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This is reprinted with permission from an article by C.J. Hayden and is geared toward a general audience. Some of her suggestions may not  be appropriate for therapists, so use your best clinical judgement when deciding whether they are OK for clients.

All economic indicators say we are in a recession. Consumer and business spending is down; unemployment is up. It’s natural to wonder whether perhaps this is a bad time to be marketing your business.

Since I’ve been self-employed for over two decades now, I’ve seen several economic cycles come and go. What I notice about these “down” periods is that people who frequently struggle to get clients typically think these are bad times to market. On the other hand, people who have been consistently successful at landing clients seem to believe that there is never a bad time to market. Personally, I’d vote to follow the lead of those who are succeeding.

Professionals who have built successful long-term businesses have learned that continuing to market pays off in both the best of times and the worst of times. But you may not be able to produce new results by marketing in the same old way. Here are six suggestions for how to keep your marketing up when the overall business climate is down.

1. Turn up the volume. When people are distracted by bad news or economic concerns, you may need to communicate more often or more visibly. Where an email might have done the job before, now you may need to pick up the phone or send a postcard. Instead of just one follow-up call, you may need to make two or three. If your business is slowing down, make use of the extra time you have available to ramp up all your marketing efforts.

2. Become a necessity. When clients are cutting back on discretionary spending, they need to perceive your services as essential. Look for ways to “dollarize” the value of your services. How can you help your clients save money, cut expenses, or work more efficiently? Will your services help them gain more customers, increase their income, or experience less stress in tough times? Tell your prospects exactly why they need you, and why they shouldn’t wait to get started.

3. Make use of your existing network. It’s always easier to get your foot in the door when someone is holding it open. In a slow market, referrals and introductions can be the key to getting new business. Seek out opportunities to propose repeat business with former clients, too. Uncertain times encourage more reliance on trusted sources and known quantities, so warm approaches and existing contacts will pay off better than cold calls or mass mailings.

4. Explore partnerships. Working with a partner can create more opportunities for both of you. By sharing contacts, you each increase the size of your network. Together, you can multiply your marketing efforts and share expenses. A partner with a complementary business can allow you to offer a more complete solution than your competitors can. A photographer could team up with a graphic designer, for example. And you can help keep each other’s spirits up, too.

5. Meet people where they are. In a down economy, prospects are even more price sensitive than usual. Instead of slashing your rates to get their business, propose a get-acquainted offer. A professional organizer or image consultant could offer a reduced price half-day package for new clients. A management consultant or executive coach could propose a staff seminar instead of consulting/coaching work. Once clients see you in action, they’ll be more willing to spend.

6. Find the silver linings. When companies cut back on staff, opportunities are created. With fewer people on the payroll to handle essential tasks, downsized organizations present possibilities for project work, interim assignments, and outsourced functions. Economic changes beget other needs. People who are out of work need resume writers and career coaches. Folks concerned about their finances need investment advisors and financial planners.

Landing clients during a down period requires not just more marketing, but more strategic marketing. So instead of getting depressed by the news, get inspired by it. When you hear about coming layoffs, consider how your services could benefit those companies. When you read about negative consumer attitudes, use those words to better target your marketing copy. When prospects say, “not this year,” craft a proposal that ensures your place in next year’s budget.

For the successful independent professional, there’s no such thing as a bad time to market.

Copyright © 2008, C.J. Hayden

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I usually don’t write about my childhood stories, but this morning I was inspired by a dear friend who saw a picture of me at 10 years old. How far back does that go!

My father was an entrepreneur, although I don’t know if he knew what the word meant. A self taught man, there was nothing he couldn’t do, nothing he wouldn’t try, and I never recall him saying no to me if I needed or wanted his help with something. He liked that I was smart and although he would never say it, the smartest kid of 3 in the family; smart and appreciative, and so he had fun when we worked together.

One snow packy winter day, perfect for snowmen, when the lawn mowers are itching to come out of their winter hibernation, he went outside after breakfast and proceeded to build what I thought was a snowman. Well, after hours and hours he invited me outside o see the most beautifully sculpted snow horse I had ever seen. Every curve of its flowing white mane, every rippling muscle, nostrils wide and flaring, looking at those he was running at top speed.

