PPH blog by Colin Clerkin
The following is a guest blog from Dr Colin Clerkin, an experienced clinical psychologist and coach who is running the popular “Getting Started in Private Practice” workshops in Glasgow, Bristol and Leeds, tailored to therapists new to private practice and looking for initial support in getting their business off the ground. You can find out more about Colin’s upcoming events here.
How much time should you dedicate to marketing your practice? This is a perennial question I get asked, so I thought it might be useful if I addressed it in a short blog. The simple truth, as I’ve learned over the years, is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer, I’m afraid.
But what is important is that you ensure that there is at least some consistent focus on marketing activities within your practice every week or month.
Therapist training generally does not address business matters; the focus is invariably on teaching the skills that you need to perform as an effective therapist, and rightly so! But as independent practice becomes more of the norm here in the UK, the need to address the “how” of independent practice becomes more important too.
The mistake that many therapists make is that when they start out, they engage in a flurry of promotional activity to try to get clients, but then, as their caseload grows, they turn their focus to doing the therapy, and their promotional work peters out. And then, after a while, the clients they’d brought in complete treatment and they find they have gaps again and have to start the marketing cycle all over again. It can get exhausting … and demoralising!
What’s needed is that you build in a block of time each week or month to focus on marketing activity (weekly is probably better, as it becomes easier to make this a routine activity rather than waiting a whole month to do something again and maybe giving in to the temptation to “let it slide this month”). But how much time depends on you… a day a week is probably too much for a small business, so look at blocking out an hour or two each week to start with and see how this evolves.
I’d warn here that it is very easy to see that time as disposable and to succumb to the temptation to book a client into that spot if you’ve had an enquiry and that’s the only time you or they have available that week. If you possibly can resist doing that, please do, for the longer-term sake of your business … the enquiring client doesn’t need to know about that slot, and they will more than likely accept a slot next week anyway, won’t they?
But you may well ask why do this, when there is a paying client keen to see you at that time? Well, let’s think about that.
Marketing your business is about promoting it to a wide range of potential clients, increasing your profile and recognition in the community so that when a potential client decides they have need of a service such as yours, your name will be higher on the list of possible candidates for the work. An effective hour spent on marketing therefore has the potential to draw 1, 2, 10 or even more new clients to your practice over time, and the more consistent you become in your marketing efforts, the higher your profile and the greater the number of future clients you’ll generate.
Now, let’s say you charge £100 for a face-to-face hour with a client (I know this may be more than you charge, but I’ll use this figure as it’s easy to do the calculations!). You get the enquiry and the only time you can fit them in that week is in your reserved marketing slot, so you go ahead and book them into that slot to get the business. You earn £100 for that hour.
But… what if that time had been spent on effective marketing and as a result it returned 10 clients over time. And let’s suppose that the average number of sessions clients work with you per contact is 8 (work out your own figures on this based on your practice). So, in this example, that hour’s focus on marketing would have generated 10 clients x 8 sessions = 80 sessions x £100 per session = £8000. A slightly healthier return, perhaps?
Of course, not every hour’s marketing will produce these results, but as you get more consistent and effective in your efforts, more and more will. So, now you see the potential real value of dedicating that reserved time to your marketing, can you see why I argue that you begin setting time aside to engage in this routinely?
Start with two hours a week, maybe on a time/day of the week when you know demand is relatively low, and adjust the time allocated depending on the results. But be careful not to let it slide when you get busy – consistent marketing will help ensure that you stay busy, rather than drift into a cycle of busy/slow that can be so draining and makes budgeting for your practice difficult.
Hope that′s given you something to think about…
For more ideas about how to grow your business, check out my Business Breakthrough Programme and learn how Mirror Coaching can help you grow your practice more effectively.
If you are new to private practice, and would like some support in getting your business off the ground, I am running my popular “Getting Started in Private Practice” workshops in Glasgow, Bristol and Leeds. You can get further details here.
Hope to see some of you there.