Relationship Dollars vs. Advertising Dollars

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How do you choose to reach out to potential clients?

The options seem endless.  You could post ads in local newpapers or magazines.  You might try mailing postcard announcements or leave nice brochures at networking events and in physician’s offices.  And what are the results of all these efforts?  In all honesty, the outcomes are probably going to be pretty poor.

The sales conversion rate for advertising is usually in the single digits (1-4%) so it’s not a surprise when people spend hard earned money and get minimal results in return.  The reality of the situation is that you’ll need to do a lot more than advertise if you’re going to achieve real growth in the mental health profession.

Do you have a great idea for a mental health product or service you feel everyone will want?  Sure you can announce it to the masses using a number of advertising vehicles and hope people will take notice.  However, before you dive in head first, my advice would be to start by defining how you plan to create true interest and buy-in from the people you want to reach.  As an example, what would motivate someone to call you to schedule a therapy appointment?  Most likely it has something to do with relationships.

A doctor who knows and trusts the work you do will undoubtedly recommend patients to you.  Your volunteer efforts at a  local school will bring visibility with families and teachers thereby increasing the chances they’ll take notice of your future marketing efforts.  There are a multitude of mental health marketing success stories and they all point to the importance of relationship building.

Marketing used to be mostly about advertising, but today it’s about building networks and fostering communities.  It’s about telling stories people want to hear, adding value through information sharing and participating in open and honest conversations that motivate and energize people.

So, before you go off spending money on advertising ask yourself some of these questions.

  • What’s my relationship to potential and existing clients?  Is there any positive point of reference (e.g., a recent talk I gave, a recommendation made by a client’s friend) that will add impact to my marketing efforts?
  • How can I build a stronger relationship with existing and future referral sources?
  • How can I provide value to referral sources and prospects so they’ll have benefited from my skills and trust what I stand for before they ever choose to buy?
  • Do I have a great product or service?  (No amount of advertising will sell a service or product that simply doesn’t meet the needs of clients.  And if you send something out to market without fostering a community or developing relationships then many will view what you are selling with extreme caution.)

It’s certainly fine to advertise, but if your advertising efforts exists in a vacuum you’re wasting your money.  You need to support advertising efforts with a long-term relationship building approach.  When you accomplish this your advertising becomes powerful.  You have, in essence earned the attention of your customers.

So instead of spending all your time and money developing a brochure or designing an advertisement, focus first on ways to build credibility, to offer unique services that will get you noticed, to expand your network and to create a following of people who are invested in what you do and offer.

Relationship building is your best form of advertising.


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