Phillip Crum: It’s time to begin another episode of Kathleen Mills’ It’s Just Coffee, which is her weekly foray into the minds and musings of the mental health profession.
Kathleen Mills: Musings. I like that word. Good morning, Phillip.
PC: There you go. Some alliteration.
KM: How are you?
PC: I am fine. It’s a Thursday morning and –
KM: And you said musings and it’s Thursday. That’s a big word.
PC: I know. Big word. It’s only two syllables but it still qualifies.
KM: You’re not a man of big words. Yes, it does.
PC: So, things are well on your end of the street?
KM: Things are very well down the street.
PC: And I know they’re pretty good in Missouri, too, so who have we got lined up today?
KM: The one and only Vernon Ross – how are you doing, Vernon?
Vernon Ross: Doing good. How are you guys?
KM: We are both well. I just want to introduce our audience to you because I think what you do, you are a business coach, and I would love for you to tell my audience who you are, what you do, and what your passion is.
PC: Didn’t you two meet at the Podcast Movement here in Dallas?
KM: We did. I heard Vernon and I just really liked what he said.
PC: All the big shots were there.
PC: Good. Good. So, let’s hear it, Vernon. Tell me about your business. This is your chance to stretch your 30-minute elevator speech into a minute and a half, two minutes if you like.
KM: There you go.
PC: Fire away.
VR: I’m basically a business coach. I teach social media and if I had to sum it all up in one sentence, I’m a business coach. I help people with social media and communicating their greatness online, offline, and in life. And social media just happens to be the way that I do it. What I find with business professionals is there are so many ways for you to communicate online. Social media is the most prevalent right now, and so when I work with people in private practice – I work with a lot of doctors, dentists, lawyers, chiropractors, stuff like that – they don’t quite understand the whole social media game. So I help with that and identifying gaps in their communication and where they can really get their message out and help market to bring in new clients.
PC: Do you think it’s, as you said, that they don’t understand it, or that they have a different mindset that the world is going to beat a path to their door? Which is it?
VR: It’s a little bit of both. A lot of professionals think that, “I open my practice and I’m just going to get clients. People are just going to come in once the name goes out.”
KM: Where does that come from, Vernon? Because I mean you talk to a lot of people with that mindset. Like, where does that come from?
VR: You know, I think that old thing, “If you build it, they will come.” I think they’re stuck on Field Of Dreams.
PC: Damn that Kevin Costner!
KM: Throw that movie away! Stop it!
VR: Right. It just doesn’t happen that way. I think a lot of it with medical professionals in general, and especially attorneys, they think that because they’re an attorney or they’re in practice, when their name goes on the door people are going to look for them. But the problem is that in those fields and in the health professional fields in general, I think there used to not be so much competition. And doctors don’t necessarily see other doctors as competition. They just see them as other colleagues. And unfortunately when you’re starting out, it’s your competition and you’re competing and there’s a lot more of you out there so you actually have to market. I think there’s a disconnect. I’m not sure why it happens, but.
PC: You know, you’re actually right. It’s been quite a while, and I don’t remember – I’m revealing age here – but it’s been 10-15-20 years ago and laws, I don’t know if it was a law or just an ethics thing was changed to where doctors could actually go out and market themselves, take ads out and so forth. And I don’t know the details but I know that they used to be not doing that at all for strict reasons. And then things changed and now they can so you’re dead on right that there is competition now that didn’t used to exist long ago. So you couple that with the regulatory environment that seems to grow and grow and here we are. Hm.
VR: Yeah, exactly. It’s amazing going into my own doctor’s office, my primary care physician, and he’ll have student doctors in there and they never actually talk about the marketing portion of it. Because he doesn’t have to market anymore. He’s been in practice 20 years. So any new patients he gets, they’re referrals, and most solopreneurs in any service industry, they relied mostly on referrals. But when you’re first starting out, you’re coming out, you’re opening up your practice or you’re trying to get to the point where you can open a practice, there’s no referrals because you haven’t established yourself yet.
PC: Here’s a question for you: the definition of a strategy – I was talking to one of my other accounts about this the other day – social media strategy. Now once you get your properties built, and I’m jumping down a level or two here closer to where the rubber meets the road, but once you get your properties built – your Facebook page, your LinkedIn this, your Twitter that – that is not a strategy just building a property. That’s a tactic that it’s a one-time deal. So when that’s accomplished, what is a social media strategy by definition? Because it’s not just posting what you had for lunch. A strategy would be to my mind how is one social media community involved with another, but there are no readily apparent answers. To my mind the strategy comes in more so and more clearly when you’re doing advertising campaigns. What time of day, who to aim it at, what time of day and so forth and so on. So with that, what is your definition of a social media strategy?
VR: Well, part of it is the building of your profiles – properly building your profile. So getting a Facebook page developed that accurately represents your brand and making sure that’s the same across all your channels. Your personal channels are separate and I would say keep them separate for professionals in this industry, in the medical industry where you really kind of need to be taken seriously. You don’t want to mix your personal page necessarily with your professional page. But it’s still part of the getting set up part. The strategy comes in with, do you have a content calendar? Are you planning how your content is going to go out, and what type of content it’s going to be? And do you have calls to action in your content that you’re putting out? So you know – are you giving value? Do you plan to give value? And once you do, you want to give quite a bit of value first – educate – then ask for the come make an appointment. Everything should be followed up by, “And if you want to know more, you can call our office.” Not every article needs to have that in there because they’re on the site – they already know what it is that you do. But for instance, with Twitter if you’re going to be tweeting out stuff, tweet a few things that are, that make you human – a few personal things. But things like a helpful article that doesn’t go back to your site. And educate people on your site with things that go, I mean you can go to your site but you just have to educate and not always make an offer. But when you do make the offer, you need to be very intentional in your marketing so you need to have a content strategy and one of the things that I tell people is, “Let’s develop a content calendar. Let’s schedule out when we’re going to be actually going for a call to action.”
PC: Are you telling me I actually have to have a plan?
VR: Yeah, you got to have a plan.
PC: You’ve actually crossed over into my world, content marketing coach, thank you very much. And I was setting you up – I didn’t realize it when I did it – but I was setting you up because I would say there’s no such thing as a social media strategy. And let me explain: Social media is a piece of the larger puzzle. It is a big piece, but it’s a piece of the larger puzzle. And I say there’s no such thing and you in your answer, you just agreed and underscored what I’m trying to say, which is: Social media is not an island. It’s part of a bigger overall plan or a strategy and so within that context, yes you can have a sub strategy if you like, but it’s part of an overall larger strategy – or should be – meaning, as you just said several times, a content plan. A calendar, a plan, a distribution plan, a metrics plan – measuring everything which is probably where you were going before I interrupted you. So, we’re in agreement on that point and that’s interesting.
KM: You know, and another thing too, Vernon, which really underscores where I’m coming from is you’re talking about serving – the giving the value is being a servant of your community whether things comes to you or not. I think that hits the heart of sometimes my profession’s not very good at doing that, just serving people first.
VR: A lot of it I think comes from the fear that if I give away all this advice, nobody’s going to come see me.
VR: And it’s just not the case.
VR: The more you give, people usually respond to that with, “Wow, I’m getting this much value from what they’re giving me for free. When I go in, it’s got to be amazing.”
PC: Yes, which is the exact concept behind my whole branding – the content marketing coach – I have no problem teaching you how to do everything I know how to do, given enough time. Because I know, as you do, Vernon, that people aren’t going to do it anyway.
VR: Right. Once you give them the weeds, it’s a whole lot different.
KM: Yes, sir.
VR: I tell people that all the time. Like, “Here’s everything you need to do. Now go do it.” And they come back and they’re like, “Umm… I’m stuck.”
KM: It’s daunting. Yes. And that’s where you’re really good at what you do, Vernon. Like the Podcast Movement for instance, I mean you talked about – there was extreme value in that. People got a lot of takeaways and now it’s just developed for me is like I kind of know where to go and that’s how I met you and I loved what you had to say during the movement. And so, here we are. So it all is connecting to good things. But it’s taking the risk of giving value first and then things will follow instead of the other way around.
VR: Right. And you know for mental health care professionals, I’m not saying that you’re going to be doing therapy with people via blog post. But you can help guide them in a direction that’s going to help move them into your office and ultimately move them into your sales funnel because that’s really what it is and a lot of professionals, no matter what the industry, they don’t understand that hey – you are developing a sales funnel and social media is part of the funnel. The network doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook today or some other type of book tomorrow, social media is a tool and that’s all it is.
KM: Right. So a mental health professional, chiropractors, doctors – what three things could you encourage them to maybe do, think about, be aware of in the next –
PC: Let’s build a game plan for the counselors of the world so that when they get in the weeds, they’ll know who to call.
KM: Yeah, let’s build a game plan right now. Sure.
VR: Right. Right. So number one, like first thing: identify the pain points in your niche. So if you’re a chiropractor, what’s the one question that you get the most in your office when people are coming in? Identify those pain points. That could be, “How do I avoid back issues?” or, “How do I-?” whatever their pain point is. Identify that pain point and then speak to that pain point. It’s like, one A – speak to that pain point in all of your marketing.
PC: Now in the example you used, Vernon, the chiropractor – the paint point doesn’t necessarily have to be the reason they came in (what hurts). It could be a financial consideration or some other, just something that came in with the cloud of dust when they came in the front door, right?
VR: Right, yeah.
KM: How much is this going to cost me? Do you take my HRA card? Stuff like that, like that’s what we get.
PC: Alright, so Kathleen, the major pain points in your office are, one more time…
KM: How much is the visit? Are you on my insurance plan? Do you take EAPs? And how much is it to self-pay if I pay out of pocket? That’s the first.
PC: The big financial question.
KM: That’s the pain point for us.
VR: So I will recommend maybe a blog post or an article – the four myths about being able to afford going into private practice or something like that, some kind of catchy title that dispels those myths and gives people a general idea. And they’re like, “Oh wow, maybe it is affordable.” And if you have more questions – that’s one of those – if you have more questions, don’t hesitate to call or don’t hesitate to email back. Or stick your email in there instead of call the office. To be a little bit more passive in the approach, but it dispels the myth that, “Oh, I can’t afford to do that. And I don’t know if they’re going to take my insurance.”
KM: So the first thing is identify the pain points of what you think consumers, your clients, are going to ask. What are maybe the second and the third ones?
VR: So after you identify the pain points of what they’re going to ask, develop a content strategy of a content calendar. How often are you going to communicate with your audience? It’s vitally important because what you’ll have is you’ll have a professional that they do a bunch of stuff all at one time and then they don’t do anything. So the content calendar is to develop consistency. So be consistent in your communications with your audience.
PC: Are you telling me we have to do this more than once?
VR: Yeah, you got to do it.
KM: You have to.
VR: You got to be in present in mind. You have to be present in mind.
PC: People in Missouri are tough!
KM: They’re the best!
VR: And then the third thing I would say is be very intentional in your marketing. Because I think where a lot of people get lost is they’ll do the first two but they won’t have a clear intention to what it is that they’re doing. So when you start a campaign, what’s the end result that you want from this social media campaign? If you’re going to buy Facebook ads, why are you buying the Facebook ads? Is this to get more people in for teeth cleaning? If it is, how are you planning out that entire process? Social media should be the first part to introduce you to your audience or introduce them to you, and then maybe email converting into your email list, and then after that trying to actually get them into the office with some type of offer and a call to action.
KM: Very specific focus you’re talking about. And keeping it that specific and not wandering off the path.
PC: And the overall point here is that you have to do something..
VR: Yeah. You have to take action. And it doesn’t have to be perfect. I tell people all the time – take imperfect action. You need to get started. And that’s where a lot of them just don’t. They have a newsletter and they send it out and it’s a blanket kind of vanilla with a couple things that are going on in their office that people don’t care about. And it’s like, “Why aren’t you talking about things that people care about?”
PC: But Vernon, my neighbors and my professors and my in-laws – everybody I know that’s important to me in my life – told me that all I have to do is finish school and set up practice and I’ll be set.
VR: They were wrong.
KM: They were wrong, weren’t they, Vernon? And that’s why people are coming to you.
VR: If you look at the most successful practices out there, they actually have marketing that are not just a 20-year practice and they have a ton of customers because back then it was maybe just put your name on there and through family and friends you would get enough patients. But I tell them, look at someone who started five years ago and has a really, really successful practice, and how their communication is to their clients and model that. And if they’re not doing social, what is it that they are doing? And it could be direct mail, which is funny to me because it’s so hard to measure direct mail if it doesn’t come back. And it’s not hard to measure social media. You can measure clicks. You can measure click-throughs. You can measure sign ups to your email marketing so when people tell you, you try to hire a social media person, they go, “Well, metric ROI is really hard. Truly hard to measure your return on investment.” No, it’s not at all.
KM: It’s much easier than it is with direct mail. By far.
VR: Yeah, because if I send out an email, I can tell whether it got opened. I can tell whether or not they clicked. And if you have a call to action and a strong call to action, which is being intentional in your marketing, when you send that piece of email out – if it’s one that you’re looking for a call to action in and every email you send out should have some type of call to action whether it’s a click or whether it’s a sign up – you’re going to know that this person signed up because here’s the code that we had on this email that all they have to do is click this button and I get a return back to my email provider that, “Hey, Mrs. Smith over here actually responded back and she signed up and got on our newsletter.” And then what are you doing with that after that?
PC: So we have three options and we only have about a minute and a half left so I’m going to wrap this up. If we have three options: 1) Do nothing. 2) Do this yourself, which means you need to learn how to do it. And then do it. 3) Hire somebody to do it. Or maybe a fourth would be a combination of number 2 and 3. But number 1 is unthinkable. So that’s your options. Now, Vernon, if somebody wanted to find out a little bit more about Vernon Ross and get in touch with you, how would we do that?
VR: Sure. Just go out to vernonross.com and you can find me there and that’s the best way to contact me. Or you can find me on Twitter @rosspr.
PC: All right. Any final thoughts from Vernon Ross? Anything that you wanted to say that we didn’t allow for?
VR: Yeah, one thing that’s important is to segment your audience, particularly with dentists and different disciplines. If you can segment out who it is in your audience and what their actual problems are, and then individually try to market to them. So you segment out your email list and you send specific emails to the problems that they have, you become more valuable to that person and your interactions have become more valuable with them.
PC: Excellent. Kathleen, where can we find you?
KM: Lifetreecounseling.com. 972-234-6634 is the number.
PC: Good. I’m still Phillip Crum, the content marketing coach, at contentmarketingcoach.us and 214-264-6297. Vernon, this has been fun.
KM: Thank you so much, Vernon. Pleasure.
VR: No problem.
PC: Time passes all too quickly but we’ll be doing this again I think.
KM: Check out vernonross.com. He’s amazing.
PC: And thanks everybody for listening, and we’ll see you next week.
KM: Thank you.