Clean your Office
Too often, when businesses consider ways to increase their revenue, their first approach is to develop an elaborate marketing campaign. One church I volunteered for, to increase attendance in their Sunday services, decided to rent expensive billboard space on a major road. What they needed to do was clean their church! The problem was not the amount of people walking through the door. The problem was the amount of persons walking through the door more than once. With online counseling, your office can be as dirty as you want and nobody will ever know. But remember, your letterhead, call answering, billing statements, and all other correspondence you have with clients and potential clients all convey a message about your practice. Take a few steps back and consider how your service looks to current and potential clients. Is it welcoming? Is it professional?
Send Mailers to Past, Present, and Potential Clients
Due to confidentiality issues, you will want to get permission before you mail anything to past, present, or potential clients. However, if you have a list of viable addresses, consider sending out a notice that you are now accepting new clients. Or, that you are expanding your practice to offer online counseling services. You may attract several clients who have been meaning to schedule an appointment, but just haven’t gotten around to it. Media that can be mailed include postcards, brochures or fliers, newsletters, and even greeting cards. A word to the wise, due to recent increases in postage costs you may want to begin with a few small mailings, to make sure you are not spending more than your client response will return.
Speak in Public
As a counselor you have a large base of specialized knowledge. Offer your expertise by volunteering to speak at any venue that will have you: schools, churches, organizations, company staff meetings, etc. You might charge a small fee, or you might talk for free. Either way, speaking engagements are excellent opportunities to inform the public about your professional counseling services.
Submit an Article
You know all too well about the prevalence of depression and anxiety, the divorce rate, occurrences of PTSD in returning veterans, so why not write a short article about one of these topics and offer it up to a local newspaper? You will be surprised how many newspapers and magazines would be more than pleased to publish a well-written article by a local professional. Wondering how this will help your practice? At the end of the article would be the following author bio, “Jane Doe LPC is a practicing mental health counselor with Live Well Counseling Agency. She has been practicing for 9 years and is currently accepting new clients. To contact Jane call 555-1234.”
Another great way to get publicity is to write for us. We give you FREE publicity with an audience of 35,000+ and growing daily. To learn more about our free counselor marketing and writing, click here.
Since online counseling is a new service industry, much free publicity could be available through press releases and even news, radio, or television interviews, if one has the ambition to seek out these opportunities. Remember, when writing a press release, the content should be “newsworthy.” It is a public service announcement, not an advertisement.
Have a Speedy Intake Process
A client calls a counseling center and leaves a message on an answering machine. Two days later the client gets his or her call returned for a formal intake. A week after that a clinician contacts the client to schedule a session. Six days later, the first session occurs. With many counseling agencies it takes over two weeks for a client to receive his or her initial counseling session. This is simply too long, and the delay lends itself to frequent client no-shows and dropouts. Counselors should initiate an intake process that allows clients to see a counselor within five business days.
Answer the Phone
Studies show that most persons who call a service, if they receive the answering machine, will not leave a message. Instead, they will hang up and call the next service in the phone book. Therefore, it is very important to have someone answer the phone, even if it is to simply retrieve a name and phone number and to assure the caller they will receive a prompt return call from a counselor. Do you have no money to hire someone?
Consider hiring a call answering service to manage the phones when you are unavailable. This will be much less expensive than hiring even a part-time employee. Most services begin at about a dollar-per-minute, and the price goes down from there depending on call volume. This will be money well spent.
Request Referrals from Clients
If a client has had a positive experience with your services, don’t be shy to ask the client to refer his or her friends. Some clients will want to keep the fact they are receiving counseling private. Others will be happy to spread the word.
Testimonials from Clients
If a client has had a positive experience with your services, he/she may want to provide an anonymous testimonial. Some clients might be leery of this—worried someone might be able to connect them with the testimonial. Others will be more than happy to provide an excellent review of your counseling practice.
Television or Radio
Both television and radio commercials can be quite expensive. The cost includes both the creation of the advertisement, and the cost of airing the final product. If you want to try this method of advertising, be sure to have enough money set aside to both create a quality add, and to air that add frequently for no less than a couple months (which is how long it generally takes to receive a response). Remember, not all marketing endeavors are a success. I, myself, have lost thousands of dollars on television marketing that did not provide any return. Therefore, be willing to take a big gamble with this type of marketing.
Guerilla marketing, like guerilla warfare, is all about surprise attacks. This means getting marketing exposure anywhere and everywhere. Guerilla marketers hand out their business card to everyone (two to each person. One for them to keep, one for them to give away), leave pamphlets on counters, stamp their marketing message on every piece of correspondence they send. For a guerilla marketer, every contact is a potential client, or a potential client referral.
Whether online counseling is desirable to clients may be the most important marketing issue. Capitalistic principles show that consumers will pay money for what they want, and if online counseling proves to be something desirable, such will likely convert into revenue for providers. Many in the field of online counseling believe consumers are showing increased interest in using online counseling services. This interest is “evidenced by scores of recent articles in popular magazines, major metropolitan newspapers, and national television news programs.”