“How To” Series Part 3: How to Market a Faith-Based Practice | FP 18

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"How To" Series: How to Market a Faith-Based Practice | FP 18

How can making direct contacts help you grow your practice? Can public speaking and writing blogs really be a good marketing tool? How important is it to invest in a website and SEO?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks about how to market a faith-based practice.

In This Podcast


  • Direct and indirect contacts
  • Presentation and publications
  • Word of mouth
  • The internet

Direct and indirect contacts

In everything you do, be yourself. Use everything as an opportunity to tell people about your practice.

Direct contacts are people that you actually know, that you see face to face or have relationships with through social media or email. 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Where is the location of my ideal client?
  • How can I make a direct contact with someone that knows of my ideal client?
  • Think about your ideal client’s day, where are they going and what are they doing?

Things to do:

  • Create authentic relationships with potential clients
  • Create a casual and comfortable setting
  • Don’t give up on people that say no, continue to reach out to them at a later stage
  • Create professional relationships within the clinical community (this includes, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Therapists, and Social workers)
  • Get involved in the community (rotary club, Junior service league, serving local churches and by getting involved in other business associations)

Presentation and publications

If speaking in public seems daunting, find other outlets that make you feel more comfortable. Ensure that you are making yourself known in the area by defining yourself as an expert therapist. You could also begin writing, start out by doing it for fun.

  • Blogs, make sure that it is natural and authentic
  • Submitting articles for local magazines
  • Speaking at different events

Word of mouth

Don’t underestimate the power of your clients sharing with other people, what you have done in their lives.

Word of mouth is a good form of advertising. Ensure that you are good at what you do and create good experiences. This will ensure that customers and prospective clients will feel more comfortable when considering your practice.

The internet

  • Create a good website that will allow people to find your practice easily
  • Make sure that the name of your practice matches the name on your website
  • Invest in an (SEO) Search Engine Optimization. This will aid Google to help understand words used on your website. It will also allow you to gain more hits when people search for key phrases within Google
  • Join an online directory
  • Set up an email series

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Whitney Ownens | Build a faith-based practiceWhitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same. 