I immediately began to cry. I had always loved horses, but we could never afford one, so this was my next best thing.  His name was Silver, not even a hint of a question about that, and he was the fastest horse in the world. Every morning and every night I covered him with a fresh coat of ice water to preserve him as long as I could.

Snow horse

Neighbors stopped by to comment, people driving by in cars slowed down to “ohhh” in wonder at this marvelous creation, and the local newspaper even did a feature story with pictures on my Silver and how it all came about. I loved that horse and I loved my father so much for such an amazing gift straight from his heart. I don’t know what prompted him to do it. I was only 10 and didn’t think to ask or know how to formulate the question.

But, good things too come to an end; and the day came in April when the sun rose too high in the sy and no matter how much ice water I used I couldn’t keep him from beginning to show the telltale drips that meant he was melting. I sat with him outside as one would keep vigil with a sick friend,  begged to sleep outside in case he needed me – “No, it’s too cold, Judy, you’ll freeze.’ From the wisdom of my mother. From my father, a tear – he understood but reality won out.

In the morning I raced down the steps and outside to see a shell of Silver, trying to stand proud, and melting. In 30 minutes it was over – he was gone.

I didn’t know at the time it was possible for a child to cry that much. I sobbed for hours, first hanging onto him and then in my bedroom. My heart was broken for the loss of the most gracious gift, the unexpected loveliness of it all, the hours we played together, and the possibilities of what might have been, the unrealized dream that has never died.

Exhausted finally from the tears and emotion, I went to sleep and dream t of my darling Silver, my father, herds of horses and love beyond measure.

Now what does this have to do with marketing, you ask. Of course, everything. Marketing never ends – building relationships never ends. Keeping your name “out there” never ends. You my dear therapists are providing such a marvelous service, helping people end their anguish and suffering. If you are good, you know it in your bones. Please share that expertise with others. My father kept that marvelous talent hidden for over 20 years – a terrible waste of a gift. And then one day, it burst forth – it was as if the world was too small for him all of a sudden – he HAD to share it.

He periodically did things like that as time went by – amazing, delightful surprises. He owned three businesses in his lifetime – all successful. And as I watched, and listened and learned, I watched him first build the trust which takes time. He was willing, more than willing. One of my very favorite tips he used – another grocery story opened their doors close enough to ours to be a real threat. A bit newer, more modern, but my dad had trust already stored up for years. When mom sent the kids to the store for a loaf of bread, they had a choice – newer or trustworthy. They always chose him. He      taught me his secret. When the got an ice cream cone, he gave an extra dip. When they got candy, same thing–”a little extra on the side for you, he’d say.  And countless other stories. It rubbed off…more value to the customer whenever possible, keep building the trust and he always shook their hand and said good-bye, come back now and called them by name.  I loved that man so much and never , ever told him enough. “Do you hear me now dad?”

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Very often, more now as we get more readers of this blog, people send me articles, quotes, bits of wisdom, but forget to tell me where they got it so I can give proper credit.  This is one of those instances. So if you know who wrote this, let ME know and I will add their name and credits to it so they get the credit they deserve.  Judy~

Training & Workshops

“I’ve written a great deal about the difference between marketing, which is letting people know what you can do, and making sales, which is about closing the deal. In general, I think most small businesses make more mistakes in marketing than they do in sales because they either don’t market enough, or they try such a wide variety of “strategies” that they and their potential customers end up confused and frustrated.

But, assuming you’ve done a good job of letting people know who you are and what you do, here’s a simple process for the closing sale:

1.  People buy solutions, not products or services. Your prospects want something that makes their lives easier, richer or more satisfying. In general, no one buys laundry detergent; we buy stuff to get our clothes clean.

2.  We buy from people (or companies) we know. Given a choice, I’ll generally do business with someone I know rather than with a stranger. A few goods and services are so price-sensitive that I’ll try an “off brand” at least once, but generally I’ll go with the familiar over the unfamiliar.
(This emphasizes the importance of marketing or “pre-
selling.”)

