Owning a website, help for therapists
Establishing yourself as a practitioner.
These days it's second nature to open a web browser and search for everything from pizza delivery to holidays and help, including of course help from therapists. So as a practitioner being found “on-line” is important but it's not the end of your marketing story. Advertising online or simply having a website is an important part of the picture but remember marketing is a wide topic and includes many ways to get your “offer” to the public.
Owning your own website.
One might ask “What's the point of owning a website when FaceBook and Twitter are free?” Well the answer is within the question, FaceBook and Twitter are free-to-use social networks, anyone can have a page so if this is the only on-line representation you have ask yourself “What makes me different to the millions of others? How can new customers see my investment?”
A public display of your commitment and investment.
This is about demonstrating your belief in yourself, that you are sure you can help your customers with your therapy. You have invested your time gaining skills as well as invested money into your business.
Anyone can have a page on the social website but you have a business, with a name, a brand, perhaps a premises too. Closing this circle with a website is well used and trusted way to create the foundation for your marketing.
Modern websites are not just “electric brochures” they are software applications that can provide interactive media to the public. Even for the small business there are interactive elements one can bring into play to improve your readers experience at your website. The right choice of articles, images and interactive features can provide potential customers with a compelling 'purchase decision', to choose your business over a competitor.
Modern websites grow with your business so if you expand or become a specialist in a particular field, your website can change to accommodate this. All the modern website systems can be complex yet the primary functions are quite simple. Adding new content, articles and images, adding links or even video does not need specialist computer expertise. Adding an article is no more difficult than writing an email.
Content sensitivity, recognising a “Distress Purchase”
Anyone seeking therapy is clearly in need of help due to a physical or in general terms a 'wellness' complaint. They may have tried other other practices and this could include their G.P. so your contact may often be underwritten by their past experiences. Your literature, be it on your website; within pamphlets or in advertising should be written with the audience in mind. Expressing your understanding of the sensitivity a complaint and the holistic effect this can have on a persons well being is a good place to build 'trust values' into your message. Potential new customers will almost certainly need to feel to some degree confident you can help them before responding to a “call to action”.
How to own your own website.
First, there are terms and phrases commonly used, you may need to look-up some of these if you are new to the concept of owning or editing a website.
Your Domain Name
You will need at least one domain name, these are “rented” from the internet-at-large and the right to use a name is bought from a registrar. Generally one buys for twelve months at a time and renew each year prior to the expiration date. One can usually buy more time, up to a hundred years with some registrars. The domain name is not a website, it can simply “point” internet traffic (web browsers and email etc.) at a computer with software to publish a website, your web server which is part of a hosting package.
There are important considerations as to which domain name is best for your new business. It is good practice to keep the domain name short but also that it should be descriptive. There are strong arguments to adding location information too. So for example a reflexologist called “Jane Jingle” is starting a practice called “Jingles” which is based in Daventry, a town in Northamptonshire - Jane could use “jingles” or “jinglesreflexology” or “jinglesreflexologydaventry” or even “jinglesreflexologynorthampton” - or all of these, pointing to the same website. A marketing strategy is also to use an individual's name in this case perhaps “JaneJingleReflexology”. As you can see often a place name makes the domain much longer so this is part of the consideration.
All domain names have an extension, typically in the United Kingdom it's “.co.uk” - this is referred to as a territorial domain. A “.com” is called a TLD (Top Level Domain) and is generally accepted as international but often only serve the territory of the owner.
Hosting your website
The hosting account is generally a series of internet services that work together allowing one to publish a website, store and retrieve mail and other lesser known services like FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or external database use.
It's not technically required but often a good idea to have ones domain name registered with the hosting company, most offer a registration service. This means your domain and hosting are on the same network and as such you have just one point of contact should you need support.
Not all hosting companies are the same. Make sure your hosting company has a support line that does not charge extra fees for calls and is based in the United Kingdom, even if the company themselves are in another country. Also, be aware, it's common for hosting companies to offer “loss leaders” meaning to start an account seems very low cost but as your website develops you may need more expensive services from them.
A basic hosting package should include about 500mb of disc space, at least one database, an FTP and mail server with at least three accounts. There should also be at least 1gb per month bandwidth allowance within the fee.
Website as a cornerstone for marketing
Marketing a business exclusively on-line is possible but one should always remember it is just one way to reach potential new customers. In particular, when launching a new business one should factor-in as many other methods as affordable. Local newspapers, leaflets and posters are a great way to introduce yourself especially when your business has a defined catchment area.
One of the great advantages of your own website relates to the content itself, one can have many pages, thousands if needed and each article can be within a structured format so the topics you're discussing with your reader are categorised. Over time your website can become a resource for your client-base and help you build 'Brand Loyalty'.
Developing relationships with other local business is a great way to encourage sales and reinforce your market presence. Beauty parlours and boutiques, health spas and gyms are potential routes. If your therapy helps sportsmen, there are many sporting clubs and associations across the country with local branches that may benefit from your services.
In all cases, with your website in place you can refer everyone to your site for information on your service and your contact details. The website address can appear on newspaper and magazine adverts, leaflets and even merchandising like pens and umbrellas. All advertising is geared towards bringing your service to public attention and within this message is always a “call to action” for readers to contact you, today.
Logistics of Marketing
There is no substitute for actually visiting local business' to build your relationships. Always have some business cards or leaflets with you so you can leave your details. You may find it useful to create a listing of local companies that you have contacted, information on business is available from directories and your local chamber of commerce. Make full use of any services your local authority offer for new business!
When you begin a strategy first identify a goal. Ask yourself “At what point would I consider my campaign a success?”. This gives you a target you can quantify results against. Make a spreadsheet listing of individuals and/or companies you have contacted and note their response.
Get a map and mark your catchment area, depending on its size, split into logical sections, then decide on how you want to reach potential new customers within each sector. This is planning at a fundamental and seemingly obvious level yet often new business owners simply do not take this step. So over time it can become difficult to introduce a campaign because there are 'sketchy' foundations.
Identify the available media and make your evaluation on cost verses results...
- Niche publications and Directories
- Online advertising (including the search engines)
- Leaflets, Posters and Pamphlets