There are many ways to promote a private counseling practice. Traditional means of advertising involve print advertisement, word of mouth, and being listed in local business directories. The digital world, however, has provided a few additional opportunities which lack analog equivalents. Some examples of these, which aren't entirely dissimilar to previous forms of marketing, include online business and website directories. Others include social media networking, and pay-per-click advertising.
One means of drumming up business for a private practice includes attendance at workshops, seminars and other events. Many of these are free seminars, which can lead directly to networking opportunities: get your name out there, and people who can benefit from your services will be referred to you by your fellow professionals. This is a much-neglected marketing medium; think of it as an analog equivalent to modern social networking, but without the over-saturation and irrelevant content. This is literal peer-to-peer networking at its finest.
Here are five ideas for free seminars to help drum up some business for a private counseling practice:
Get In With the Right People
Some professionals, in attendance at seminars, actively avoid individuals whose expertise connects too closely with their own. This is a mistake; seminars draw in qualified professionals from a very large area, often internationally. Connecting with people who work in your capacity can lead to referrals for potential clients who live too far away to be viable customers for your competition.
Focus on Presentation
Present yourself professionally. You want to be the equivalent of a race car driver, but your sponsors are professionalism, dignity, and expertise. Dress professionally, but with a sense of the approachable. Carry yourself upright; have a warm smile at the ready, and a firm handshake. Don't pull people in towards you; afford them their distance. Have professional business cards at the ready, but exercise some restraint; approach people on the basis of your services being valuable.
Ask for Assistance as Needed
Sometimes, it takes reaching out and touching someone (figuratively speaking) in order to secure the help you need. If you are having trouble converting contacts to clients, or your advertising budget isn't producing the results you were expecting, there are worse courses of action than simply asking around. Chances are, somebody else has had some of the same issues, and has found a way to overcome them.
Being professional is all well and good, and most professionals understand this. However, the digital age has placed new emphasis on transparency and humanity: people want to put a face to the various agencies they're dealing with, and this attitude of "more personal" is slowly trickling upward. Maintain a sense of warmth, and a certain personable (what might once have been called "casual") attitude in dealing with people at a conference. Make sure, when you're face-to-face with your fellow professionals, that your face reflects — not just professional competence — but also honesty, straightforwardness, and courtesy. You need to be someone that another professional in your specialty would consider sending a friend or a loved one too, if they were too far away to be of assistance.
Keep in Touch!
Once the seminar is over, any contacts you made are going to be bombarded by marketing efforts from people trying to do the same thing you're doing. Exercise patience, and keep in touch through more than one medium, while keeping communication simultaneously brief and valuable. If you sense the opportunity for a mutually beneficial arrangement, such as cross-referring patients in accordance with your respective areas of expertise, emphasize this. Make it about what's best for both of you (and for your clients).
For a private counseling practice, as in any business or industry, free marketing opportunities are too valuable to ignore. Marketing is an increasingly confusing and expensive industry, and the addition of new mediums and philosophies to the marketer's toolbox isn't making that any less of a true statement. By knowing how to approach people in the changing scene of 21st century professionalism, you increase your chances of securing valuable, lasting contacts, which will continue to work in your interests for years to come.