How To Generate Online Leads For Your Service Business In 2019

How to Generate Online Leads for your Service Business in 2019

Do you run a service business? Interested in how to generate more online leads for your business in 2019?

In this article, you’ll learn ways to generate enough new leads for your business to do an extra $10,000 in monthly revenue.

You’ll also learn pro tips from real business owners that have been successful using these platforms to grow their service business to $20k, $30k, all the way to $100k in monthly revenue.

You’ll also get a breakdown of how to get started, and any possible risks.

Ready to dive in? Read on…

“Your business can’t be struggling if you don’t check your bank account”

As a service professional, you might be thinking that leads are getting more expensive.

To offer your services to new customers, you need to find them first.

Owning your own business means you run your own marketing team, which means you are the one responsible for driving a steady stream of high quality leads.

With all the competition out there, how can a small business owner get an edge?

In this article we’ll reveal how the top Pay per Lead providers work. For each provider, you’ll learn:

  • How it Works
  • Pro Tips (from real businesses that have been successful on these platforms)
  • How do I set it up?
  • Possible risks

Take advantage of the hours we spent researching. Cut your learning curve by reading this article, applying the knowledge, and learning how to get a head start on your competition with each of these platforms!

Intro to Service Lead Models: Pay per Lead

One customer acquisition model that has been revived from the dead in a big way is the pay per lead or introduction model.

If you enjoy pitching your services to interested clients then pay per lead (“PPL”) might work for you.

PPL offerings have grown in recent popularity as more and more individuals are going out and starting their own businesses (thanks to lower marketing costs, lower legal registration fees, lower healthcare costs, mobile productivity tools).

For the most part, you have to be more a pro-active to get the most out of these PPL platforms.  You – the business owner – can pay for direct access to a client who is looking for specific services that you offer. Then it’s up to you to close them!

This model isn’t new. There are many platforms that offer PPL as a service.
These are the Online Lead providers that we will be reviewing in this article:

  • Home Advisor
  • Angie’s List (now owned by Home Advisor)
  • Thumbtack
  • Talklocal
  • HomeGuide

Let’s get started!

HomeAdvisor

How it works

HomeAdvisor is one of the pioneers of the PPL model. It was founded in 1998, formerly known as ServiceMagic. ServiceMagic was a simple PPL platform allowing professionals of all types (e.g., musicians, handymen, therapists, you name it) to directly pay for incoming leads and pitch their services.

In 2012, the company changed its name to HomeAdvisor, and started to evolve its ad products and focus purely on home services.

As a professional on HomeAdvisor, you can sign up and pay to join the network (similar to Angie’s List it’s a “pay to get access” monthly / annual fee). Once you’re in, then one of the main features is the ability to “turn on” leads.

What that means is you set a budget and HomeAdvisor sends you new business that you can try to win.

That new business comes from clients submitting job requests. HomeAdvisor lets clients complete detailed service requests.

These services include a diverse mix of home service jobs (e.g., landscaping, remodeling, cleaning, plumbing, etc.), the timing, the location, and more.

You – as the service professional – will get notified of these job requests and it’s up to you to close the customer. You can call the client, email the client, text the client – do whatever you think will win you that business.

As you can imagine, this type of marketing platform is ideal if you want to acquire new clients immediately, which would likely appeal to a new business owner. To have good success, you need to be energetic enough to pitch leads and compete for the business.

I highlight the top 3 tips from this blog for using a PPL platform like HomeAdvisor. They are absolutely spot on! These practices will help you maximize your return on investment:

Pro Tips

 1) Call leads immediately – ASAP!

“This is the single most important factor to making HA work for you, even more so than having good reviews.  I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, if I call within minutes of receiving the lead, I get the business. Some customers have even told me that they always choose the first person that calls”

Check out this screenshot from the Lead Response Study linked below:

As you can see, it’s imperative to contact the leads within 5 minutes (or less!) of receiving them. This study was done on sales leads, but service leads are no exception! Source: http://www.leadresponsemanagement.org/lrm_study

2) Sign up for small job leads

“Leads for big jobs are expensive at $50 and up.  With price shoppers all over the place, this can eat into your profits really fast.  That’s why I recommend only signing up for leads for jobs under $15. You will still get your foot in the door and can bank on the return business.”

