Beacon Media + Marketing Awarded 2023 INC 5000 + 2023 Communicator Awards For Best Website in Healthcare Category + Best UX Design + 2024 Communicator Awards for Visual Appeal + UX Experience in Healthcare and Construction + 2023 Clutch Champion Award

Marketing Blog

A woman in an office smiling at her laptop as she reviews paperwork

How to Overcome the Top 13 Behavioral Health Marketing Challenges

Behavioral health marketing isn’t like other industries. There are far more ethical and legal considerations than in industries like retail and home services. But the stakes are much higher.

We’re talking about changing (and even saving) lives here.

With stakes like this, it’s important to understand the unique challenges you’ll face. How can you overcome the unique marketing challenges and market your behavioral health clinic effectively? And how will this help you grow your clinic, achieve greater community impact, and ensure the health of your community?

Bulleted list of the 13 Top Behavioral Health Marketing Challenges

Challenge #1: Identifying a Clear Target Audience

The biggest marketing challenge that behavioral health providers face is knowing who to market to. Should you get your services in front of everyone? Is anyone using substances to alter their mood, or a specific age group? People in your geographic region or nationwide?

This is a big challenge, and one I call a “lead domino.” By figuring out your target audience in clear detail, everything else will become much easier. That’s because your marketing is fully based on WHO you’re trying to reach. Whether you use Ads, SEO, Social Media, or another marketing channel depends on where you can most easily find your target audience.

Everything stems from WHO exactly you want to come to your clinic, so gaining clarity here is a fundamental marketing task.

Solution #1: Develop an Ideal Client Persona

We recommend you start by identifying and researching the type of client you love working with. By marketing to the people you love working with, you’ll attract more of them. That means a fulfilling practice for your entire team.

The main challenge here is trying to go too wide. The common refrain in marketing is “By speaking to everyone, you speak to no one.” So it’s important to pick 1-3 specific ideal client personas. And that number depends on how many services you offer. For example, your ideal teen client will be different from your ideal family client.

Are you worried that marketing to someone specific will discourage others from reaching out? That’s a common trap that businesses fall into, i.e. trying to please everyone. Don’t worry! By speaking to a specific audience, your conversions will go up, and even if someone doesn’t resonate 100% with your marketing, they’ll appreciate that you know who you work with best.

Here’s how to identify your ideal type of client and supercharge your marketing.

Identify your top specialties. Perhaps you offer addiction treatment services, and your clinicians have advanced training for AUD specifically. This could lead you to identify people with AUD as your ideal clients.

Go deeper. Considering people with AUD you’ve helped in the past, what are some common characteristics? Identify at least 5 characteristics. For example, perhaps your favorite clients are all upper-class women who struggle with AUD. They have an average of 3 children and work in the legal industry. They have childhood trauma and likely have co-occurring depression.

Now consider their age, gender, roles, how they see themselves, common objections to getting help, things they may have tried before, hobbies, and where they hang out online.

Write this all down into one document and refer to it often. Look at it whenever you’re creating new marketing materials and ensure you’re targeting the correct types of clients for your practice. Knowing in clear detail who you’re trying to reach with your marketing is half the battle.

Challenge #2: Choosing Great Marketing Channels to Promote Your Behavioral Health Care Services

Another challenge faced by behavioral health clinics is knowing how much to spend on marketing, and what channels to pursue. This is especially true for newer clinics that have less longevity and exposure in their communities.

But where do you start? There are dozens of marketing channels to choose from: print, newspaper ads, digital advertising, SEO, email marketing, social media, in-person networking, radio interviews, podcasting, PR, Facebook groups, direct mail, and more. Feeling overwhelmed with your marketing strategy yet?

Solution #2: Identify 1-2 Marketing Channels to Invest In

Not to worry. If you’ve identified your target audience well, you’ll have a few ideas for how to find them and get your services in front of them. Maybe you want to work with Moms struggling with postpartum depression and identify a few Facebook groups where you can reach them. (Or have ideas for starting a group). And you know that SEO and Google Ads can be highly valuable. The only challenge now is picking 1-2 channels to invest in.

This is where the NMB framework can help you. NMB is a framework for guiding your marketing efforts, and stands for “new, more, better.” You don’t want to take on too much too soon, so we recommend starting with 1 new channel. Once you get a feel for that channel, do it more. Lock the consistency and frequency in, then do it better–invest in mentorship and feedback, better tools, and a stronger strategy.

Of course, you’re probably marketing already. In that case, you’ll want to choose either “more” or “better” for one of your current channels. Remember that great marketing is about consistency as much as anything, so follow this framework.

