In their blog pieces Why Give Away Your Time? Do the Math and Community Presentations – A Great Way to Get Referrals” Jeff Zimmerman and Pauline Wallin speak to the need for being involved in your community.
Presentations are a way for you to demonstrate your skill set and to give people an inkling of what type of person you are. It helps them decide if they will take the risk of opening up to you in a counseling session.
Whether it be by active marketing (e.g., making presentations, going to lunch with potential referral partners) or less active marketing (e.g. writing articles in local newspapers, sending articles to physicians on behavioral medicine treatments) - in order to fill our practices we have to let people know who we are and what we do.
Most marketing efforts will never result in any direct referrals to your practice. This is just the nature of marketing. However, you do not need to have all marketing efforts pay off, just a certain number and a certain quality of referral partners.
Some marketing efforts pay off immediately. I have had the experience of doing a presentation in the morning at a workshop for bariatric surgery patients, and that afternoon receiving a call to schedule a therapy appointment to address issues of emotional eating for the client.
Not every marketing effort results in referrals right away. Some result in referrals at a later date. I have done presentations in the community and someone calls me up and says, “I heard you speak three years ago at the hospital. I decided then that if I ever needed to see a shrink that you were the person I was going to call.”
Some marketing efforts pay off at a much later date. When I moved to Atlanta I sent letters of introduction to all of the Addiction Medicine physicians in the area. I let them know about my previous experience and how I might be helpful to them in their practice. Three years later one called me and said, “I saved your materials. Unfortunately my long-term psychologist just passed away. I’d like to talk with you about doing evaluations with my patients.”
Some marketing efforts pay off in unexpected ways. Early in my career I noticed in the newspaper that a substance abuse treatment center was doing talks in the community. I called them up and said, “I’m a psychologist that does substance abuse work. Would you like for me to do one of these community talks for you?” They responded, “No, we have no interest in you doing something like this for us. However, we do need a psychologist to evaluate our patients. Can we meet?” This telephone call led to more than 3000 referrals for psychological evaluations for patients in residential substance abuse treatment centers and helped shape my career.
The bottom line is that you never know when marketing will pay off. Therefore, consistent marketing should be a regular part of your strategy in developing and maintaining your practice.