3) Eliminate leads that don’t pay

“After you’ve been using the service for a while, it’s a good idea to go back over your leads and see which categories pay off and which ones provide mostly junk leads.”

4) Message the leads again

“If the leads haven’t responded, follow up again within 24hrs.”

5) Keep an eye on your costs

“Costs for leads stack up. Make sure you track conversions from leads.”

Get a game plan in place so that when you do turn those online leads ON, you are immediately ready to close them and beat out the competition!

Home Advisor has also invested in tools like Instant Booking and Instant Connect, which allows clients to reach out to you directly if they like your profile and reviews. These add on features are still a small part of the platform activity, but they are growing.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

Go to the “Pro” section of HomeAdvisor: https://pro.homeadvisor.com/how-it-works/

Watch the 2 mins ins and outs video tutorial. Then you can sign up for free.

The setup process is multiple steps. You need to provide references and background information as part of the registration process.

HomeAdvisor is pretty thorough in terms of its screening process, so setting everything up takes a bit of time. You get a dedicated marketing consultant contact who will reach out and who you can call or email with questions throughout setup.

Then you are prompted to set up your Home Advisor subscription and decide how much you would like to start paying for leads.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

History

In 2012, ServiceMagic changed its name to HomeAdvisor in an effort to re-brand itself. If you Google “ServiceMagic” you will see a laundry list of customer complaints about the quality of the professionals on its platform.

Homeowners complained that the service providers who performed the jobs did terrible jobs. But more so are complaints from the providers themselves talking about how the leads coming to them were bogus in a lot of cases, and they spend all this money to pitch customers with no business coming to them.

To shake their bad reputation, ServiceMagic brought in a new CEO in 2011 and changed its name to HomeAdvisor.

Cost

HomeAdvisor is also pretty expensive. It costs ~$250 per year to just be a part of the network, and then you need to pay to get leads.

We have heard feedback from participating professionals that you need to be careful turning your leads option ON, because if you don’t pay attention HomeAdvisor can send you a bunch of leads in a short amount of time and start charging your card on file instantly…

Stay on top of your online leads option and turn it OFF if you’re busy with work or taking some downtime.

Also, for a lot of business owners, this type of lead ad model is very tough to master. The risk is you spend a lot of money to get these leads with none of them panning out.

Sometimes you were too slow to call the customer so they went with a competing provider. Other times your bid was simply too high. Or customers can change their mind. You call them and they never pick up.

Just be careful on the upfront spend – before you know it you could be in the hole hundreds of dollars without any clients, any clicks, any “likes”, any reviews.

Moving on, up next we have a Pay per Lead platform that most folks are familiar with by now… Thumbtack, of course.

Thumbtack

How it works

The Thumbtack model is similar to HomeAdvisor. The 2 main differences are: (1) there is no monthly or annual fee to join the network, and (2) the industries it services are not just limited to home improvement – but includes all types of service providers like dog walkers, lawyers, photographers, tutors, and more. As far as customer acquisition goes, Thumbtack is a treasure trove of possible clients.

Clients can go through a similar “concierge” flow, specifying their service needs and their job details get blasted to up to 5 professionals for that specific service and geography. Thumbtack sets the opening bid price for a lead’s contact information. If you win the bidding process, you get to pitch that lead – and the cost is paid in “credits”.

Each credit costs $1.67 to buy and leads can cost anywhere from 2 to 9 credits (so $3.34 to $15.30 per lead). That’s another difference between Thumbtack and HomeAdvisor – Thumbtack has more control over which leads you choose to spend money on (based on limited service requests and client demographic information).

Once the credits are spent – then it’s up to you to close that online lead!

Another consumer use-case is when clients actually Google a specific service name and the location, then Thumbtack’s page results actually rank high on Google and the service providers – you – are accessible directly by any customers.

