Expert Tips on Marketing Your Psychotherapy Practice: In a Nutshell

Q: What are some common mistakes that you see people make when it comes to marketing their psychotherapy practices?

A. Evan: When people start their practice, they usually say , “I need a brochure. I need business cards, I need a blog, I need to Twitter, etc.” What happens in this situation is that are are putting the cart before the horse. Think of the type of referral that would be in the best position to refer clients to you. That is step one.

Here’s how to put the horse before the cart.

  1. Identify your potential type of referrer (physicians, other therapists, etc.)
  2. Craft a message to that group, in terms of  “what’s in it for the physician and their patients”
  3. Determine the best vehicle to communicate that message to that group (email, snail mail, brochures, etc.) . 

A. Gail: For example, I’m originally trained as a sex therapist and early in my practice as a sex therapist I wanted to promote sex therapy. I identified gynecologists. The message I wanted to share was that my practice conducts sexuality groups for women. We knew this was going to be a valuable resource for the gynecologists. What we did at that time was created a brochure and mailed them twice a year to more than 400 OB GYN’s. My practice began to develop a reputation among OB GYNs as someone who does sex therapy. Over time we got a lot of referrals and still do. 

Q:  How do you determine for each referral source, what their preferred medium of communication is?

A. Evan: The most effective way to reach other therapists is through networking (at in-person events or online on psychotherapy referral listservs).  We know that physicians do not respond to email. Clergy respond to email as well as snail mail.

Q:  For someone just starting out, what advice would you give them in terms of prioritizing their marketing efforts?

A. Gail: You must have a place where people can find you on the internet. I think it’s essential that people have some kind of online presence. However, the public is probably the hardest market to tap into. It doesn’t seem to be that the most efficient use of your time marketing online to the public. Online presence could take the form of listing yourself on Psychology Today or on your local professional association’s referral list.


Evan Leepson, MSW, MBA has more than 30 years experience creating and implementing effective marketing programs.

Gail Guttman, LCSW. As a therapist with more than 30 years of experience, Gail Guttman’s goals in therapy are to help clients live their lives, realize their potential and remain in positive, loving connection with their most important relationships.  


Readers can purchase Evan’s book at Critical Connections: The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Evan and Gail also offer a one-day workshop entitled, Build an Action Plan to Create or Transform Your Psychotherapy Private Practice.

Is Your Web Content Compelling?

Feature-Oriented Content

Back in the day (when exactly was that)? advertisers would go to great lengths to tout the features of their product or service. Their goal was to convince you that the quality of their product or service was superior. Think of how excited you got when you read the product’s promotional literature. It probably sounded like a technical owner’s manual. An owner’s manual tells you about the details of a product.

Feature-oriented language reminds me of the old television show, Dragnet, where the police would say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Features = facts. Feature-oriented content is telling someone about something. Not very convincing, in fact, it’s downright boring. Feature-oriented content is what’s known as ‘tell’ content. “Let me tell you about X, Y and X features of my product of my service. Where’s the compelling sales message?

Benefit-Oriented Content

Towards the end of the early years, some creative advertising writer thought that advertising messages should focus, not only on the features of a product, but, also on the benefits of the product they are selling. And so, benefit-oriented content came flying in to the mainstream. Benefit-oriented content answers the question, “What’s in it for me, the customer?” Benefit-oriented content sells, not tells. This type of content convinces customers that your product or service will help them. Customers want to know what your product or service can do for them.

Use benefit-oriented content on your website, brochure, or any other printed material. Start with a short headline. Try to use less than seven words in the headline. Next, write a few sentences of introductory content followed by a bulleted list of benefits. Use as few bullets as possible in order to keep your message clear and concise. Always put a call-for-action on the bottom such as Call Me, Email Me, Go To My Website, etc. Don’t use gratuitous graphics or stale free clip art.

Here’s an example of how features can be turned into benefits. This example is taken from Varidesk’s (the manufacturer of stand-up work desks) promotional content I found on their website.

Example of Promotional Content Used by Manufacturer of Stand-Up Desks

Feature Benefit to Customer
Patented two-handle design coupled with a spring-assisted boost-enabled lifting mechanism Makes moving from sitting to standing quick and easy
Desk works either standing or sitting Perfect way to increase energy, your health, and productivity
No hardware needed to secure desk to workstation Easy to install

The Benefits column definitely answers the question, “What’s in it for me”.

Now it’s your turn. Think about your business. In the left column, list three features of your product or service. On the corresponding right column, turn each feature into a benefit.

What Product or Service Do I Sell?

Feature                                                                     Benefit to Customer
1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.

 Now that you’re comfortable features into benefits, get to work on re-writing all your promotional content.

