I’m happy to announce that, after much transitional planning, implementing and some angst, we are well on our way at the new Child Development Partners to a full practice!
In less than a year, I went from no clients, no office, no partner, no new referral sources to…
- New office location (started November 2013)
- A business partner (thank you, Allison Andews)
- New website (thank you Heidi Little)
- Two-three really great local referral sources
- A full client caseload for myself (and building for Allison)
- New client inquiry calls daily (this week we had 5)
Since I’m not a fan of attributing business success to any kind of luck or magic, let me give you the low down on how this went down because I think it’s informative to other therapy businesses in development.
Ultimately, it came down to some very solid foundational planning, flexible business modeling and targeted marketing strategy. Let’s take each in turn.
Foundations that Work
You know we work with kids and families impacted by ADHD and autism. There is a huge need for this kind of support in the community where I set up shop.
The foundations are these:
- Address a real pain point/specialize
- Articulate it clearly
- Be where people need you
I see other business coaches trying to sell the idea that you can do whatever you want and a successful business will be the result. This just isn’t true. If I love to knit wool hats and you live in Arizona, are you buying what I have? Of course not.
Your services need to solve a problem that people really struggle with. Issues around parenting, eating, sleep, chronic illness, employment (or lack of), financial counseling, collaborative divorce, supporting aging parents, substance use. These are all areas where people struggle and seek help.
And despite what some coaches will try to lead you to believe, none of us is awake in the middle of the night worrying about self-actualizing or finding our mojo.
You have to specialize in a world where people debate the nuances of the iphone vs the Android. Specializing is required, expected and marketable.
Flexible Business Modeling
When I restarted the CDP engine last November, I tried to go forward with a “no insurance reimbursement” model. It didn’t work.
I was getting some clients, but they weren’t good fit, didn’t stick around and didn’t do the work. It was pretty miserable, actually.
Then in the spring, Allison and I decided to bite the bullet and add insurance to our business model.
We did all the hoop jumping required to get on two insurance panels and things just took off.
Fortunately, the insurance and our fees are in the same ballpark, so we aren’t losing much financially by taking on insurance.
Yes, it can be a pain and yes, we have to pay someone to help us with billing (hence a financial loss) but our clinical hours are filling up quickly, doctors are referring to us with regularity and clients are happy to pay copays instead of full fees.
We saw the writing on the wall with our payment models. There were some competing “coaching” programs out there charging much less and offering home visits, etc, that we just didn’t want to do. We couldn’t compete with our credentials alone in the self-pay market. So we shifted to another model without much harm to the bottom line.
Each market is different. Don’t buy into business coaching that is one size fits all and demands you do it one way. If you live in Manhattan your model is different than if you live in Boise. Everything comes into the mix – your specialty, your geographic area, cultural expectations, the insurance available in your community, etc.
Prepare to be flexible. Test out models and shift when things don’t flow.
Targeted Marketing Strategy
Fortunately, I kept my email list from my earlier marketing efforts, so we had a base list to market to.
However, most of our clients are now coming from local referrals and Psychology Today.
We have a free parenting teleclass series we offer every month. We sent a few snail mail letters and postcards about these classes to some potential, targeted, referral sources in the area. Based on these mailings alone, a pediatrician and a pediatric clinical nurse practitioner are now two of our best referral sources. We’ve never met, but they seem comfortable with what we offer.
Our PT profile is optimized for our treatment specialty and clearly articulates who we work with and how we work.
We have a small ad in a local paper that seems to pique interest.
Honestly, right now our least effective strategy for paying clients is our email list.
We still market programs to them and that is slow to take off.
We’re not ready to throw in the towel on email marketing, as we feel it’s a nice pro bono service to offer our community, but we’ll continue to put more resources into local, community marketing.
This is possible
Building a thriving practice IS POSSIBLE.
The only thing that gets in the way is lack of focus, inflexibility and inconsistent implementation.
People need help and are willing to invest when they know they can get what they need from your services.
Sometimes we need to meet them halfway (in our case this means taking some insurance).
What can you do to ease your practice building process? Where do you need to focus some energy to clarify and implement?