The biggest barriers to effectively marketing your private practice might not have very much to do with marketing itself, or with competition.
Barriers to Effective Private Practice Marketing in Mental Health
In mental health and the caring professions, I believe the biggest barriers to effective marketing come from within individual practitioners’ own perspectives, their assumptions and preconceptions. Some of these assumptions and preconceptions are entirely on target, while others are arguably less so. They come in at least two flavours:
- factual matters, concerning what is true in the world
- philosophical matters, concerning what is ‘right’
The factual matters are easy to clear up because they depend on how the world really is. The philosophical matters are much more interesting and depend on individual people’s views of themselves, their careers, and their lives.
Factual Matters and Marketing
As an example of a factual matter, some people believe (rightly or wrongly) that their respective professional organizations prohibit any kind of marketing or advertising activities. There is no actual debate about this kind of question. It’s just a matter of checking it out: what exactly is a particular organization’s policy? Although it is so easy to check out, a belief which hasn’t been checked out yet but which is in fact wrong may greatly (and unnecessarily) impede effective marketing: if you believe you’re prohibited from doing something, you’re significantly less likely to do it!
As an example of something which might not be quite such a simple matter of fact, but which still doesn’t come close to the philosophical subtlety of personal outlooks on life, some people think that marketing is the same as advertising. If you think this too, don’t worry: you’re in good company. In fact, while conducting some market research in preparation for a marketing guide I’ve been writing, I examined one recent book ostensibly about marketing which was actually overwhelmingly full of advice about advertising; so maybe even some of the people who write books on the subject don’t really understand the difference! Advertising is just one part of marketing, the part that is specifically about ways of delivering a specific marketing message, usually to the potential customer of a product or service. In marketing parlance, it’s the inside-out part (broadcasting your message), rather than the outside-in part (listening to customer needs and adapting to meet them). Here again, if you were to believe that marketing and advertising are the same thing, and you know (for example) that you don’t like advertising, you might be unnecessarily dissuaded from doing any marketing!
Philosophical Questions About Marketing
Far more interesting than either of these two examples, however, is the question of how you, as an individual practitioner, view marketing and its position in your constellation of thoughts and feelings about your work, your clients, your broader life and your role in the commercial exchange of time and effort in return for money. These largely derive from your views about yourself and about what is the right way to be, rather than about matters of fact in the outside world.
20 Questions About Marketing and YOU
Some examples of these kinds of questions, the answers to which might influence how you apply basic ideas of marketing, include:
- How do you feel about your own value in the work that you do?
- How do you feel about providing some of that value in exchange for money?
- How should the amount of money you receive in exchange for the value you provide relate to the costs you incur to provide it?
- How do you feel about articulating your value to other people?
- How do you feel about making a profit?
- How much of your reward in doing your job is psychological, as distinct from financial?
- Would you be willing to work for free?
- At what point will you need another source of income to augment the income you derive from your caring profession?
- How would you feel about telling your colleagues that you’ve formulated a marketing strategy?
- What does ‘selling’ mean to you?
- What does financial exploitation mean to you?
- Do you have a view about how those in your profession ‘should’ think or feel with regard to questions like these?
- To whom do you feel your services should be provided? Everyone? Only those who can afford it? Only those who happen to be the sort of people you particularly like working with?
- What sorts of people do you particularly like working with?
- If you had too many potential clients to see at a given time, and if it were entirely up to you, on what basis would you decide to work with some clients and not with others?
- How do you feel about others in your profession who only see select groups of clients or those who see all kinds of clients?
- How do you feel about those colleagues who receive more money for their services (or who have more clients) than you do? And those who receive less money (or who have fewer clients)?
- What does competition mean to you?
- How do you feel about capitalism?
- How do you feel about learning about marketing?
And that’s just a sample twenty questions — there are plenty more where those came from, and more still awaiting from within your own individual perspective!
In the case of each one, your own particular views and your philosophy of life will influence how you might apply basic ideas of marketing. Unlike the factual examples from the start of this chapter, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, and no one can teach you how to think or feel. They are ultimately about you and your relationship with the world around you.
Reflecting On Your Own Unique Position
In my own experience with small groups of counsellors or students, very often these kinds of questions elicit a combination of discomfort, uncertainty, avoidance, and sometimes a desire to ‘take a stand’ (well considered or otherwise!) in one particular direction or another. But whatever the reaction, even just beginning to consider these questions makes an important start toward better understanding your own outlook on virtually unavoidable aspects of your profession.
By reflecting on your own views of marketing and some of the adjacent conceptual territory, you can become aware of your own potential strengths in marketing, your own weaknesses, and your own particular interests or areas you’d like to avoid. And importantly, you can overcome any barriers to your own success in marketing which are simply unnecessary — such as barriers which might have been based upon something you’d never really thought about in detail before, or barriers which might just come from a lack of information.
By patiently continuing to explore, wondering, testing, hypothesizing, and reflecting, you can come to a better understanding of your best ally in marketing. (You, of course!)
In This Section
- Therapists In Practice
- Building a Website: Options for the Mental Health Practitioner
- Considering Entering Private Practice?
- Internet Marketing
- Introduction to Marketing Basics
- Market Intelligence Tools
- Security and Confidentiality
All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .on and was last reviewed or updated by