If you’re brand new to marketing, we recommend optimizing your website and getting started with Google Ads. These will bring the most short-term gains, and having a great website sets your clinic up for long-term growth.

Challenge #3: Getting New Clients Sooner Rather Than Later

If you have caseloads to fill, you don’t want to wait months or years for your marketing to work. One example is SEO which can take 6-9+ months to start showing real results. You need marketing strategies that work in the short term and that are cost-effective.

If you don’t get clients sooner rather than later, you’ll have a cascade of negative effects on your clinic. You may have trouble retaining clinicians due to caseloads that are only partially filled. The less revenue that comes into your business, the less money you have to invest in great marketing. Lastly, you may have trouble paying the salaries of your key employees.

Solution #3: Short-term Marketing Methods like Paid Ads and Referrals

Let’s talk about referral strategies first. I helped one client get 3 new great-fit clients within 2 weeks of implementing a referral program. And it was super simple. All we did was brainstorm a big list of anyone and everyone who could potentially refer someone to her.

We included her hair stylist, the barista at her favorite cafe, people from the city she lived in 2 years prior, friends, family, and therapist colleagues. Then, my client got to promoting herself. In fact, she told me that she felt awkward at first, but now talks to people at her gym and staff wherever she goes with ease.

Follow the same steps to build a referral strategy.

Brainstorm anyone and everyone who might know someone in your target audience.

Start writing them, calling them, and meeting with them in person to discuss potential referrals.

Just remember to give value in return. Refer clients back if it makes sense, send thank you notes, flowers, etc. But never pay for referrals, as that’s not legal.

If you’re a big behavioral health clinic, work this strategy with each of your clinicians until they’re at or near capacity. If one clinician is already full, use their referrals to help other clinicians at your clinic.

Now Let’s Consider Paid Advertising

Paying for ads is incredibly effective. In fact, Beacon has the benchmark data to prove that you can spend just $30 in advertising to get a new client. Considering that a new client can be worth thousands to your business, paid advertising is a no-brainer.

Ads are highly cost-effective. The only challenge is partnering with a behavioral health marketing agency that knows the behavioral health field and legal landscape. Oh, and has a track record of getting results.

If you’d like help getting droves of new clients in 90 days or less, contact Beacon Media + Marketing. We’ll give you a free growth plan when you meet with us. Contact today.

Challenge #4: Finding Local Clients

It’s great to be found nationally by new clients. But I wouldn’t bet on this as a way to consistently fill your caseloads. The vast majority of clients for behavioral health services won’t be able to afford large travel costs. Instead, you’ll need an effective way to attract and convert local clients for your clinic.

If you neglect local marketing in favor of national marketing, you will likely have fewer clients overall, have empty slots in your schedule, and not be as fulfilled in your clinic as you can be. Plus, your clinicians may feel that they’re not truly supported. They’re holding up their end of the bargain, why are their caseloads not full?

Solution #4: Local SEO for Behavioral and Mental Health Services

Local SEO is a godsend for behavioral health professionals in 2024. By using strategic efforts to rank highly in the Google Maps 3-pack, you’ll attract a ton of local clients to your clinic. This can help keep your caseloads full and business humming along. Here are some tips to overcome the challenge of not getting enough local clients.

  • Get backlinks from local charities, nonprofits, hospitals, and government offices. Reach out to sponsor their work, become a partner, and add value to their audiences.
  • Add your name, address, and phone number (NAP) to each page of your website. This is done easiest by including it in your footer.
  • Add your Google Maps widget to your location pages and website footer.
  • Have each of your clinicians set up separate GMB profiles. These should all link back to your practice website. These listings are more ways for local clients to find out about your practice.
  • Get citations from business directories like Apple Maps, Angie’s List, Yelp, and Yellow Pages.
  • Don’t forget to point your Psychology Today profile to your website.
  • Get reviews for your GMB profile (see solution #13 below).

Each of these steps will strengthen your ability to appear in local search results and attract new clients. Be diligent and committed to local SEO and it will reward you very well. Plus, like other marketing channels, it gets easier over time. The hardest part is the first few months.

Challenge #5: Relying Too Much on Short-Term Marketing

Quote from Jennifer Christensen "The Beacon Way focuses on all areas of the sales funnel and concentrates our strategy around creating engaging, relevant, and interesting content which increases thought leadership in any industry."

Short-term marketing efforts have their place in any business. But what if you want truly outstanding results, you need long-term marketing efforts as well. It’s not enough to rely on ads or referral marketing as you aim to grow and expand your clinic. Plus, google ads seem to only go up in price, not down.

