One question that most mental health professionals have at one point or another is: “Where should I be marketing my online practice/business?” Or, “what are the best marketing channels for online therapists and mental health professionals?”
It’s a crucial question to think about, as marketing is one of the main ways you will connect with your audience and bring clients to your business. And naturally, you need to have clients bringing money in to have a viable business.
But where should you focus your attention when there are so many potential marketing channels? It can be overwhelming to narrow down the options and decide where and how you should spend time on marketing.
And that brings us to the first question to consider:
What do you consider a marketing channel?
According to Gartner, the definition of a marketing channel is “the people, organizations, and activities that make goods and services available for use by consumers”.
That sounds a little wordy, but it means that a marketing channel is any way you connect with your audience and present your offers to them. There are many different marketing channels, some of which will seem more obvious while others might not have occurred to you.
Here’s a list of common marketing channels:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Email marketing – newsletters, promotional emails, etc.
- Online directories (like the LIT Directory)
- Running or speaking at online workshops and events
- Public speaking at in-person events and conferences
- Speaking at virtual summits or in online groups and communities
- SEO and blog writing – on your own blog or guest posting on other websites
- Podcasting – hosting your own podcast or being interviewed on other podcasts
- Getting featured in print or online media as an expert (e.g., via a source like HARO)
- Posting content on Pinterest
- Answering questions on Quora, Reddit, and other online forums
- Creating a referral program where past or current clients can refer people to you
- Networking with other professionals who can refer clients to you
That’s a long list, and it’s by no means exhaustive. But there’s a crucial point to remember here:
You can’t do everything!
A trap many business owners fall into is feeling like they have to be active on all channels and platforms, which is something we don’t recommend at all! Creating content is time-consuming, and doing it for multiple channels can become a huge time suck.
Even more importantly, you might not even connect with your ideal clients on those platforms. You don’t want to focus all your attention on a specific platform only to discover that your ideal client doesn’t even spend time there.
There is only so much time that you can devote to marketing, so you need to pick your marketing channels wisely. So it’s crucial to think strategically when choosing which marketing channels to use for your business – both for maximum impact and to protect your time and energy as a business owner.
In this article, we won’t tell you which channel you should use and which ones to avoid. But we’ll provide you with some tips and guidance for choosing the best marketing channels, depending on you, your business, and your ideal client.
Consider what is working for you so far
Before diving into choosing new marketing channels, we recommend thinking about your marketing efforts so far. Even if you don’t think you’ve actively been marketing your business, you’ve likely told people what you do, networking, etc.
So, what is working well for you so far?
If you’ve already been using social media platforms, email marketing, or Google Analytics, look at your numbers. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How engaged is your audience?
- Are you connecting with the right kind of people? I.e., are your followers on that platform really representative of your ideal client?
- Do you have people reaching out to you from certain platforms?
- What platforms convert more followers into clients?
Knowing this information is invaluable in deciding where to focus your marketing attention.
And even if you haven’t launched your business yet, you probably already have an idea of who your ideal client is. If not, head over to this blog post on identifying your ideal client, as it’s a vital part of building a successful business.
And that brings us to the next question.
How have your current or past clients found you?
If you’ve already launched your own practice, this next step is for you. And if not, it’s still a good idea to keep this in mind as you start to look for your first clients!
Do you know where your clients found you? If not, you could add this as a question to your onboarding questionnaire or your initial consultation. Then, you can see where people are coming across you, and it may give you an idea of which marketing channels are already working well for you.
If you do know where your ideal clients have found you, give more weight to these platforms. Is it via your newsletter, and if so, do you know where they came across it in the first place? Are your clients finding you on a certain social media platform, or do they come to you via word of mouth?
Analysing how your current and past clients have found you so far is such helpful information! Then, you can consider how much time you spend on these specific platforms and what kind of content you’ve been putting out there.
If you don’t know this information yet, you could ask your clients at the end of a session. Or you might be able to trace it back manually by looking to see where they follow you online. Some tools will help you do that; for example, you can often see when and where they signed up for your mailing list in your email provider.
Where does your ideal client hang out online?
The next question to ask yourself is where your ideal client spends time online.
Again, it’s worth thinking about your current clients – especially if they fall into your ‘ideal client’ category. This conversation may come up organically with your clients during their sessions as you get to learn their online habits and how they approach social media. But you could also take a few minutes to ask them at the end of a session.
But what should you do if you don’t have any current clients or if you want to pivot and work with a different niche?