For example, if I Google “dog walkers in Seattle, WA”, one of the results in Google is the link below to one of Thumbtack’s popular list:

Clients are able to review your profile (like description, reviews, photos, etc.) and “Request a Quote” from you directly. Note that you – the professional – will still be required to pay credits to Thumbtack to find out who requested said quote from you (as no website or phone # details are included on your profile for direct contact).

Converting first-time clients into recurring clients is crucial with Thumbtack as well. If it takes you multiple online leads before closing one, then your initial return on investment might not be that great, but if you can convert that client to book with you in the future, then your ROI could look great. Remember, customer acquisition is a long term game.

Pro Tips

  • Respond as quickly as possible – in recent studies, even 5 minutes may not be fast enough. Yes, seriously.
  • Set up software like Calldrip that calls your phone whenever a lead comes in, then calls the lead. It’s like having a concierge connect you to leads automatically whenever they come in. The software even whispers the client’s name for you or your admin before connecting the call. It’s basically magic:
    • Look up your profile from the client’s side. This gives you two great opportunities:
    • See how you show up from your client’s perspective. You never know what you might uncover! (Is that my personal email being displayed on there? Oh boy…)
    • Take a sneak peak at your competitor’s profiles! Get ideas on how to optimize your pictures, your description, and showcase your services in a more appealing manner. This is actually a perfect segway to our next point:

    HOW DO I SET IT UP?

    You can join Thumbtack as a “pro” for free: https://www.thumbtack.com/pro

    The setup process is pretty simple and straightforward. Along with setting up your profile, Thumbtack will give you a link to your specific profile – they encourage you to send this link to past clients to build you reviews. I would recommend doing this. More reviews and content on your profile will make their system rate you as more relevant (and higher quality) and, as a result, will send you more online leads to bid on.

    Setup Instructions:

    1. Go to thumbtack.com/pro
    2. Choose your City and Industry

3. Log in with Google, Facebook, or Email

4. Follow the prompts to set up your brand spankin’ new profile!

5. Need help? Here’s a shortcut: Use GetHuman to find Thumbtack’s best live support number – skip the wait and talk to a person live if you’re having issues!

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

With Thumbtack being a similar PPL model as HomeAdvisor, similar risks around cold leads and tough bidding apply. You can wind up buying and using a ton of credits, and not get any new business when it is all said and done.

There are some reports out there stating on average you win 16% of all leads you buy – in that case you need to make sure you are not spending a lot to buy said leads…or if you are, you need to make sure the final payment you get from the customer is a lot more than the amount you spent on all the other lost leads.

Another risk is that the bidding and pitching system typically leads to a “lowest price wins” game. Meaning, clients will often tend to accept the lowest priced service no matter how many professionals reach out to them.

Thus, similar to discount platforms, this model attracts customers who are looking for low price over quality, and the next time they need a service (the same service done again even), they will go back to the well for anyone who can give them “bottom-of-the-barrel” prices again.

There also seem to be frustrations regarding the quality of leads. Here is a recent post on Thumbtack’s forum that summarizes the issue folks have been having – it looks like Thumbtack is sending online leads to too many providers, and also the quality of leads seems to have diminished.

That being said, Thumbtack is still where droves of customers go to find a quality professional, and thus still remains a viable source of opportunity as far as getting new clients thru online leads for your service business.

Why don’t we go right ahead into our next pick: Talk Local.

TalkLocal

HOW IT WORKS

TalkLocal has a bit of a twist. As a smaller company, it isn’t technically a PPL company, but more of a “Pay Per Conversation” type of app. And just as it sounds, it takes much more over the phone / conversational take to introducing a business to a potential customer.

As a professional, you can preview incoming customer leads for free over the phone (as in you get a call from TalkLocal and you can hear the information about the job request) and only pay when you actually opt-in and speak to a customer. It covers about 50 different service verticals, focusing on home improvement like plumbers, handymen, HVAC, and roofers, which are big ticket services. They require more salesmanship and quality and track record matters in addition to price. So when one of those leads closes, it typically pays for all of the ones that you lost.

