Marketing a Therapy Practice: My Presentation for the NASW Entrepreneurial Therapist CEU Seminar

On April 27, 2019, I had the pleasure of taking part in a seminar on how social workers and other mental health professionals can establish their private practices. Thanks go to my client, Tiffany Chhuom, of Lucy In The Sky Therapy and EthTech, and Amber Rice for inviting me. While time ran short, here’s a summary of my presentation for attendees that wanted to follow up or dive deeper into any of the topics.

Topics Covered

  • Targeting your ideal client
  • Marketing only to your ideal client (niche/specialty)
  • The Fundamentals of Getting Your Brand Out There and Marketing Your Practice

The Delicate Art Of Stalking: Finding Your Ideal Client

  • Your marketing – really your business’ public voice – should be targeted toward your ideal clients. This seems self-evident, but often we get caught up in all the other “shoulds” of marketing:
    • I’ve got to post 30 times/day (not true… and, frankly, terrifying)
    • I’ve got to make sure that anyone that’s looking for a provider knows I am out there, regardless if they are who I want to treat
    • I’ve got to make sure I post something for National Eating Disorder Week even though it’s not my niche (i.e., I only work with clients that deal with learning disabilities)

If Everyone Is Your Target Audience, No One Is.

  • You have limited time to see clients. You want them to be the right clients.
  • You only have limited time to market to potential clients. Your marketing should be targeting only those you want to work with.
  • Pareto Principle – 20% of your efforts will get 80% of your results
  • The Niche-SEO Ouroboros – When I focus on my target audience, I improve my SEO. When I improve my SEO, I improve the number of people within my niche that visit my content, which improves my SEO….

Successful Marketing Means You Are Naturally Appearing In Front of the Right Audience

The Unabomber’s Cabin
  • How do you target your ideal potential clients on Facebook or Instagram when 1.7b people are on Facebook and 1b people are on Instagram?
  • You profile, just like the CIA and the FBI.
  • You profile someone’s patterns of life, and then find ways to intersect with those patterns.
  • You need to target your desired audience, then work to bring them into the customer journey/marketing funnel.

What’s the Marketing Funnel

  • There’s a psychology to purchasing decisions more commonly thought about in behavioral economics than in the therapeutic fields of psychology and mental health. Marketing has applied this psychology and referred to it as the marketing funnel.

The Stages of the Marketing Funnel

Are Consumers Really That Linear and Rational?

The Consumer’s Journey

Clients need to be able to find you and learn about you to know if you are the right fit for them. If you aren’t speaking to your desired clients, they can’t do that.

The clients you want to help? They need to find you. They won’t find you unless you know who they are and how to get your content in front of them.

If you aren’t speaking to your potential clients, you can’t help them.

How To Target Your Desired Clients

Take a look at the three core components of your hypothetical ideal customer:
– their core demographics,
– their core identity, and
– their patterns of life.

Core Demographics

“I have no desire to purchase your Big Gulp, kind sir.”
  • Gender Identity
  • Age
  • Location
  • Heritage/Ethnicity
  • Income
  • Profession/Industry
  • Type of Household (single/married/children/pets)

Core Identity – what are their triggers?

“His peers soon learned not to bring up the topic of CrossfitTM in front of Bradley.”
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Political Beliefs
  • Love
  • Hate
  • Fear
  • Desire
  • Pride/Ego
  • Comfort/Convenience
  • Security/Protection
  • Hobbies/Interests

Patterns of Life – where will you intersect with your audience?

Don’t just guess, use data to determine this.

“Jeeves, if anyone calls, explain that I am perusing the Internet for dank memes concerning kittens and am not to be disturbed. Good day.”

If there is no one type of demographic or identity that matches your target audience, ask whether that means something or if it means you do not know your potential clients well enough. This information isn’t to discriminate unlawfully. This is to learn what you should be saying that will speak to the hearts of the people you want to serve.

Yelling For Fun And Profit

Getting Your Brand Out There

The Marketing Cycle

All marketing can be broken down into

  • logistics
  • strategy
  • execution
  • analysis
  • iteration


  • Your Budget
    • Small Business Administration recommends 8-10% of your gross revenue should be dedicated to marketing
    • Budget decisions should also factor your more critical resource: time
      • when you have money but no time: outsource
      • when you have time but no money: DIY
        • it won’t be as good, but it’s better than radio silence
  • What platforms will you use?
    • Social Media – limit yourself to where you will find your client and to those platforms that match how you like to create.
    • Website – essential; all social media is dependent on the good graces of others; your website allows you to decide what gets seen
      • DIY – much easier now than ever before, but you need to know your limitations; you will need a good graphic designer to do your logo and branding; you might as well package that with a WordPress site
      • needs to connect to an analytics platform; nowadays Google Analytics is the best if not only game in town
      • content creation doesn’t mean content created by you; you can outsource blog posts, videos, infographics to reasonably priced professionals
      • Essential Marketing Components to a Website
        • Home Page (duh)
        • A way to contact you
        • A way for you to communicate with your audience – videos, blogs, static pages, etc.
        • A way to identify people that visit your site that may be interested in becoming clients (i.e., a sign up for a mailing list, or to have a document emailed to them) – Landing Pages and Lead Magnets
        • A way to tell potential clients who you are and why your story makes you right for them
    • PPC/Paid Advertising – traditional print/radio/TV (expensive); social media and search engine ads (much cheaper);
    • Email Marketing – if you have an email list, you have a list of people saying they want your services; this is the next level from blogging and social media, and a natural way to encourage people to purchase
    • Search Engine Optimization – by using words that your target audience commonly use (according to data on sites like or while trying to solve their problem, you encourage the algorithms used by Google to direct people to your site
      • Don’t neglect Google My Business; 73% of purchases from physical locations start with a mobile search for businesses via Google Search or Google Maps
    • Reputation Management/Earned Media –;;
      • don’t try to hide bad reviews; show other potential clients your passion for customer service by responding with kindness and a desire to serve
      • don’t pay for reputation management programs


  • Establish your foundations – your platforms
  • Create a content plan
  • Pregame Your Content
  • Consider Using Social Media Schedulers
    • Sendible
    • Buffer
    • Hootsuite
  • Determine how you will quantify success. Don’t go with your judgment, come up with a hypothesis, and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will evaluate to determine the outcome of your experiment.


  • Publish your content
  • Engage with your audience; be responsive
  • Don’t forget that asking your audience questions is a form of content (just don’t encourage them to violate HIPAA or post HSPII)


  • Meet or Exceed Your KPI goals? Great. What are you going to do next campaign to keep the momentum or increase your performance. Don’t slack off.
  • Fail to Meet or Exceed Your KPI goals? Great. What did you learn didn’t work? You don’t win an experiment. You learn from it.
  • Evaluate objectively
    • what was supposed to happen
    • what did happen
    • what you would sustain for future experiments
    • what you want to improve in the future


Take the lessons you learned, revise your plan, and develop a new strategy. Then execute that strategy.

No one wins an experiment. You test your hypothesis. Don’t be afraid to fail fast and break things.