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY]: The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com\network.
Hello, and welcome back to the Faith in Practice podcast. We are in the middle of an exciting series here on ‘How to.’ So, we did an episode on how to actually know if it’s the right time to start a practice and then we did an episode on how do you actually start setting up that practice? How do you start a private practice today? We’re going to talk about how to market a faith-based practice. And then on our last series, our last episode in the series, we’re going to talk about the idea of adding clinicians to your faith-based practice, trying to figure out when to do that and how to go about that and answer some of your questions on that. So, we’re going to just dive right into this third episode on how do you market your faith-based practice?
So, four areas that I like to narrow it down to when we’re talking about marketing is direct contacts, presentations, and publications, word of mouth, and the internet. These are the ways that I have found in my practice to be the way that I do my marketing. And so, I try to create ideas and systems surrounding each one of those. So, in the beginning, when you’re considering your marketing, you want to come up with a plan and write out how you’re going to accomplish these goals. So, you can take notes during this podcast, or look at the show notes later, because I think it’s really helpful to write it out. We can always say, “Oh, this is how I’m going to do my marketing.” But when we actually write out a plan, we are a lot more unlikely to execute that plan.
So, let’s address the first one here, which is direct contacts. So, when you’re talking about direct contact, we’re talking about people that you actually know, that you see face to face, or maybe you have relationships with them through social media or maybe through email, but people that you’re directly speaking to about your services. So, when you’re thinking about your direct contacts, questions to start asking yourself and making those would be, where is my ideal client hanging out and how can I make a direct contact with someone who knows my ideal client? So maybe you have been working with postpartum depression. And so, going into an OB-GYN office and actually meeting the doctors there is making a direct contact with someone who’s going to know your client, or if you like working with children or teenagers, meeting the school counselor is a way that you can make a direct contact with somebody.
So, I want you to think about your ideal client, think about their day or maybe their ideal day, and then where would that person be hanging out? What are they doing and who are the people that they are interacting with on a regular basis? And those are the people that I want you reaching out to. Now, people ask me all the time, “Oh man, how do I actually make that happen?” You can make that happen in lots of ways. I think the best way to make that happen is if you can create an authentic relationship. So, not one where you’re kind of going out of your way to make the contact, but someone knows someone, or maybe it’s someone you actually personally know. So, some examples of how I’ve done this in my practice is we work a lot with my daughter’s pediatrician because when I went in one day, I said, “Hey, do you all have a place you refer clients to?” And they said, “Well, yeah, we’ve got some therapists in the area that we refer to, but we’re always looking for more in different specializations.”
So, I got on their referral list, they are one of our best referrals’ sources. I’ve also done that with OB-GYN offices or like my own office or my group practice. Some of the ladies who have doctors have said something to their doctor and so we bring in lunch and meet the doctors. So, making those authentic relationships up front is really great. I have a girlfriend who’s really close friends with an OB-GYN and so she reached out to that person on my behalf and said, “Hey, are you needing a place to refer?” And she said, “That would be wonderful.” And so, I was able to connect with her and then ironically saw her at the park, not long after that with her kids and my kids. And so, it makes it really easy to kind of have relationships in that kind of way. Now that’s the ideal world, right? So, you’re not always going to have that.
So, if you can’t make it easy and authentic, I encourage you to be a little, maybe less authentic, but still kind of yourself in the sense of, yeah, you’re going to feel structured when you reach out to someone that you don’t know. So, that’s going to feel weird maybe, but try to make it as casual as possible and as comfortable as possible. So when I reach out to someone I don’t know, I send an email or a phone call and say, “Hey, you know, I’m in the area was wanting to make a connection with you, wanting to know if we can maybe refer back and forth.” And that way you’re kind of explaining who you really are and what you’re looking for and then they can respond how they want. Also, in this way, I don’t give up on people that say no. They might say no at the beginning, but then reach out to them a year or two later. Try again.
And I say this because it’s just recently, this has happened in like the case with like three different organizations or people that I’ve been trying to get in with for years and then I just tried again and all of a sudden got a response. One of the local pastors in the area I’ve been trying to meet with him and we communicated a couple of years back and went back and forth and never actually got in touch with one another. We never did set up a time to get together. And so just recently I reached out to him again and I kind of re-wrote the email in such a way that I thought would maybe impact him a little bit more in the way that I kind of described wanting to meet with him and help care for the needs of his community. And he immediately responded with, “Yes, let’s get together.” So that was wonderful.
And so continue to reach out to people, not on a daily basis, by any means, but if you get a no, try reaching out six months or a year later and seeing if maybe that’s a better time for that person, because we have no idea why someone doesn’t respond to us or it could be the time of life for them or the phase they’re in, or they just don’t have the bandwidth to have lunch with you, the emotional energy. Could be a lot of things. Some of the time, organizations will have transitions. So, you might have someone else come into an authority in that place, or maybe a new counselor at a school. And that way they say, “Hey, yeah, I’m willing to do that when maybe the previous person wasn’t.”