Just like on Thumbtack, as a client you can go to TalkLocal and specify your location, the job or service details you are in need of, and contact (i.e., phone #) details. TalkLocal then blasts the most relevant service professionals in the area via automated phone call. When the pro picks up, they can opt in to accept the job over the phone, then TalkLocal immediate connects them to the client by calling the client’s phone. Once the client picks up, the business gets charged the “introduction” fee. Then it’s up to you, the business, to pitch your services over the phone.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

Head to http://www.talklocal.com/claim/ to claim your business on the TalkLocal site. In addition to entering your business information, you select your job preferences, service area radius, and your desired call frequency/bid level all of which can be adjusted at any time.

Joining the Premium plan will send you a higher volume of leads, which the company says on average costs $16 per call introduction. The free plan only sends businesses jobs that member companies (like Yahoo! Local) have passed on.

PRO TIPS

Just like any other PPL platform, TalkLocal has its own quirks and pro tips. Let’s dive right in!

TalkLocal is sending out an automated phone call to all of the potential leads. This is different because it requires the lead to answer the phone.

But once this happens, TalkLocal then sends a follow up call to your phone – here’s where the magic starts.

Some things to keep in mind from a customer acquisition perspective:

  • Answer the phone professionally. Too many Pros are answering the phone like an individual instead of a business. To look more professional, try starting the conversation with a phrase like “Thank you for reaching out, we are a TalkLocal verified provider and I was wondering if you could tell me more about the project?” This sets the frame from the start that…
    • You are a professional company
    • Indeed responding to their TalkLocal inquiry
    • Focused on them and their needs
  • Get details up front. Too often the job scope is not communicated over the phone effectively. For this reason there is frustration on both sides because…
    • The Pro ends up feeling required to complete tasks outside of the job scope (because they’ve already accepted the job without detailing the deliverables beforehand)
    • The Customer feels confused and slighted (because there aren’t clear expectations set for the success of the job, and what is required to classify this job as a success).

For example: Pro answers the phone unprofessionally, doesn’t clarify the scope of the job.

Result: Customer is unsure of quality / professionalism of Pro, and is upset when some of the items that were expected to be completed in the scope of the job go undone. Customer reviews Pro negatively on TalkLocal and other review platforms. Customer, Pro, and TalkLocal all had a bad experience in this situation.

Another, contrary example: Pro answers the phone professionally and asks great questions to drill down on the requirements for the job.

Result: Customer is happy with the professionalism and feels proud of his decision to hire Pro. All job details are discussed upfront, so nothing is left to chance. Assuming the Pro completes all items on time and up to par, customer is happy and decides to hire the Pro on a recurring basis. This reflects TalkLocal and also the Pro well, and can result in additional recurring revenue for both!

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

TalkLocal is small in size so the volume of client requests and introductions will be relatively small – take this into consideration when you spend time setting up and learning the system.

You should not spend hours of time with a platform that may or may not provide you a lot of new customer liquidity. But arguably it shouldn’t take you very long to get set up.

The company states that average cost of a new client introduction is $16. Keep in mind that this does not guarantee you will win this business. As soon as the call is connected, you are out $16.

Arguably, if you are talking to the customer over the phone, the chances of converting that client to a paying customer is higher than sending them a simple bid through a platform like Thumbtack – it’s more personal to talk on the phone!

But the jury is still out on that theory, so you need to do your own testing to see how convincing you are to win a customer at an average $16 per “opportunity”.

HOW IT WORKS

HomeGuide is another Pay per lead platform. The way it works is a bit different from the others – it still uses a credit system, but you can receive a refund for credits that don’t result in the customer responding.

This seems like an improvement on Thumbtack (which sends quotes to so many Pros, the conversion rate seems to be low) however HomeGuide doesn’t have as big of a network, so the frequency of new online leads may be lower.

HOW DO I SET IT UP?

