November 2, 2022

Marketing Your Practice: How to stand out in a crowded market and attract your ideal patients

Written by

James Berges, M.A.

Opening a private mental health practice gives you the freedom to choose who you work with and how. But running your own psychiatry clinic comes with its challenges too—even if you take insurance, you need to rely on marketing to attract your ideal client.

Marketing your practice can be overwhelming—especially if you’re trying to be everything to everyone. A more focused approach to building your patient panel will pay dividends in building a successful psychiatry practice.

 

The first question to ask before you create your website or write one Facebook post is: “Who?” As in, who are you serving? This will inform everything—from how you talk about your services, to what types of patients you interact with every day.

Let’s cover where most mental health clinicians go wrong when communicating their services, and how you can stand out and attract your ideal right-fit patients.

Marketing is a lot like fishing:

The first impulse for many clinicians is to grab the fishing pole with the most 5 star reviews on Amazon, and fish in the biggest ocean possible.

As a result, these clinicians end up competing with huge companies including the Talkiatrys of the world. These huge companies have the budget to fish with better poles. But not to worry, because…

Constraints are a blessing in disguise.

Let’s say you try to market to anyone your license allows for. You’ll likely get an influx of calls from unqualified patients (aka those who are a poor fit for your practice). For example, you get multiple emails and phone calls from worried parents of children with ADHD, when you want to work with only adults, or all ages but only mood disorders. This is a sign that your current marketing efforts aren’t targeting the right people.

I’m not suggesting to play it safe and fish in a small pond forever.  But, you’re more likely to attract and retain your ideal patiens if your bait—i.e., your messaging and offers—are tailored directly to a specific patient population, location, or type(s) of treatment.

Now I realize this analogy is not ideal, as the reality of a medical practice is to provide access rather than a "hook" for your care—BUT, if your ideal patient is a freshwater trout that loves three-pronged hooks, then fishing in the ocean with a standard hook is a waste of time and money for both of you.

The more specific you can be the better—for a few reasons, because you’ll:

  1. Attract the right patients you enjoy working with.
  2. Save time weeding out patients who aren’t a good fit.
  3. Streamline all your outreach and messaging.
  4. Gain momentum as you become known as “the x person.”

Let’s illustrate this with an example:

Imagine you’re a parent of an autistic teen with ADHD and anxiety. You’re worried your teen is falling behind in school and not finding true friends.

So you go online find resources. You Google “Help for ADHD.” Or, scour Facebook groups for groups about ADHD and Autism.

Which mental health clinician is more likely to resonate with what you’re looking for?:

  1. “Dr. Jon Doe, general psychiatrist serving children and adults

OR

2. "Dr. Jane Smith, psychiatrist specializing in helping teens with ADHD and/or Autism diagnoses thrive academically and socially.”

Now you may be thinking “I don’t want to niche down and limit myself…”

I hear you, but here’s the counterintuitive truth: “the riches are in the niches.” When you stick in someone’s mind as “the expert in x”, it makes it easier for people to refer you. Once you gain traction, then you can always expand out later.

When you can visualize exactly who you’re helping and how, you tailor all your messaging and services to that person—reducing your marketing overwhelm.

As the saying goes, “if you’re trying to talk to everyone, you’re talking to no one.”

Better to have 30 patients who resonate exactly with that you offer than 300 who’ve heard of you but sound just like everyone else—putting you in a comparison trap. That’s not ideal, because when you don’t stand out, your services are viewed as a commodity, and you have to compete with everyone else on pricing.

If you’re not sure who your ideal patient is, you can stay general at first and experiment. Ask yourself:

  • Which patients or diagnoses energize me to work with?
  • What’s a topic I could write/talk about for months on end?
  • What care models or modalities are most interesting?
  • Do I want to stay flexible and only do telehealth?

Take time to visualize your day-to-day. Write out the answers to the questions above, and be honest with your motivations. There’s nothing wrong in doing something for the money or status, but you’re at higher risk for burnout if you don’t feel intrinsically motivated by the practice you cultivate.

Your answers will culminate into a positioning statement aka your flag in the ground: “I help x do y through z”

  • X can be the type of patients you serve: children, teens, adults, seniors, specific types of diagnoses.
  • Y is where you state their outcome: “overcome depression”, “thrive socially and academically”, etc.
  • Z is your unique approach or modalities you offer: “with accelerated TMS” “with integrative approach that puts the patient first”, etc.

If you have a physical office you’ll also want to state what area you serve: e.g., “I help teens and young adults in Des Moines overcome depression and anxiety with an integrative approach that blends ancient wisdom and modern science.”

Conclusion:

Niching down can be scary, but constraints can lead to more freedom down the line. Answering  “who” you work with and “how” you uniquely approach care sets the foundation for all your marketing efforts.

In the next article, we’ll dive into how to communicate your unique offering across marketing channels (including social media, website, and email), without getting overwhelmed.

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