Hi and welcome to the next installment in our private practice mini-series – today we’re going to focus on marketing your private practice.
This is video 3 of 6 in our series Starting a Psychiatry or Therapy Private Practice:
- Episode 1: The Mechanics of Getting Started
- Episode 2: Income in Private Practice
- Episode 3: Marketing your Private Practice
- Episode 4: Start-up Decisions You Must Make
- Episode 5: Technology in Private Practice
- Episode 6: The Highly Efficient Private Practice
I’m Ken Braslow, and I’m a board-certified child/adolescent and adult psychiatrist. I trained at UCSF, run my own private practice in San Francisco, CA, and founded Luminello, the electronic medical record for psychiatrists and therapists.
There are no other conflicts of interest.
So the goals of today’s presentation are to think through the potential pros and cons of various marketing decisions you’ll need to make, and then actually come up with an action plan to implement for your practice.
We’re going to cover the various tactics to spread the word – like, whether to take insurance or not; considerations around setting up a website; the pros and cons of advertising on the web; the challenges and rewards of in-person marketing; and then, general paid advertising. Put all of these together and you have the beginnings of a well thought-out marketing strategy.
Try our free plan for as long as you’d like.
So let’s start off with whether or not to contract with insurance companies. This is actually a form of marketing for your practice – as soon as you hit the insurance company’s listings on their website, you will have a captive audience, as well as social proof of sorts, that you are a trusted provider.
You’ll need to think about volume versus margin, in that insurance companies don’t pay as much, but they’ll help build your practice much more quickly.
As a side benefit, you’re more likely to generate referrals from word-of-mouth this way.
You’ll also be working with a lot of other colleagues who take insurance, especially if you do medication management in conjunction with therapists, and you’ll build your professional referral network far more quickly as well.
Also, it’s worth thinking about taking insurance in a short-term versus long-term way – you can always leave the insurance company network, typically with three months notice. So you’re not signing up for life. Also be aware that it can take 6 to 12 months to get empanelled, at least at more favorable reimbursement rates, so you’ll need to be sure to allow plenty of lead time if you want to go down this path, as you’ll need time to negotiate with the insurance company over rates, and then for the logistics of the empanelling process.
Now let’s talk about building your own website. There are lots of services that can allow you to build a website in about 5 minutes. But don’t forget, this is many patients’ first impression of you. Consider hiring a professional, or at least spending a good amount of time up front, to make it be both elegant and useful.
You’ll want to think about the design aesthetic and your brand. Yes, your practice has a brand because it is a business. If you put motorcycles on your website, you will attract a certain audience, but exclude others. Who do you want to speak to? How do you want your practice to come across to them?
Be careful about communication via your website. “Contact me” forms are not OK, even if your website is secure, because after all, where is that patient information being stored? Do you have a business associate agreement with whoever is storing it? You’ll need to find HIPAA-compliant ways for new or current patients to communicate with you. Through your website is typically not one of them.
Finally you want to have well thought-out content on your website. First, how much do you want to reveal about yourself? The more you reveal, the more patients may feel that you are relatable to them; however, you don’t want to reveal so much that you feel overly exposed. You also need to think about what you want to convey in terms of policies and treatment philosophy. Give yourself time to write out drafts of these so, that by the time your practice is ready to go, you have a polished version.
Now let’s talk about web-based marketing, that is to say, not on your own personal website, but through other channels on the internet.
The first channel is social media. You can tweet on the latest events in the news that you can bring some expertise to. The downside is that your patients now know your views. For some providers that doesn’t affect things at all. However for providers who do more psychodynamic or analytic psychotherapy, it may not be appropriate.
What about blogging – essentially becoming a columnist on mental health matters? This is a great way to spread your name. Blogging also helps increase traffic flow to your website. Again, the downside is that your patients may know your views. So you’ll have to ask yourself does that affect things at all? And if it does, is that all grist for the mill? Or would it not be appropriate?
Another channel is listservs, which are a great way to let people know that you are new in town, as well as to join a community. The more you answer questions on listservs, the more you build your brand within your own professional circles.
Finally, you can become an expert. For example, you can get interviewed for articles or you can pitch an idea to a local reporter.
There are also ways to build your brand in-person.
For starters, by giving talks. Come up with a talk on a particular professional focus that you enjoy, and find a grand rounds or Community Hospital lunch at which to present. You could even visit primary care provider groups, as they often have a learning time on a weekly or monthly basis.
Lunches in general can also be a wonderful time to connect with colleagues. For example, you could invite five colleagues that you’ve met through listservs, shared patients, or the grapevine, to meet up for lunch and learn more about each other’s practices.
Finally, informal get-togethers are events you could host at your office. You can spread the word informally, or on listserves. Offering treats may help encourage turn out.
Lastly, let’s talk about paid advertising.
Advertising on Google can be useful. The question you have to ask is, do you want to see patients who found you in a Google ad? This can be a very different population than one that is referred to you directly by professional colleagues, or from word-of-mouth from your current clientele. But perhaps you try it for day one of your new practice, and then you can decide whether or not you want to stick with it as your practice grows.
Online services may also be worth testing out to see what is useful. Psychology today costs about $30 a month for a listing that is a little bit like the Yellow Pages. You need to ask yourself, is this worth it? Testing this or other online directories out are the best way to find out if you even need to go down this path.
So, that wraps up our presentation today. I’d recommend you next prioritize what feels right for you, what has the most favorable cost-benefit ratio, and what is easiest to pull off quickly. After that, you can begin to implement the easiest or highest-yield parts of your plan.
And, browse more helpful content in our Private Practice Hub resource center for lots of other free, useful tips. Thanks for tuning in and wishing you the best in building and growing your practice.