Top of the list of essential marketing tools, for therapists who want a steady stream of new clients, is a website.
Your website is the bedrock of your marketing. It is the place where potential clients will get to know, like and trust you. And when they trust you, it’s the place from where they will reach out to you. Your website has a job to do, and that is to facilitate the client’s process of finding you, getting to know you, liking and trusting you and then reaching out to you. So your site has to perform on all these levels.
1. Decide your niche.
Some therapists put themselves out there as general therapists, but many prefer to niche, i.e. focus on a particular demographic segment - women or children - or the treatment of certain issues such as relationships or anxiety. Some therapists also focus more on their method of treatment, e.g. hypnotherapy or CBT.
If you are just starting out in your private practice, it’s very important to be 100% certain of your niche as this will determine your brand, your entire website and all of your future marketing activities.
2. Develop your brand.
Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand! Your brand is the collective mental picture of you held by people who know you and your practice. This brand may well have developed haphazardly over the years, and it might accurately reflect you or it may not! However, we recommend taking control of this element so that people get the right impression of who you are and what you do. Your brand will help connect you with more better-fit clients.
What is a brand?
Branding for therapists has three primary functions:
Navigation - a brand helps your clients choose from a vast array of options.
Reassurance - brands communicate the intrinsic quality of your service and reassure potential clients that they are making the right choice.
Engagement - a brand uses distinctive imagery, language and associations to encourage clients to identify with it.
With so many therapists out there and a limited client pool, it is a good idea to have a strong brand. For therapists, branding doesn’t mean a fancy logo or high-powered commercial impact, but rather a subtle yet distinctive portrayal of your personality, story and service offering, that chimes with your preferred clients.
3. Design and navigation.
Your brand creation process will determine the design of your site. The aim is to build a site that reflects you but at the same time resonates with the visitor so that you both achieve a better fit. Your site’s design has to encourage clients to call you, but they won’t do that until they trust you, and your site’s design will help you to achieve this.
The home page must catch the visitor’s attention so that they’re encouraged to read on. Absolute clarity about who you treat and how you do it is required. We recommend a leading image with a headline statement that offers hope for a particular person suffering from a particular problem.
The colour scheme, choice of images, font and language style are design elements that will be chosen based on your brand and incorporated into the website. Various calls to action must be placed in strategic positions throughout the site to encourage the client to call you.
For a therapist’s website, we recommend a simple navigation structure that guides your customers effortlessly along the path to calling you,
Your copy is the text that you will fill your site with, such as your ‘About’ or ‘What we treat’ sections. It is best written by you with guidance from your marketing advisor/ web developer. Our advice is to keep things simple (less is more) and always keep in mind whether the visitor is a potential client or someone looking for help for their child, for example, as this will guide your tone and the amount of information you will want to include.
Keep things positive and always try to end a section or a page with a reassuring note and an encouragement to call.
5. Search Engine Optimisation.
The primary function of a website is to be accessible to those who need you. Getting found on Google is a must. We recommend that you undertake at least the minimum optimisation, to get you high on the rankings of search results for people searching for your services in your area. Your web developer will help you to do this as a part of building your site. We also recommend that you get set up on Google My Business, a free Google service which helps businesses with a physical location (office, shop, clinic, etc) to rise to the top of the page in local search rankings. This service also allows you to upload pictures and to introduce some of your brand elements into your profile which helps with the consistency of your overall brand identity.
How much investment is required?
This depends on a number of factors. Your ambition, your budget, how much time you can devote to marketing, the operations side of your practice (i.e. do you want an online booking system, video, lots of content, a commissioned blog and so on).
There are many aspects to building and maintaining a great website, and these things take experience, skills and a lot of time, so be prepared to invest a reasonable sum in order to get a good result, and avoid being tempted by a price that’s too good to be true.
There are three main cost centres to consider:
The website build (this price can vary greatly between developers from freelancers to boutique agencies, depending on their set up and how elaborate your requirements).
The annual/monthly hosting cost (obligatory), other recurring costs, e.g. domain renewal (obligatory) and other optional elements, e.g. booking engine subscription.
The maintenance. You may get a service agreement billed monthly at a fixed fee, or you may decide to pay as you go (which can get expensive as you get charged by the hour).
Freelancer or company?
The problem with freelancers is that once the site is built and paid for as a one-off price (which can be significant), you are often left on your own to manage hosting, domain name renewals, any outages, bugs, and website updates/additions/changes (and you will want these).
Companies tend to look after the site for you and they can either charge upfront for the site, a fixed fee for the hosting and then by the hour for maintenance and support (which can be expensive, and when you least expect it).
Some companies bundle everything together (including the build cost) into a fixed monthly charge. They retain ownership of the site (so you can't just pay for one month and make off with the site!) and give you a well defined service commitment, so you know what to expect on a month by month basis. The monthly cost can vary between companies, depending how they are set up, and your monthly fee will obviously be greater than if you are just paying for hosting only. However, this is our recommended option, as all costs are spread over time, and since most of the fees (apart from additional extras) are fixed, there are no surprises and you get peace of mind. You also get a more dedicated team who value your business, and in return should give you good service.