Updated: Dec 12, 2018
The Mental Health community has often underestimated the importance of good design. Here are 5 reasons why therapists should rethink their strategy.
Setting The Stage
Over the past year I have talked to a number of mental health professionals who are starting or re-branding their private practice. The scenario I often hear is simple. The counselor suggests that design work is needed but they do not have the time to do it themself, so they call a designer or two and ask for quotes. They then describe their experience through shocked expression and ask me if I can believe what people are charging. They conclude that they will just have to do it themself.
I will be the first to admit that it is overwhelming to add another expense to the list, but the reality is professional design work is consistently undervalued in the therapeutic community. Additionally, we are often put in the position to pay prices offered by design boutiques or firms that typically work with businesses that are likely to be able to afford the overhead.
A More Sensible Way
Our profession needs a middle way, because most every mental health professional wants an engaging logo, flawless website, beautiful office space, and effective marketing material, but instead of investing towards these things, they try their hand at DIY design and do their best on their own, often getting discouraged and overwhelmed in the process, and ending up with something sub-par that creates a sub-par impression.
The reality is we do not always feel we know if design really matters. At the end of the day, how much does it actually impact our practice? Is it not more about the person of the therapist than the quality of their logo?
To some extent, yes, but here is the problem. In order to get to the person of the therapist, a potential client will interact with your "stuff." They will google "marriage counseling in Bend, Oregon" or something similar in psychology today filters, and then will eventually, through means not here discussed (SEO, copy writing, conversion rates, first page appeal, google adds, etc) come across your web/visual presence. From this they will make a snap judgement about you simply based off the way your stuff looks. If you're website looks sloppy, maybe you do sloppy work. If your logo looks like a kid made it, maybe the experience of counseling with lack quality and maturity.
In either case, the way that your "stuff" looks makes a promise that your service will fulfill. What promise are you making? What is your design communicating?
We ought to prioritize that communication.
Here are 5 reasons WHY:
1.) Effective Design Enhances and Persuades
Let's face it. A stunning website is awesome, but it will not matter if you cannot get anyone to come across it. The way you market your practice is essential to getting hot leads in front of your stuff, but if that stuff is not persuasive and captivating, those potential clients will not convert into current clients. No amount of good marketing can make up for poor design.
"Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom you are communicating."- Donald Norman.
We are communicators by trade. Therapy depends on understanding communication. Our stuff should suggest that we communicate well; to our potential client's, in their language, with visuals that appeal and persuade them towards making the decision to work with us, and experiencing the change that is possible in their life through our service.
Design is the middle man that communicates before we have to! Is your stuff enhancing your visibility and persuading your ideal client to work with you? If you are not sure, Chelsea and I offer The Design Review, a service designed specifically for mental health professionals to provide quality feedback and direction. Take a look at what we offer.
2.) You Only Have One Chance to Make a First Impression
You know you only get one chance. Whether it’s your email signature, a home page on your website, or a Facebook post, viewers are going to judge a business in just a few seconds based on appearance alone. Professional quality graphic design will give your business credibility - and that’s priceless.
You could indeed be the greatest therapist/counselor out there, but if you are presented to your audience through poor quality design, not many people are going to stick around long enough to find out. The research is out; in this day and age, potential clients will judge a mental health professional by their stuff before they have the chance to judge them based on therapeutic experience.
3.) Creativity Sets You Apart
Sure, it can be tempting to go the easy route and paste in a standard piece of clipart, or buy a generic $25 logo from a stock website. Its looks “good enough,” right? But remember, other therapists and small businesses have access to those same stock graphics. Having a distinct brand raises your practice above your competition. It helps a practice to stand out amidst the noise and clamor. You’ll also be guaranteed a one-of-a-kind design, so you’ll never encounter copyright issues or have to worry about a competitor looking identical.
The development of a proper brand involves a very strategic process. Remember, branding is simply the sum total of the impressions someone comes away with when interacting with you or your stuff. So the way your stuff is presented matters. Before creating any brand material, a good designer will first work to understand your practice, its culture, your potential or ideal clientele, and your competition. Market research is extremely valuable to what is eventually created.
Once those items have been fully researched, the designer will apply their expert knowledge of design principles, grids, ratios, font, design trends, potential client behavior and color theory. Who better to help you with that than a fellow therapist who understands the industry? When all of these elements are combined it results in a brand presence that converts.
4.) Paying Up Front Saves Money in the Long Run
A good designer is also going to save you a lot of headaches. Instead of attempting to do it all yourself, you can put your resources towards developing the service you offer. At the end of the day, it's you that keeps your business afloat. How you do therapy, and the respect that generates in the community, is invaluable. Why spend the time it takes to figure out how to design your own stuff when you can have someone who knows what they are doing, understands the industry, and is willing to work with and for you to create design that authentically represents who you are and what you offer.
Yes, it will cost you up front. Sometimes, we are not in the financial position to pay towards the solution right of the bat. That's ok. There are options out there to help provide clarity as you get started. Take a look at what Stay tuned for The Branded Practice's e-course on how you can learn what you need to know about design to get started!
Also check out what Amber Hawley and Maelisa Hall, two licensed therapists who share an obsession with digital marketing. Take a look at what they are doing about the web design side of things at My Digital Maven.
5.) Design Can Tell a Story
If you need further, more concrete proof that graphic design is essential to the success of your small business, look no further than the 2005 study (published in 2007) conducted by a group called The Design Council. In this study, they found that businesses that placed more effort on their design actually outperformed businesses that didn’t: by 200%. That has only increased in relevance in the past decade. If it was that true then, it's more true now.
But why is it true? Simply put, as I had mentioned, design is communication. Effective design can tell a story about what you do and who you are. It can lead potential clients towards making a choice to work with you. It can be persuasive and clarifying.
Where To Go From Here
It can feel overwhelming to acclimate to another necessary expense. Whenever we come to understand something to be a value we have to make a decision. What are we going to do with it?
I think the best place to start is simply to better understand it. Now that you have more clarity on why it matters, I suggest you take some time to better understand what it would take to incorporate great design into your strategy - Let's be the best communicators out there.