3.  We buy from people we like. Would you buy a car from someone you don’t like? Would you do business in an office that makes you uncomfortable? Neither will your customers.

4.  We buy from people we trust. This is THE key. In the end, I must believe that the product or service will perform as promised and I must trust that the seller will deliver, every time.

When it comes to selling, here’s the formula: Your customers buy Solutions from people they Know and Like and Trust. They will pay a substantial premium for the peace of mind that comes from doing business with confidence. Make it easy for your customers to feel good about doing business with you.”

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January is the crucial time to sit down and re-visit your marketing plan. Reflect deeply on what worked for you and what didn’t in 2009. I hear from therapists all too often that they “don’t have the time” to sit down and plan like this and I am at a loss for words. To those people, their “business” isn’t really a business at all; it’s a hobby. Can you imagine Apple Computers, Johnson and Johnson or Verizon saying something like that!  Planning is key!

MAKE the time to plan for your business to succeed or you will be sitting by, watching it fail!  It’s also the best time to develop a marketing calendar for the upcoming year.

January is the perfect time to re-visit your Marketing Plan for the New Year. An annual marketing plan will assist you in figuring out what it is that you need to do, how to do it, and when to do it. This marketing plan should go hand-in-hand with your business plan. Take the time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t in 2009. Your marketing plan should reflect changes and goals based on the previous year’s marketing experience. Put time and effort into creating a strong marketing plan and it will become a great tool to help you work smarter not harder at achieving your marketing goals this year.

Here are some of the topics that you should address while completing your plan:

1.   Preparation of your mission statement and vision for the upcoming year.

This is more than just setting your goals and it’s very important as it will determine your success. You need to get connected to your ‘WHY’ and keep reminding yourself WHY you are doing what you’re doing. This is your vision, mission and driving force.  If your ‘WHY’ is big enough, then you’ll figure out the ‘HOW’.  Stephen Covey has  some excellent material on creating mission statements and you can find most of  it free by searching online.

2.    Discover and define your niche markets.

Today, clients want an “expert” and nicheing lends itself to the perception of expertise.  Marketing yourself as a generalist makes you forgettable.  And, marketing yourself as someone who has a special interest in X, makes you memorable. Nicheing allows you to market your services in a more focused way.  That translates to more money, less wasted time, and more strategic contacts. Most therapists are afraid to define their “niche” for fear it will limit the clients they see. “I’ve been in practice for 20 years. I can treat anything by now.” (Actual comment I just heard today).  And maybe that’s true. But to a client that sounds like, “I’ve been working on cars for 20 years. I can fix anything that drives in my shop.”  Well, maybe, but do you know about computers and chips and how electronics are integrated into the engine now, etc. etc. Not so sure anymore. . .? Niches are important. They show  you care enough to specialize in an area or two that interests and uses your specific skills and talents. Niches define you as the kind of person who is smart enough to be an expert in something!

3.    Describe and identify your services.

When describing yourself and your services, use words that provide evidence of its value. Some examples include; honored, acclaimed, certified, recognized, approved, proven and recommended. Take advantage of these key words when writing marketing or promotional materials that describe your services.

4.   Develop and plan your marketing strategy and goals.

This is when you review and reflect on the previous year to see what has worked, what didn’t, what were your successes, failures, good and bad decisions. It’s very important that you do this and think about how you can improve.

Goal-setting is important for every aspect of your life, not only for your business – relationships, family, emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, career and financial.  So, you need to set goals and create a vision for your entire life. Think about  the things that you want to achieve in life and focus on them. In my experience, they will be on your mind all the time. The key to having success in your life and in your business, is to know exactly what you want and stick to it.

5.    Explore and identify your competition.

Do a little “market research” to identify who your professional competition is out there. Use the internet to conduct searches for other providers in the area that offer similar services, etc. Learn their background information, credentials, fees and the marketing tools they are using. There is no shortage of valuable, inexpensive ways to engage in the research you need. The important thing is to take advantage of them. Don’t be afraid of your “competitors,” embrace them. There is enough business to go around.

