It’s a paradox that for all the time we counselors spend communicating with persons in session, many of us are by nature introspective and introverted (and sometimes even reclusive) individuals. This serves us well as counselors — counseling is in fact isolating work — but our introverted dispositions can handicap us as promoters of our private practices.
Introverts and extroverts misunderstand each other. They’re oil and water. They can be downright derisive to one another. The extrovert sees the introvert as frigid and snotty; the introvert sees the extrovert as loud, pushy and off-putting.
When it comes to self-promotion, extroverts have the clear upper hand. An extrovert will think nothing about “asking for business” or “getting the word out” about his/her clinical abilities — such activities are second nature. To the introvert, however, such actions are accompanied by much stress and words like “advertising,” “marketing” and “business networking” evoke images of neon billboards, injury lawyer commercials and used car salesmen (checkered polyester sports coat and all).
The Collision Re-frame
If you’re an introvert (like me), and you’re going to compete in the marketplace with the extroverts, you’ll need a reframe to help you. From now on, instead of using the term “networking,” I propose we use the term “colliding,” and approach our practice differently.
Whereas networking often includes a clear self-promotional bias, colliding effectively removes this bias. Additionally, don’t bother focusing on your “elevator pitch,” your “unique value proposition,” or trying to monetize a return on your investment (ROI) of time spent interacting with new people. Instead, you’re just meeting people, to see where it goes: to see if a collision evolves into a connection.
In order for someone to know about you and your in-house or online counseling practice, he or she will need to collide with you in some way. Many collisions will be small ones, and not much will come of them — the average handshake and hello. However, every once in a while a collision will be powerful. For example, collide with enough people and eventually you’ll connect with someone who might be the perfect person to hire at your practice.
Or, collide with enough people and eventually you might encounter someone who works at a doctor’s office—one that’s desperately seeking a new referral source for mental health counseling.
A single collision can change the trajectory of your practice — or for that matter, your life. In fact, this has probably already happened.”
Have you ever looked back on a relationship and thought, “Had I not introduced myself, or bothered to show up at that party, or made that scary phone call, I would have never met him/her!”? We all have.
Now, if you’re one who avoids new connections, here’s a depressing thought. Think (just for a minute, then let it go) of how many powerful connections you’ve missed by not introducing yourself, not showing up or not making that scary phone call (i.e., by not colliding)?
Bringing it back to business (e.g., private practice), a successful entrepreneur who sold his company for tens of millions of dollars taught me the motto: “Everyday that you don’t reach outside the four walls of your office is a day your business doesn’t grow.”
Here are some recommendations to get you outside your four walls.
Increase Your Collisions
If you’re like most of us introverts, you need to get your number of collisions up (and sorry, your clients don’t count). The more collisions you have, the more success you’re going to have growing your practice.
Consider these two questions:
1. How can I increase my collisions?
2. How can I collide with new or different types of persons?
Also, to keep on track, let’s apply the S.M.A.R.T. method:
- Specific/Measurable: I will collide with 3 new people a day (21 per week)
- Attainable: I will go to some event or public place two nights a week and interact with persons I would normally shy away from
- Realistic: I will expect most collisions to be small ones, and for little to come from them (that’s okay)
- Timely: I will begin tonight
Collisions in Marketing and Advertising
In the paragraphs above we reframed the process of business “networking” as “colliding.” However, the same principle can be applied to marketing and advertising.
Instead of looking at advertising as “pitching” your service, think of it as facilitating collisions with your business. Every time someone reads a blog article by you he/she is colliding with your practice. Every time someone sees your logo in a newspaper add, or hears your practice’s name on the radio, is a collision with your brand.
If you want grow your practice, you’ve got to reach outside the four walls of your office. Collide with new people. Then call your local newspaper, magazine, radio station, web developer (or whatever) and ask to speak with the Collision Department
Anthony Centore, Ph.D., is private practice consultant for the ACA, founder of Thriveworks Counseling (with locations in 9 states), and author of the book, How to Thrive in Counseling Private Practice. Anthony is a licensed counselor in Massachusetts and Virginia. Find him on Twitter at @anthonycentore or @Thriveworks.