The way to start is to tap “Join is a Pro” in the top right:

Once you complete the setup and add your business info, you’ll have a chance to start bidding on jobs.

You may also have to confirm your email (and possibly your phone number) in order to verify your profile.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

One thing to remember is that you get to keep 100% of the revenue that you generate – HomeGuide doesn’t keep any of the money that is transferred from the customer to you as the Pro.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to keep track of how much money you’re spending on bids.

Additionally it’s imperative to track how many of the bids you’re sending out are converting to actual customers.

This way you can track the revenue generated by the customers, compare that to your total costs of using HomeGuide (or any other PPL platform) and thus determine your Return on Ad Spend (RoAS).

Now we’re thinking like top Pros! Give yourself a pat on the back once you’re completed this tracking – it’s more than 90% of Pros do to ensure their business is running healthy!

PRO TIPS

HomeGuide has a clever way of getting new Pros – they actually send out a cold email blast asking service providers to put their Best of HomeGuide badge onto their site.

This creates 2 virtuous cycles:

  • Creates a backlink from the service Pro’s site to Homeguide, increasing their SEO and thus their search rankings.
  • Creates social proof on both sides:
    • For the Pro (look, I’ve been featured as Best of HomeGuide!)
    • For HomeGuide (this website categorizes service Pros, so they must be legit.)

So what’s the Pro tip here? You can put the image of their badge onto your site without having to provide a backlink! This creates exposure for HomeGuide (great for them) and also allows you to have more social proof on your website (good for you and reassures your customers that you’re a legit business).

What a journey we’ve taken! Let’s launch into some closing remarks regarding Pay per Lead platforms…

Overall Pay Per Lead Platform Thoughts

In this guide you’ve learned:

  • What are PPL Platforms
  • How they work and make money
  • How you as a service professional can capitalize on the vast amounts of potential customers looking for your services on these platforms
  • Things to watch out for
  • How to set each platform up
  • The risks of each platform

The PPL model for generating leads online is becoming more popular with a certain sect of consumers because it makes price shopping quite convenient for services. You tap a few buttons, and then in minutes you’ve got professionals calling and emailing you with specific quotes on cost of service as well as a nice little pitch to go along with it.

It’s almost like a concierge service for the clients, all the while delivering clarity around pricing – and that means lowest price in most cases.

As a result, we’re starting to see the likes of Google enter the space with Google Home Services. They’ve started first in the San Francisco Bay Area (in beta), so if you’re a provider in that area I would sign up. (Update 2019: Google Home Services and Amazon Home Services are now in full swing)

Clients can “Send Requests” for a quote from you directly from Google (without doing any extra work like visiting another site):

Angie’s List is testing out its “Lead Feed” product offering even, which is again very similar to the PPL model.

Point being, you’ve got an increasing amount of options to play around with to test out if the PPL model is right for your business. I would get a game plan in place as to what your course of action is once a warm lead comes your way, then spend some money to see what it takes to convert leads to clients and also get a sense as to how many of these new clients you’re converting to lifelong customers.

Pro Tips for All Pay Per Lead Platforms

Now that we’ve come to the closing of service business leads in the Pay per Lead form… Let’s discuss some hands-in-the-dirt strategies for actually applying everything you’ve learned about PPL platforms. How you can use them to dominate your local service industry?

Pro Tips:

  • Follow up fast. Like, lighting speed fast. Here’s another interesting graph from the Lead Response management study linked above. This one shows how important it is to follow up quickly in terms of leads that became qualified:

    Always track your RoAS. Remember, you’re paying for each lead, not each customer. This requires you to track how many leads you have to pay for before you convert one into a paying customer. By tracking RoAS you are making sure that your initiative on each platform is paying off. To start tracking RoAS:

    • Track your total expenses for each platform (on a weekly or monthly basis). On PPL platforms this typically comes down to  how many total credits you purchased
    • How many actual customers were generated from these efforts (per platform)
    • Revenue (and profit!) generated from customers for each platform
    • Extra credit: To improve your system further, track the conversion rate from:
      • Lead bids to responses
      • Responses to bookings
      • Avg revenue per booking (per platform)

    This concludes our exhaustive article on Online Leads for Service Businesses! You should now have enough info to dominate your local area… and maybe even time for a victory dance!

