Question – Tips for starting a craniosacral therapy practice?

Hi John,

I am a qualified Reflexologist and in September 2005 I did a 4 day course in Cranio-Sacral Reflexology in Mullingar Co. Westmeath with Martine Faure-Alderson. I was so impressedby the Cranio-Sacral element of the course the I wanted to learn more and more about it all as it seemed so fascinating. I researched courses in Cranio-Sacral therapy on completing this course in Cranio-Sacral Reflexology. I was directed to the College of Cranio-Sacral Therapy in London. I began the one year course there in September 2006 and completed the course in July 2007. Since then I have been busy with my two young children. I want to start up my own practice in the very near future and keep up learning Cranio-Sacral therapy.

Have you any tips for starting up as a therapist?

Regards,
Catriona
Ireland

MY COMMENTS:

Hello Catriona,
The main thing that will help you grow a strong practice may sound obvious – be very good. Get remarkable results consistently.

If people have a positive experience with you they will tell 5 other people.  If they have a negative experience with you they will tell 20 other people. So nurture your word of mouth carefully.

One of the most unacknowledged ingredients in building a successful practice is time.  There are many things you can do to kick start the process and I will go into them below but it is my experience that it takes about 2 years to build a strong practice from scratch.

Now on to the marketing stuff.

FINDING YOUR IDEAL PATIENT
Before you launch yourself into any marketing activities the first thing you need to  do is think about what sort of people you want to treat.
What kind of a practice you want to have.
Getting that clear in your head will make a big difference to your marketing efforts.

Write down what your ideal patient would be like.
Include in as much detail as possible.  Once you get really clear about the sort of person you want to treat then you can start to ask yourself the following questions about them.

– Where do they shop?
– How do they get their information about things?
– How do they learn about new services?
– What do they do in their recreation time?
– What sort of clubs they are attached to (Tennis, hiking, bike riding?)
– What sort of clubs do they go to?
– Where do they live?

As an aside, the answer to that last question should determine where your practice is located. There is no point locating your practice on the other side of town from the people you want to be treating no matter how convenient it is for you or what a great deal you are getting on the treatment room.

You have to be pretty ruthless with yourself about this point.  I have seen many a therapist move into a room they really liked that had ‘great energy’ and was a real bargain only to find that no one would make the journey to it.  That is also why treating people from your home will only work if your home is in the area where your ideal patients live.

GET WRITING.
So once you get clear about who you want to treat and where you want to be located then the next thing is to start writing.   Don’t write for any particular thing like a website or brochure or talk just write for clarity.

If the thoughts of writing are too much you can hire someone to do it for you.  You can do it through elance.com.  I will explain more about elance below. The important thing is that what is written expresses your perspective on your work.

A common mistake I see in cranio sacral websites and literature is trying explain what cranio sacral therapy is and how it works.  If you ever watch someone reading these kinds of explanations you will see their eyes start to glaze over before they get to the end of the second paragraph and the fourth reference to the craniosacral rhythm.

Keep your ideal patient in mind and write for them. Don’t worry about everyone else.  Try and get into the head of your ideal patient and what THEIR head would be like when they are looking for a solution to THEIR problem.  Try and speak to them there.

The first thing you should write is a description of where THEY are at.  Outline their problem in detail.

Here is an example from my website of the sort of thing I am talking about.

“Is your faith in the medical system shattered?
Has your wallet been emptied by over confident
therapists? Have you been on the emotional roller
coaster, rising with hope that each new approach
is going to work, then crushed when it doesn’t?
Have you tried everything and still not got the
results you wanted?”

You get the idea – use your own words.

Next write about yourself and how you are qualified to talk about helping them.

Next write about how what you do can help solve their problem.  Keep it simple with not too much jargon.

Next write what the benefits of coming to you for treatment are from THEIR perspective are.

Here is an example from my website of the sort of thing I am talking about.

