How To Create a Marketing Plan

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How to create a marketing plan

Many private practice owners contact us about consulting because they need help with marketing. When I started out in private practice, I had no idea how to market! I’ve learned a lot in the past few years about what kind of marketing works for me and my practice.

My advice is to create a comprehensive marketing plan for your practice. You might be thinking “Isn’t there a book or a website that can tell me exactly what to do?” While that sounds wonderful, marketing plans can vary from practice to practice, depending on your personality, your niche, your geographical area and other factors.

The best thing you can do is evaluate your options and choose a few different types of marketing to start to see what works and what doesn’t work. View marketing as an “experiment”. Some of your experiments are going to be successful and others will be failures, but a failure just means you are getting closer to figuring out what does work.

The mistake I see many business owners make is they aren’t doing enough of a variety of different types of marketing (especially in the beginning when you aren’t sure what is going to work) and also not continuing to follow up on or nurture those marketing activities.

Making a marketing plan means choosing what types of marketing activities you want to do, but also setting deadlines and putting reminders in your calendar about when you need to do those activities.

Types Of Marketing

So, let’s first talk in general terms about the different kinds of marketing you could use for your private practice:

  1. Website
  2. Blog
  3. Social Media (including ads)
  4. Networking with other therapists, doctors, other professionals that fit with your niche, schools, etc.
  5. Newspaper or Magazine ads
  6. Radio ads
  7. Employee Assistance Program Companies
  8. Email newsletters
  9. Internet search (SEO)
  10. Psychology Today or other directory listing
  11. Brochures, business cards, other printed materials
  12. Sign outside your office (seriously!)
  13. Media attention — magazine articles, TV news, radio shows, etc.
  14. Word of Mouth (happy clients will refer their friends and family)
  15. Insurance company directories (if you take insurance)

Take a look at the list again and decide what is appealing to you or make note of ones you have already done. Have I left anything off of the list that you would add?

Don’t feel like you have to do all of these things — or do all of them at once! I have tried everything on this list in my practice over a period of a few years. Doing them all at once would have been too overwhelming.

This is where the marketing plan comes in. Pick five of these things to focus on in the next year. Go ahead and write them down. Now, make a schedule for yourself of how often you will do those five things and when. For example, “I will send out an email newsletter once a month on the 15th”. Schedule time to create the content in your calendar prior to the 15th. When you get busy in your practice seeing clients you will be glad you set aside time to complete these marketing activities.

When I first started my practice, I had a lot of time on my hands so I spent a ton of time marketing. As I got busier, I had less time to market, which was ok since I had a full schedule. But then clients would transition out as they naturally do, and I had to market again. Except, because I had stopped marketing, there was a gap in time between when new clients came in and space becoming available in my schedule.

That experience taught me I needed to be marketing on a consistent basis and not have periods of time where I abandoned marketing altogether. This is where the marketing plan and the schedule is invaluable for helping you to make advertising your business a consistent practice that will yield a consistent flow of clients.

So, are you curious about what has worked for my practice and what was a “failure” in my marketing experiment?

Marketing That Works For Me

Here are the current top five things I do in my marketing that yield the most clients:

  1. Being on page 1 of Google for key search terms like “counselor”, “therapy”, and the name of my town. I got a stellar website designed by Brighter Vision, learned how to improve my SEO through the help of Jeff Guenther, and blogged a lot to move my site up on google searches.
  2. Psychology Today directory. For $30 a month this is a great investment. We get tons of referrals through PT and the ROI is high.
  3. EAP (Employee Assistance Program) Companies. We get regular referrals from the four different EAP companies we contract with. Even though we take a lower payment for those sessions, once they are used up, clients tend to continue therapy. This is a great marketing tool that doesn’t take any time, other than initially getting credentialed with the company and possibly a few extra minutes to fill out one of their forms.
  4. Networking with doctor’s offices. This has also been a huge source of consistent referrals for us. PCP’s and pediatricians don’t have time to spend, in a 10 minute appointment, counseling patients with mental health issues. They are almost always looking for solid referrals in the community so their patients can get the help they need.
  5. Word of mouth. This became our biggest source of referrals once the practice was about two years old. This takes time, obviously, but the best way to make this happen is by providing quality care and overdelivering on the counseling experience so your clients are happy to tell their family and friends about it.

Marketing That Hasn’t Worked For Me

Are you wondering about what hasn’t worked for me in marketing my practice?

  1. Radio ads. I spent $2,000 last year running radio ads for a few weeks. This yielded about four to five clients. I think I might have broken even on this form of advertising, but the chunk of money I had to spend on it all at once was a financial strain. I won’t be doing this again.
  2. Magazine/newspaper ads and magazine articles. I have run ads in a local newspaper and I also have a monthly column in a local lifestyle magazine. Neither of these things have yielded me any clients.

I wanted to share my experiences with you to get you thinking about what types of marketing you want to try. Even though there are certain things that didn’t work for me, they may work for you for your specific situation, so it may be worth considering.

Do you have a marketing plan in your practice? If so, please comment, I would love to hear about it.


Alison is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Pennsylvania. In 18 months she went from starting a solo private practice to building a insurance-based group practice. She now employs 3 clinicians and a virtual assistant. In her spare time she is often seen running after her two small children and her therapy is cooking.