“I feel guilty when I am not marketing my practice.”
As one of MyWellbeing’s resident therapy marketers, I often speak with therapist friends and colleagues about getting more clients. However, this line from a therapist friend really stuck with me.
I had asked how their recent vacation went over coffee. They said they had spent most of their time either working on marketing their practice, or worrying about getting more clients. They came back feeling more stressed than they were before the vacation started.
My friend is hardly alone. So many private practice therapists have told us at MyWellbeing that they are overwhelmed by the task of getting more clients for their practice. Some feel like they aren’t doing enough to grow, even when their practice starts to consume their every thought. Therapists often don’t receive any training in marketing, and therapy marketing consultants often provide a laundry list of tactics, which only increases the pressure to do everything you can to market your practice at all times.
Observing this trend as a marketer new to the therapy space brought me back to the most important lesson of my marketing career:
What does less is more really mean?
For me, less is more means spending less time on the marketing efforts that don’t feed MyWellbeing’s goals so I can focus on the initiatives and strategies that help us attract more clients for our therapist community.
For you, less time spent on marketing may mean more time in the room with clients, or outside of the room with your loved ones. It may mean less stress for you, and more compatible clients for your practice.
I know that spending less time on marketing and getting more clients sounds too good to be true. It certainly did to me when I was a newbie marketer trying to increase visitors to a niche media site. However, bear with me; I hope I can convince you that you can get better results with less time and less stress. It can be as easy to get started as building a website and listing yourself on therapist directories.
In my first marketing role, I did everything I could think of, read about, or find advice on to grow the niche media site’s audience. I led a small team to publish five blog posts a week, send a weekly newsletter, test advertising campaigns, share content on our social channels, cross-promote with partners, set up webinars, write on industry forums, and test unconventional campaigns.
Our numbers increased modestly, but I was solely focused on what more we could be doing. I was a bottomless pit of anxiety, as I obsessively wondered what tactics we were missing.
Then, one of the fifty things we were trying really took off. Just for fun, we drew on our knowledge of our audience to design a personality quiz that we thought they might like. The first people to take the quiz shared it with their friends, who posted it in social media groups. Within four days, the quiz had generated a year’s worth of email subscribers on its own.
The fun side project we finished in a day brought in a year of results, blowing our day-to-day work out of the water.
This was a wakeup call for me. I had been focused on the process instead of on what mattered most: the results of our work. My team and I shifted our work to the unconventional marketing tactics, like quizzes, that were so popular with our audience. Our next project was a tool that became the most visited page of our site within a week of launching. Years later, everyone in the industry still uses it.
Less is more is even more important when you are the only “marketing” person in your practice, and when you only have a few hours a day between sessions to work on all of the different elements of running and growing your business (if even that much time!). Here are a few ways you can apply the principle of less is more to your practice.
Being able to apply less is more depends on how much you focus on what really matters. To be able to have a bigger impact with less time, you need to know how to spend the time that you have.
Marketing can feel so overwhelming because there are so many different ways that you can reach out to prospective clients. However, beneath all the tactics, jargon, and recommendations, marketing is simply making sure that the clients who are the right fit for your practice find you.
For the vast majority of therapists, what matters is the number of new clients you get from your marketing efforts and whether those clients are a great fit for your practice or not. The number of followers you have on social media, visitors to your blog, or people on your email list are not as important as the number of clients you bring in.
This may seem simple, but it is revolutionary. Give yourself the space to think about your ideal client and what they want, and speak to them and only to them without worrying about leaving other people out. If you specialize in anxiety for high-performing individuals, you can write an article on performance anxiety before a board meeting that could help you bring in more clients than an article on anxiety itself. You might have more readers for an article about general anxiety, but your work should focus on reaching prospective clients over readers.
What is the person who would become your client focused on? What brings them to therapy? How can you help them overcome the barriers but keep them out of therapy? Focusing your marketing on answering these questions for your prospective clients will help you grow your practice in less time.
Once you know what really matters, it is important to think about how you will measure it. In this case, we are focusing on where your clients come from. Knowing where your clients come from can help you figure out which marketing efforts are working best for you and double down on the strategies that are working, while ending your efforts on the strategies that aren't serving you.
There are a few ways that you can figure out where your clients are coming from. You can ask clients how they heard about you in intake forms, and keep track of which colleagues give you referrals. If you have a website, you can also use Google Analytics, a free platform that shows you what path your visitors took to your site and how they move through it.
Once you can measure your client sources to find the best use of your time, you can start to simplify your work.
The biggest part of simplifying your work is permitting yourself to stop doing the things that don't have a significant positive impact on your practice. Hopefully, you will have identified a few things to stop doing by looking at where you are currently getting clients. However, it is also okay to identify activities that you want to stop doing based on your strengths.
For example, if you are not comfortable using social media, you do not have to use it! You can grow a large and thriving practice without a social media profile. Likewise, if you aren't comfortable with writing, you can promote your practice without ever writing a single blog post. You just need to find the other marketing techniques that work for you.
It is so tempting to focus on productivity and try to produce as many marketing materials as you can in the limited time you have. However, less is more also applies to your audience’s experiences with marketing.
In our chaotic modern world, we are overwhelmed by the amount of information at our fingertips. There are 310 million search results for the term “anxiety” alone. Even so, it seems like it has only gotten harder to find the information we really need among all the information available. Producing content is not a way to distinguish yourself from other providers any more, but producing high-quality content always will be.
Similarly, showing your colleagues that you deeply care about your work will help encourage them to refer patients who might be the right fit for you to you, and running ads that speak to your audience will help you bring in more clients at a lower cost.
It is okay to slow down and spend a few work sessions on your marketing materials. Their quality will make such a big difference in their impact.
Before you do anything to incorporate less is more into your practice, it is helpful to take a step back. This is especially true if you're feeling exhaustion, burnout, anxiety, stress, or any of the many feelings that the pressure of marketing a private practice can evoke.
Spend at least a few hours doing something you really enjoy. Take a walk, meditate, spend time with your family, paint, listen to the most melodramatic music you can find (just me?), or do anything else that helps you feel more grounded. Most importantly, give yourself permission not to think about your practice or your marketing for those few hours. I can almost certainly guarantee that your practice will be there when you come back to it!
You are the experts in mental health, so I feel singularly unqualified to talk about taking a step back. However, it is really important in marketing to give yourself that space for new ideas to come to you, to process what you're currently doing, and to come back to your practice renewed. If you are too stressed about your marketing, it is so easy to fall into the idea that you need to do everything to succeed. It takes some distance to be able to see what will make the biggest impact.
The best marketing focuses on reaching who you can help with the tools, advice, and initial support to help them. I am so confident in your ability to succeed in marketing your practice because of how much you do to help others. I hope that Incorporating less-is-more near practice helps you feel less stressed about marketing and spend more time working with clients.
Match with the *right* clients for your practice while growing your professional community.
Mariah was Head of Growth at MyWellbeing. She is a marketing expert in the areas of content strategy, digital advertising, business growth, and anything related to helping therapists grow their practice.