Mental health professionals are probably all too aware that marketing can be difficult or a bit of an unknown. To help inspire you and navigate your way through, we asked Olivia Boer, a Clinical Psychologist who opened her Launceston practice in late 2017, to share her experiences about how she  markets her services to young clients in the digital age…. What are some of the big challenges to mental health professionals when it comes to marketing to young people?

Learning about how to market my services to young clients in the digital age has been a steep learning curve, but it has been immensely rewarding. Marketing is not taught to mental health professionals at any stage during their training and a lot of what I have done to boost my client base has been self-taught. It has been a case of trial and error, but there are plenty of ways to open your doors to younger clients in the digital age, you just need to do your research, then get started.

How have you developed your approach to marketing?
I believe it is not uncommon for mental health professionals to feel “really uncomfortable” with the notion of having to market themselves because they don’t really understand what marketing is. Mental health professionals need to understand that marketing is all about connecting with people and developing relationships.

What do mental health professionals need to think about when it comes to marketing?
The most important question any mental health professional wanting to market their services needs to answer is: who is your target audience? In my case it is younger clients because my practice focuses on child development, but even if your focus is baby boomers going through the upheaval of an emotional divorce, for example, the same principles apply.

Why you need to work on a business plan?
Most of my clients still come from GP referrals and word-of-mouth, but any mental health professional wanting to increase their client base via digital platforms needs to have a business plan that includes having a modern, vibrant and regularly updated website as well as a consistent social media presence.

Why is having an online presence so important?
Nowadays when prospective clients first hear of or go searching for a mental health service, the first thing they tend to do is look online. If the person finds that the website looks outdated (or does not even exist), lacks current and relevant information, is difficult to navigate, and doesn’t set the right tone, this won’t encourage them to take it a step further and contact the practice. As I have already mentioned, most of what I have had to learn about marketing has been self-taught via podcasts, books and working with a mentor/business coach. As well, I hired someone doing a marketing degree to work as an admin staffer in my practice, which has been a great way to generate fresh ideas.

What does a website need to offer young clients?
Having a positive, clear and well-communicated website that uses clear, simple conversational language is one of the first ways to build trust with prospective clients. I believe a website ought to be a nice mix of information, while also having light-hearted almost humorous tone at times, as well as always offering a call to action. However, the worst thing you can do on your website is come across with too much of a sales pitch.

What other marketing strategies are important?
While working in the digital age is paramount, I know [building] “relationships” with potential new clients is still done the old-fashioned way – in person. This means part of the practice’s ongoing marketing strategy is to consistently nurture those relationships by having regular face-to-face meet and greets with local GP practices: this means my practice now gets around 10 referrals a day.

What are the best social media platforms?
With my practice, it is important to acknowledge that up until the age of 20, it is the young person’s parents who would be organising any treatment and so while young people are generally more interested in being on Instagram or Snapchat, I post on Facebook to reach mums; they are my main followers on that platform. I do have a personal Instagram page which I use for marketing purposes as an adjunct to Facebook. Even though half of my clients would be aged under 18, it is their mums or parents I target on social media. I do not mind that when I post something on Facebook, I get very few comments: there is still a stigma associated with mental health and seeking help. Nonetheless, the lack of online feedback is not an issue or a reflection of my lack of social media success as I encounter at least three people a week who tell me in person that they like what they see.

What are your digital hopes for the future?
As well as having a Facebook page to promote the services my practice offers, I have recently set up a group page on Facebook as I feel part of the need to have a social media presence is that it can create a passive income stream. I plan to offer eBooks, online courses and how-to guides to any interested parties in the months ahead.