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A web of opportunities

Getting more clients via the Internet

by Linda Markley, New Therapist, Jan 03. 

Sidebars (click on title to read):-

The therapy business, like so many others, is an increasingly crowded market. For various reasons, few of us therapists are keen on marketing ourselves. Also, many of our clients aren’t happy to talk about how we’ve helped them, which may limit ‘word-of-mouth’ recommendations.

This situation doesn’t help potential clients, either. Finding the right therapist for them is rather hit and miss. Some are referred by another professional, but which professionals can really know who, of all the therapists available, would be best for a particular client? Many people are finding their own way and for some, choosing and connecting with an appropriate therapist can be so daunting they see no one.

The web is a great gift all round in this situation. It’s immediate, private and non-threatening – all things prospective clients want. It allows them to check out possible therapists before they contact anyone – and growing numbers are doing just that. A bonus for the therapist is that people with that active a commitment to their healing make great clients.

To connect with the people you can best help, you need to make it easy for them to find out how you could benefit them. A skilful web presence can do exactly that. Like most good things, it takes commitment to bring about – but its well worth it. A wise investment of resources in the web now will pay off for years to come not only with more clients, but more appropriate ones and, over the long term, substantially less expenditure of resources.

Using a global medium to attract local clients

I know from my own experience that many who use the web will travel a long way, even to other countries, to get what they want. But many clients obviously prefer a local therapist and yes, they use the web too. Add your details to local directories and make sure your city and area are prominently displayed so that they are easily found by both web visitors and search engines.

The web is new and different and it’s not working for everyone

Aware of its potential, many have now invested in the web. While a few have reaped great rewards, many have not. For therapists, the difference is rarely in the designer price tag. Potential clients aren’t going to call you because you have the latest animation. What counts is that the people you most want to work with, find out the right things about you and what you offer.

The additional challenge on the web is that you are always one of many. If someone has your printed materials in hand, they don’t usually have a bunch of others available. On the web, numerous others are available at the click of a mouse. Also, most web users also find it easier to visit ten websites than to read or follow-up one.

To meet this challenge, ensure you :-

  • Stand out – as unique – THE one for them;
  • Offer clear benefits;
  • Make it really clear, quick and easy for them to find out what they want or need to know.

Standing out on the web takes a really clear focus. The sooner you find the most appropriate focus for you, the more effective your web-work will be. The easiest way to find that focus is with a coach. For those who prefer to work alone, this article will guide you through the steps.

Specialising on the web

Most of us are nervous of specialising - we fear losing general clients. The truth is that more and more clients are taking the trouble to find the most appropriate specialist for their needs. If they don’t find one, they still prefer a specialist because specialists come over as experts and we’d all rather see an expert even if we aren’t in their special category. By specialising, you will gain more clients than you lose.

As far as the web is concerned, specialising is vital for success. People who use the web have the world at their fingertips, a plethora of choice, and they are choosier than most. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t bother looking on the web. To get and hold their attention, you have to be different from the rest.

Also specialists get free publicity on and off line. There’s a huge wealth of information put out every day. Everyone wants their information or resource to get attention and credibility. So they quote, publish or refer people to an expert resource (a specialist!).

What to specialise in

Your choice, and I suggest you follow your heart and instincts - although you might want to research the market and get feedback from others too. The ideal is to specialise in something that :

  1. you love to do
  2. sets you apart from others in the market
  3. adds most value for your clients

It’s surprising (perhaps not!) how often these go together.

Also share yourself – an important part of what you offer

So far, we’ve looked at what you offer in terms of what you do. For therapists, there’s another essential aspect – who you are. People want to feel comfortable coming to you. Some of this is your credentials. They are, naturally enough, essential to some people. But, if they have more than one therapist to choose from with similar credentials, they will use other factors. If you don’t give them anything else, the chances are that they will select their therapist from those they feel they can get to know on the web. Even if you’re the only therapist around, some people still won’t come to you unless you let them get to know you first. They’d rather do without than risk an unknown quantity.

Another factor is that so much of the web (and modern life) is anonymous and slick, that web users long for the personal touch. They respond much better to a web presence when they feel they are connecting with a real, authentic person. And they want a therapist with integrity, who comes from the heart. The more deeply you can allow them to connect with you, the more refreshing and original your web presence will feel. So more people will stay and read enough to be ready to take the next step. Even if its not right for them at that point, they are more likely to remember you for themselves or someone else later.

So, although it can be scary, I strongly recommend you allow people to get to know you on the web. But I also suggest you keep your biographical details short and focussed on what your readers really want to know about you (answering some of the questions your clients often ask, like how long you’ve been doing this work, why you do it, what you did before etc). Even then, most web users won’t read it all. So most important is to show who you are rather than tell.

What to share about yourself

You share you, but the focus is still them – how they can expect to experience you as a therapist and person. Some aspects of this is common to all therapists – we need to show we are professional, credible and approachable. Use everything you have (credentials, testimonials, case studies, alternative ways to contact you, low risk starters like free taster sessions or talks) to demonstrate this.

I encourage you also to go beyond this into what makes you different as a therapist and person, and how this benefits your clients. What is your special magic? What are your deepest values? What do people experience in your presence, regardless of training and technique? Your clients, colleagues, family and friends may be able to give you feedback. If not, then look for the clues. Why are these people drawn to you at this stage in their lives? What makes them stay or come back? Why were you recommended for x and not for y? What are you remembered for?

Once you know your essence as a therapist, don’t tell them. Better to allow them to discover it for themselves. Let it inform everything on your website, from the colour and font style, to what you include or leave out and the way everything is expressed. And show it or have others tell them by including suitable testimonials or case studies. Don’t allow anything that might confuse this issue, which could, subconsciously, make it harder for people to trust you.