Visit the last resort first . . .and save money.
It became a joke among my students and
graduates that we were actually in the resort
business because for most of the people who
came to see us, we were the last resort.
It doesn’t need to be like that. Most people are
floored when they add up how much they’ve spent
so far trying to get better.
Don’t waste any more of your money.

Benefit from no returns.
When you understand that cranio sacral therapy
helps trauma release from your body, then it makes
sense that once restrictions are released in this way,
they are gone for good.
So when you’re done, you’re done.
It’s as simple as getting a big piece of cellophane
and scrunching it into a ball and then assisting it
to unravel itself.
Once it has unraveled itself, there’s no need to
‘maintain’ its state of unraveled-ness.
So you don’t need any ‘maintenance’ treatments
to keep your health. What you spend having
treatment is finite and has a very definite end.

Gentle on you.
Cranio sacral therapy is a very gentle approach.
There is no pushing, adjusting or manipulating your
body into a set or ‘correct’ position. There is no
intrusive probing into your past. The contact is very
gentle and people often fall asleep during treatment.
Because of this gentleness it is good for children
and people in a lot of pain.
You will feel the benefits within 4 weeks.
Most people feel the benefits immediately. If it
takes longer you will generally see enough
improvement after 4 weeks to know that it’s going
to work.

Gets to the root of the problem.
There are many approaches that will give you
complete reduction of your symptoms. The trouble
is the reduction only lasts for a short period of time
and then you have to return from more treatment.
Eventually this kind of approach makes your body
dependent on the treatment.
Cranio sacral therapy works with the root cause
of the problems. This has the effect of causing
lasting relief of symptoms.
In 15 years I have never had anyone return for
treatment for the original problem they came to
me with.
Not one.

These are all great benefits from the patients perspective.

Next write about what you charge and why it is good value.  You may find this hard but if you can’t explain why it is good value you may be charging too much. This is a time for taking the bull by the horns. If you feel what you charge is good value and you can explain why then your ideal patient will be grateful.  It’s your job to explain it to them not their job to try and intuit the reasons why it is good
value.

Once you are happy with what you have written try it out on some family or friends who are the type of people you would like to treat.

Ask them to read it and give you feedback about it.  You don’t have to take the feedback but you will find it illuminating.

What you have written forms the backbone for your marketing.  You can adapt and edit it for the different types of marketing activities you might engage in. What type of activities you engage in will be determined by the sorts of people you want to reach.  Reread everything you have written every six months or so.  You will be surprised at what you want to change and edit.

TESTIMONIALS
It is important to get testimonials from people you have treated.  Most people will come to see you because of a word of mouth referral. If they can’t get a referral then all they have to go on is what you have written.  People who don’t know you will generally be suspicious of what you say about yourself.  It’s not personal, we are all jaundiced by sales claims.

Having testimonials go a long way towards easing that suspicion.

The good news is that getting testimonials is relatively easy.  When a patient is finished their treatment program you can explain to them that there are other people who have the same condition who would be helped if the patient wrote something about their experience of
treatment.

Give your patient the option of remaining anonymous in the testimonial. Obviously the full name and location with a photograph is ideal.

Here are some of the ways you can use your written material, including your testimonials.

WEBSITE
I can’t over emphasize the importance of getting yourself on the internet. If you don’t know anything about computers and the thoughts of organising a website for yourself seem overwhelming, fear not. There are plenty of ways around it.

With websites there are a few simple things you need to know and the complicated stuff you can get someone else to do for you.  I will explain where you can find those people in a minute.

One of the most important, and often overlooked, things with websites is the domain name. The domain name is what comes after the www For example with my Irish website the domain name is www.cranio.ie

I will come back to the name part in a minute because I want to talk about the other really important part which is the suffix. That’s what comes at the end of the domain name, the .com end.

It is important to get a domain name for the country you are working in.  So for Ireland that would be .ie for the United Kingdom that would be .co.uk for South Africa it would be .co.za for Poland it would be .pl and so on.

