28 August 2009

Ugh -- Does Marketing Have to Be So Manipulative?

This morning I read a squeeze page* for a copywriting workshop. The longer it got, the more nauseated I felt.

No question this guy is a brilliant copywriter. He knows all the psychological hooks into the subconscious mind that create the urgent, even desperate, desire to buy whatever can be sold. To borrow a phrase I heard on a tv show, he could sell you the clothes you're already wearing.

Counselors, coaches and naturopathic doctors who try to emulate these types of sales letters for their websites will likely turn off more clients than they attract. It's the type of marketing we all hate, feel slimed by, that makes us want to run away screaming from the computer straight into the shower. UGH!

But, what can we learn that we can ethically use? Here are a few tips I'm translating from his tactics:
  • Individuals in your target niche will be at various stages of readiness for your services. It's wise to have different methods for speaking to each level of readiness, and keep providing more and more useful help until they have decided to hire you to help them.
  • More than touting your unique selling points -- a concept from the 1940s! -- is needed. We have to match a specific USP with our ideal clients' level of perception of pain or problem and their timeline of readiness to hire.
  • Your website home page will work best if it follows the AIDA format: grab attention, connect with self interest, speak to your prospective clients' emotionally compelling desire, and use a motivating call to action.
  • Tone, tempo and pattern in your content is important. Use them to create a sense of safety, rapport, trust, and confidence that you are the right person to help them resolve their pain or problem.
This stuff really isn't as hard as it appears, but it is a skillset that isn't as developed as it needs to be for most solopreneur counselors, coaches, and NDs.

I'd be happy to help you learn to use the marketing tricks that work AND are ethical for our professions.


*A squeeze page is often a very long, one page website that pushes a single product or high ticket conference in a way that manufactures need, installs a sense of fear of losing out if you don't buy now, like it would be a bad decision to resist and affect your life or your business for years down the road. Usually the cost involved is not given until the bottom of the page, sometimes not even until you press the shopping cart button.

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25 August 2009

Free First Appointments vs Paid Initial Sessions

I attended a workshop the other day where I learned these useful facts in the context of coaching:
  • paid intro sessions produce a higher conversion rate -- more prospects become clients
  • paid intro sessions produce higher retention rate -- more clients stay with you longer
  • paid intro sessions produce higher sales rate -- more clients buy higher priced packages
In contrast, I also had confirmed what I already believed, that:
  • free intro sessions can solve too much -- immediate solutions create no incentive to pay for coaching
  • free intro sessions tend to attract non ideal prospects -- fewer people ready and willing to hire you
  • free intro sessions set clients up to undervalue you and your services -- retention rates are lower
Despite these facts, verified by the experience of most coaches with six and seven figure incomes, many new coaches succomb to offering the trial session as a way to "educate the prospective client about coaching." (hint: they don't really care, they just want a solution to their problem).

New counselors also are tempted to try the free first appointment strategy, although few have sustainable success with it.

There are, however, a couple hybrid models for first sessions that intrigue me. One is a type of donation basis strategy, while the other is a type of time control or end-now-or-pay-for-more strategy.

Intro sessions for both coaching and fee-for-service counseling can be offered with the understanding that the client will be asked to pay what they can, or what they feel the session was worth. Personally, I think the cleanest way to do that so that the client doesn't feel pressured to negotiate with you is to direct them to a Make a Donation button on your website, or send a button link to them in an after-session email. Another option is to direct the client to add an extra amount of their choice to their initial required payment for further work.

With a time control strategy, the idea is to provide 15-30 minutes for free, then let the client know what the fee is if they'd like to continue. This should be discussed in advance when making the appointment so that the client doesn't feel tricked by a bait and switch ploy.

Either way, coaches and counselors need to get comfortable talking about their fees and "closing the sale" when talking to prospective clients.

24 August 2009

10 Reasons Counselors, Coaches & NDs Need Good Web Presence

Marketing online is perfect for introverts and those solopreneurs who suffer insecurity, low confidence, shoestring budgets, and greater than normal risk aversion when it comes to self and/or business promotion. But more than this, web marketing is a business success necessity in the 21st century.