    Have any further suggestions for how to use Pay per Lead platforms effectively?

    Anything I missed or that should be added? Please contact support@pocketsuite.io

    If you liked this content, check out our Frustrations with Square article! You’ll never feel so vindicated in your life. 😉

    And of course, if you’re a service Pro and you want a way to manage your entire business from your phone, check out the PocketSuite app. We’ve been featured on TechCrunch, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and more.

    Author: Ilya Ornatov

    Original Article by: Sam Madden

Top 9 Therapy Websites & Marketplaces to Join

Top Therapy Communities

When you are building your therapy, clinical social work or mental health business, growing your customer base and getting exposure can be challenging. With more and more competition, standing out from the crowd can be difficult.

Joining a therapy or health marketplace can be a great way to establish your practice and build your clientele in a high quality way. A lot more so than simply being listed on Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.

We’ve been speaking with dozens of founders of therapy marketplaces and organizations over the past few months, and we wanted to share our thoughts.

Below are nine different types of marketplaces eager therapists can join to help your practice grow, depending on your business’s niche and needs.

Big Brand & Reach

GoodTherapy for Mental Health

As one of the largest mental health directories in the world, GoodTherapy connects patients to professionals in 30 different countries. Each month, the network receives over 1.5 million therapist searches.

GoodTherapy focuses on collaborative care, with a focus on non-stigmatizing language and the client and therapist working together to identify solutions. For mental health professionals, GoodTherapy offers a wide range of continuing education materials, such as webinars, best practices and marketing seminars.

The platform also tracks visitors to your profile as a therapist. You can get access to real-time analytics as to how many clients are visiting your profile, how many are calling you, tapping on call-to-actions, etc.

To become a member it costs $29.95 per month, with discounts if you sign up for longer term memberships.

Platforms Doing Good

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective for Mental Health

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective believes everyone should have access to quality mental care, regardless of income. The mission of the site is to provide middle and lower-income people to affordable psychotherapy and mental health education services.

Individual clients can see a quality therapist for $30 to $50 a visit (well below market pricing). The mental health providers that are part of Open Path’s directory are either therapists building their practice and reputation or established professionals giving back to the community.

There are currently over 2,300 therapists in the community, but with rising client demand, many more are needed.  To join this non-profit network, therapists complete an online application and send in a copy of their license and liability insurance. For most, the process takes under 10 minutes there are no fees whatsoever for participating therapists.

International-Focused Platforms

International Therapist Directory for Mental Health

The International Therapist Directory (“ITD”) is a global listing of professional therapists, counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists who offer cross-cultural therapy. Spanning 40 countries, therapists can connect with clients and also network with other healthcare providers.

As our world becomes more and more culturally blended, with people living and working in new countries, culturally-sensitive healthcare providers are essential to provide relevant and helpful therapy.

The site is focused on professional therapists with credentials at the master’s level or higher, with a thoughtful understanding of the ‘Third Culture Kid’. Healthcare providers in the ITD network have a tendency to connect with one another to refer patients and share their expertise, so their referral network is growing quite considerably.

Member fee is just a $35 annual fee.

Directory, Community, Web-building & More

TherapyTribe for Mental Health

TherapyTribe is an online therapist directory that also offers online support groups with wellness tools and activities.  Offering support for people with mental illnesses, addictions and diseases, the site has a professional directory of thousands of therapists as well as self-help materials.

As one of the largest directories, TherapyTribe receives tens of thousands of visitors each week from people looking for help. In addition, therapists listed with TherapyTribe are featured to support group members using geo-targeting to match by location.  

TherapyTribe is now offering members a free professional therapist website included with their membership.  A membership with TherapyTribe gets your business in front of a national pool of potential clients for a monthly ($20) or annual fee ($199).

