Many of us have at least some of our practice online. And many people are toying with this idea. The concept of having more freedom, being able to work from anywhere, not having to pay as much rent for bricks and mortar space, is one appealing carrot dangling in front of our face. I imagine gazing out at the blue waters of Costa Rica while swinging in a hammock where I’m working from my laptop and guzzling coffee.
The crazy part is, this imagery is a possibility, but not everyone is going to achieve this.
And it’s not entirely their fault. Very few health and wellness practitioners were taught any sort of marketing during their years of education. This is a gigantic add on, that needs to occur afterward. Those who train themselves to be both marketers and practitioners create the opportunity to experience more freedom. And perhaps posture issues from all that hammock use?
In terms of marketing your online private practice, it’s helpful to know what mistakes to avoid. So here are the biggest mistakes I see practitioners making when it comes to marketing themselves.
Prefer to watch instead of reading? Then here you go:
Mistake # 1: Making a potential client (i.e. a potential customer) feel like a number
Think of almost every practitioner website you’ve been to. What does it say? That the practitioner sees everyone for everything.
Take a therapist’s website for example. It will say that they see people of all ages (teenagers, adults, older adults) for PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress, phobias, communication issues, and the list usually goes on and on.
What do those words on the page mean to the reader – the potential client? It makes them feel unspecial. There is no reason for them to choose this practitioner out of the sea of people available. This practitioner wasn’t ‘made for them’. There’s no connection.
If you’re freaking out because your website is exactly as described, take a breath (I was also here at one point too). This is easy to fix, but first you need to read mistake number 2.
Mistake # 2: Being too scared to niche and service a slither of the entire market available
What’s a niche you ask? A niche is where you work with a specific type of client that has a specific type of problem.
I get it. It took me a while to niche also. Most of us do in fact have the ability to see many people for many things. But that doesn’t mean we should. Note. If you have a traditional brick and mortar practice, and you’re well known in the community with robust referral pathways that you’re happy with, you don’t have to niche. But I’d still recommend having a major point of difference to your competitors.
For those in an online private practice (full fee-paying), you’ll want to have total control over how many client inquiries you get each week, and the only way to do this is to niche.
Don’t worry, you won’t get stuck working in just one area for the rest of eternity. You can have multiple niches, but most practitioners need to start with one so they don’t become overwhelmed with what they have to do marketing-wise.
It takes about 3-6 months to become established online, in a specific niche area. Why? Well, you need to be found on Google and on your chosen social media platforms. And to do this, you need to be persistent and send out a very clear message every time you post or write copy for your website. With Google, you need to be found within the top 3 search results for your inquiry numbers to be meaningful, and the only way that’s happening is if you’re super specific about what you do and you’re publishing regular content on that subject. You’re not going to rank for “nutritionist for athletes”. You might have a better chance if you’re aiming for “nutritionist for vegan athletes”.
Mistake # 3: Not having a mixture of short play and long play marketing techniques
When it comes to marketing your online private practice, the aim needs to include creating sustainable inquiry and booking channels.
A very nice long-term strategy is the SEO (search engine optimization) play, whereby you’re getting a steady stream of traffic to your website landing pages from Google search results. This takes time as mentioned above. But it’s not a strategy to neglect.
A way to incorporate this right now into your business is to be a bit more strategic with your blog posts. Engaging the reader should be your main priority, but also try and include the relevant keyword phrase you’d like to rank for with each blog you write. Be sure not to stuff your blog with keywords (that’s a very old school tactic that’s not relevant anymore). Make each blog post robust and amazing.
If you’re not ranking in Google and you’re not getting enough inquiries, you’ll need to pay to play. Enter all the short to medium term strategies. These look like paid social media advertising, Google Ads, and email list building.
Mistake # 4: Not automating as much as humanly possible
The whole point of having your practice online is to feel freer and ideally experience more freedom. While automation tools and software cost money, the old saying holds true – you need to spend money to make money.
There’s a time and place to be stingy and this isn’t it.
