7 Marketing Tools for the Private Practitioner

by Kimberly on June 18, 2009 · 8 comments

It’s a given. Every business owner needs to market their product or service. You may be the best music therapist in town, but if no one knows about you, you won’t have any customers. No customers = no business = no money.

Some people make a careers in advertising and marketing. But this is not a reality for the private practitioner. For many of us, we need to learn as we go, spending our hard-earned dollars in an area we are untrained in.

Enter these 7 marketing strategies. These strategies are based on real-life experiences. They are geared for the private practitioner who relies on developing relationships within a community. We may work solo or maybe have a couple employees, but the marketing is up to us. We need to figure out ways to solicit customers and eMarketing Strategyarn our communities’ trust.

These strategies are ones I have either personally used and/or have looked into using. Each strategy has a specific purpose. I will offer pros and cons to each strategy as appropriate. I also offer a ballpark price range ($ for little money, $$$$ for lots). These ranges are not formally researched, but are based on my experiences.

The 7 Marketing Tools

1. Business Cards ($-$$). Hopefully this is a no-brainer. Get business cards. Some internet-based stores (e.g. www.VistaPrints.com) even provide cards for free or at least for an incredibly low price (I used Vista Prints when I got started). Stock up on your business cards and always keep a stack close by. You never know when the opportunity will arise when you need to hand your card to someone.

2. Website ($-$$$$). These days you need a website. There are lots of options, too many to cover in one post. You can spend as little to as much as you want to create the right site for you. Your website an either be professionally designed or you can use a pre-packaged template. You can also do as little or as much as you want to update it. Here’s what I did: I paid a graphic designer friend to design and set-up the website (you can check it out here). He used Joomla, a Content Management System, which allows me change or update information as needed, without going through another party. I view my company site as mostly static; it displays information about music therapy and information about the business. There are a handful of sections I update occasionally, but for the most part, it doesn’t change. I also started this blog earlier this year. My blog is the dynamic site I maintain. I learned how to set up a self-hosted WordPress blog and update it 2-3 times a week. Although monetarily free, I did spend time learning how to install my blog and spend time writing and publishing posts. So bottom line is: first, decide the purpose of your site (static or dynamic? updated frequently or infrequently? source of information or of interaction?). Then, figure out how much money and time you are able to devote to launching your site(s). Remember that sometimes it actually saves you money (in the form of your time) to hire someone to launch your site.

3. Marketing Pieces ($$-$$$$). When I started to get serious about marketing, I decided to develop comprehensive marketing pieces (don’t know the technical name). These pieces are designed to target specified prospects. In my case, prospects include agencies, hospitals, and treatment centers. Since I work with a wide variety of clinical populations, I needed flexibility with these pieces. I worked with my graphic designer friend, who developed a standard folder for me to use (see pic below) as well as letterhead. Before mailing the piece, I take the letterhead and, depending on the prospect, tailor the content to target the clinical population. Every folder gets sent with some standard letterhead pieces: information about music therapy and about Neurosong (our staff, success stories, services offered, etc.). I also include population-specific information depending on the client. It cost me a couple thousand dollars to develop and print all the folders and letterheads, but I will be able to use them for many years.

Sample Marketing Piece

Sample Marketing Piece Inserts

4. Postcards/Brochures ($-$$$). One problem with the marketing piece is their cost. Recently, there have been times when other clinics have asked for brochures to leave out in the waiting area for their customers. My marketing pieces cost about $5 each; I don’t want to leave a stack of them out for people to pick up and not use. In my opinion, that is not a good business decision. So, I am working with my graphic designer creating over-sized postcards. For approx. $100, I will have 500 postcards printed and ready for distribution. These postcards will offer very basic information intended to “wet the palette” of the prospect. Unlike the marketing piece, designed to provide comprehensive information, the purpose of these postcards is to get the prospect interested enough to contact me. And although I am not doing so…postcards and brochures are easy to use for mailing campaigns.

5. Press Releases ($-$$). This is actually a tool I have not used, but have thought about using. You can submit a press release in your local community newspaper (and likely to other print and online media outlets as well). I would consider using a press release if my business had an important event approaching, or if I had a special I was running, or if I decided to open clinic space. An option for the future…just not for now.