So, you want to start making these contacts direct or maybe a little bit more indirect through someone who knows someone. And I encourage you to make professional relationships within the clinical community. So, reach out to other therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, all those in your area, learn about what they’re doing and how you can help one another, how you can refer to one another. And I do this the same way. I say, “Hey, can I take you to lunch? I hear you’re a therapist in the area. I’ve heard good things about the work you’re doing.” And meet with them and talk to them about their specialization and, “How can I refer to you?” And they’re going to do the same for you. And the more relationships, the more context you have, the more likely you’re going to get referrals.
Another way to make direct context, it’s just getting involved in the community. So, you might want to go to like a rotary club or the junior service league, some kind of business association meeting in your town. Because people are going to get to know you at those meetings and they’ll know that you’re a therapist in town and they will start referring their clients to you. Or maybe you want to serve at your local church. I serve on the youth ministry at our church and I’ve definitely had some kids that want to come see me, which I’m not able to do that because of the dual relationships there. But then I’m able to refer them to someone else in the practice and so that’s really helpful. So being able to serve in your church, people start to get to know you better and even people in other areas than the one you serve and we’ll get to know you. And then you’re going to get referrals through that.
And in everything you do be yourself. Use everything as an opportunity to tell people about your practice. It was just the other day, I was sharing this with someone that, a lady in my supper club. And for those of you that are not from the South, supper club is like a dinner club for ladies. We get together and we eat appetizers and we usually have some wine and we have dessert and we talk about our [inaudible 00:28:29], our kids, our jobs and some things that I probably shouldn’t talk about it on a podcast. Anyway, we have a really great time together.
It’s a really great group of women and they all know that I’m a therapist. And I can say on multiple times they have reached out to me, “Hey, I need something for my daughter.” Or, another one called and said, “Hey, a friend of mine is needing some help.” And so, these are not people that I’m directly marketing to. They just know me because I’m out in the community and I’ve made relationships. So, use everything as an opportunity to let people know that you’re a counselor, because people are needing your help. And I especially say that if you’re wanting to offer faith-based counseling, there are people out there looking for faith-based counseling. And so, knowing who you are is really going to help them find the counselor that they’re looking for.
So, the first part of your marketing is developing a system or a plan for direct context in your area. The next one is considering doing some speaking or publications in your area. I know some people, this is not their thing and if it’s not comfortable for you, don’t feel like you have to get out there and speak in front of a bunch of people. But there’s some other things that you can do that makes you feel comfortable. So, if that is speaking, do that, if it’s teaching, if it’s writing, maybe you could get in a local magazine. All those things get your name out in your area and make you known as an expert in your field. So, when you are doing speaking and writing, you are getting your name out there, you’re making it known who you are and the kind of things that you do. And you’re defining yourself as an expert and as a therapist in your area.
Begin writing just for fun. If you’re struggling with how to get things out, just write and see how it feels. You’re going to get better and better at it the more you do it. Get insight from other people and feedback. And so, I tried to take as many opportunities as possible to write. So, a lot of that started with me just writing blogs. So, it’s so easy to write a blog on your website and there’s tons of information out there to learn how to write a blog, but be natural, be authentic as you write, because that’s what people want to read about. Give them information on mental health, because you are an expert and you know, a lot more than most people do. And you might feel like, “Oh, this is obvious.” Well, it’s not because people do not know as much as we give them credit for sometimes.
So, you are the expert in to start blogging and writing. I have submitted articles to local magazines trying to meet the needs of the area. So, there was a magazine here for the college students and so I did an article on how to use cognitive behavioral therapy and the benefits of that for college students. And that was really effective. And then I did another article in a local neighborhood magazine. Believe it or not, some of the neighborhoods here in Savannah have their own magazine. So anyway, I did an article for parents of teenagers, like raising teenagers in a crazy world, and some tips of how to communicate with your teenagers more effectively because this neighborhood has a lot of young families and parents with teenagers. So that way I’m getting my name out.
And you’re not always going to get referrals, but at least get your name out as an expert and then when something does come up for someone they’re remembering, “Oh yeah, she wrote that article in that magazine. Oh yeah, I remember who that is.” And they start making referrals. That, the first one I told you about the CBT, I did not get, I got one referral from that and then that person ended up canceling their appointment. And then two years later, someone found that article online and called and made an appointment with me. And it wasn’t even a college student. And then their spouse also made an appointment at the practice. So sometimes the stuff comes up away later in the more you’re getting your name out. And also helps for Google as well. The more you get your name on there, the more hits you’re going to get for your name.
And then I encourage you to volunteer to speak at different events. So maybe you could speak at the PTA meetings at your child’s school. You can offer to go into a doctor’s office and talk about suicide assessment or talk about anxiety and how it presents itself in a physical sense and the body of children, or you could talk about postpartum depression and what is the baby blues? What is postpartum depression? There are so many things that you know that people need to hear about. And so, volunteering to go speak at different events. I’ve also spoken at the MOPS, which is mothers of pre-schoolers. Usually they’re held in churches and they meet every other week during the school year and I talked about postpartum depression, and I talked about anxiety and how that presents in women and some of the stats on anxiety and gave them some tips on moving forward. And that was really helpful for them and I did that as a volunteer. So, find ways that you can speak at different things. People want to hear from you. So, it’s really good to kind of set up a plan for maybe writing some places that you could go speak at and asking if they would have you come speak.
