When I launched my counseling private practice several years ago, I was brand new to the Traverse City area. I was coming from another area into a market that was fairly saturated. I was originally from the area, but that was not going to take me very far. I knew that I had to stand out from the typical counselor.
These principles I am about to discuss are not unique to a counselor in private practice. Instead, I would argue, they are great for anyone launching a small business. Maybe it is a yoga studio. Maybe you’re starting a salon or a dog grooming business. These principles will make you stand out quickly, while costing very little other than your time.
Step One: Find a unique niche
For me, I focused on “angry kids.” That was not all that I saw in my counseling private practice, but it was what I focused on. I then worked with “frustrated parents.” From there I moved into “distant couples”. So what is my tag line? Mental Wellness Counseling, we help angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else.
Start with what you know and what you’ve learned personally in your life. Have you lost hundreds of pounds? Did you have a rough childhood? If you can find specific things that make you unique, and then incorporate them into your business, you will stand out. Think of the difference between these two statements:
I help people that are obese lose weigh in my counseling practice.
I was once 200 lbs. overweight, I was unhappy, and I didn’t know what to do. I then changed my life and I want to do the same for others in my counseling practice.
The personal touch is compelling.
Step Two: Look at what others are doing
With the internet, you can check out your competition. Do they have a nice website? Do they buy expensive ads? What are your first impressions? As you study and learn from them, you can see what would help you and what you want to avoid. Will your business be something local, regional, or international? Either way, who are the people that are doing what you want to be doing in five years?
Learn from them and emulate what they do.
When I first moved to Traverse City, I looked at other counselor’s websites. Many of them look the same. They often have views of nature, which is relaxing to some folks. So, I took a completely different approach and put a couch on my website (http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com). Some folks like it, some don’t. However, that single change increased my web traffic by 50% within a week.
Step Three: Collaborate with those in your field
Even though I just mentioned the “competition” it is never that cut and dry. More often than not, there is not a limited market. Think about sushi. Ten years ago, sushi was in big cities, but could not be found in most small towns. Now, almost every supermarket has fresh sushi. Rather than worry about saturating the market, the sushi industry educated the market and grew the demand.
The same happens when you collaborate with folks in your field. You grow the market demand by educating people about what you offer. Further, when you find a tool that works for you, don’t fear sharing it, people will often share tools back. Thus, within your field you will both become leaders.
Step Four: Collaborate outside of your field.
Recently I met with the owners of a restaurant in my area named Chez Péres. We’re launching something we’re calling “Dinner and a Counseling Session.” The idea is that people will come for a counseling session and get a $50 gift card for dinner. We are marketing it toward people that normally would not come to counseling. In fact, we’re viewing it more as a “tune up” for a relationship. What is great about it is that although Chez Péres has a similar market, we are not competing against one another in any way. Thus, the cross marketing is effective for both of us; it is a win-win. http://www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com/dinner
Step Five: Build a website that you can change quickly.
Too often, businesses create a website and then never post anything else. For one, this lowers your ranking in Google, but also, why would people keep coming back to your website? If you build content that people want, they will return or even bookmark your site. For more on this, read my blog post: Setting Up a Website for less than $15
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a therapist, counselor, psychologist, and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com in Traverse City, MI. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else. He is a frequent speaker in the Traverse City area, Michigan, and nationally. He helps counselors in private practice through his blog www.PracticeofthePractice.com and through individual consulting.