Without an eye on long-term growth in your marketing specifically and business overall, you can fall prey to trends, changing things too often, not tracking variables appropriately, and more. The end result is clunky marketing efforts that aren’t as effective as they could be. And in today’s competitive behavioral health landscape, you can’t afford to be second best.

Solution #5: Invest in Your Marketing Channels Long-Term for Best Results

Your biggest long-term marketing channel should be SEO. And not just putting anything up on your website, but using content (blogs, service pages, lead magnets) to drive traffic and conversions. Because SEO takes 3-6 months for results to start trickling in, and roughly 9-12 months to get real results, you need to invest now.

In fact, one of the biggest regrets CEOs have is not starting SEO sooner. It’s incredibly powerful and can be the only channel you need in certain cases (though not always recommended). Here’s how to set up SEO as your best long-term marketing channel.

  • Identify your top 20 high-intent keywords. A lot of these will have “near me” or “therapist” in them, such as “eating disorder therapist Atlanta” or “grief therapy near me.” Make service or specialty pages for each of these, add internal links, and nudge blog readers onto them. These are your conversion pages.
  • Start producing weekly blog content that targets relevant keywords. Just make sure the keywords you’re targeting aren’t too difficult. A good rule of thumb is to only target keywords that are as difficult as your site is strong. For example, if your domain authority is 27, only target keywords that have a difficulty rating of 27 or lower.
  • Lastly, use PR and services like Qwoted and Connectively to get free, high-value backlinks.

Then continue with weekly blog content and gaining backlinks. Over time, your website will become a powerhouse for your marketing. Have the goal of reaching the top 1-3 positions for all of your high-intent keywords.

Challenge #6: HIPAA Compliance and Costs

HIPAA compliance is fast becoming its own industry, with $8.3B of value in economic terms. But how do HIPAA compliance and the associated costs affect your marketing?

For one, you want to be incredibly cautious about using any information from your client’s medical records. Not only is it illegal and unethical, but it can lead to major fines.

On the other hand, you don’t want to let HIPAA compliance scare you into being too cautious. As long as your marketing navigates these laws, you should market your clinic confidently.

Solution #6: Maintain Compliance While Pursuing Marketing Results

The solution here is to use thoughtful, HIPAA-compliant marketing. Believe it or not, thousands of clinics across the country run ads, write blogs, and make social media posts that don’t violate any laws. Here are some fundamental recommendations you can follow.

  • Invest in Secure Marketing Tools: Use HIPAA-compliant marketing platforms to ensure all communications are secure and within legal boundaries.
  • Train Your Team: Regularly train your marketing and administrative staff on HIPAA regulations to avoid inadvertent violations.
  • Transparent Communication: Be clear about how you handle patient data and obtain explicit consent for marketing communications.
  • Legal Consultation: Work with legal experts to ensure your marketing strategies comply with HIPAA, minimizing the risk of costly penalties.

Also, avoid case studies and success stories, and only use testimonials anonymously or with written permission. Lastly, consult your lawyer before using any reviews or testimonials in your marketing.

Challenge #7: Reaching Clients When They’re Ready for Help

One challenge for behavioral health clinics is that some potential clients just aren’t ready for help. You can market all you want, but you can’t make someone reach out for help with mental health challenges or substance use disorders.

The truth is that readiness is a spectrum. Some people with mental health conditions have thought about getting help, and you may be able to get them into your clinic through effective marketing. But others won’t be ready until they hit “rock bottom,” as they say.

Solution #7: Referral Partnerships

The solution here is to meet potential clients where they’re at. That means partnering with other behavioral health clinics that have complimentary services. If you do outpatient, partner with an inpatient clinic.

Also, reach out to every local hospital. Hospital emergency rooms are on the front lines of behavioral health challenges. If you can get a referral program going with them, they’ll be able to refer some clients to you, trusting that you’re better staffed, equipped, and specialized to treat them.

Other places you should reach out to:

  • Family doctors and general practitioners
  • Specialist physicians
  • College health centers
  • Social services agencies
  • Local nonprofits
  • Support groups
  • Unions and trade organizations
  • Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and Temples
  • Faith-based charities
  • Law enforcement
  • Probation offices and judges
  • Child and family services

And more.

Just don’t forget to refer clients back to your partners where appropriate. And feel free to reach out to your fellow mental health professionals to build partnerships that way.