Where Physical & Mental Intersect

Essential Yoga Therapy for Holistic Approach to Psychology and Fitness

Essential Yoga Therapy (“EYT”) connects customers with specialized yoga therapists who prepare customized plans to treat chronic pain or illness. EYT focuses on yoga therapy as the evolution of the healing process.  

In addition to giving yoga therapists greater access to potential clients, the site also has quality educational resources. For example, there are sessions on how to teach a class with individuals dealing with scoliosis, covering techniques and pose adjustments that will not hurt the client.  

The site is tailored to certified yoga therapists who focus on the holistic needs and therapeutic practices for individuals. Essential Yoga Therapy also offers in-person training for its professional community to learn new techniques.

OCD-Specific

International OCD Foundation for Niche Mental Healthcare

As one of the oldest resources for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (“OCD”), the International OCD Foundation connects individuals and families with disease state information, support materials and healthcare providers.

The site has a targeted group of therapists 1,200 strong. In addition to a directory listing, professional members also get access to the annual conference access, entrance to the behavioral therapy training institute and clinics with providers specializing in the treatment of OCD.

There are millions of people affected by OCD (1% of the U.S. population to be exact), but finding therapists who are knowledgeable in the disease is difficult. This site connects individuals to specially trained professionals.

The foundation is thoughtful in making membership affordable to its professionals. There are 3 tiers of memberships – from students preparing to be licensed therapists, to institutional memberships – with a sliding scale of membership costs.

Regional Therapy Organizations

The Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work for Regional Care

There are a growing number of regional therapy marketplaces on a state-by-state basis, including the Georgia Society for Clinical Social Work (“GSCSW”) as an example. Since 1980, the GSCSW has worked to advance clinical social work practices and empower professional social workers in the state of Georgia.

By becoming a member, social workers can network with other local professionals, access continuing education resources, and keep informed about legislation affecting the field.

Social workers can join the network with an annual fee ranging from $20 for a student, to $110 for a licensed practitioner. Upon joining, professionals are listed in the local directory and gain access to a forum of other professionals to pose questions and receive support.

On Demand Mental Health

7 Cups for Mental Health

Recently launched 7 Cups provides affordable, on-demand mental health services, connecting users to compassionate and trained professionals around the clock. From everyday stresses to more severe needs, 7 Cups offers users a safe space.

With over 800,000 site visitors a month spanning across 189 countries, the 7 Cups platform is rapidly growing and expanding their services. The benefit to the platform is that therapists can provide care online via messages through the app. All therapy is done through the HIPAA compliant platform, and allows clients to get online (and mobile) access to therapists without having to move a muscle.

For the therapist, the fee is $29.95 per month to be listed. In addition to 40% per client interaction if the client decides to book communication time with you.

For people who want traditional in-person care, 7 Cups also offers a practice directory. Professionals can get connected to thousands of potential clients the old fashioned way as well.

Alternative Therapy

Alternative Therapists Network for Non-Conventional Care

The Alternative Therapists Network (“ATN”) focuses on multiple modes of therapy and self-care for patients. ATN connects clients with counselors, yoga practitioners, life coaches, and music and art instructors. It offers a space for clients and professionals to find alternatives to conventional therapy and medication. This is a known challenge to established beliefs.

Users can find out about practitioners, their experience and their approach to therapy before ever contacting them. That way, they can ensure their therapist shares their ideals and philosophies before beginning sessions.

Clients can schedule appointments directly through the site, which makes it easier for therapists and instructors to build their clientele. For a fee, professionals can join the network, get connected to users and get access to webinars and training seminars.

The founding team of ATN also runs Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, sourcing and delivering great content and articles to ATN members.

Recommendation: First Research, Then Join A Network

As a therapist or healthcare provider, building your own practice can be daunting.  Joining a professional network or marketplace can help you establish your presence and credibility. For a small fee, you can increase your clientele as well as network with like-minded professionals.

It’s a worthwhile investment that will expand your practice.

