19 January 2010

Step 2 in Becoming a Client Magnet

Following on from the last post, the marketing question to ask today is this:
What makes you unique among your peers who do the very same work?

And let me encourage you to try to answer this from your prospective clients' point of view. Think about their decision making process. What's the intangible something that you have and others don't that will cause clients to select you for their counselor, coach or ND?

Hint: this isn't necessarily about your training, and usually it won't be about your clinical affect or coaching presence. We're all warm and supportive, each of us creates safety and an atmosphere of enthusiastic hope. Those aren't unique selling points in our business.

What is it in your own history and set of personal interests that give you your passion for wanting to do your work in the world?

Maybe you specialize in working with women with postpartum depression because you know what that's like, because your own life has been touched by it in some way -- be it in yourself, your sister, a friend, etc. This gives you empathy and insight that no one who has never had PPD can fully comprehend.

Perhaps the dream of your youth was to be a professional dancer -- until you blew out your knee or injured your back, and your entire self-concept was suddenly, traumatically altered. As a healer now you bring a depth of personal understanding into every encounter with clients whose life dreams have been shattered in a similar way.

Knowing that you have had your own challenges and have overcome them -- of that you have a personal connection to someone with such challenges -- is a compelling factor in the selection process when prospective clients are searching for a provider.

Clients expect us to have been trained and tested. They assume we follow the standards of practice for our particular field. Most aren't knowledgeable enough to know the difference between techniques or schools or approaches to our work. We don't need to over emphasize these factors in our marketing. What starts building rapport and trust is a glimpse into who we are as individuals.

Coaching questions:
What type of experience in your own life sets you apart? How much of that are you comfortable with disclosing in your marketing?

What qualities of personality contribute to your uniqueness, compared to your peers? Are you more direct than the norm, do you listen more, ask more powerful questions, go out of your way for clients more, etc? What unique personality features will stand out to prospective clients comparing you with your peers?

17 January 2010

Step 1 to Effective Client Attraction

Friends and colleagues, it's time to get back to basics with a pop quiz. What's THE number one most important step to attracting more clients to your healing arts practice?

Aw, c'mon, take a guess. Do a website? Network like crazy? Build a referral system with allied providers? Get on insurance panels?

Useful as all of those strategies are, they are not THE essential first step. So what is?, I hear you ask.


That's right, time. As in, carving out time -- daily -- for taking strategic action steps, and then giving those actions time to work.

Something so simple seems to be enormously difficult to accomplish. And I'll confess right now that I don't always manage it either, what with actually working with clients, creating new resources (my "artistic" passion), keeping up with bookkeeping and other non-marketing business demands, and striving for balance in the rest of my life.

But I can testify to the fact that when I work an action plan daily, I get more new clients, or returning clients, than when I goof off in my marketing discipline.

I have clients with success stories who are living proof that daily discipline in working an action plan does pay off, and faster than expected.

So why is this a habit that is so hard to adopt? Three reasons come to mind:
  1. the thought of daily marketing feels overwhelming
  2. we aren't really sure what to do or how to do it
  3. we give ourselves legitimate excuses (but those just sabotage our business)
I'll let you in on the secrets to getting beyond these reasons and getting into the daily action plan habit. Ready?
  • Take on one project at a time
  • Make the action steps small and easy
  • Track your accountability on paper (or in Excel)
  • Use an accountability partner (colleague, friend, coach) to keep you focused
  • Get just-in-time help for only one immediate project or one action step at a time
  • Set your action plan work time into your business schedule as an appointment with Success
  • Identify your time wasters and energy vampires, and eliminate them
  • Sacrifice a little leisure, social or volunteer time for a month & devote it to your business
Coaching questions:

What are your personal time wasters and energy vampires? What will you do today to eliminate them from your attention for the next 30 days?

Look at a project or marketing strategy you know you should be tending to. How can you break it into small, easy action steps?

What specific time block each day will you commit to making your business a success?

11 January 2010

Set It and Forget It – Bad, Expensive Idea

Last week I was contacted by an out of state “firm” who had trawled Meetup groups for clinicians seeking marketing help and wanted me to recommend their services to “my constituents.”

In checking out their glitzy website, I discovered that their offer included an onsite assessment from “secret” patients (as if my practice were a clothing store or restaurant), a report replete with statistics on demographics, psychographics, and growth goals, and a strategic business plan – all for only $5000.

Further checking showed their minimum recommended level of budgeting for marketing was $5000 a year, and included items such as promotional incentives and gifts to get new clients – common practices in some industries. This firm could apparently accomplish everything for me short of driving new clients to their appointments.

Hmmm. When you’re a one person show, it’s very tempting to want to outsource all the thinking and planning and implementing of business operations and client attraction work. An offer like this appeals to our desire for set it and forget it marketing.

I can remember the time when I too wished I could hire a promoter to get clients lined up at my door. It would have been a great solution to the anxiety and insecurity I felt about having to talk about the benefits of counseling in a way that would convince people they needed it, and that would persuade them that they should hire me.