Each country has their own suffix.  Having the right suffix for the country you live in will make it easier for google to find you when people in your country look for you. (Technically speaking the suffix for America is .us but it is rarely used so if I lived in America I would get a .com suffix.)

If you are not sure what the suffix is for your country you can look here

Double check it by looking at local businesses and see what suffix most business are using.

One last thing on suffix’s, .net  .org and so on don’t generally work as people will forget the subtle difference and look for .com or the suffix of your country.

For example if I couldn’t get
www.johndalton.ie
but I saw that
www.johndalton.net
was available it would be tempting to get it.

Let’s check this against what I like to call the Party Rule.  The party pule states that your domain name has to have a more than 50% chance of being remembered by a mildly inebriated person you tell it to at a party.

So if I told this person my domain name was
www.johndalton.net
there is a good chance that the next morning they would look for
www.johndalton.com
then
www.johndalton.ie
and when that didn’t work they would give up.
So no .org .nets etc. please.

Now back to the name bit. The bit between the www. and the .com

You could try for craniosacraltherapy but it will probably be already taken.  There are some countries where it hasn’t been taken but it will be gone in most.

What I suggest you use is your name. So in my case the domain name would be
www.johndalton.ie
Short, simple, memorable and relevant
– and it passes the Party Rule.

If your name is unavailable I suggest you use your name plus cranio so in my case it would be
www.johndaltoncranio.ie
I don’t suggest you use craniosacral or craniosacral therapy as most people won’t remember it.  I have found that cranio is the only part of cranio sacral therapy that people remember on first hearing the name.

It is important to buy your domain name yourself and it is relatively easy to do.  Just type ‘domain registration’ into google and you will find  lots of companies offering to sell you domain names.

Lastly, bear in mind that domain names are a commodity like anything else and different companies will have different prices. Shop around for the best price.

Next find yourself a hosting company. A hosting company is the company where your website lives.
If your website was a horse, the hosting company would be the stables where you keep it. Don’t be tempted by free hosting. There is usually a catch. The most common one being the inclusion of the hosting companies name in your domain name.

So for example if I opted for free hosting with a company called Bluebird Hosting there is a good chance my domain name would end up being
www.bluebird.johndalton.ie

Shop around.  I have found this company very good. powweb.com

Next thing to do is find yourself someone to set your website up for you. I suggest you go to elance.com and register.

Then place the following ad.
_______________________________________________________

Job Title – WordPress Instalation and Setup.

Category – Web & Programming

Job Description – Set up wordpress site.
Install and activate the following plugins –
– All in One SEO Pack
– Akismetincluding
– cforms ( Including configuration of basic contact form)
– Google XML Sitemaps

Suggest WordPress theme for natural therapies website
– minimum of 3 suggestions – plus minor modification
of theme to suit site.

Inclusion of staff training in wordpress usage.

Hosting company and domain name already in place.

Desired Skills – WordPress

Job Type – Fixed price
– Approximate Budget – Between $50 and $500
_______________________________________________________

Then sit back and wait.
Before long you will have bids from all around the world from experienced professionals offering to set up your website. They can all see each others bids so they will try to get your work for the lowest price.

Have a read through elance’s guidelines before you start so can set miles stones and generally make sure that you pay on results. You can explore elance here.

Once the site is set up you should be able to update the site yourself, adding all text you have written. You will know how to do this because the professional will have given your staff, you, training.

Give your web site about 6 weeks to begin to show up for in google searches.  Adding to your website on a regular basis helps keep it up in the rankings.

PRINTED MEDIA
Over the years I have tried it all, flyers of all shapes and sizes, brochures, adds in magazines and newspapers. Nowadays I mainly just use business cards and postcards. Both of which are geared toward sending people to my web site where they can get all the information they need to make an informed decision about whether they want to come and see me. I use Vistaprint for these.