So, another way to kind of get your name out is just word of mouth. Don’t underestimate the power of your clients sharing with other people what you have done in their lives. When you do really good clinical work, your practice will grow and that will be a natural thing. And I tell clients all the time, the greatest compliment they can ever give me is to say, “I referred somebody to you.” Because that means they’re getting good work. So, make sure that you’re doing really good work with your clients. And when your clients come in, I encourage you to get releases of information if they’re willing to, for whoever referred them or people they have relationships with that you want to connect to. So, a lot of times we’ll have a kid come from a school, let’s say, but they also have a pediatrician that’s doing their medication. So, we’ll get the release for the school and for the pediatrician and then we reach out to those people to make another connection and then hopefully through that, they’ll let us come in and meet with them and talk to them about our practice.
And I have also seen that when I do good work with somebody who’s been referred maybe by the pediatrician, that pediatrician is hearing from that client, “Oh yeah, we needed this and this and it’s been really helpful. My anxiety is so much better.” Well then, that pediatrician is referring other people to us because they had a good experience with our practice. So, I encourage you to really take advantage of the opportunity to make those connections through your clients’ relationships if they sound the [inaudible 00:34:38], and then being able to just talk about yourself within the community and the counseling that you do. Don’t feel, I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t shy back because you’re worried about marketing or coming across too strong. People want to hear from you. So, you use your word of mouth and get your name out there as much as possible.
And then the last thing here that I have found super helpful for my marketing is the internet. And I would say, this is the number one way at our practice that we’re getting referrals. So really make sure that you have a website; number, one thing to do. I would even suggest that you’re doing that in your first few months of your practice of setting it up, because that is the way people are going to find you. Make sure that your website is the same name as your practice, so that it’s easy to find who you are. And if you have to bootstrap it and make it on your own, do that. You can always go back later and get more work done on that. So, make sure you’re creating a good website.
And then after that, you want to invest in search engine optimization, and that’s S E O. So that helps Google understand your words on your website and get more hits for when people are searching for key phrases within Google. And so, you want to make sure that you’re investing in that. You can do your own research on that, or you can hire someone out to do your search engine optimization. I highly suggest that you go ahead and hire somebody out because it is very time consuming to research and do on your own but if you have a lot of time and you’re not seeing clients, I guess you can go ahead and do that. But a lot of us are starting a practice. We have so much going on and it’s easy to just have someone else take care of that for you.
Once I hired somebody to do my search engine optimization and within just a matter of weeks, my calls like tripled. So, it was amazing and really a big game changer for the practice. So, I encourage you to invest in that. I heard someone say to me that when people are going on Google, that’s the same idea as they’re opening their wallets. I think it was John Clark that said that. He said, “It’s like they’re opening their wallets when they’re on Google.” Kind of like, you’re going into a store to, maybe you’re going to buy a shirt while you’re in a shirt store ready to buy. And then when we’re talking about social media, it’s not so much that their pockets books are open, ready to bob, but they’re just trying to get information and get to know you. So, when you think of Google, you really want to invest in that. And social media is great and it gets your name out there, but doesn’t necessarily get you immediate clients.
So, I encourage you to invest more in Google, less than social media, but you still should invest with some on your social media because the social media is actually going to help you get more hits for your website. So social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all those things. Sure, go ahead and get that going if you want to and you have the time for it, but make Google the number one thing that you’re doing. And I encourage you to join an online directory because that’ll really help people find you as well. And I think I’ve talked about that in the previous episode. I have found Psychology Today to be the most helpful, but there are plenty of online directories out there that people invest in and have found helpful.
So those are the kind of the plan behind your marketing and that you’re going to have direct contacts. You’re going to do presentations, find ways to get published, word of mouth and the internet. And I think another thing to consider here with kind of the internet and online is email. So getting an email series going can be really helpful in your name getting out there because people get that email and they remember your practice, especially if at the time they don’t need any help, but then something comes up and they think, “Oh yeah, I was getting those emails. What is that practice called?” And they go into their email and they’re able to find you more quickly. So, don’t underestimate the value of an email series because you’re going to be getting your name out there and people are going to be remembering you.
So that is the third part of our four-part series on the ‘How to.’ So, this was ‘How to do the marketing,’ and next, we’re going to talk about how to actually start and grow the group-based part of your practice. Well, thank you for joining me today and I’m looking forward to our next episode together.
Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the practice, the practice website. Also, there, you can learn more about me options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.