When you’re in private practice, you want to attract more clients.
But something many therapists are worried about is being salesy.
That's hardly surprising. When I think of salespeople, I picture the old school sleazy used car salesman, or the double glazing salesman, or the old school cosmetics counter over-made-up saleswoman insisting that 'yes, that neon pink lipstick really looks lovely on you'!
The sort of sales people that are on a commission and really only interested in the sale, which leaves you feeling manipulated, taken advantage of and used.
Well the truth is you simply don’t have to try to sell yourself or your services, at least not in that 'used car salesman' way.
Firstly, there is literally no point trying to talk people into accessing therapy.
Imagine a client you’ve persuaded to come to therapy sitting, arms folded, thought bubble over their head saying ‘come on then, make me feel better!’.
Then imagine how unhappy they would be when inevitable the therapy didn’t produce results. Not good for business! (Not to mention totally unethical!)
So you don't have to get out there with heavy sales techniques, but you DO have to get out there! You have to let people know who you are and who you work with, otherwise, why would they call you?
Forming connections is how you get known and make an impression.
This is powerful stuff in any profession, but for us as therapists, it’s golden because therapy is reliant on the therapeutic relationship.
So it’s not about selling to people, it’s about helping people find the right therapist for them, saving you both time, and them money.
So here are 8 ways to write to connect with people.
One of the many benefits of having a niche is you know who you're writing for, and this makes a big difference when it comes to writing ANYTHING - blog posts, website copy, social media updates, directory bio’s etc.
Because when you know your niche, you have an understanding of the reader, about their hopes and dreams, wants and needs, struggles and problems, so can speak to them directly. This makes connecting more likely.
Without niche: ‘5 ways to get a good nights sleep’ is pretty generic and has to cover all eventualities. Therefore, it will either become rambling, long and without direction, trying to appeal to all situations, or be short blog that offers no real substance.
With anxiety niche: ‘5 ways to get a good nights sleep when you’re feeling anxious’ means it’s far more likely to attract someone with anxiety, which is your niche. And because it's your niche, you’ll have an in-depth understanding of the subject, so be able to offer more specific advice that will prove to be a useful resource.
People like stories. Humans have shared stories for thousands of years, and from tiny babies we love listening to them. Whether we’re told them, read them or watch them via films etc, we find them captivating.
So using story in your writing will engage readers and encourage them to read more.
The power of story is being realised more and more, and the recent popularity of ‘Building A Storybrand’ by Donald Miller is a testament to this - I highly recommend reading that book.
Take this blog: When saying no isn't enough. It doesn't talk about the big concepts of assertiveness, and it doesn't tell people they have the right to say no - because they already know that on a head level!
But through the storytelling it explores why it's so difficult in practice, what stops us from standing up for ourselves and allows the reader to understand that they are not at fault.
So the reader is more likely to connect as they aren't being 'taught'. It's from the classic 'I'm OK = You're Ok' position.
If your business consists of you and only you, use the pronouns ‘I’ and ‘me’, not ‘we’ and ‘our’. And even if your practice has a few different practitioners, still write from a personal point of view.
Coming from that personal place make the ‘conversation’ more personal, and you’re more likely to connect.
Refer to your reader as ‘you’, and where you can, refer to you and your reader as ‘we’.
What are the problems your clients are currently struggling with? And what are their hopes and dreams? Talk about these things in your writing.
So if you’re blogging about sleep, you could talk about the dismay felt when the clock ticks slowly from 4am to 4.30am, or that the day looks a little more grey with only 3 hours sleep behind you, or the inner smile after a good nights sleep, or feeling invincible when refreshed and recharged!
April Adams Pertuis from Lightbeamers.com is an expert at helping women use story to stand out and connect. She says:
If you are using stories to reach an audience, using this emotional language will help you connect with them on a deeper level. We all speak different languages; we all come from different walks fo life, we are all on our own unique journey — but the universal language we all speak is Emotional Language.