I suggest you get good quality card for your business cards.  This is not a place to skimp.

BROCHURES
Whether or not you do a brochure will depend on who your ideal patient is.  They may like to have something to hold and review. For me, the disadvantages of brochures far out way their usefulness plus I don’t need them for my ideal patients.

The main disadvantage of brochures is that to produce one that looks professional costs a lot of money.
It is also very hard to get everything that you want to say into a brochure no matter how small you make the print.

Letter box drops, tiny advertisements in the local paper, flyers up at the your local health food shop and notices stuck on community boards are probably NOT going to get your practice where you want it to be.
Here is a little scenario to explain why I say that.

Mum and Dad are walking past the local health
food shop with their 4 year old Autistic child.
They see a photocopied flyer for Cranio Sacral
Therapy on the notice board, behind the Dream
catcher making workshop and beside the ‘Learn
to Channel’ weekend.  It is highly unlikely that
Dad will turn to Mum and say ‘Hey, Betty this
cranio thing just might be worth trying for
Timmy.’

A word of caution: When you first start marketing yourself you can invest a lot of energy doing things that are comfortable for you to do.  They even allow you to feel like you are really doing something to build your practice, letter box drops are particularly good for this, but they may not be very effective and can leave you feeling somewhat of a failure when no one responds.

Always come back to your ideal patient and ask yourself if they would respond to what you are doing.

WORKING WITH LOCAL BUSINESS
One way to create word of mouth referrals in your local area is to work with suitable local businesses so that they will refer to you.

Firstly you need to discern which businesses are suitable by their product / service to helping you. Look at the local businesses and see which ones spend time talking to their customers.  What do their customers talk to them about?  Is it feasible that in the course of conducting their own business that these people may have reason to mention you?

For example, hairdressers, podiatrists, beauty therapists and barbers spend a lot of time talking to their customers.  Their customers talk to them about a whole range of things from work to holidays to their children and partners, including their health.

It is feasible that a hairdresser, if they knew about cranio sacral therapy, would mention it during a conversation about their client’s skiing accident or chronic back pain etc.  This business represents a good opportunity for you to receive word of mouth referrals.

Be mindful of the appropriateness of the business you approach.  Is their product or service in alignment with the work you do.  Bartenders spend a lot of time talking to their customers but probably wouldn’t be a suitable business for you to work with. Again it comes back to who your ideal patient is.

When you have identified 3-4 suitable businesses in your locality you will need to introduce the owners and/or staff to what you do.  In order for them to be able to reasonably refer someone to you they need to know a bit about what you do.  What is it good for? Is it gentle?  Who does it help? etc.  This can be done on an individual basis or as a group.

When talking about cranio sacral tell stories about patients you have treated to highlight how cranio works rather than dry and boring explanations.

If you are working with 3 or 4 businesses you may find it easier to talk to them all as a group.  A good start is to write an introductory letter to each of them. Outline what you have in mind and invite them to your clinic to hear a bit more about cranio sacral
therapy.

I suggest you make this meeting a generous affair.

Most business people are always looking for new ways to boost their profile.  Provide tea and biscuits or wine and nibbles etc.  Try to create an arena for discussion and interest.  They will be coming to hear about cranio sacral therapy but also to take advantage of having other business peoples experience and ideas.

Provide each business with a gift package of say, 10 Cranio Sacral assessments as a limited special.

There are some important things to consider when offering this:

  • Make sure the business is conducive to offering such a gift
  • Be sure that you make up your own vouchers to be offered
  • Do not present it as a “FREE” treatment but as a
    Cranio Sacral assessment “VALUED AT $XX.00”

This last point is very important, if you don’t put the value of the free gift then the people who come for the free assessment will find it hard to reconcile the value of your treatment when they come to you as a patient.

Encourage the businesses to give these free gifts to customers that they feel might benefit from your treatment.

As you can see there is quite a bit to marketing and there are new ways to market coming up all the time.

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