Marketing for your Private Practice

Fundamentals for up-and-coming behavioral health professionals
It is through no small amount of effort that someone becomes a behavioral healthcare provider. Whether it’s therapy, advanced nursing, or psychiatry, becoming a behavioral healthcare provider requires countless hours of study, certifications, schooling, internships, residencies, seminars, and continuing medical education. In short, providers know their craft, and they know it well.

But for those that have lived and breathed behavioral health over the spans of their careers, the realm of business administration may seem foreign. Owners of new, aspiring private practices need to know marketing fundamentals in order to be successful, regardless of how excellent they are as providers. The following is a list of three basic fundamentals to successfully market a private behavioral health practice.

Define the practice’s profile
Identify the basics, including the services provided, the hours of availability, the types of payment accepted, and fee schedules. Consumers typically want to have this information upfront, and in behavioral health it’s no different: it will play a large part in driving their decision over which practice to see. Making the practice profile as accessible as possible will produce interest rather than frustration for consumers searching for answers. It is also a good idea to create profiles for each of the clinicians and state the general philosophy of the practice.

As an optional exercise, have a staff member read the practice materials and recite the information from memory. Does the staff member’s account accurately depict the practice? Treat any discrepancies as an opportunity to improve clarity.

Define the practice’s contact paths
A good rule of thumb is that the easier it is for people to connect with the practice, the more likely they will. The internet is commonly used to discover local providers, so having a good website is important. Don’t be surprised if prospective clients have already formed an opinion of the practice based on the website before they even pick up the phone or walk in the door—making a good first impression is key. For contacting the practice through the site, consider using email forms as opposed to simply listing the practice’s email address on the site. This eliminates the need for consumers to open their own email server and might even allow the collection of some basic demographics information depending on the format of the email form.

Business cards are a must when meeting clients or networking within the healthcare community. They’re relatively inexpensive, are a widely recognized form of authentication as a business professional, and can even serve as a personalized note.

Also bear in mind the importance of keeping the practice line unimpeded. Intakes should always be a top priority for the practice, even if the admin staff are engaged in other activities. If the practice doesn’t have any admin staff, make an effort to call intakes back as soon as possible. Consider having a separate line for current clients if lengthy conversations pose a risk to missing intake calls.

Promote the practice
Establishing a strong referral network will ensure an ongoing stream of consumer traffic. Take the time to get acquainted with the referring providers and hospitals of the local area. Reach out to insurance companies, utilize the inherent network of behavioral health professionals at the universities from which the staff graduated (if possible), and leverage the relationships to improve the practice’s presence and reputation within the community.

Take advantage of promotional listings whenever possible. Several free or paid lists that can help get the word out about the practice are available. Insurance companies, for example, usually maintain a list of network providers and are often a first touch for prospective patients. Certain free-to-use websites such as Yelp have marketing potential, though it is in the best interest of the practice to monitor online reviews and dispute any inaccurate or inflamatory reviews. If it is within the practice’s budget, paid listings, such as Psychology Today, Good Therapy, or other sites that help people search for providers, are a worthy investment.

Finally, practices should also plan on doing some good old fashioned paid advertising. The key for private practices is to keep advertising local, simple, and (most importantly) measurable. Understanding where the leads are coming from is the practice’s best chance at gauging the success of its marketing efforts. Ask patients, “How did you hear about us?”, or attach promotional codes to any special offers. Finally, keep abreast with any local events or sponsorship opportunities, and participate in community volunteer work.

Providing quality care is very important to the private behavioral health practice, but none of it will matter if the financial ends aren’t adequately managed. Having a basic marketing strategy in place will allow providers to worry less about business and focus on providing excellent care to their patients.

Interested in learning more about business fundamentals for private behavioral health practices? Valant published a guide to developing a business plan, which can be read by clicking here.

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