This is a perennial question I get asked, so I thought it might be useful if I addressed it as a blog post. The simple truth, as I've learned over the years, is that there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer, I'm afraid.
But what IS important is that you ensure that there is at least some consistent focus on marketing activities within your practice every week or month.
Therapist training generally does not address business matters; the focus is invariably on teaching the skills that you need to perform as an effective therapist, and rightly so! But as independent practice becomes more of the norm here in the UK, the need to address the “how” of independent practice becomes more important too.
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In his book “The E-Myth Revisited”, Michael Gerber brilliantly addresses how every independent business person actually needs to be 3 different “people” within their day-to-day business activity. I’ve written more about this and reviewed “The E-Myth Revisited” in a previous blog post – The Three People You Need in Your Business - but Gerber’s point is that you can’t run a practice purely by being the therapist (or Technician, in his example) … you need to have a Manager-element that can focus on bringing in the business, and that is where marketing comes in.
What’s needed is that you build in a block of time each week or month to focus on marketing activity (weekly is probably better, as it becomes easier to make this a routine activity rather than waiting a whole month to do something again and maybe giving in to the temptation to “let it slide this month …”). But how much time depends on you … a day a week is probably too much, for a small business, so look at blocking out an hour or two each week to start with and see how this evolves.
I’d warn here that it is very easy to see that time as disposable and to succumb to the temptation to book a client into that spot if you’ve had an enquiry and that’s the only time you or they have “available” that week. If you possibly can resist doing that, please do, for the longer-term sake of your business … the enquiring client doesn’t need to know about that slot, and they will more than likely accept a slot next week anyway, won’t they?
But you may well ask why do this, when there is a paying client keen to see you at that time? Well, let’s think about that.
Marketing your business is about promoting it to a wide range of potential clients, increasing your profile and recognition in the community so that when a potential client decides they have need of a service such as yours, your name will be higher on the list of possible candidates for the work than someone else’s. An effective hour spent on marketing therefore has the potential to draw 1, 2, 10, or even more new clients to your practice over time, and the more consistent you become in your marketing efforts, the higher your profile and the greater the number of future clients you’ll generate.
Now, let’s say you charge £100 for a face-to-face hour with a client (I know this may be more that you charge, but I’ll use this figure as it’s easy to do the math on!). You get the enquiry and the only time you can fit them in that week is in your “reserved” marketing slot, so you go ahead and book them into that slot to get the business. You earn £100 for that hour.
But … what if that time had been spent on effective marketing, and as a result it returned 10 clients over time. And let’s suppose that the average number of sessions clients work with you per contact is 8 (work out your own figures on this based on your practice). So, in this example, that hour’s focus on marketing would have generated 10 clients x 8 sessions = 80 sessions x £100 per session = £8000. A healthier return, perhaps?
Of course, not every hour’s marketing will produce these results, but as you get more consistent and effective in your efforts, more and more will. So … now you see the potential real value of dedicating that reserved time to your marketing, can you see why I argue that you begin setting time aside to engage in this routinely?
Start with two hours a week, maybe on a time/day of the week when you know demand is relatively slow, and adjust the time allocated depending on the results. But be careful not to let it slide when you get busy … consistent marketing will help ensure that you stay busy, rather than drift into a cycle of busy/slow that can be so draining and makes budgeting for your practice difficult.
Hope that′s given you something to think about ...
For more ideas about how to grow your business, check out my Business Breakthrough Programme and learn how Mirror Coaching can help you grow your practice more effectively.