6.   Create a marketing calendar that contains a month-by-month schedule of marketing activities and events for the upcoming year.

This is probably the most important aspect of creating your annual marketing plan. It’s important to be pro-active with your marketing and to do that you need to be prepared for the upcoming events. Plan early and take advantage of the many opportunities that are out there each year. This tool will show you what marketing events, media campaigns and merchandising efforts are happening when and where, as well as the results. In the coming months we will highlight a target market for the month to help you with ideas, but be creative. Find your own. There will even be opportunities for you to collaborate with your “competition.”

Like a business plan, a marketing plan is an important document that needs to be updated on a regular basis. At least once each year this should be reviewed to address changes in market conditions, demand, pricing issues, etc. With a little extra time and effort now you can make 2010  – Your Best Year Ever!

The Find a Therapist Team

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The Case of the Missing ReferralsOne day, the phone just stopped ringing. At first, you may not have noticed it. You were busy serving your clients, keeping up in your field, and getting the bills paid, like all good professionals do. But then a project ended or a client quit, and you didn’t have a replacement waiting in the pipeline.

Suddenly you realized that it had been quite some time since any new prospects were referred to you. Yikes, what’s going on?

Whether you’ve been in business ten months or ten years, it can take you by surprise when referrals suddenly dry up. When business is thriving, referrals routinely arrive in one of two ways — either you hear from prospects who say they were referred by someone else, or people in your network pass along the name of prospects who need you. If neither of those things are happening, you have a problem. Without referrals, you’ll have to work much harder to get new business.

But where have your referrals gone? You may need to put on your detective hat and do some sleuthing to find out. Here are some of the most common reasons why referrals disappear, and what you can do to get them back.

1. You’ve dropped out of sight. When was the last time you attended a networking event? Volunteered on a committee? Wrote an article? Spoke in public? Sure, you’ve been busy, but if you stop being visible in your target market or professional community, people forget about you.

Clues: The only appointments in your calendar are client meetings. When you run into colleagues, they say, “I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

Solution: No matter how busy you are with client work, make it a practice to do at least one thing each month that keeps you visible.

2. Your network has stopped expanding. When your contacts are limited to people you already know, your referrals are limited to only the people that THEY know. Without anyone new in the circle, there’s nowhere for fresh referrals to come from.

Clues: You haven’t added any new names to your contact database in months. You can’t follow up with your network to stimulate more referrals, because you’ve already talked to everyone you know.

Solution: Ask the people you know to introduce you to any of their contacts who might be helpful. Spend some time getting to know these new folks. Then they will become your contacts, too, and your network will automatically expand.

3. You’re networking with the wrong people. Perhaps your clients are consumers, but your networking contacts mostly have a corporate market. Or all your networking is through your professional association where most of the members are direct competitors.

Clues: You’re in touch with many people on a regular basis, but no one is referring to you. When a referred prospect does contact you, their needs aren’t a fit for what you do.

Solution: Identify categories of people who have regular contact with your target market, and are likely to encounter needs you can fill. For example, a small business accountant will be more likely to get referrals from networking with attorneys, financial planners, and bookkeepers than by spending time with corporate consultants, health practitioners, or other accountants.

4. People think you’re too busy. When you give the impression you’re overwhelmed with work, your contacts will stop referring to you. But if you wait for your workload to lighten before putting out the word you’re ready for more, it will usually be too late.

Clues: You hear that one of your old referral sources sent business to a competitor. Someone tells you, “I thought you weren’t taking new clients.”

Solution: Return phone calls and emails from referred prospects promptly, even when you’re too busy to help them. Refer them on to someone else you trust, then thank the person who sent them to you. This will encourage your contacts to keep referring in the future, as they know their referrals will always be taken care of.

The secret to avoiding the “feast or famine” cycle that plagues many professional service businesses is to stay visible instead of hunkering down in your office, and nurture your network even when you don’t need it. In order to keep a constant flow of referrals coming, you need to give your referral-building activities the same high-quality, consistent attention you give your client work.

That way, you’ll be able to focus your detective skills on solving problems for your clients instead of having to worry about where your next client is coming from.

