TBHI Q&A #19: Marketing Your Telepractice Services: What is the best way to market telemental health services?
Telepractice marketing is a rather involved issue, depending on your discipline, your state (and country) regulatory issues, as well as the population you serve. After taking more than $30,000 in training for online telepractice marketing, we at TBHI can tell you that much of what we see by the online marketing “gurus” is unprofessional at best, and illegal and therefore unethical for us at worse. For example, some clinicians don’t realize that they cannot offer “psychoeducation” over state lines because some states include the offering of psychoeducation as part of their scope of clinical practice.
Another issue of relevance to practice development for professionals is personal preference/talent. Some professionals want to develop Telepractice marketing materials but lack skills. For example, while some professionals may understand the power of writing a blog to draw people to their website/services, but may have never mastered the art of writing for a consumer population. They may not know that their thesis-writing or dissertation writing styles are ill-suited for appealing to consumers, who prefer to see a list of solutions rather than etiology or elaborate descriptions of problems. Consumers don’t usually want more information about how a problem developed. They live the problem and therefore know it more than they like. They want solutions.
Similarly, some professionals understand the power of developing audio or video marketing materials for their practices, but they may or may not like how they sound/appear in their chosen media.
It may not have occurred to them to produce a sample and ask a handful of colleagues to give them objective feedback. They also could hire someone to do a “voice-over” or “screen capture” using their words/images. Next, they produce a short, 1-2 minute audio or video “demo” that is informally shared with a handful of colleagues with specific questions for them to answer. Doing the same for the finished product is also a good idea. Seeking the opinions of colleagues can protect any professional whose earnest efforts go south and they are held accountable to their licensing board for their words or actions as a professional.
If such professionals decide to go this route but lack technical skills, they may need guidance regarding how to produce or edit, and where to get professional assistance at a reasonable cost. They may also need feedback about legal and ethical strategies, given their discipline’s state regulatory code and national ethical code.
Understanding how to combine and integrate efforts in one or more media may also be be a challenge. It can be helpful to know that simple, tried-and-true formulas and metrics have been developed for telepractice marketing both legally and ethically. Professionals may want to compare and contrast such formulas to decide which is best for them, their time, their skills and interests.
For example, it may be helpful to know that marketing budgets for most telehealth businesses range from 20-30% of gross annual income. Understanding these metrics can help a hospital, clinic, agency, group practice and even an individual practitioner understand that marketing time, effort and budgets are not to be minimized when thinking about developing successful, integrated telepractice marketing campaigns.