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Understanding The Customer Journey Of Non-Referral Therapy Clients

As a therapist or other healing practitioner, you know that the process of how people become your client varies. There are many ways that potential customers can find and hire you. Two of the main types of clients are those who have been referred to you, and those who have found you via another method.

Read on for detailed guidance on how to attract and sign up NON-referral therapy clients. You’ll learn how to set yourself up for success and guide prospects effectively.

What Is the Difference Between Referral And Non-Referral Clients?

When it comes to client acquisition for your business, there are generally two categories: referral and non-referral. Referral clients come from specific people or businesses who suggested they contact you. They usually refer because they know, like, or trust you. They have often already done business with you and were happy with the experience or result. Or they simply know you or know someone who has worked with you, and believe that you are a good or honest professional.

This vital aspect of trust is incredibly helpful when it comes to filling your practice. Many people need less interaction with your brand to feel you the right therapist for them simply because of the results their friend or family member achieved with you.

Because referred clients likely knew you through someone else, or had contact with a prior or current customer of yours, a layer of uncertainty is removed. The level of familiarity or comfort is higher. You may not have to win them over or prove yourself in the same way you would with a non-referral client. You also don’t have to introduce yourself or pitch your services with as much detail or fervor.

These two client groups vary dramatically. You therefore need to speak to them differently. As you can see, mapping the customer journey process is not as needed or relevant for referral clients.

But, for new clients, knowing the stages of the customer experience make it easier to understand how to market your practice on places like Psychology Today or even on your own website.

What Is The Customer Journey?

The term “customer journey” refers to the process by which a new person or potential client becomes a client. It also includes the stages of being a client, and often the post-interaction stages as well. 

Starting to dig into these stages is important if you want to attract non-referral therapy clients. A big benefit of understanding the stages is that once you do, you can deliver the right, stage-specific content to them as they move along the continuum.

This is what marketers refer to as “nurturing” them along the path to becoming a client.

Each stage of the journey creates a map of sorts to consider so you can create “customer touchpoints” that support therapy clients along their path of getting the support they need.

What are the customer journey stages?

  1. Awareness 
  2. Consideration
  3. Decision 
  4. Retention 
  5. Loyalty 

Sometimes interchangeable terms are used for these stages and include words like curious, exploration, purchase, support and renew, but you get the idea that this is a journey each of us goes through when we want to purchase a product. Sometimes considering big purchases can be easier to wrap your mind around with the journey experience.

Client journey example

Think about buying a car. Most of us don’t walk on the lot on a whim and walk away with a 30K dollar purchase. We first, become aware that we need a car. Something with our old car isn’t working, doesn’t fit our need or desires at the moment. So, we explore what’s out there. We compare models, look at benefits, ask questions online.

Once we’ve settled on a decision, then we explore where to buy our car. What lots have deals? What dealers offer incentives, sales or times of the year when it’s more advantageous to buy our car.

Then, when the time is right, we engage the sales team and buy our car. We don’t engage typically until it’s time to buy.

After our purchase, we are treated to emails, maintenance plans and other perks of being the “new owner” of this car.

And finally, we’re marketed to for offers to maintain our car. Based on how we behaved during the sales process, the dealer usually has identified us under a specific “buyer’s persona” so they know they can “call us on the phone” and chat or that we never answer the phone.

All of these stages are important to know for your product or service when you’re creating a customer journey because a prospective client can discovers you in a myriad of different ways: through social media, an online search, or a friend mentioning you.

Because therapy is such a personal experience, we often do all of our early stages of the journey in private. That is why it’s critical to have a good marketing online. This includes a strong Google My Business page, website, blog and directory listings so people can find you wherever they choose to look.

Why is the customer journey important?

The customer journey is usually a crucial piece of running a profitable business. By understanding your potential clients, current clients, and past clients better, you are able to speak to their needs, concerns, and barriers to action in a more direct and meaningful way. 

This understanding leads to more effective marketing, messaging, and a higher volume of client sign ups and session scheduling. When people know you can fix their problem or address a concern, they will act. This of course translates to you helping more people, which is hopefully your goal!

These are some of the specific benefits to mastering your customer journey:

  • Creating a customer-centric company
  • Fostering a better client experience
  • Getting faster conversions
  • Cultivating customer delight
  • Increasing customer retention

Understanding Your Target Customer And Their Therapy Needs

Who is your ideal client? While it’s tempting to think of your practice in general terms (I help people with depression or anxiety) it’s more helpful to speak specifically! (I help people with social anxiety or anxiety that showed up after the pandemic but never before it).

Even if your current or past clients have a different profile, start aligning your marketing with who you want to work with. Start the process by writing out all the demographic, psychographic, and other details about your ideal client avatar.

What is their age, gender, occupation, desires, fears, biggest life challenges?

What kinds of things have they been through that make them need or want the exact type of therapy you offer?

The customer journey mapping process

Part of understanding the customer journey of your non-referral therapy clients (or any client group) is journey mapping. This exercise means literally mapping out – visually and with words – what is happening for them, emotionally, physically, financially, etc. A visual representation of your client will help you see who you want to attract to your practice.

Take the time to brainstorm and really get into you client’s mind/frame of reference so you understand their needs and desires for a helpful therapist. When we do this exercise with clients, we always suggest referencing notes on past clients so you can explore the themes you notice. Refer back to your intake notes to help you.

Then ask yourself these questions to lay out your specific customer journey map:

  1. Customer pain points — what was going on the moment the client called you?
  2. What steps had they taken before calling you/hiring you that either didn’t completely work or failed to bring them relief?
  3. What were the words they used to describe their feelings? Be specific
  4. Why did they say they were ready for therapy NOW?
  5. What solutions/relief/results were they seeking?

Use a big white board, easel with paper, mapping software or even a simple piece of paper to lay these out. Then start to fill them in with as much detail as possible. 

As you start to clarify all the different points along the journey, explore the articles and landing pages your website needs to feed your prospective customers. What information or guidance will help them feel comfortable hiring you or speak to a pain point? In what format can you deliver this content most effectively? Ideas include a social media post or video, blog, online ad, email campaign, listing in a local directory, or membership in a networking group.

A Note About ChatGPT

As you may know, ChatGPT is all the rage right now. It is an artificial intelligence-based tool for content creation. You enter in a question or comment, and it generates a large amount of content quickly based on a deep learning algorithm. Here’s a gentle warning.

Understanding and taking strategic action on your customer journey is your responsibility. An AI robot cannot effectively communicate the nuances and brand identity of your business. It doesn’t replace the creativity and originality of a human. There’s also the possibility of false or biased information. If you dabble with ChatGPT, be sure to edit edit edit! 

And remember, a robot cannot replace you or your unique insights/way of being with your clients. There’s also an ethical question to consider when posting content on your website and assigning your name/brand to it when you, in fact did not write it.

AI is great for ideas and brainstorming, but be mindful of how you use it to represent your voice and your person.

Nurture Non-Referral Therapy Clients to Success

Taking the time and effort to map out, identify, deeply understand, and take action on your customer’s journey is well worth it. When people feel understood, they are motivated to act. When you show them that you offer what they need and have expertise doing it, they are much more likely to schedule a therapy session with you. 

Delivering them the right content at the right time maximizes your chances of success in converting them from prospect to client. Marketing with care and precision yields results. It’s a win-win for everyone. Good luck!

Want more support with journey mapping or client acquisition? Contact us for a complimentary consultation today.

author avatar
Melanie Gorman
Melanie Gorman is the owner and operator of Crownsville Media. She holds a masters in counseling psychology and has been in the fields of web development, SEO optimization and content creation for more than 20 years.

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