Then, you’ll need to come up with an ideal client avatar. You should get as specific as possible about who you want to work with and what their life situation, age, career, and relationships look like. That will help guide you to create effective content that will speak to your ideal client and to know which marketing channels to use. We walk you through this process step-by-step in this blog post, so take a look if this area is something you struggle with.
What are your goals for your marketing efforts?
Next, you should think about what you want to achieve via your marketing efforts. What is your goal in your business right now?
For example, do you want to grow your audience and gain more followers, become a trusted expert in your niche, or make people more aware of you? Or do you want to focus on converting followers into paying clients?
Each of these goals will require a different marketing approach, and it may even affect your decision on which marketing channels to use. Having clear goals will guide your choices and help you measure your progress. It’s also a vital part of developing a business mindset.
Conduct Market Research to Find the Best Marketing Channels For Your Business
If you’re still puzzled about which platforms you should use for your marketing efforts, you could conduct some market research. You might find this useful if you don’t have any current clients, you’re changing niches, or you simply want more data to help you make decisions.
A simple way to conduct market research is to set up short chats with people in your audience. You could send an email to your list or put out a social media post offering a freebie or small gift (e.g., a worksheet or something similar) in exchange for a short call. Or perhaps you already know some people who fall into the category of your ideal client. Reach out and see if they would be willing to hop on a coffee chat with you.
When conducting market research, pay attention to the language your ideal client uses. How do they describe their challenges or what they’re looking for? You can use this language to better understand your ideal client, but also in your marketing copy to better connect with your audience.
And you can also discover where they spend time online and what platforms they trust or use more. For example, do they prefer emails over Instagram posts? Videos over blog posts? That’s all invaluable information!
You can use these insights to inform your decisions and save you from wasting time. Imagine if you were planning to launch a podcast, but your market research shows you that your ideal client doesn’t have time to listen to podcasts. Then, you’re better off creating short-form content they actually have time to consume! This way, you can save yourself time, effort, and even money before launching a new marketing channel.
Don’t choose a marketing channel just because it’s fun
This next point might sound obvious – but think about your motivations behind a specific marketing channel. Why are you leaning toward it? Could it be because it feels more fun or less like work?
That doesn’t have to be a red flag – but it can be. Even if a certain platform feels more fun to use and create content, you need to look at your analytics and think strategically.
Is this platform actually converting people into followers and then eventually into clients?
Or is it just becoming a time suck and a distraction from where you should really be focusing your attention? Even if a platform feels fun, it’s no point spending your valuable time on it if it’s not helping to connect you with your audience and convert them to clients.
Likes don’t always = Clients
One thing we’ve seen is that some therapists grow a huge following on platforms like Instagram – but that doesn’t necessarily convert to paying clients.
The sad truth is that if you share a lot of free tips and content, you might not attract people who are ready to invest money in therapy or coaching. It’s easy to spend a lot of time on these platforms, so you need to be strategic and intentional to ensure that it’s moving you toward where you want to be in your business.
Think about the returns on your investment of time (and money if applicable) into a specific marketing channel. For example, a coffee chat with a colleague could lead to a stream of referrals over the coming months and years – so while it feels like a greater investment initially, it can definitely pay off. Whereas you could spend 10 minutes every day on Instagram, which doesn’t feel like a lot, but it quickly adds up.
So, is it worth the investment? That’s for you to decide while looking at your stats and considering your marketing goals!
When it comes to your content, you should think about how to create content that will help followers to become clients rather than just consuming your content for free. While it’s nice to have a large audience, attracting clients who just want free content won’t move you in the right direction. Followers won’t bring you income (unless you plan to become an influencer – which is another topic altogether).
Give your chosen marketing channels time
Once you’ve chosen one or two marketing channels, create a strategy for how you will use these channels. For example, how often will you post and what kind of content will you create? Keep your marketing and overall business goals in mind when crafting this marketing strategy.
Then, the next crucial step is to give these marketing channels time to have an impact. Nothing will change overnight, as it takes time to connect with people, gain followers, and grow an audience. Building trust and becoming someone people respect doesn’t happen overnight. People may need to see your content several times to take in your message – and it can take even longer for them to feel comfortable enough to work with you.
So, the key takeaway here is: Don’t expect to see big changes within a week or two. We recommend committing to using a new marketing channel regularly for at least three to six months. For certain marketing channels, such as your blog and SEO marketing, it could take even longer to start seeing results – but it could be worth it in the long run.
Your marketing efforts can multiply over time
Becoming recognised as a specialist in any area takes time. Over time, any efforts you put in will continue to multiply and have an effect in the years to come. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate impact. Instead, focus on your goals, follow your marketing strategy, and put your name out there in the way you want to be known.
