Regardless of whether you’re opening a new practice or developing an existing one, marketing is important to generating cash flow. Before you spend a ton of money, remember you can leverage free resources to build your practice. In this post, I’ll provide you with some of those simple tools and resources.
The Kentucky Psychological Association (KPA) is including this article in its October membership publication. Healthcare providers, attorneys and small business owners can struggle to maintain a consistent flow of new clients. Yet as a professional, you understand that it’ll be worth the effort if you hope to build your practice. Sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to start. This post will make that task much easier to complete.
There are many companies out there that want to entice you to spend money with them. At times, specific services are absolutely worth the money. For now, let’s concentrate on leveraging free resources to build your practice.
In the KPA’s August 2014 Newsletter, I discussed the power of focus and the importance of crafting an easy-to-deliver description of your practice. I recommended, “Before you worry about how to spread the word, spend time defining what those actual words are.” Assuming you’ve completed that, now let’s focus on getting the word out about you and your practice.
Where Should You Start?
There are a lot of options available to you, but you might find using the Internet is the most cost-effective place to start. You’ll be able to expand your reach to the broadest audience in a relatively short period of time. But remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. It’ll take time to build your practice.
It’s helpful to break the cyberspace down into “channels.” I’m a fan of making the process manageable. Think of the channels as various resources on the web that have unique capabilities, uses, and purposes. Here’s a quick list to help you visualize some of those channels:
- Google Map Listings (also Yahoo, Bing and others)
- Various Online Directories (including yellow pages and healthcare specific versions)
- Social Media (including Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter)
- Your Website/Blog
For those of you who are relatively new to marketing on the web, understand that people search various ways to find information. They may use your name, the name of your practice, or even iterations of a general topic (e.g. Louisville mental health services). By making sure your online business information is valid, you have a better chance that your correct information will be one of the choices they are provided during an online search. It doesn’t help if an old listing shows up with an outdated phone number. It happens all the time.
Important Note: Don’t confuse these listings with Pay-per-Click (PPC) ads. Those cost money. PPC ads (such as Google Ads or “sponsored listings”) can show up on the same page, but they are a different tool all together.
List Your Practice on Google
The first place I’d start is by claiming your Google Map (or Business) listing. Google is by far the largest search engine. It’s difficult to build your practice without it these days. Making sure information about you and/or your practice shows up correctly is vital. Google has recently made it very easy to get your practice listed. Click on this link, then click on the blue GET on GOOGLE button. It’s a simple process.
You’ll want to set up your listings on Yahoo and Bing as well, but if your time is limited, Google will provide best use of it.
Claim Free Listings on Directories
The next step I recommend is to visit the various yellow page sites. They all provide free listings, so go ahead and take full advantage of them to build your practice. Be sure to search for your own name and the name of your practice. There may already be an established listing for you. If so, you’ll want to “claim” the listing, which will enable you to update the information and provide links to your other online properties (e.g. website/blog, LinkedIn profile, YouTube Channel, etc.). Here are links to the main yellow page directories:
Set Up Social Media Properties
Social media is a very robust channel for professionals who wish to promote their respective businesses. While many people already have personal Facebook pages and other properties, it’s important to establish a separate property for your business. Obviously, there are some things that you may want to keep out of the general public’s eyes, such as family photos and other items. Those are fine for people you’ve accepted as Facebook “friends,” but not necessarily okay for patients/clients. I set up a separate and distinct Facebook page for my business consultancy: www.Facebook.com/JimRayConsultingServices.
There are always ethical issues surrounding the use of social media. One of the safeguards you could employ is to make sure you change your settings so that no comment can be posted to your page without your approval. I’ve found that to be very helpful to block spammers and other potentially inappropriate comments.
Another issue with Facebook is that people may inadvertently expose confidential information. Again, making sure you have the ability to moderate the comments can resolve this issue.
Before you get too intimidated about social media, the positives can far outweigh the negatives. I use my social media properties as a way to distribute various articles, videos and other information. It’s important to remember that you can extend your reach by publishing quality information among the various properties. That’s something to consider if you want to build your practice. Someone may “follow” you on one site (e.g. LinkedIn), but not necessarily others (e.g. Facebook). If you only update one, you’ll miss many other people, some of who could turn out to be new clients or great referral sources.
Social media also provides people a way to receive updates from you, without having to visit your individual website/blog, etc. If they “follow” or “like” your page, theoretically, they’ll receive a notification each time you post something new.
Another social media resource is LinkedIn. Interestingly, I chose not to set up a business profile, but rather to simply establish a profile as an individual. LinkedIn can be an excellent referral source among professionals. Here’s a link to my profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimray4
One of the features I like best about LinkedIn is the ability to add “posts” to your profile. While LinkedIn gives you the ability to enter a quick status update (very similar to Facebook), those updates get pushed further and further down and will eventually get lost. By adding posts, the articles get “pinned” to the upper area of your profile in the Posts section. Posts remain there so more people can see your useful information. Your viewers have the option of sharing/liking your posts to assist in further distribution. If people value your insights and information, they’ll gladly help you to build your practice.
You can add a post by slowly moving your mouse over the right corner of the “Status Update” window on the main page, after you’ve signed in. You’ll notice a pencil icon. Click on that icon and you’ll go to a larger window for your posts.
ProTip: It’s always a good idea to ask people to “share” your article if they’ve found it helpful. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to incorporate a call to action. You can easily expand your reach with this simple request.
Launch a YouTube Channel
YouTube is an intimidating property for many professionals. However, we’re a media-driven society. Many people would prefer to watch rather than read information about a certain topic. YouTube is a great repository for all sorts of information. Here are a few facts to consider from a recent blog post I wrote about creating online video:
- YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine.
- Google (the largest search engine) owns YouTube.
- Americans watched 52.4 billion online content videos in Dec 2013, alone.
- For more video stats: Click on this link.
The best way to get manage your videos is to set up a YouTube Channel. I’d recommend you set up a channel for your practice, rather than your own name. If you’ve ever set up a Facebook or LinkedIn profile, it’ll seem very familiar. You’ll need to sign in to YouTube.com. Normally, if you already have a Gmail account, you may be able to use this to login. The tool will give you the option of setting up a new channel. From there, you’ll be able to upload videos, write descriptions about the video and your services (take advantage of this section!), and even include a link back to your website/blog. Video adds credibility. That’s a key factor if you want to build your practice.
ProTip: Remember to use the http:// in front of your website address to make it a live link in your video’s description.
Once you upload a video to your channel, you’ll receive a small website link to that actual video. You can quickly copy and paste that link in your blog post, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc. It makes disseminating your videos quick and easy.
One last thing about online videos: It’s a good rule of thumb to limit your videos to 1-2 minutes in length. If you find the need to go longer, consider breaking the video into multiple segments. That gives you additional assets and you can distribute them over time (e.g. week 1, week 2, etc.).
If you’re interested in creating videos, you might want to read my post on creating professional videos using your iPhone.
In summary, there are many free tools available to help you build your practice. While a well-designed website/blog is a great idea, there are other free, online resources you can put to work with just a little sweat equity.
If you have questions about these resources, or would like help in setting them up, I’d be availale to assist you on an hourly basis. Feel free to contact me via my website or simply give me a call at: (502) 208-9639. I’ll be happy to discuss your specific needs. As always, if you found this information helpful, I’d appreciate the favor of having you tell your friends and colleagues about it, by sharing this article.