6. Social Media ($0). Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. The social media world has exploded recently. I joined the ride last February. (Literally…I went from having NO social media accounts to joining Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and starting this blog…all just 4 months ago). The good news? Social media is free. Money-wise anyway. To make it truly useful, you do need to contribute time. How much or how little depends on you. The bad news? For the private practitioner, I am not yet sure if there is any direct business benefit from social media activity, at least not monetarily. I have made $0 from my social media involvement. That said, I do consider it an invaluable resource. It has provided me a forum to educate the public about music therapy (an unwritten part of my job) and has also connected me to hundreds of people whom I would not have met otherwise.

7. Word of Mouth (Priceless). Building a successful business depends solely on creating a keeping customers. Creating and keeping customers is all about developing and maintaining your business relationships. The better you nurture those relationships, the stronger your practice will become. The single most effective way to get new customers is when they are recommended by others. That’s why companies hire well-known people to be their spokespersons (e.g. Jessica Simpson for ProActive or Queen Latifah for Cover Girl); companies choose individuals who are admired and trusted by the community. The idea is that, if the public notices their favorite public figure using a product, they will likely be interested in buying that product. For the private practitioner, that means nurturing your business relationships so your customers will recommend you to others. These recommendations can take many forms, such as testimonials or referrals to friends. This type of marketing tool is priceless.

Quick Tip: One last point: you may have noticed that I mentioned my graphic designer friend several times. One way I have saved money is in design. Although it cost me a pretty penny to design my business’s original look, we use that same look for all my marketing needs (website, marketing pieces, brochures, business cards, etc.). It saves him work as we develop new pieces, which also saves me money. I like that.

I hope these strategies gave you some ideas that you can use for your own business. Do you have any recommendations not mentioned in this post? If so, please share them!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John Lawrence June 18, 2009 at 6:55 pm

There are some great ideas on this blog posting! Being a conference presenter is another way, albeit slower, way of promoting yourself and your business.

Debra Murphy June 19, 2009 at 7:28 am

Kimberly,

You’ve done a great job navigating the complex marketing area on your own. Your advice for other independent professionals is a good start, but as John mentioned, there are other inexpensive ways to make your expertise visible like speaking opportunities and article marketing.

As a marketing coach who works primarily with small business owners and independent professionals and practitioners, I understand the challenges you face in time and budget. However, going it alone without advice from someone who knows what works and what does not, can cost you more in the long run. Most of my current clients have come to me after they’ve wasted money on things that didn’t work. After a few false starts, they realized that it is cheaper to start with a coach, set a limit on the amount you spend with them but get the advice and direction you need to successfully market your business. That way you save time trying to figure it out and you can use that time you save into marketing your business.

As far as your comment on social media not working yet, give it time. You’ve only been doing this for 4 months and it takes a while to realize the effects of social media on your search engine results. Plus now that you have all these pieces in place, how are you using them to market your business?

And finally, my advice to others who are contemplating starting a blog or website is to combine it into one using WordPress. Your web presence should be the one place where you direct all of your traffic from your social media activities. A web site/blog built on Wordpress gives you many benefits like ease of use, great search engine optimization and more.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have questions about marketing. I’d be happy to answer them for you.

Kimberly June 19, 2009 at 2:59 pm

So true! And not only a conference presenter, but also giving workshops, in-services, and seminars in your area. And I forgot about an eighth tool: email marketing. There is a place for that as well. Hmmm…maybe I should re-write the post:D

Kimberly June 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Thank you so much for the wonderful tips and suggestions. I absolutely agree that if you can afford a coach (or, in my case, a graphic designer), hire one. It DOES make a difference. And that’s good advice about using one platform (e.g. Wordpress) for both your blog and website. In my situation, my website had been up and running for year before I started my blog. But my blog is hosted by my website (you will notice that the url reads “www.neurosong.com/KimberlysBlog”).

I’ve been thinking about your comment regarding social media…and thinking about social media in general a lot recently. My clinical practice relies on contracts (usually in the healthcare or social services field) within the community. I have yet to obtain a contract from my social media work, likely because my community prospects are not yet using social media as a tool, so are not finding me that way. Now it may be a different story if I were to create and sell and ebook or a CD; then I could see how my online presence could help me market products. Hmmm…maybe another business idea?;)

I also mentioned in a previous comment that I forgot to include email marketing as an easy-to-use and cost-effective marketing tool. It’s something we are looking into using for my husband’s business (www.BeyondtheNotes.com). There are many, many email marketing providers you can use (aweber, mailchimp, or constant contact, to name a few).

So thank you again, Debra, for the tips you mentioned above. It is a big area with a lot of possibilities for the private practitioner!

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