For example, the LIT co-founder Sonia has found that some people will reach out to her after following her for years, and it was only at that point that they were ready to work with her. But all the content she put out over time helped them to build up trust and respect for her work. So, don’t discount the long-term impact of the content you put out there – it can pay off months or even years down the line.
Consider “owned” vs. “borrowed” marketing content
Another thing to consider is where you’re creating your content and whether it really belongs to you. There are two main types of content – owned content vs. borrowed marketing content.
Owned content refers to anything that you have complete control over – for example, what you post on your website or the emails you send out. When you write a blog post, that content lives on your website, so you have ownership over it. No one other than you can remove it, and it will remain available for as long as you decide.
In comparison, there are types of “borrowed” content that live on other platforms, and you don’t have ultimate control over them. One example of this is on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, where you could have your account shut down unexpectedly if you’re believed to have violated the platform’s rules. That means you could potentially lose all your content and the audience you have built up, and you would have no way to contact those followers.
That’s not to say that we don’t recommend using these platforms – but it’s a good idea to consider whether you’re only using borrowed marketing channels. If you can diversify your efforts to include owned marketing content, you will have more control over your marketing, and you won’t be solely at the mercy of the algorithms.
Evergreen Content vs. Short-Term/Temporary Content
An important factor in choosing a marketing channel is its longevity. You might prefer to create a blog post that will last and continue to be found years down the line, in comparison with an Instagram Story that will disappear after 24 hours.
Think about the long-term impact of your marketing efforts and how it could pay off in the long term. For example, long-term marketing could be a podcast episode or even a networking chat with a colleague who sends you referrals for years to come. If you write a blog post and optimise it for SEO, people should continue to find it months or years later, so it can have more of a long-term impact than an Instagram post.
Reach out to your network (one of the best marketing channels!)
Don’t discount networking and word of mouth in your marketing strategy! While this may seem like a time-consuming or less impactful marketing channel, it can be even more powerful than many forms of digital marketing. But it’s often overlooked for trendier social media platforms.
If you are new to setting up your business, one simple but powerful thing you can do is to create a list of who you know that could be a good source of clients. It could be a professional, a community, or another colleague. Then, contact them and let them know what you do and that you’re accepting clients – so if they know anyone looking for your services, they can refer them to you.
Network with your fellow colleagues, and be prepared for some give and take. Don’t hesitate to pass on clients when you don’t have the capacity or the speciality they are looking for. This kind of professional relationship can be crucial when you’re starting or growing your business.
And the best part is that it’s one of the very first things you can do for your new business – even before you set up a website, social media presence, etc. But it can also pay many times over if you have a reliable long-term stream of new clients.
For example, if you are a couples therapist, you could reach out to therapists who only see individual clients. You could even get in touch with family lawyers, teachers, and other professionals who might make referrals. Or if you work with expats, you could let your clients know that you have the capacity to take on new clients. Word-of-mouth can be so impactful, especially within a close-knit community.
Don’t Discount In-Person Marketing
As most of us run online-only businesses, we can fall into the trap of focusing solely on online marketing.
But in-person marketing can be simple, powerful, and even more effective than digital channels. And that’s because people have the opportunity to meet you, and they will instantly feel like they know you better than through a social media post.
So, don’t forget to tell people what you do wherever you go! Be proud of what you do and share this information freely in networking groups, if you’re travelling, at conferences, or even at the school gates. (Of course, when this is appropriate and comes up naturally). You could join a local group for business owners, or if you’re on the move, you could join a digital nomad group.
Struggling with marketing? Consider your marketing strategy
If you feel like your current marketing efforts aren’t having an effect, it’s worth thinking about which channels you’re using. But another thing to consider is how you’re creating content and marketing your business in the first place.
Are you following a strategy, or do you tend to create content depending on how you feel on the day? And is your content aligned with your business vision and targeted toward your ideal client?
If you don’t have a marketing strategy in place, that could be your next step. Or you might need to backpedal further and think about your core offer and your ideal client/niche. What are you offering, and who are you selling it to? If you don’t know the answer to this question, head over to our blog post on identifying your ideal client.
Or you might need to spend some time thinking about your business vision overall and how to work towards it, and in that case, this blog post on how to dream big could be helpful.
If you feel like you need more support with these questions, the LIT Community could be just what you need. We help mental health professionals to start or grow their location independent businesses and work through these tricky questions. You can find out more here and sign up for our waitlist to be the first to hear when we will next open the doors to the community.