Copyright © 2009, C.J. Hayden

C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Clients Now!™ Thousands of business owners and independent professionals have used her simple sales and marketing system to double or triple their income. Get a free copy of “Five Secrets to Finding All the Clients You’ll Ever Need” at www.getclientsnow.com

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Which one are you? Let’s take each in order:

business

Do you have a business or a hobby?

Idealists:  Idealists are those who have great intentions of helping people.  They talk a lot about “giving,” “not doing it for the money,” and “want to make a difference.”  Those who run idealist practices often have an office, a phone, and business cards but few clients.  Their idealism is so bright and shiny they assume their good work and good intentions will bring business to their door.  Most of us start as Idealists, but become more sophisticated through experience.  Those who hang on to idealism too long are often working for another group or agency at some point in their career.

Hobbyists:  Hobbyists treat their practice as a hobby, not a career or a business.  They get beyond the idealism stage, have enough clients to pay the bills, but don’t want to grow the practice or challenge themselves to grow as a clinician or a business person.  Hobbyists resist change (because it requires extra work to get up to speed on anything new), and talk about being “bored” if someone suggests they specialize or develop a treatment niche. Ex: “I would get bored if I only worked with women with post-partum depression.”  Hobbyists run the risk of becoming complacent and less-than-effective treatment providers because they see their work as “interesting,” and something to do, rather than a serious business that exists to help people struggling with serious difficulties, while at the same time making a profit.

Traditionalists:  Traditionalists have successful practices that they run as a business.  However, they use business strategies that worked in 1999 (or earlier).  They don’t have a website, roll their eyes when someone suggests they check out Facebook or Twitter, and may even scoff at the idea that therapeutic relationships can be formed online. Traditionalists see successful therapy as existing in a 50 minute hour, in an office, often paid for by insurance.  This was a great model 5 years ago. It is a dying model now. When was the last time an insurance company increased your reimbursement rate?  When is that next raise coming? Yeah, that’s what I mean.

Innovators:  Innovators started as idealists, tried the traditionalist model (and may have been very successful), but realize that, in 2009, we have a cultural and technological revolution  happening before our very eyes. Innovators are ready to try new models of treatment and intervention.  They listen to their clients about their needs, their lives and stressors and try to provide support to meet those needs in real time.  Innovators understand change is a part of life and are ready to make informed shifts in their practice to keep up with the times.  Innovators do not abandon what works, rather they incorporate new paradigms and are willing to experiment with new approaches.  Innovators can initially look a little flighty to hobbyists and traditionalists, but will ultimately have  successful practice businesses because they are meeting clients where they are at and addressing the realities of people’s every day lives. Innovators also do not rely on one income stream (i.e. insurance) and are aware that they can help more people and make more money utilizing the new technologies available to them.

So, what are you?  What kind of practice do you want to develop?  How can a successful Traditionalist move to a more innovative practice?

Dr. Susan Giurleo is a licensed psychologist who owns her own successful private practice and teaches other mental health professionals about private practice success. She is the author of The BizSavvy Therapist Blog http://www.bizsavvytherapist.com where you can find tips on how to help more people, make more money and enjoy life as a mental health professional.

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I was savoring the last bite of my raspberry cheesecake as the lunchtime speaker began. Twenty-five of us from all walks of entrepreneurship were at our local chapter meeting of Women’s Referral Service. We had networked, finished our chicken taco salad and now it was time for the speaker.

044_78016_hToday’s speaker was a financial planner. She was a lovely, soft-spoken, intelligent woman who discussed SEP-IRAs, trusts, annuities and other types of investing. She reminded us how much money we would need in order to retire (“the number.”) She spoke in very simple terms and I learned a lot that day about tracking my income, expenses and investments.

As she ended her talk, she paused dramatically and made eye contact with many of us in the room.

“I know there are a lot of solo-preneurs here – people who have a sole proprietorship company. It can be wonderful and lonely to work by yourself. It is easy to forget that you must work on your business and not just in your business. So make sure you market your business and track your money. Make a profit. Because if you don’t make a profit, then you have a hobby – not a business.”