You may be surprised at these facts:
1. More than 90% of households with computers in the US use the internet to find health care providers

2. The top search in Google is for health and medical related services, products, and information

3. More than 75% of the 78 million Boomer generation research for their needs and buy online

4. 73% of people aged 45+ say that shopping online is a favorite activity

5. Traditional advertising is declining in credibility and increasingly ignored among internet users -- consumers want to be in control of when and how they learn about something they are in the market to spend money on

6. Word of mouth marketing can be more quickly successful in the era of social media than old school referral systems

7. Social networking increased a whopping 774 % from 2006 to 2007 -- yup, that's seven hundred seventy four percent

8. People who buy from email links spend 138% more than those who don't

9. In 2006, e-books (which are gaining favor among internet users) generated $20 million in sales

10. Web marketing is cheap, flexible, easily correctable,
low risk, with potentially high return on investment

In short, marketing is no longer about persuading the unknown masses to have interest in your product or service, convincing them that they need it, and relentlessly pushing them to buy it right now.

It's about being where your specific clients are already looking for what they already want, and becoming a familiar and trusted entity to them by providing enough immediate help to engage their natural desire to want even more and be willing to pay you for it.

19 August 2009

Following Expert Advice May Be Harmful to Your Business


Perhaps I need to clarify that headline.

Trying out the advice of too many experts at once, without actually following through on any one process or system, will likely be harmful to your bottom line.

As valuable as the advice from different sources no doubt can be, employing a smorgasbord approach to your marketing -- sampling a little of this and a taking a tiny bite of that -- without setting SMART goals and following a coherent plan in a daily, dedicated manner, is not only time consuming, expensive, and effortful for you, but potentially confusing for your target market.

Every client attraction coaching program, teleclass, self-help book, membership club, or home system is going to offer the same basic information for making your services more visible and desirable. The packaging may be different, but the nuts and bolts are the same. Hey, even rocket science and brain surgery have set formulas. You tinker with those protocols at your peril.

What makes you successful in marketing your practice is accountability to your own intentions. Plain and simple. Your clear-mindedness and a persistent, determined, daily pursuit of what works best for getting clients in your door are the most important qualities necessary to start doing really well, as opposed to just scraping by.

Now figuring out what you need to do, and how to do it -- well, stick around. That's what I'm here for. :)

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15 August 2009

Is This the Conversation Your Website Has With Prospective Clients?

Prospective client to counselor: My life is miserable, I can't sleep, my kids won't behave, and I'm scared I'll never get my head above water professionally.

Counselor to client: I'm a licensed clinical social worker in the state of OZ, a 13 year member of the faculty of the Advanced Psychobabble Academy, and an eclectic practitioner of DBT, CBT, REBT, Gestalt,and Technique Du Jour therapy.

Prospective client to counselor: I can't stop obssessing on what my sister said to me, she made me so angry I wanted to strangle her. I need help.

Counselor to client: Appointments are available Tues, Wed, Fri from 5 am to 8:30 am. My office is in the Endless Maze office park. Bring your insurance card and download and complete these 12 forms when you come to the first appointment. Pay online here.


Same prospective client to life coach: I'm failing at everything. Nothing I do works out.

Life coach to client: Great! Life is a journey and we all go through peaks and valleys, fall into potholes, hit roadblocks, get sidetracked or forced into detours. Coaching is the road map to get where you want to go.

Prospective client to life coach: I'm not sure what I need, but I know that I feel trapped.

Life coach to client: I congratulate you on knowing what you want and having the determination to go after it. I will be your cheerleader and partner. Are you ready to have the best year ever?! Let's go!


These examples aren't as extreme as you may think.

Take a look at your website right now, and see if your side of the marketing conversation is really hearing your prospective client and responding to the pain they are feeling when they are searching for help.

