Soon after Christopher Barnes, PsyD, went into practice, he tried to drum up business by having fancy business cards and postcards printed. He soon realized that was old-school. “I spent a lot of time and money on them,” says Barnes, a psychologist at Child & Family Psychological Services, PC, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “They were fun, but there wasn’t much return on investment.”
After five years of practice, Barnes now realizes the best marketing is more intangible: customer service so good it prompts referrals. Says Barnes, “That’s the biggest compliment I can get.”
Of course, there are plenty of other strategies:
- Develop a niche. Having a few specialty areas is invaluable when it comes to getting your name out to both potential clients and other providers, says Lindsey Buckman, PsyD, of Buckman Psychological Consultants, PLLC, in Phoenix. It’s good to be known as the go-to person for a particular population or problem, says Buckman, who specializes in lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender issues and chronic illness.
- Build a website. Although Barnes is part of a large group practice, he set up a website to market his own specialty — assessing ADHD — within that practice. “It’s quite easy to do these days,” says Barnes, who simply plugged information into a template. “I thought I’d have to pay thousands of dollars.” Barnes uses Google’s AdWords to check what ADHD-related words locals are searching for, then uses them on his site for search engine optimization. Google Analytics helps him assess how visitors use the site.
- Advertise. After consulting with more experienced colleagues, Maryam M. Jernigan-Noesi, PhD, decided to advertise on Psychology Today’s website when she launched her practice in West Hartford, Connecticut, in 2015. (The APA Practice Organization has its own Psychology Locator.) “Having a picture is important,” says Jernigan-Noesi, who wants to stand out as a psychologist of color. Friends and family offered feedback on which headshot looked most welcoming and whether her ad successfully avoided what she calls “psychobabble.” The ad links to her own website, which not only offers information about the practice but answers questions about therapy for first-timers.
- Use social media. Twitter is a great way to promote your practice while sharing resources, says Buckman, who also has a professional Facebook page. “The more you post, the more traffic you get,” she says. Use images to grab attention. And while Buckman has her own personal accounts, she shares personal tidbits to show her personality.
- Be active in your community. Give presentations, recommends Buckman, who says, “I’ll talk to anyone who wants me.” Volunteer. Join groups reflecting your personal interests, as well as your state psychological association, APA and the APA Practice Organization. “Getting involved and talking to people is essential to getting information about your practice out there,” she says.
Noting that traffic on his website has jumped exponentially since the early days of three visits a month, Barnes warns that being too good at marketing can cause its own problems. “You don’t want to become so overwhelmed you can’t keep up,” he says.