25 November 2009

7 Things to Think About When Creating Your Website or Hiring a Designer

Websites and blogs both need to be designed. Fortunately, many template-based, free or low cost, easy do-it-yourself (DIY) platforms exist for tech-less solopreneurs to accomplish this relatively quickly.

To work as the effective center of your web-presence, your website and/or blog needs to be created with multiple functions in mind. The old idea of a website simply being an online brochure is no longer a smart approach for attracting clients.

At minimum, this is what all solopreneurs in the healing arts need:
  • a visually attractive and attracting design
  • conversion elements such as data base builder contact management and autoresponder widets
  • good search engine optimization (SEO)
  • compelling copywriting
  • purposeful strategic marketing
Those who are a little more technologically able or fascinated, may also want to include the following (and some DIY web and blog builder programs offer the ability to include these fairly easily):
  • appropriate community-building components such as a forum and rss feeds
  • social media integration
Not all private practitioners will need the more gee-whiz capabilities, particularly if your business relies strictly on in-person clients, and you aren't even trying to reach millions of consumers to become an internationally recognized expert or product seller.

Most web designers can provide pretty pages with smooth navigation and install conversion elements. Many can ensure or advise on SEO. Some will know how to best incorporate community building and social media components.

Few are really skilled in helping you write compelling content. Almost none will know how to develop good client attracting marketing for the private practice professions that have more conservative ethics than the majority of internet businesses.

If you don't yet have a website or blog for your business, or if you know you need to update and upgrade, ask yourself:
  • what do I want my website or blog to do?
  • what do my ideal clients need from my website or blog?
  • what's the easiest, cheapest, best way to provide that?
  • how much can I create and control myself?
  • what will I need a designer's or tech-savvy person to help me with?

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24 November 2009

2 Ways Therapist Training Sabotages Your Marketing

I have a lot of psychotherapists for coaching clients, and I'm seeing an interesting pattern of learned self-sabotage in how counselors tend to approach marketing. It's ironic that we gain a deep knowledge of mental disorders in graduate school, but nothing about the psychology of what motivates people to seek help.

Most therapists are trained to resist providing answers when clients ask for advice. Unfortunately, that carries over into how therapists try to market, and it doesn't work for getting clients.

When people are in emotional distress, they want to stop feeling bad, sad, mad, out of control, incapable, scared, or hopeless. Our marketing needs to acknowledge how they feel and provide a belief that there is a solution that will help them end, overcome, lighten, or otherwise change their felt distress.

This is what motivates them to seek help. This is what our marketing must say.

Secondly, almost all therapists are schooled to keep their personal lives separate and secret from clients. Sometimes that's wise, if you work with dangerously unstable populations. But most of the time that non-disclosure rule prevents the essential know you / like you / trust you factor in marketing that brings people to you door.

Recitation of credentials is not the same as self-disclosure. Especially when given in the impersonal and pseudo-professional 3rd person style of talking about ourselves as if we were someone else, our credentials can come across as cold and distancing. A listing of degrees, awards, and continuing education with trainers no client has heard of is more intimidating than connecting.

Instead, self-disclosure for marketing tells the story of why you are interested in working with a particular type of client with a specific type of problem. It presents you as having your own life touched in some way by something similar. It creates rapport and trust.

Feeling rapport and trust motivates prospective clients to select YOU out of the five dozen other therapists in your zip code.

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20 November 2009

20 Thoughts to Juggle in Naming Your Business

Selecting a good business name is always a challenge. There are lots of considerations to keep in mind.

  • What will the name mean to people who are seeking the type of services you are offering?
  • Will the name have a degree of energetic resonance for these people, such that it conveys exactly what they are seeking and they recognize that the first moment they see the name?
  • Is the name a clear descriptor for your service, conveying what your business actually does or is?
  • Will it create conversation or confusion?
  • Is it inspiring for you as well as for your clients?
  • Is it short enough and powerful enough to be memorable, and easy for others to spell correctly?
  • Does the name evoke a visual image and felt-emotional connection?
  • Is there an inherent positive connotation to the name?
  • How many ways can it be misunderstood or misspelled in a Google search?
  • How much time and effort are you prepared to put into promoting / explaining your business name?
  • How much competition is there for a similar name?
  • Does the name convey expertise in a niche market?
  • Will clients be able to spell and pronounce it when referring you to others?
  • In an international marketplace (if your clients will come from across the world), can your business name possibly be a bad word or have inappropriate or detrimental associations in another language?
  • Does the name suggest any particular color or color combination and will that match or clash with your branding scheme?(fascinating article on color meanings here: http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/color/a/symbolism.htm)
  • Is your favorite name, or one very close to it, already registered with the appropriate business licensing authority?
  • Does the name convey a serious business, or is it suggestive of an amateur hobbyist?
  • Did you test several names with people likely to be in your ideal client target market?
  • Did you test several names with 8-10 year olds and could they tell you what your business does?
  • Can you fall in love with your business name, and wear it proudly on a sticky networking badge?

Well, you get my drift. Lots to think about.

I personally like names that hold some special meaning to the business owner, that have some special "zing" to them, while also being memorable and descriptive of the actual work being sold.