Big Numbers – Little Impact

Let’s say you’re asked to write a public service announcement promoting diabetes education. You might start out by writing something like – “Do you know that more than 29 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes?”

After reading this, your reader might ask, “what does this have to do with me? I can’t relate to 29 million of anything”

What is it about these large numbers? I believe that using large numbers to make a point can easily overwhelm people’s senses. Here’s an example of how large numbers can be overwhelming.

The Pew Internet Research Project ( collected data about social networking and online usage. They found that 71 percent of online adults use Facebook, 17 percent use Instagram, 21 percent use Pinterest, and 22 percent use LinkedIn. Facebook alone has about 191 million users in the United States.

If you’re writing a business, be careful not to get carried away by using big numbers to build your case to start a business. Applying large numbers (demographic or economic) to help you understand your local market might not portray an accurate picture. For example, do 71 percent of adults in your geographic area use Facebook? Probably not.

Back to the public service announcement. How would you relate to the question, “Do you have a friend or family member who has diabetes?” Most likely, you would say “yes, I can relate to that”. This is an effective way to connect with your audience.

What can you do to avoid using large numbers when creating content (online or print) to promote your business? Here two of the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Think small – If you are starting a business that serves local or regional customers, get data from local business organizations (Chambers of Commerce, economic development associations, etc.). Use data to get an understanding of the unique demographic characteristics of your market.
  • Make it personal by telling a story – talk directly to your audience using common words and phrases to draw them in. Most people can relate to a short story. The diabetes example above can be expanded into a story about how someone prevented himself or herself from becoming diabetic.

Beware of getting sucked into the world of big numbers.

There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

10 Expert Views on Print vs. Digital Marketing

The folks at MetroVista interviewed me and nine other marketing experts (I never thought of myself as a marketing expert) to get our take on print vs. digital marketing. Here’s one part of the introduction to the article.

  • Print marketing offers its audience a sense of creditability; it takes time to write, edit, publish, and distribute. The web can be full of, well, “fake news”.
  • Print marketing might actually have a higher visibility rate because it cannot be as easily disposed of by a click of a finger. Your consumer will at some point hold your information in their hands, not just on their phone.
  • Print marketing targets those who are not always logged in online.


You can find the entire article at

Do You Suffer From Brochure Inertia?

You all know a small business owner who has stacks of unused brochures lying around his or her office. If you asked why the brochures are here, that business owner might say:

  • I printed too many.” or
  • “The content is out-of-date.” or
  • “Now that I’ve had them for a while, I don’t like the color.” or
  • “I found a typographical error after the brochures were printed.”

Each of these excuses are symptoms of Brochure Inertia. Brochure Inertia can be prevented if you consider the following:

  1. Narrow your list, so your mailing tasks will be manageable.
  2. Where will you get the proper mailing list? How much will the mailing list cost?
  3. How many brochures and cover letters should you print? Always mail a brochure along with a cover letter unless you are printing a self-mailer.
  4. Who will write, design and print the brochure?
  5. How much will it cost for design, printing, and postage?

 If you need help with writing and design, go online and search for ‘direct marketing’. You’ll find tips on how to write brochures. You’ll get a feeling of the range of fees and costs involved in printing and mailing a brochure.

My favorite adaptation of the brochure is what I call a capabilities sheet (some refer to it as a pitch sheet). These are printed on one side of a piece of paper only – I print mine on my color laser printer. I like them because I can change the copy to fit the specific needs of a customer or referrer.

For example, I met with a lawyer in a mid-sized law firm to discuss conducting a client retention program. I had previously written a one-page capability sheet for another type of client. This particular client owned a company that provided continuing education programs for healthcare professionals. I wrote a capabilities sheet for this company to deliver a customer service training program for his twelve employees. It was easy for me to modify the existing capabilities sheet for the lawyers.

Three tips to think about when you sit down to write a capabilities sheet:

  • Use bullets in the middle of the sheet and limit the number of bullets (I suggest maximum of seven).
  • Don’t squeeze your phone number, email address, and website on the 
very bottom of the sheet.
  • Next time you check your snail mail, see if there are any postcard styles that would work for your customers or referrers.

I once heard a marketing professional say the purpose of a brochure was to be put in a filing cabinet or desk drawer.

This pessimistic statement does have some merit. But let’s face it, you have to have something tangible to mail and give customers.


There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing

Snail Mail From Some Desperate People

I recently decided to take a good look the junk mail I receive before tossing most of them in the garbage. I thought there might be some new and effective promotional ideas floating around in the world of direct marketing. I was quite surprised what I saw.

I’m going to review four pieces of mail. Spoiler Alert: I was appalled at what I saw.