Challenge #8: Connecting with a Diverse Clientele

Another big marketing challenge you can face as a BH clinic is connecting with a diverse clientele. Serving your community means serving every demographic that needs help. You want to make sure that you’re serving all races and ethnicities, as well as gender identities and sexual expressions found in your community.

If you find that you’re only attracting and converting one or a small few types of clients, your branding and messaging are likely the culprits. Potential clients can look at your website and other marketing and know if they’ll be welcome. That’s why it’s important to have an inclusion statement and images that show diversity on your website. Otherwise, you’ll keep attracting the same types of clients. And perhaps not serving all of your community.

Solution #8: Branding and Inclusive Messaging

Connecting with a diverse clientele starts with your website. Here are some ideas for achieving a more inclusive-feeling website.

  • Use images that show diversity and inclusion.
  • Add inclusive acronyms like 2SLGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and AANHPI, if they apply to your work and intended audience
  • Sign up for the Inclusive Therapists directory and add their logo to your website, perhaps in the footer section
  • Incorporate a “Values” or “Mission” page if inclusivity is big for your clinic
  • For your team member pages, have your clinicians talk about their own struggles and learnings around inclusivity, identity, and more.

The branding elements you choose, from color palettes to photos to your website copy and language, will communicate a lot. Potential clients can take one look at your website and know if they want to work with your behavioral health professionals.

Once your website branding and messaging showcase your inclusiveness, every other marketing endeavor will be easier. Be sure to update your psychology today and other listings with this information. For your ads, consider using images of diverse people (not all one race, gender, or sexual expression, for example). Also consider creating standalone pages for certain specialties you may have, such as “LGBTQ Therapy” or “Therapy for Dads.”

Challenge #9: Destigmatizing Behavioral Health to Convert Clients

One challenge that still pops up in 2024 is stigma. Behavioral health clinics have to deal with the stigma around mental illness, and substance use especially. This may be an easy marketing challenge to overlook, seeing as mental health awareness has grown significantly in recent years.

Without addressing stigma, anyone who sees your marketing or website messaging can feel alone, misunderstood, and lacking support. They may feel hopeless, lost, and apathetic. What can you do to ensure your clinic stands out as a ray of hope and connection?

Solution #9: Destigmatizing Messaging and Blog Content

It can be a big step for someone to look at your website. To help potential clients feel even more comfortable, follow these tips:

  • Address common objections like “Will I cry in therapy?” or “I don’t know what I’m feeling” in your website copy. You can also address this in video content.
  • Write blogs that dispel myths about who goes to therapy and combat stigma, such as “men don’t go to therapy.”
  • Answer common forms of resistance in your FAQ, such as “What if therapy doesn’t work for me?”
  • Add an insurance page to your website if you accept multiple insurance plans.

Your clinic can avoid this common marketing challenge by tackling stigma head-on. Show people that you’re there for them, no matter what race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual expression, religious belief, or behavioral health challenge they experience.

Challenge #10: Knowing What Marketing is Working

A big marketing challenge for behavioral health (and mental health care) clinics: knowing what marketing is working. Whether you’re using paid ads, SEO, social media, sponsorships, podcasts, or another channel, auditing the efficacy of each marketing channel is paramount.

Imagine you never audited your marketing. You’d undoubtedly be overspending on some channels, missing out on others, and not knowing the joy and results of effective marketing. Your clinic would be losing money and may still not be full. And people in your communities wouldn’t be getting connected to the professionals who could help them the most.

Solution #10: Running a Monthly Marketing Report

The solution to this common marketing challenge is to do monthly auditing. Why monthly? Because that offers the best insight, isn’t overly frequent, and is easier to stick to than quarterly or less often.

In your monthly marketing report, you can audit the important metrics of each of your marketing channels: SEO, YouTube, social media marketing, paid advertising, and more.

What benefits do you get from these audits?

  • Adjust and improve your strategies
  • Learn what important next steps to take
  • The ability to double down on what’s working
  • Pause or cancel strategies that just aren’t working
  • Lower your marketing costs by increasing your effectiveness
  • Quickly identify if something is not working as it should, and how to fix it

For more information on running a monthly marketing report, check out our comprehensive guide. And if you don’t want to do it in-house, let Beacon Media + Marketing take it off your plate, so you can focus on serving your community.

Challenge #11: Making Content That Doesn’t Get Penalized by Google

It’s one thing to shoot from the hip with your content. It’s another to make high-quality content that adheres to Google’s EEAT guidelines. The former may be penalized while the latter sets your clinic up for SEO success. While not flashy at all, following EEAT standards helps you win in the short and long term.