You could have heard a pin drop. Every single one of us was staring at her and I think some of us had stopped breathing. My business life started to flash before my eyes. My goals were simple: 1) help people 2) pay my bills. That was it. If I did that, I was happy.

You see, having a business was something that I wanted to avoid. I had done the corporate and management thing. I was tired of skirted suits and high heels. I knew I just wanted to have people sit on my couch for 45 minutes while I provided brilliant therapeutic interventions and then they would leave. I did not want the stress and headaches of managing office personnel or other corporate responsibilities.

Then I had another thought. I had no money saved for retirement. I had not taken an actual vacation in six years. When my car needed major repairs, I had to charge them, as I didn’t have any emergency funds. My clothes often came from discount places – and truth be told – sometimes from second-hand shops. I was terrified my computer would have a hard drive crash because – although I had been meaning to – I had not saved a cent for the new one I knew I’d need soon. Somehow I was always surprised when my annual car insurance bill showed up.

Serendipitously, my dad came to visit that weekend. He is a great support of my business venture. He asked, “So, you making any money at this therapist business?”

Good heavens! I had no idea how to answer that question. I had gone over my figures after listening to the financial planner earlier that week and realized I was breaking even – as long as you didn’t count emergency charges on my credit card, no savings, and dining on 99 cent green burritos at the local taco place most nights.

It was time to make a change. The first thing I did was look at my aversion to actually having a business. I was comparing my tiny therapy practice to a billion dollar corporation. It seemed there had been only two options in my mind – breaking even vs. managing a huge corporation with the associate worries about buildings, equipment, customers, suppliers and employees. To think those were the only two options open to a business owner was ridiculous.

I began to design a financial plan for the practice I wanted. Instead of ignoring the fact that I hadn’t taken a vacation, I put the money for one into the budget. I created an “emergency fund” for unexpected expenses such as broken water heaters. An “irregular expense account” was created to save (in advance) for expenses that came throughout the year – for example, malpractice insurance and continuing education classes.

As you can imagine, I needed to bring in more money that I had been earning. Some changes needed to be made in the way I ran my practice in order to have the additional money. In the next two chapters we will talk about how to calculate how much money you need. I call this “The Revenue Assignment.” Then, in future chapters, we will discuss ways that you can bring in that additional money.

In all honesty, it took a couple of years to really get the hang of being on top of my money. I remember one October I made more money than I had made in the prior two months. It was very exciting. I made a huge contribution to my SEP-IRA. I bought a gorgeous designer purse. I all but stopped my marketing efforts as I basked in all that money. November came and went. Then December hit. It seemed every client I had decided to “take a break” during the month of December. I had no money saved for the seasonal lulls in my practice. That became a new category in my financial plan and the next year, I took off three weeks in December. The “December money” was in the bank and I enjoyed my vacation.

But little by little, my income increased and my retirement account grew. Going out for a nice lunch with a girlfriend was a treat – rather than a worry. For the first time in my private practice career, I started to relax. I had a business with a well-planned safety net.

Some of my therapist clients readily admit that they want to do therapy as a hobby. They would like their practice income to compensate them for their practice expenses but these practitioners have no need for their private practice income to pay for any personal or household expenses. Usually these are clinicians who already have a lot of money or they have a family member who is supporting their household expenses. And in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Not that there is anything wrong with that.” We all have hobbies and if providing therapy is yours, more power to you! My concern is with the thousands of clinicians who have not felt it was okay to make a profit – the ones who haven’t looked at their numbers out of fear or ignorance and are worrying about the rent payment at the end of every month.  It doesn’t have to be that way. You can learn a few new skills or implement some you already know and start enjoying a lifestyle with less worry and more fun and freedom.

Market your practice on Find-a-Therapist.com

Business Coach  Casey Truffo is a Marriage and Family Therapist in southern California. She identified 8 key strategies that helped her business flourish, and began to help other therapists build their practices. Now she devotes her professional life to helping great clinicians learn what they didn’t learn in graduate school about how to have a fun, fulfilling and profitable private practice. BeAWealthyTherapist.com

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