A web of
more clients via the Internet
by Linda Markley, New Therapist, Jan 03.
(click on title to
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 :
- you love to do
- sets you apart from others in the market
- 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
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
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 :-
each groups’ specific needs, using their language etc so each
feels you’re the expert at helping people like
each group directly to what they want, (the quicker and simpler
it is for them, the more likely they are to get there)
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
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
Bring it all together
specialism + your special magic + chosen client group = your
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
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.
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
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?’
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
- are looking for what we offer
- would benefit but aren’t looking
- 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.
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.