When I am doing workshops with colleagues or consultations on building a practice, I am often struck by how mortified they become at the thought of self-promotion. And yet, I know too well what they are up against. I have been marketing myself for a while now, in a dozen different venues in multimedia, and it is only recently that I have begun to do so without the negative self-talk or twinges of guilt.
What was I worrying about? Well, in the past I worried that people would say to themselves, “I am so sick of Mike tooting his own horn” or think of me as a narcissist or superficially greedy, etc. Boy did I have to get over that, and if you want to be a successful business owner, you will too!
Back when I worked in a large institution it was fine to hide out, do good work with my patients and bring home a paycheck week after week. But when you decide to start a private practice, you are basically committing to becoming a business. And businesses need marketing.
One of the great things about being a solo practitioner is that your research and development department and your marketing department is the same person, you! Self-promotion is much easier when you have a product or services that you believe in. So I look for opportunities to do the things I enjoy, and then show my colleagues and clients how this adds to my value. When a recent insurance company began stepping up its efforts to bully clinicians, I had no trouble rising to the occasion. I like reading up on parity, researching and educating myself about the business climate, and thinking about how language can be used by HMOs to disempower therapists. And after a few conversations with colleagues, who were clearly looking for a fresh approach to that problem in their practice, I realized that I had something of value to offer. So now I’m doing workshops on the subject and loving it.
It is very tempting to trade the structure of an institution for the imposed structure of managed care. Don’t do it! If you do you have only yourself to blame. As I tell my consultancy clients, you need to remember that the most important difference between you and the insurance company reviewer is that you have better things to do with your time. The reviewer is a salaried employee who is paid to call you and conduct these clinical reviews. Whether you are on the phone 5 minutes or 50 minutes, they get paid. You don’t. In your time you could be:
- Seeing another patient.
- Devising a workshop strategy
- Networking with a colleague
- Being the first to call a potential referral back
- Writing your newsletter or blog
- Designing your website
- Writing your google ad
- Writing an article for your professional magazine
- Depositing checks in your bank
- And more!
The way the intimidation tactics work is that HMOs are banking on your need to buy into a system, even a system of oppression, rather than your own. Yes, they may say they are not going to pay for any more sessions, that’s their mission. So make the call brief, and use the time to self-promote some other part of your business.
Self-promotion scares many of us even more than HMO reviews, but self-promotion ultimately pays better and gives you more freedom, motivates you to stay current and innovative, and puts you back in the driver’s seat rather than the victim seat. I want to know: What can you do to toot your own horn today?