Here are some items you can automate:
Email, and engaging with your potential customers via an email drip campaign. I use Autopilot, and I know lots of people who use ActiveCampaign. Everyone knows your not writing to them individually, it’s going to be okay. Email away!
Posting to your socials. Give Hootsuite or Buffer a try.
Bookings. All of your bookings and payments should be taking place online unless your niche is with a demographic that isn’t tech-savvy. For literally any service, if I can’t book online I move onto someone else who does let me book online. Millennial I know, but with 71 million Millennials, can you afford to not do this?
Accounting. Your booking and payment system can usually be integrated with your accounting system (I use Xero) via a plugin on your website. You may need a web developer to do this for you, but know this option exists.
Mistake # 5: Not working on copywriting skills
With an online practice, the first thing people lay eyes on is your copy (content). That might be on your website or your social media posts.
Because we’ve spent a billion dollars and years being educated, we write in a boring way at first. It takes time to unlearn APA format.
A great way to start getting better at this is to run all your copy through Grammarly or Hemingway App (both have free versions). They will tell you when you don’t make sense, or when you need to stop being so academic.
Mistake # 6: Putting content out into the world for the sake of it
Would people miss you if you stopped emailing them? If not, it’s time to reflect on what you’re writing about. When people give you their email address, they’re giving you permission to reach out. But you’d better deliver meaningful content to make your interaction with them worth it.
A few points to help you make your content more relevant: Know that your ideal client wants you to have an opinion. Not everyone should like you or will like you. You should be repelling some people because you’re not right for them, and they’re not right for you. Notice, I said repel, not repulse.
Mistake # 7: Talking about ‘online’ services as though it’s revolutionary
Because it’s not. Skype has been around for 17 years and online chat was being used in 1980. Online services and doing what you do via video isn’t extraordinary.
I’ve been seeing clients online for about 7 years now. And now, everything I do is online. When someone wants to meet with me in person, I can’t help but think of it as a waste of time.
When practitioners talk about online private practice as something super unique, it’s off-putting for a lot of potential clients. They don’t want ‘innovative’, they want ‘tried and tested’ and something that works.
Mistake # 8: Not owning your interactions with potential and actual clients
You can have a following of 16,000 people on Instagram, but if you don’t have their email addresses, that following isn’t worth as much as you think.
One of the biggest reasons to be on social media as a business is to eventually own the interactions you’re having. You want people to travel to your website. You’ll want to get them on your email list where you’re in full control of their journey with you. Doing this, also protects you from major changes any of the social media platforms plan on making to please their shareholders.
Mistake # 9: Ghosting people who’ve said they’re interested in you and what you do
As you’re setting all your private practice marketing strategies and tactics up, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and confused. But there’s one thing you need to always be on top of.
When someone gives you their email address, say in exchange for an amazing free opt-in you’ve created and then they never hear anything from you again, it’s weird and a bit mean. It’s like ending a first date by agreeing to get in touch next week to organize the second date, but when next week rolls around, you’re MIA.
Instead, aim to communicate via email weekly to those who have said yes to hearing from you.
Mistake # 10: Leading with sales instead of value
Imagine being on Facebook, and you see a cool offer. “Download my free 10-day healthy vegan meal plan”. Great! You click on the link, travel to a dietitian’s website, you enter your email, and boom, instant access to the promised meal plan. The dietitian provided enough value for you to give them your email address. So far, it’s a fair deal.
Then the same dietitian goes onto email you daily with very sales-ey content. It’s all about “booking in now”. But hold on a moment, you were only interested in getting some extra ideas for healthy meals. You don’t want to book in now, maybe never. And because it’s too full-on, you hit the unsubscribe button.
Instead, follow the more engaging 80:20 rule. 80% of the time provide amazing free value. And 20% of the time, have a clear call to action telling people what to do.
For example, ‘would you like to make an appointment with me?’ Remember, people are in their own buying journey, and right now it’s about fostering a healthy, giving relationship. And when that person is ready to buy, you’ll be at the front of their minds.