This is part 2 of a 2-part blog on how to effectively use networking and community marketing to build your counselling or psychology business. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.  

Networking tip #4: Set yourself goals for regular networking with other counsellors and therapists

For therapy networking to work, you need to get out of your office and meet other professionals. Simple really. But what can really help is putting some structure around this simple task.

It’s important to be proactive about getting out and meeting other professionals. Waiting for the professional conferences and association meetings several times a year is not going to get you connected regularly with other therapists and counsellors to make a difference to your practice.

Consider a structure that you can implement and commit to. For example, when I was building my private practice, I set myself a goal of meeting with one colleague once a week. I gave myself the challenge of having coffee or lunch with 2 colleagues a month that I knew and 2 colleagues a month that I didn’t know.

For those I knew, these were opportunities to build our relationship, share knowledge and support each other, as well as have a general catch up. For the therapists I didn’t know, I used the same structure I recommended in networking tip # 2: Seek to serve others first. 

For each of those therapists I always came from the perspective of wanting to find out how I could support their businesses more with referrals and other resources I had. And I always bought coffee or lunch as thanks for their time.

A surprising thing  happened. I not only made new connections with therapists that have since gone on to become good friends and colleagues I now regularly connect with, but I also found that they  began to refer clients to me- even though my whole focus was on how I could serve them.

So in summary:

  • set yourself weekly or monthly networking goals
  • keep yourself accountable to meeting them
  • seek to serve your colleagues with referrals, support and resources
  • stay in touch with follow-up meetings and brief emails and phone calls
  • with new connections, ALWAYS buy coffee or lunch 🙂

Networking tip #5: Network with complementary professionals

Another strategy that can be very helpful is to connect with complementary professionals. Sometimes it won’t serve you to network with other counsellors and therapists that work in the same niche as you.

For example, if you’re a relationship counsellor and most your networking connections are other relationship counsellors, it’s unlikely you will get many referrals as most your colleagues will tend to keep the majority of the couples they receive.

It can be helpful to diversify your networking colleagues, so that if you’re  that same relationship counsellor, you seek out another therapist who doesn’t work with couples (and there are lots of those). This can then be a mutually beneficial relationship where your colleague can refer you couples and you can refer her individuals from the couples you work with. Make sense?

As you broaden your networking connections, it can be very helpful to connect with allied health professionals and professionals outside of the health field. That same relationship counsellor would also benefit from connecting with a divorce lawyer. The lawyers that I know are only too happy to meet counsellors that can work with their clients, because a happy client makes the lawyers job easier in the long run.

Here’s a list to get you thinking of networking professionals you may want to connect with outside of your usual network:

  • ADHD/ADD counsellor – tutoring organisation
  • child counsellor – child care centre manager
  • relationship counsellor – hairdresser or beauty salon
  • trauma counsellor – osteopath or chiropractor
  • depression counsellor – homeopath or naturopath
  • eating disorders counsellor – dietician or weight loss centre

Are you getting how this works now?

Networking tip #6: Serve your local community with free offerings

One of the most effective community marketing strategies is to offer free talks in your local community. This can be helpful on a number of levels including:

  • members of the public get to ‘try before they buy’; they get a sense of who you are from your presentation
  • you can demonstrate your expertise and authority in your chosen niche
  • you can connect with a large number of people at once within a short time-frame
  • you can provide the public with a taste of how you work and what they can expect
  • you can collect email addresses of the attendees to build your email newsletter list
  • you can offer free initial consultations to a set number of people or all that are interested

While many therapists have a mild panic attack at the thought of a free talk in their community, it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you might think. Here are some tips to consider to make this easier than it seems:

  1. choose a current theme related to your niche and create a compelling title to your talk that will grab peoples’ attention
  2. rather than approach this as a dry presentation on a topic, instead approach this as facilitating a discussion between you and the attendees
  3. include some fun for the attendees, such as a quiz, or a raffle
  4. consider having a door prize for those that write down their email address to receive your newsletter
  5. keep your talk relatively short, punchy and focused for more impact
  6. if you’re wanting to build a practice significantly, offer an initial free consultation to anyone who adds their name to a list

Now it’s important to add that if you go down the route of a free consultation, you need to be clear that you’re not doing therapy with these people. This first session is an opportunity for you to join with the client, hear about their current situation and then provide a summary  of what you understand and a number of recommendations at the end of the session. The goal is to join with the client in this initial session so that they then become your client.

While this can be time-costly to begin with, it can be an effective strategy if you’re wanting to build your practice very quickly and then the free initial consultation is paid for when the person becomes your client and you are generating more income from these clients.

When it comes down to being successful at therapy networking and community marketing, you just have to get out there, take action and move out of your comfort zone. While it might feel risky at first, you can get great results from putting yourself out in front of your colleagues and your community and broadcasting your message of what you do and how you do it.

What tips have worked well for you in your therapy networking and community marketing? Share your comments in the box below.