

  • Who would I like to form a peer group with?
  • Which of your colleagues would you like to learn from?
  • How many people would you like in your peer group?
  • What parameters would you like to set for length, frequency of meetings?

Remember, it’s OK to say upfront that you are looking for peers that you can refer to when forming your peer group. You’re letting your colleagues know that being a member of a peer group will be a mutually beneficial relationship for all involved?

Continue on to read part 2 of Therapy Networking and Community Marketing: 6 Tips to Grow Your Private Practice

What’s been your experience of therapy networking and community marketing? Share any tips with us in the comments below.

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