Creating content that doesn’t get penalized by Google is part art and part science. Google recently added another “E” to EEAT, an acronym that stands for “Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.” The newest Google algorithm wants content from people with first-hand experience, not just people with hearsay or second-hand accounts.

Without adhering to Google’s standards, your content and website will be pushed to the back of the line. Since virtually no one looks past the first ten results, your website will be effectively nonexistent.

Solution #11: Following EEAT guidelines

The solution for this marketing challenge is to follow Google’s guidelines. Here are some tips to implement in your marketing to ensure quality, user enjoyment, and EEAT standards:

  • Add something new to each topic you write about. So many blogs nowadays are spin-offs of what’s already out there. By adding personal experience and insights to your content, you’ll stand out in Google and with readers.
  • Show a little vulnerability or share a mistake you’ve made. Hearing about others’ hardwon lessons makes us trust them more, so show readers why they should trust you in your own marketing.
  • Garner reviews and showcase your average ratings on your website (see solution #13 below). This is a strong signal that new clients can trust you.
  • For authority, put each of your clinician’s education and notable work history on display. For more intense mental health disorders like psychosis or schizophrenia, your authority will likely outweigh the other factors in EEAT. It’s important to understand what potential clients are looking for.
  • Add your specialized training, niche-specific podcasts, and media appearances to your website. This will show that you’re a valued expert. Remember that expertise is a big factor that Google’s algorithm looks for.

Filter your online marketing through the EEAT lens. It will help you produce higher-quality content that sticks. As Google itself has said, create content that makes users happy and the rankings will follow.

Challenge #12: Staying Competitive with AI

Yet another big marketing challenge for Behavioral healthcare clinics in 2024 is staying competitive with AI. Since the release of ChatGPT to the public in late 2022, AI has found its way into every nook and cranny of marketing. And marketing for behavioral health clinics is no different.

If your clinic doesn’t use AI ethically and to its advantage, you risk falling behind more tech-savvy competitors. The result is worse marketing results, despite equal time spent. AI is too good not to use in your marketing workflows (or those of your behavioral health marketing agency).

Solution #12: Use AI to Enhance and Speed Up Your Marketing Efforts

To get and stay competitive with AI, use it for these functions:

  • Chatbots
  • Analyzing internal data
  • Acquiring new clients via SEO
  • Automating emails and reminders
  • Brainstorming lead magnets and content ideas

Internally, Beacon Media + Marketing uses a variety of AI tools. They’ve helped us streamline our processes and get better results for our clients. Start by using 1 new tool each month and trying to understand and implement it fully. If you ever need help with your marketing and benefitting from AI usage, allow Beacon to manage your marketing campaigns. You’ll get a free growth plan with our consultation.

Challenge #13: Getting Reviews and Testimonials

Getting reviews in an ethical, HIPAA-compliant way is a big marketing challenge. Like any business, behavioral health clinics would benefit from using testimonials and reviews in their marketing (such as on their website or brochures). But there are some legal hurdles to clear before you can benefit from these marketing tools.

For one, you cannot directly ask for a review or testimonial. That would violate ethical codes from the APA and the NASW. For another, you can’t use a testimonial from a current client. Without social proof from current or former clients, how can you get new clients to come to your clinic? After all, your conversions will suffer without social proof.

Solution #13: How to Ethically Source Reviews and Testimonials

As a behavioral health professional, you are not legally allowed to ask directly for reviews and testimonials. However, you can make it easy for clients to leave positive feedback in a few ways.

  • Create a testimonials page on your website where people can leave good feedback
  • On that same testimonials page, link to your GMB profile, Yelp, HealthGrades, and others
  • Have a sign in your lobby with a QR code to leave a GMB review

The best thing about these steps is that you only have to set everything up once. Then you or one of your office staff can respond to all reviews, both positive and negative, to increase engagement. This will help your clinic show up in local search results and fill your caseloads sooner rather than later.

Overcoming Obstacles to Great Behavioral Health Marketing

If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to take on behavioral health marketing in earnest. You now know the biggest challenges of marketing in your industry. And you should have a lot more direction and insight into what actions to take next. For further reading, check out our blog on where to invest your marketing budget. If you’re already investing in Google Ads, see how your clinic compares to 72 others with our easy-to-understand benchmark data.

Do you want cost-effective marketing without the headache? Get your free growth plan from Beacon Media + Marketing and let our experts guide your behavioral health marketing to success.

Find Solutions to Your Marketing Challenges and Get a Return on Your Investment

Schedule My Discovery Call