When you describe a moment in your life that feels frustrating, people can immediately connect with you. When you describe things that brought you joy and elation — using those descriptive words will bring a taste of that joy and elation to your audience.
Don’t believe me? Whenever someone shares their exciting news and they are describing it with exuberance and smiles, does it make you feel sad and angry? NO — that energy spills over into the room because as humans we connect on an emotional level. When you see someone sad, you feel sad for them. When you see someone laughing, it makes you smile.
So finding a way to bring these emotions and feelings into your writing will draw your audience in deeper — they will feel an unspoken connection to you as a result.
Questions draw the reader in and make their brain want to answer them. For example, have you ever replied to a Facebook post because it asked a simple question?
Now, after reading that question your brain has done a quick run through and answered it!! Powerful stuff, eh?
So invite reflection by asking simple questions.
These can really pep up a subject and make it more interesting.
They are pretty similar, and basically, paint a more interesting picture with words. For example, ‘drowning in a sea of grief’, or ‘their words cut deep, like a knife’, or ‘their instructions were as clear as mud’.
So get creative in your writing to make it more compelling.
In all modalities, the therapeutic relationship is paramount, and you can start this process by sharing a little about yourself in your writing.
Now, I don't need to tell you that personal disclosure within the therapy room is only done where there is clear benefit for the client. However outside the therapy room, you have more wiggle room. This is something to consider and get clear on boundaries beforehand.
And I don't advocate sharing a lot of personal details either. You are a professional after all.
But I'm talking about sharing small snippets of yourself, which makes you relatable, approachable and human.
Remember, many people accessing therapy are TERRIFIED so these small snippets of you as a human helps people.
Some things you could share:
Sharing in these small ways helps with the know, like and trust factor, which means people are far more likely to remember you and, when the time is right, contact you for counselling or refer friend and family to you.
This has to be the most simple thing you can do to connect with people in online or with text.
It’s one of those things that’ll make you sigh when you hear it, because it’s going to stop you sounding like a robot.
Without contractions, the sentence above would be:
It is one of those things that will make you sigh when you hear it, because it is going to stop you sounding like a robot.
See the difference? Robotic.
This is what Laura Belgray of Talking Shrimp, who’s a phenomenal copywriter, says about the normal greeting ‘I hope you are well’:
'Do you sound like an alien who's come to earth and trying to mimic human speech so that you can infiltrate the species, or what? You're off the mark, E.T: English-speaking humans use contractions. We say, "I hope you're well." You're, not you are.’
So if you’re writing a blog, a social media update or an email, your aim is to have a very conversational style, and in a conversation you use contractions.
We fall down with this sometimes because of the humongous amount of essays and written work we have to do in training, so we’re used to writing more formally.
But it’s time to let that go.
The best way to check this is to read it out loud. Yes, literally! I do this with every blog.
It does 2 things:
1. Checks it doesn’t sound like it’s been written like a robot, and
2. Checks it sounds like YOU.
The aim is for the reader to feel like you’re just chatting over a coffee, not that they're reading a formal paper. If you sound robotic or realise your writing in a way you’d never speak, change it.
See, told you it was simple!
We've taken a look at 8 different ways to connect with readers, and these can be used in blogs, social media, on your website and in bios.
But although we've looked at the written word, these ideas will also work to connect people through livestreaming/video, podcasts etc. so don't be afraid to experiment with things like story, metaphors and sharing a little of you.
Connecting with readers in this way makes marketing your private practice feel a whole lot more palatable, and if you feel comfortable doing it, you'll do it more!
Do you have a question about marketing your private practice?
Well every Friday at 3.30pm GMT in the Grow Your Private Practice FREE Facebook group I have a live question and answer session, so come along and ask away!
Jane lives in beautiful Lincoln with her 2 boys and rescue dog. When she's not talking about herself in the third person, she's usually found with her feet up and eating Maltesers. Sometimes she even shares them with friends.