A detail or two that adds another dimension to you and your life can help, especially if it also brings out your special magic in some subtle way. This may sound artificial but, provided you are truthful, it will only serve them.

To jump ahead of myself for a moment, there’s one more thing about sharing you. Your photo. Yes, seeing that you’re young/old, fat/thin or whatever, may well put some people off. We can’t please everyone. But the vast majority of people want (and, on the web, expect) to see what you look like before they contact you. There’s too much to read – we want an instant impression, a feel for you. And for some people this is so important that if they don’t see a photo of you on the first page they visit, they may leave your website without reading a single word. Use your photo elsewhere on the web too. Links (from articles or directory listing, for example) with a photo bring far more web visitors than those without. Even professional readers like magazine editors are estimated to be 30% more likely to respond favourably when photos, though irrelevant, are included with submissions. How much more the web-weary would-be client who is thinking of visiting and trusting you?

Choose your photo with care – not so much on the sharpness of definition, which is largely lost on the web, as on its effect on people. Get feedback from people as to which photo would most encourage them to consider you as a therapist. And use it on every page and every link to your site that you can. And up-date it every year or so, so that clients aren’t surprised by what you look like when they meet you.

Clarify who your clients are

Another aspect of specialising that becomes more important on the web, is focusing on a particular client group. Some therapists focus on an age group and/or type of issue. Others may need to look deeper at those they work best with, and find more nebulous, though rarely exclusive, factors like lifestyle, income or employment, attitudes or beliefs, intelligence or interests.

If you have, or want to have more than one distinct client group, seriously consider having a separate web presence for each. The reasons for this are that it allows you to :-

  • address each groups’ specific needs, using their language etc so each feels you’re the expert at helping people like them
  • take each group directly to what they want, (the quicker and simpler it is for them, the more likely they are to get there)
  • put the most appropriate leads in the most appropriate place, on and off line, for each group to find you

If you do have more than one client group, I suggest you develop your web presence for them one at a time and aim to serve no more than three at any time. That makes it easier for you and also allows you to go deeper, which will be more effective than spreading yourself too thin. Also, you will learn a lot and much of what you develop can be modified for reuse for the other group(s).

If in doubt, ask Who most needs what I offer? Who do I most want to work with? Who can I most easily reach? 

Use your instincts again and choose a group to focus your web work on for a period (like three months). After that initial period, you may want to narrow or broaden your focus or consider an additional or alternative group.

Learn all about them

The best way to do this is to hang out with them, on and off line. talk with them, read what they read, especially what’s successful, ask them questions and, above all, listen with all your senses. This will inform future decisions (like what information to include, where to put links to your website) and also, like your own magic, colour or flavour everything you do (like the language you use).

Bring it all together

specialism + your special magic + chosen client group = your unique focus

You may tweak one or other element as you proceed, to ensure you really stand out, are doing the work you heart desires and attracting the clients you really want. For now, look again at what you want to offer in terms of the benefits to this particular client group. This is what people are attracted by – what’s in it for them - so come up with as many as possible. You might want to ask some of the group what they want. These benefits need a prominent position on your website. If not instantly clear to them, many web visitors will go elsewhere.

Get it into cyberspace

Now you’re ready to start writing and calling web designers. Choose one whose work you like and who you feel comfortable working with. If funds are low, consider negotiating, putting your requirement on a website where freelancers bid for the work, new web designers who need websites to display their talents or the web-savvy generation now in school or college. Also consider having a page on an appropriate directory, rather than your own website.

Sooner or later, you’re likely to want your own website and it really is cheap now, compared to almost any other way of letting lots of people know what you offer. But don’t underestimate the work involved – for you as well as your designer. What you say and how its written are crucial to your success. So you might want to work with an editor or writer. And you will also need to give attention to getting the right people to visit your website.

Whatever you do, and no matter how long you labour over each effort, I guarantee you will want to change something. So before anyone works on your website, make sure you’re going to retain control and that changes will be easy, quick and cheap. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on one of the great advantages of the web.

Another advantage of the web is how easy it is to get instant feedback and learn quickly what works and what doesn’t. I strongly encourage you to see all your web work as an ongoing work-in-progress. People are so easily put off on the web, that tiny improvements often result in more clients than adding vast amounts of new material. So I suggest you start small and simple. Do only what’s essential from day one, see how it works and then refine and build on what you have in do-able, prioritised chunks. Applying what you learn as you go along will make all your web work more resource-efficient and effective.

Prioritise in terms of your aim – more clients. Get as clear as possible on what will be most effective for you in the long term (though this will change as you learn and as you, the web and the therapy world evolves). Then ask, ‘What will be most effective for me in the short to medium term and lead most easily and quickly to what I want long term?’

Reaching your chosen client group

At some point, getting more of the right people to your website becomes more beneficial than enhancing the website itself. This is a HUGE topic. See the top tips for some pointers. Also bear in mind that, for most of us, there are three (loose) groups. Those who :-

  1. are looking for what we offer
  2. would benefit but aren’t looking
  3. need to hear about our services repeatedly over time

Each group may need a different approach. I suggest you start with the easiest – no.1 – and address the others only if and when you are ready to expand.

Once clients come to you via the web you will know its working, so congratulations. Until your practise is overflowing, there’s likely to be room for improvement.

The web is a great place for feedback. Your web host can point you to ongoing statistics on your web visitors, which can tell you the numbers of visitors each day, what websites they came to yours from (even the search terms they used to find you) and what pages they viewed.

For even more valuable feedback, ask your clients how they found you, what attracted them and what they liked (& didn’t). And don’t rely on them finding you online again. As soon as you can, give them some printed material to keep and/or pass on.



Contact Clover Coaching -  e-mail or ring 01273 472186