Define your image.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you already have an image that may or may not be consistent with the way you want to be perceived. Many psychologists don’t adequately understand the way they are seen by clients, colleagues, payers, and members of the community and do not strategically and purposefully define their own image.
Write a single sentence that clearly defines how you want people to view your practice. A good starting point is to revisit or create your business plan, which will provide you with most of the information you need. The sentence you create will serve as an anchor to focus your promotional materials so they coincide with your professional image. An effective statement should reflect your mission and values, leverage your strengths and address the needs of your target market.
Stand out from the crowd.
The main purpose of your professional image is to communicate the way in which your practice is unique. Claiming that your services are “high quality” is not enough to set you apart. Choose an aspect of your practice that differs from your competitors, cannot be easily duplicated, and that clients value. For example, if you provide family therapy for cancer patients and have well-established relationships with all the oncologists in your community, emphasize your ability to work collaboratively with the treatment team to help the family through the process. Revise the sentence you wrote to reflect this unique characteristic.
Don’t try to communicate that you can be everything to everybody. Emphasize what you can be the best at and deliver it consistently. In addition to giving you a competitive advantage, the differentiation expressed by your professional image is also valuable to potential clients and referral sources. Your image conveys your strengths and provides prospective clients and referral sources with a better understanding of the circumstances in which your services are appropriate and desirable.
Once you’ve defined your professional image and considered how to differentiate your practice, it’s time to create a communication plan. Identify each of your target audiences (e.g., clients, referral sources, colleagues, payers), the communication vehicles you have that reach each audience, and the purpose of each communication. Think about how to communicate your image in a way that tailors the message to each audience and purpose while maintaining a consistent message.
Keep your message simple and focused, make sure it reflects your professional image, repeat the same message, and include the same physical elements (e.g., logo, slogan, colors) year-to-year in all of your promotional materials. The effects of marketing are cumulative, so consistency is key.
Evaluate and revise.
Monitor the results of your efforts and adjust your approach as needed. There are many different ways to track your results. They range from inexpensive, informal efforts, such as talking with colleagues and having friends and family members provide feedback about your promotional materials, to more expensive market research, such as client satisfaction surveys and focus groups.
Regardless of the approach you take, try to answer the following questions when gathering information about the effectiveness of your efforts: