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Internet Marketing and E-Commerce for the Helping Professions

Nov 29, 2007
Online marketing, products and ecommerce offer great potential for passive and active income for small businesses and sole-practitioners. Unfortunately, many people in the helping professions, such as psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists and coaches, do not know how to capitalize on the new opportunities in internet sales and marketing.

In the last several years, many internet technologies have evolved so that non-technical people can use them to create websites, blogs and digital products. This can help you make substantial amounts of money and grow your practice online. But where to start?

There seem to be two primary questions that health practitioners ask about internet marketing:

1) What is internet marketing and how can it help in my practice?

2) What's the best way to find people online so that they attend my classes, come in for sessions, and buy my products?

To answer the first question, what internet marketing "is" depends on what you want to do. What do you need from your practice and what you are willing to do to get it? Let's go over several illustrative examples to get an idea of what the possibilities are.

Using the internet to build your practice and fill your workshops.

For one of my clients, the internet provides a way to keep her classes and workshops full all-year-round. She does not spend money on traditional marketing, such as yellow page or newspaper advertising. Nor does she spend money on brochures or direct marketing. What does she do instead?

She has built a large "permission based" email list from her websites and classes. People give her their email addresses and she mails to them every 4-6 weeks. In every email she gives away a no-cost bonus, such as worksheet or handout that can be put to immediate use. She will often write about useful research findings and news related to her field.

She loves to communicate via email and she enjoys connecting with her clients. The end-result? People look forward to reading her emails. Her seminars and workshops fill-up months in advance! Can you imagine using the same process to fill your practice?

The key here is relationship. Be helpful and always be aware of your potential clients' needs. Help them whenever you can. They will reward you by trusting you and - eventually - giving you their business.

Passive Income

Many practitioners in the helping professions reach the point where they want to not only work less but also keep their current income.

Let's be honest about why. Our professions are deeply satisfying but sometimes draining. And as we grow both personally and professionally our needs change. Perhaps you want time off to write a book or create a new product? You want to give yourself a sabbatical and travel the world? You can do it.

The problem for most practitioners is that they are in the business of trading their time and skill for money. If they don't work, they don't get paid! I ask them (and you) a question: Have you considered learning how to keep making income without having to work everyday? This is where the idea of "passive income" comes in.

What is passive income?

Passive income is money that comes to you automatically without you having to work to get it. You do some initial set-up of your income streams and then you let it take care of itself.

Downloadable audio, video and ebooks are a few examples of passive income opportunities. You can sell them as training and educational materials to your clients and have the system set-up so that the sales, delivery and support are done automatically. In other words, when someone buys a product from you, you don't have to burn a CD, address an envelope, go to the post office or even process a credit card number. The whole process is automated on the internet. There are dozens of companies set up to help you do this.

Does Internet marketing sound complicated or expensive to you?

Internet marketing for health professionals can be complicated and it can be expensive. But it doesn't have to be. Several years ago you would have needed a web programmer, graphic designer, marketing consultant and more. Now, all that you need is the right strategy and the ability to use web browsers (like Firefox or Internet Explorer) and email.

Blogs and basic websites to sell your ideas and products can be created for no-cost and don't require any programming skills. There are ecommerce systems to sell products and services that can be set-up in less than 5 minutes. Many allow you to upload and sell products online for $5.00 per month. You can collect credit card payments without needing a merchant account.

Forms to create your "opt-in" email lists are pre-programmed in many web-based customer contact services (called auto-responders). And if you still feel that you want a website designer or some other help, you can hire one in India for $5 - $10 per hour. Several independent companies will let you post your projects and have people bid on them.

Interested in taking the next step?

Take a deep, relaxing breath and begin to explore. Use google and yahoo searches to find the web-based businesses of people in your field. See what they are doing. When ready, join some marketing email lists or forums that interest you. Some marketing email lists will send you a useful message every month and give you no-cost resources for learning how to make money online. And if you don't like the information, you can always cancel and join another. Remember: You are in control.
About the Author
Ryan C. Nagy, M.A. is a Feldenkrais Practitioner and Marketing Consultant, who co-owns, The Web Whisperers, with Bill O'Hanlon, M.S. Come see Ryan at The Web Whisperers Blog or Ryan's Internet Marketing Blog See his latest workshops at Web Whisperers
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