Build Your Behavioral Health Practice, One Unique Patient at a Time

Apr. 25, 2017

Finding a healthy balance between the art and science of marketing

By: Mike Milligan, President

As a behavioral health clinician or leader, you've learned that no patient's situation is the same. Every patient or client has a unique situation. Some of the circumstances may be similar (depression, addiction, or other behavioral health issues), but as Julian Seifter, MD, author of After the Diagnosis says, "You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle."

Behavioral Health Marketing Requires Creativity & Knowledge, Balanced with Strategies

So profoundly true.  And ironically, you should keep these same tenets in mind when marketing your behavioral health practice.  Just as in treatment, effective behavioral health marketing requires creativity and knowledge, balanced with strategies that produce outcomes. Or as Dr. Siefter says, "Sometimes doctor and patient have to throw out the rule book and construct highly, personal, creative solutions."

Your Behavioral Health Practice Has an Unique Story

Keep these tenets in mind when marketing your behavioral health practice. Just as true for effective treatment, effective behavioral health marketing requires creativity and knowledge, balanced with strategies that produce outcomes. Or, as Dr. Siefter says, "Sometimes doctor and patient have to throw out the rule book and construct highly personal, creative solutions."

Now don't get me wrong: I still like to follow the rules. And in the world of marketing, this means creating a strategic marketing plan that forms your goals and your roadmap to achieving your desired business outcomes. But, this also is where science meets art. Just as every patient has a unique story to tell, so does your behavioral health practice.

Recently, during an initial branding discussion with one of our clients (Edgewater Behavioral Health Systems in Gary, Indiana), I asked its president and CEO, Dr. Danita Johnson Hughes, to share what she considered her current brand, and what her aspirations were for it.

Dr. Hughes, also an author and nationally renowned mental health advocate, reminded me that many people still perceive behavioral organizations to be sterile, institutional facilities. And sadly, the stigma related to reaching out for help continues to discourage many people from seeking care. So what's a behavioral healthcare clinic or organization to do? Start with smart marketing.

How to Market Your Behavioral Health Clinic or Organization

For starters, personalize your brand. Sound a bit nebulous? Let me pin down this concept with a few critical marketing must-dos.

  • Be "real" with your messaging. Yes, your staff is your biggest asset. Yes, your facilities are important. Yes, you need to let people know about them. But if you really want to connect with patients and prospective patients, you need to speak to them in the right way. That starts with:
    • Simplicity. Keep your message concise and simple. Don't overwhelm people with too many facts or terms they may not understand. They are already on "overload." Stay focused for them.

Bad Headline: Our Providers are Specially Trained, with the Technical and Scientific Knowledge to Give You Comprehensive Treatment
Good Headline: Specialists who Make You the Priority

  • Empowerment. Help people feel that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek help.

Bad Headline: When You've Hit Rock Bottom . . . We're Here
Good Headline: Take the First Step in Taking Back Your Life

  • Empathy. Speak to people in a way that lets them know you understand the challenges in their life. Let them know you truly care - and how you can help.

Bad Headline:
 Is Your Alcohol Handling You?
Good Headline: We've Been There, and Now We're Here to Help

  • Include stories your audience can relate to. Testimonials are one of the best ways you can "sell" your services. These emotional stories of hope and recovery from the patient themselves or from the patient's family helps put the audience "in their shoes." The best ones are sad but ultimately triumphant. There are many "dos" and "don't's" when it comes to testimonials. Here are just a few:
    • DO use the actual patient or family whenever possible. When it comes from the heart, it's authentic and relatable. If you must use actors to portray a testimonial, be sure to note it.
    • DO NOT forget to coach your people! Make them feel at ease so they are camera (or radio) ready. The effectiveness of a testimonial can be lost in a stiff delivery.
    • DO include relevant details, but DO NOT alienate your audience by using so many specifics that they can no longer relate to their story.
    • DO focus on feelings and emotions.
    • DO NOT forget to end on a positive note with a strong call to action.

What's Your Story?

Your organization has a story to tell, and that story defines your brand. Sometimes that story is told through your employees, referral sources, or through clients or family members. And "how" you tell that story is critical too. There are traditional ways, such as advertising and direct mail, but there are also newer, more personal approaches, such as video and digital communications. Just as no patient is the same, no marketing strategy is either. Attracting clients to your brand is about making a connection. A connection that is real and personal and that tells your unique story.

Website by: Craig Erskine

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