12 August 2009

What I Read So You Don't Have To

I'm a useful info junkie. I freely admit it. I spend half my marketing time learning from others, then "translating" that knowledge into direct, practical, easily implemented help for my clients.

One thing that becomes clear in doing this, is that there is a certain amount of advice that is universal when it comes to promoting a self-employed business in the healing arts, and a lot that will never pertain to us.

Here's a list of what I keep up with, so you don't have to:

Seth Godin's Blog
One of the best out of the box thinkers, author of Purple Cow, Meatball Sundae, and All Marketers Are Liars, among other brilliant works.

Milana Leshinsky's Coaching Millions
and the Milana founded Association of Coaching and Consulting Professionals on the Web (ACCPOW)
Smart, direct, common sense guidance that really works, especially for solopreneurs

David Frey's Small Business Marketing Best Practices
Lots of info for product sales / customer driven businesses, some of which is adaptable for the solopreneur in the healing arts.

Joan Stewart's Publicity Hound
Website and frequent ezine for those who want solid, creative ideas for getting attention in the media.

John Jantch's Duct Tape Marketing -- Book and Blog
Especially useful on generating word of mouth referrals from existing clients, but also great on explaining online technologies for non-techies

Rhonda Hess's Prosperous Coach blog
Very helpful resources and perspectives on building a solitary practice.

Robert Middleton's More Clients Blog/Action Plan Marketing
He gets the challenges, obstacles, mindset of the independent professional. Plus he's a Harry Potter fan, so that makes him a perfect match for me.

Fabienne Frederickson's Client Attraction blog and ezine
Starter ideas for conquering the mental obstacles to self-promotion.


More of a clearinghouse of women-written blogs on having your own business, but I especially like Bonnie Price's blog.

A solid, conventional source for understanding the basics of the marketing world, mostly geared for small businesses with more than one employee, but still useful information.

11 August 2009

Wasting Your Time or Making an Investment?

Many years ago a successful colleague said to me that he had learned to stop doing things that didn't make him money. From my perspective trying to operate on a shoestring budget, that sounded good to me.

Turned out it's harder than I thought to know when what you are doing is making money for you, or is just a waste of time.

Oh sure, you can get into tracking conversions, quantifying return on investment, monetizing web traffic and audience attention, and split testing, and other bean counting. But that's not my style. And I bet it's not yours either -- few of us learned how to do all that between classes in psychopathology, naturopathic therapeutics, and advanced coaching methods. (But that's definitely something to outsource to a virtual assistant or bookkeeper)

Any solopreneur business is a game of trial and error. Making errors is important because they provide juicy information.

For example, years ago I spent a trial period of about 15 months doing the conventional networking thing, joining business groups, making the rounds of meetings, collecting business cards, doing the follow up. I got one client from that effort.


On the surface it would seem that that was a colossal waste of time. An error in judgment to think that my introverted personality would be magnetic enough to cause business connections to flock to me for therapeutic coaching, like I was a Northwest version of Dr Phil.

But over the years, that one client became a good referral source. She sent me a dozen or more clients who I never would have met without her intervention.

Moral of this story is: even when you can't see the return on investment of schlepping to another breakfast meeting, don't underestimate the potential money-making value of making a good impression.

(And I'll say more about ways to maximize that initial good impression in a future post)

09 August 2009

If I Were Just Starting Out, Here's What I'd Do

Many of my clients have just finished school. They're newly credentialed, have found / made the perfect office space, told all their friends and family to send them clients.

And now the excitement of being in practice is starting to be replaced by the disappointment if not desperation of realizing they don't know how to sell their services. Uh oh.

Here are my top suggestions -- and the boiled down, borrowed, best advice of other marketing coaches as well.