What this approach to marketing your private practice fails to consider is that tactics that work in retail, or for large impersonal clinics with multiple clinicians and admin staff don’t work for counselors and coaches with a solo practice.

Our distinguishing feature is in the quality of relationship we build and sustain with prospective, current and former clients. That takes constant personal attention. It can’t be wholly outsourced.

No slick advertising or website / brochure produced by an out of state consulting firm can successfully capture your unique personality and healing presence.

Phew – you’ve just saved yourself several thousand dollars.

Coaching questions:
When you feel resistant to marketing your solo practice, what anxieties and insecurities are under that resistance?

What do you need when feeling those anxieties and insecurities?

How can you feel them, and not let them stop you from extending your warmth and humor and genuine personality when connecting with potential clients?

08 January 2010

Do You Have My Mother Too?

My 90 year old mother is conditioned by her life experience of living through the Great Depression, and by her religious views, to expect the worst. She lives in fear and pessimism.

So I'm not a natural optimist. Fear of doing the wrong thing, of making shaky or bad situations worse, is more often than not the pot that percolates in the back of my mind.

And I'm here to tell ya -- it's hard to run a business that way. Seems common sense, doesn't it? I'm surprised by how many of my clients have the same mother.

Where I strive to live, and help others dwell, is in the knowing that if you can avoid making choices from a position of fear and desperation, that's always best. Fear based decisions usually trap us in what we don't want and keep us from moving forward to achieve what we do want.

Now sometimes I think we get handed what looks like "sensible" solutions or opportunities as a kind of test of our intention to make the changes we've said we want to make. For example, between Dec 15 and Jan 4 I got multiple requests to do astrology readings (something I used to do as a sideline business).

I had made the decision to not be in that business any more. But here were those opportunities. Much as the extra income would have been nice, I turned them down because I recognized the requests as a test of my resolve to not live in fear of rejecting income opportunities, and to not scatter my focus from my primary business.

So, my bias is -- We have to insist on allowing the universe to support us in the intentions that we put out there, and not confuse the law of attraction energetic dynamic by sending mixed messages (as in, I don't know what I want so I'll do anything I'm sent to do).

Coaching question:
What are you insisting on allowing the universe to support you in this year? If you believed the universe is there to support you in achieving your clearly and specifically stated goals, what could you accomplish this week?

06 January 2010

Do We Really Need to Tweet?

Everybody's Tweeting, it seems. Where once you were left in the dust if you didn't have a website, or a blog, now the craze is to Tweet.

Incessantly. Mindlessly. Time-consumingly.

I might be clinically anti-social, but I don't get the appeal of reading what you had for breakfast, where you walked the dog, or how much you adore /hate American Idol. Nor has it -- yet -- occurred that I've made real friends (call me old fashioned, but if I've never heard of you, you can't possibly be a friend).

Can engaging in social media really build your counseling or naturopathic practice? Should Twitter, et. al., be a central part of your marketing strategy?

They -- you know, those people who know everything -- say that engaging in the social media frenzy is absolutely necessary to having a successful business. Could that be true?

So far as I can tell, no counselor I know of, and no ND I'm in touch with, is filling their practice with clients gained from spending hours -- much less offering one tweet a day or week -- on Twitter. Or Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, or any social media site. I think this is because there is an essential ingredient missing in the instantaneous global broadcasting of one's daily trivia, personal inspirations, private wins, idiosyncratic gripes, and self-serving promotions.

The missing ingredient is actual relevant value to the recipient of others' streams of consciousness.

What Twitter especially can do for us, is be a traffic cop in helping send more readers to our newest blog post, or to a fresh offer on our websites, or to info about an upcoming event that helps shed light on or solve the problem that our ideal clients have.

Note that the strategic effort goes into the problem solving blog, website, or creation of an event.

Okay, now that I've thrown out my 2 cents, it's time to Tweet that this post exists.

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04 January 2010

New Decade, Fresh Start -- how will you use it?

I'm excited about the dawn of 2010 -- are you? There's something significant about completing the first decade of this millennium and century. Have you taken a moment in this waning week to realize the many positive changes and achievements you have accomplished in the last 10 years?

Before moving forward with new hopes and plans, it's good to review:

1. In what area(s) of life did you have high satisfaction?
2. When were you most surprised, challenged, and delighted?
3. Where did you get support you didn't expect?
4. How have you integrated lessons learned, and celebrated growth?

Then, it's good to look forward with a sense of purpose and a little extra boldness:
  • What do you envision for self, relationships, business, or community improvement for this new year?
  • What do you need to empower your efforts in bringing such improvement into being?
  • How will you engage your time, attention, inner resources, and commitment in service to your vision?

Remember, it matters little where you've been; it matters a lot where you're going.

Coaching Questions:

  • How will you be using your fresh start this year?
  • What would make this year absolutely perfect for you?
  • If you were 10 times bolder, what risks would you take?
  • Are you holding yourself as accountable as you could to make of your business, health, relationships, or life as much as you can?
  • If not, what's stopping you?