I know it’s a challenge to imagine what these mailers look like, but use your imagination.

How Not to Sell Financial Planning Services

This gem came in in the form of a 5×8 folded card stuffed in an envelope. On the card’s cover is a color drawing of a turtle. A business card is included. A handwritten note on the folded card read:

Dear.Mr. Leepson,

Enclosed is my card because I have client meetings in your area the week of (Month, Day, Year) and would be happy to meet with you to discuss retirement planning or tax reduction strategies.

John (not his real name)

 I’m wondering:

  • Who is this guy?
  • I’m live in Maryland and he lives in Philadelphia. Why would I hire someone who doe not live in my community?
  • How did he get my name?
  • Why would I want to contact him?
  • What’s the story with the turtle?
  • Am I an afterthought? (maybe he can fit me in after his ‘client meetings’)
  • Why didn’t he have a ‘call for action’?

I remember reading an article in the Washington Post (March 27, 2016) called 10 Steps in Hiring a Financial Advisor. I quote: The first step in hiring a financial advisor is: “Ask Friends: Just as you rely on friends or relatives to find the best doctor or dentist, they can help you find a reliable financial advisor, too. Also, ask work colleagues or friends. Don’t seek out names in the phone book or online”.

 My advice to John: Hire a professional direct marketing copywriter and graphic designer to create your campaign.


How to Infantilize Your Customers

A local real estate agent sent this to me. The business envelope contained a flyer, a business card, and a scratch-off lottery ticket. The copy on the outside envelope, written in red, said Lottery Ticket Inside followed by four exclamation points. On the flyer, there is a childlike drawing of two flowers in flower pots.

The enclosed business card had the requisite smiling photo of the real estate agent with ten lines of copy on one side. On the reverse side of the business card was a 25-word mission statement or something like that.

The lottery ticket was a nice gimmick. It was an effective way to get me to open the envelope. Was it necessary? Maybe. Was a subliminal message being conveyed that selling my house would be a gamble? What does a lottery ticket have to do with real estate?

Have you ever seen a 10-year child use WordArt from PowerPoint to make a flyer? The title of the flyer sure looked that way.

There were twelve exclamation points throughout the flyer. The type was 18 point, bold and purple. Two words were written in bold capitals. There were three cheap looking and amateurish clip art illustrations placed randomly on the page.

My advice to the real estate agent: Look at how other real estate agents in you area are using direct marketing to sell houses. Copy their style. In my part of town, I see real estate agents use over-sized, full-color postcards with photos of properties.


Tooth Decay

I love receiving mailings from dentists. Lots of PhotoShopped smiles and goofy grins. When I first looked at this piece, I thought it was a 5½ x 8½ card. I didn’t notice that it was actually an 8½ x 11 sheet folded in half. This mailer was developed by an advertising agency specializing in dental marketing. I wonder how much this must have cost the dentist? Here’s the headline:

We Love Insurance. Why would anyone love insurance? What is it about insurance that’s loving?

Here are some other irritating things about this mailer.

  • Distracting ampersands (&) are used throughout. This is distracting for the reader and prevents the eye from moving seamlessly through the copy
  • The names of the dentist or dentists are never mentioned.
  • There are five photos of women and three photos of children. I guess men don’t need to go to the dentist. Yes, I know that women make most of the healthcare decisions for the family, so I’ll cut this dental practice some slack.
  • The copy reads One Trusted Office For All Your Dental Needs, yet there are two locations. Which office should you trust?

My advice to the dentist: Contact your ad agency and ask for your money back.


What Is It About These Dentists?

This is an 11×6, two-sided glossy postcard. A company that specializes in direct mail promotion created it. On the address side, there is a smiling photo of the dentist. There are 146 words of content, including the phrase…”A different kind of dentist”. In my opinion, a dentist is a dentist is a dentist.

To make things worse and to add to the clutter to the mailer, there is a coupon for a NO CHARGE exam and x-ray (normally a $400 value). There has to be a catch. At the bottom of the coupon it states:

  • Limited time (doesn’t say how long)
  • Offer only good for residents over 50
  • Must live in the town where the dentist practices

On the flip side of the card, the copy reads Meet a dentist who really cares. Do you know a dentist that doesn’t care?

When free services are offered via coupons, consumers take advantage of the freebie and tend not to purchase the service.

My advice to the dentist: Be clear and more specific about your offer.

This was a disappointing drive down the direct marketing road. If you’re thinking about using direct marketing to promote your business, there are tons of resources online that can guide you through the process of creating effective and creative mailers.


There’s lots more tips and tactics to build your business in Critical Connections-The Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Business Through Referral Marketing