In the First Phase (3-6 Months) Get Your Marketing Basics in Place

What are the basics?
The basics are a static, rarely changing glimpse that "tells" your niche market how you can help them and "teases" them into feeling motivated to want to know more.
  • Define your niche market, and ensure it's viable (have discretionary money in this economy)
  • Craft a compelling marketing message, and use it consistently on a website, cards, brochures, everything!
  • Set up online profiles in locator services where your prospective clients look for help
  • Pay attention to how your local colleagues are marketing, and position yourself differently
In the Second Phase (6-12 Months) Develop and Systematize Your Outreach

What's outreach? It's making yourself available to provide information in various interactive ways. Outreach listens and responds to live people, develops the know you, like you, trust you factor, by providing help of value, as requested. Some ways to do this include:
  • Signature talks as a speaker for various groups
  • Signature self-hosted workshops
  • Daily blogging, and social media interaction
  • Weekly or Monthly call in hours
  • Participation in relevant "lead generation" networking groups
  • Schedule and commit to doing some kind of marketing task every single weekday
In the Third Phase (12-36+ Months) Package Your Services and Leverage Your Time

Most counselors, coaches, and NDs are primarily service providers. We think in terms of sitting with a client one on one, in private, somewhat expensive sessions. But we have a lot of self-help knowledge that prospective clients want. And we can reach more potential clients by packaging our knowledge into tangible, low price point products. Ideas for this phase include:
  • cds or dvds on easy self-help solutions to a key problem your niche market suffers from
  • special reports, pamphlets, booklets, ebooks, or paperbacks
  • give tele-seminars every quarter
  • hold large conferences and teach a particular skill or solution
  • expand where you provide services (expand your geographical reach)

07 August 2009

Raise Your Hand if You Don't Have a Marketing Plan

Yep, that's what I thought. Most counselors, coaches, and solo-NDs don't.

When I ask my clients what their marketing plan is, I often hear answers like this: I'm looking into graphic designers, thinking about branding and planning to get a website soon. Or, I was thinking about taking brochures to doctor's offices. Or, I don't know, what do you think.

Well, what I think is that the idea of writing out a plan is intimidating to a lot of self-employed sole proprietors. We aren't really sure what's supposed to be in a plan, don't know the right way to make a plan, or the process is just too overwhelming.

The idea of a marketing plan triggers distaste for self-promotion, fear of being too visible in the public eye, insecurities about being on our own as business people, and sets off those feelings of being a fraud. Besides, if we'd wanted to do all these businessy things, we wouldn't have gone into the healing arts, right?

Some rugged individualists resist planning because we think it will pin us down, fence us in, inhibit our range of movement. Usually, these are the types who jump from one idea to another, without building a solid foundation or a clear, coherent, compelling message. (I've been guilty of that, so I can talk. LOL)

There are many benefits to having a marketing plan. It prevents going into panic when clients drop off and new intakes have dried up. It ensures you are connecting with the right prospective clients in ways they are likely to respond to. It keeps you from spending money foolishly on unnecessary advertising ploys pushed by unscrupulous hucksters.

So let me ask you this -- how healthy is your business right now? Is it thriving the way you want? Do you have a waiting list of clients, clamoring to get an appointment this month? Can you confidently project what your client load will be a year from now? No?

In other words, how's it working for ya to take the haphazard approach to marketing? I'd bet it's maybe giving you sporadic returns on investment, but not paving the road to sustainable success.

Starting to feel the need to get your marketing plan together? I'm here to help.

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05 August 2009

Are You Making These 7 Marketing Mistakes Right Now?

1. Waiting until your client load has dropped by 25-50% before you take action?

2. Depending solely on referral sources / insurance panels, or word of mouth to fill your practice?

3. Using cancelled appointment times for everything except marketing?

4. Thinking a website or traditional networking is all the marketing you need to do?

5. Not revising your website to be high touch and client-centered?

6. Not thinking NOW from a prospective client's point of view about the problems they'll be facing come October through January?

7. Wanting to believe you can succeed by doing less than building a systematic marketing system and tending to it on a daily basis?

If you're making any of these mistakes, what are you going to do about it?

What 3 things can you do differently to turn your practice around?

Making the commitment to your business -- as if it were a child whose life you were responsible for, rather than a game to be played when it kills time -- is essential for all solopreneurs in the healing arts who want a thriving practice. What commitments are you holding yourself accountable for today?