Ultimately the marketplace will tell all of us whether we've got a great magnetic business name, or one that gets us lost, forgotten, or is off-putting.

19 November 2009

5 Great Cyber-Resouces

In our professional training we all learned to seek out the newest peer-reviewed research, or the classic well-referenced textbook when needing to learn a new technique or gain deeper knowledge about a particular problem.

As business owners we need to rely on information from others as well, even though we have less time for self-education. Here are some of the most reliable, knowledgeable, easy to read source of info on running and marketing a private practice that I turn to all the time.

Chris Brogan for new media marketing

Ronnie Noize for her Top 10 (Easy) Ways to Ask for the Business

CJ Hayden's practical tips to Get Clients Now! (tm)

Rhonda Hess's excellent blog Prosperous Coach

Janet Slack's tweets point to great tools

Who do you keep in your cyber-library of resources to consult when you're stuck on a business management and marketing problem? I'd love to hear about your resources.

11 November 2009

3 Reasons to Be a Go-To Guy or Gal

A go-to person is someone who is knowledgeable, resource-full, generous of spirit, and enjoys being helpful without coming across as constantly pushing their own services and products with high pressure sales tactics. It may be a natural personality characteristic, but it's also a great marketing strategy.

Reason #1: It draws more ideal prospects to your door.

Prospective clients -- people who fit our ideal client profile but may not yet be ready to seek our services -- do like to window shop. It's human nature. And everyone likes to get something for nothing, or find a bargain. People naturally seek additional information from former sources, and tend to hire providers with whom they have already created a kind of psychological bond. When we establish ourselves as knowledgeable, generous sources of helpful information is creates rapport and loyalty between you and the prospect.

Reason #2: It keeps the energetic attraction magnet working for you.

There's a metaphysical principle that what you put out comes back to you three fold -- another way to state one of the laws of attraction. Being helpful and generous with your time and information, we invite to us people who will surprise us with referrals and opportunities to take our work into realms we may not have thought of. Becoming known as the go-to person in our area of expertise is like fueling up the lighthouse beacon -- energy flows brightly from us, and unexpected rewards know where to find us.

Reason#3: It deepens your credibility, and others' trust in you.

Giving away some degree of help and information puts our priority on being of service. It furthers the know you, like, you, trust you factor that makes people feel it's safe to trust us with their secrets, fears, and vulnerabilities. In sales terms, it's a try-before-you-buy offer or test drive to determine fit, function, worth of our paid professional services. In other words, it's good business because it helps establish the credibility of our services.

Coaching question:
What area of your professional interests will you become the go-to person for?

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09 November 2009

Fear, Flow, and Focus

Are your client attraction efforts propelled by fear? How many of these fears can you relate to:
  • Fear of not being visible enough to prospective clients?
  • Fear of being too visible and drawing people who are wrong for your practice?
  • Fear of not doing enough marketing, so you do a little of everything?
  • Fear of not doing the right marketing, so you feel paralyzed or overwhelmed?
  • Fear of losing traction, so you get caught up in frantically searching for more ways to promote your business?
  • Fear of marketing taking over your life, so resistance comes up and prevents doing any at all?
  • Fear of looking or sounding unprofessional, silly, stupid, or sleazy?
Having to combat such fears makes it all the more difficult to produce an effective, compelling, client attracting marketing message. A confident mindset with a good amount of belief in yourself is absolutely essential to the success of any self-promotion strategy.

I highly recommend having some strong techniques for feeling the fear and promoting your business anyway. That should include confident self-talk, an accountability partner, and a step by step system to persistently follow.

Many of us by nature or training value being in a "flow" state of mind, where we've heard that high creativity exists. There's nothing wrong with that when we need to generate new ideas or produce a specific product. How that often plays out for marketing a private practice, though, can look like this:
  • dabbling at many marketing actions, mastering and following through on few
  • interacting with your business as if it were a hobby
  • scattering your energies with disconnected approaches to spreading the word about your services
  • starting the business day waiting for inspiration, energy, or motivation to strike
  • flitting from one strategy to the next without giving each enough time to produce results
  • constantly reinventing the wheel, or being terminally "unique" in promoting your practice
Approaching marketing with this kind of scatteredness is exhausting and expensive for us, and confusing for potential clients. Worse, it sends a subtle message that we don't quite know what we're doing if we aren't consistent with how we market to prospective clients.

I recommend making the best use of the flow state when needing to brainstorm, when wanting to immerse yourself in a creative process, and in visualizing success everyday.

If I could make just one point about client attraction it would be that FOCUS is the big secret. What focus looks like is:
  • making the health of your business a priority on your schedule everyday
  • a well defined understanding of your ideal client
  • an emotionally compelling marketing message
  • a limited number of effective ways to fill your pipeline, get referrals, present yourself and get hired
  • a small set of easy, fun, productive action steps taken every day
Focus includes defining, detailing, planning, following through, evaluating, and adjusting. It often sounds like a lot of work, but getting systematic about it makes it very easy, efficient, and really produces client attraction results.

I recommend setting aside time everyday to tend your business in a focused way with clear, measurable action steps that lead to achievable goals.

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