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04 August 2009

Magical Thinking in Marketing

In counseling, we often deal with clients who have what we call magical thinking -- the tendency to base decisions and life on irrational ideas and cognitive distortions of reality.

Interestingly, as self-employed business owners, many clinically competent counselors, coaches, and naturopathic doctors engage in magical thinking when it comes to marketing. I thought it might be instructive to see this laid out in comparison to several of the types of cognitive distortions we more easily identify in our clinical patients.

All or Nothing Thinking -- Have you convinced yourself that all you need to do is have a website that lists the benefits of your services and your contact info, or put an ad in a newspaper or phone book, or a profile on a locator service, or get one time advice, and when that doesn't bring in enough clients to fill your practice, you do nothing else?

Marketing is like housekeeping. It's never finished. There's always something more that can be learned and done. It has to be part of your daily business-keeping routine.

Magnifying and Minimizing -- Are you magnifying the expense of getting your marketing foundation in place and minimizing the long term payoff in doing so? Are you over-relying on scattered piecemeal activities and under-utilizing a structured marketing plan?

Solopreneurs in the healing arts tend to sabotage themselves with a pay-as-you-go mentality, rather than having a mindset of investing in what creates life energy for their business and for the future. Many marketing tasks cost little more than time and self-discipline. The secret is in knowing where and when to put your resources for easiest maximum benefit.

Shoulding on Yourself -- Do you tell yourself you should be networking, seeking referral sources, blogging, speaking, etc, when that goes against your innate personality and skills? Do shoulds form the basis of your marketing expectations: for example, you should be getting clients because your website presents your credentials and the benefits of your work?

Assumptions and pre-judgment really get in the way of successful practice building, especially when you don't evaluate their validity or get input from experienced advisers. Marketing is a heuristic game. It requires you to be self-observing, self-evaluating, and self-correcting without getting stuck in shoulds.

Jumping to Conclusions -- Do you construct your own roadblocks by assuming what your colleagues will think of you if you market this way versus that? Have you concluded that niche marketing will limit your client base without actually trying it?

Personal insecurities and an unconsciously defensive attempt to escape them are at the root of this form of magical thinking in business.

A client attraction coaching program on the best marketing activities for your personality, along with work on your confidence level, can alleviate these destructive forms of magical thinking.

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03 August 2009

Do You Have to Sell Yourself to Succeed?

A lot of advice for coaches, counselors, and naturopathic doctors revolves around collecting lots of business cards, telling everyone you know you're in practice, and asking for their referrals.

Once you've done that, this extroverted approach says, you have to follow up with everyone and tell them again.

Pardon me, but UGH!

For those with a more introverted personality who might rather eat worms than promote themselves in such outgoing ways, I'd like to offer another set of activities that work especially well for us.

1. Develop a client-centered website with lots of helpful tips for the problems your niche market struggles with. Make sure the site is 80% about them, and only 20% about you. Have a way for people to pre-pay for an appointment or package on your website.

2. Develop a signature presentation topic, in multiple lengths and formats that offers a solution to your niche market's biggest, most desperate problem, and demonstrate your skills as part of the presentation. Approach potential allied professionals and networking/ professional groups who are your niche or who worked with those who are, and offer to be the speaker at one of their meetings.

3. Find an online forum where your niche market turns to when they seek help, and become an active helper. Become their go-to person on your specialty topic.

4. Start a meetup group, host a coaching tele-group, or offer your services to meet a need in an already formed group.

5. Blog daily, or nearly, on topics and powerful questions you'd ask ideal clients in person.

6. Learn to interact with your niche using Facebook and Twitter.

7. Write an emotionally compelling marketing message about your client, not about you, and not about explaining coaching.

8. Don't give away free services, but do give well timed and well placed perspective shifting questions freely -- these are the best intro to your work and the most intriguing taste of your value, while also providing something of immediate value to prospective clients. It leaves people wanting more, and feeling just fine with paying you.