Mobilize your Business

Texting Convenience

The world is going mobile, and so are your clients. That means you should too.

For some business owners and entrepreneurs, initial reaction to the terms “mobile” and “text message” may seem unprofessional.

For some professionals, after a long day of running the day-to-day and dealing with clients, having to sit in front of the computer for busy work is just a necessary evil of being a small business owner.

Well, the times they are a changing…and mobilizing. 

The benefits of text message far surpass the “what I’m used to” feeling you might have while sitting in front of a desk.

Payment speed, customer convenience, workflow efficiencies, relationship building, marketing and more — these are all fundamental reasons why your peers and competitors are rapidly adopting apps and mobile tools to help their businesses succeed in today’s mobile world.

And your clients? Not only do they accept mobile with open arms, but nowadays they expect it.

You should be happy that your clients live in apps and over text message. As evidenced below, this mobile wave will actually help you build a lightening fast business without causing you any stress.


Here’s a fun (yet slightly depressing) fact: the average time it takes a customer to pay a standard invoice is 14 days.

Newsflash: the average time it takes a customer to pay a PocketSuite invoice (sent over text) is 1 day. (See more)

Why is that (you’re probably asking)? Well we asked some of our 15,000 business owners on PocketSuite, and they responded simply: “Because it’s easy”.

Clients don’t need to get cash from the bank, or remember to mail a check, or go back home to their computer to log in somewhere online to make a payment. On mobile, your customers can pay anywhere, and they can pay over SMS text message. This isn’t some new technology or app your client needs to learn in order to make a payment. Heck, they don’t even need to create an account (i.e., PayPal). It’s a simple tap to pay. Or how about “text to pay” 🙂

In short – you’re not moving mobile for selfless reasons. You get paid quicker. Seize the day!


There are two types of businesses I run into these days when it comes to scheduling: (1) Tech Savvy, and (2) Old School. Now, there are of course others who don’t fall into these 2 groups. For the most part, these are the 2 main types you might fall into.

Tech Savvy
You’ve got some business software with a proprietary calendar. It helps you add really detailed stuff to your calendar, it’s on the web, has a log-in, sends reminders, maybe has some other cool business features, etc. The problem with the ‘TechSavvy’ approach is that the software that is being used is completely isolated from the rest of their life and it’s at your desk. Most software out there does not sync with your personal or any other calendars you use (i.e., Google, iCal, Outlook, etc.). If you want to see your business schedule, well you need to log into some portal from your desktop and view what’s on tap. You can’t see if you have a lunch scheduled that day, or if you have a doctor’s appointment, or your schedule to pick up kids, etc. You’re stuck seated, isolated. No bueno!

Old School
You do scheduling your own way. So a paper calendar or you use your Google Calendar because it’s handy and it gels with all the other personal events you’ve got going on in your life. The problem with the ‘Old School’ approach is that you’re missing out on tons of efficiencies that can help you save tons of time running your business. I get it though – “time” is tough to value. But think about a calendar that gels with your life that’s also mobile, that also sends automatic reminders to clients, that puts appointments directly on your customer’s calendars FOR them, that supports “credit card confirmation”, that auto-sends Thank You! when the appointment is complete, and more. Things you do yourself and things you also can’t even imagine doing yourself.

Start adopting a tool with the best of both worlds. Make sure it’s easy, make sure it syncs with your entire life schedule, and (most of all) make sure you can use it anywhere!


If you work in an industry where your client needs to trust you, then communication is key.

If I’m hiring anyone to come to my home, or to depend on for a special occasion, or to take care of a love one (animal or human of course), or who I’m simply paying a lot of money — I want to make sure I can contact that professional at any time. And that doesn’t mean I’m going to call you at 4 o’clock in the morning to ask you a question.

There’s a reason why people have adopted (and LOVE) text messaging as a mode of communication — it’s convenient, fast and reliable. So why not give that feeling of convenience and reliability to your CLIENTS when building a relationship with them?

Have you ever simply forgotten to respond to an email? Or lost an important email in the midst of junk mail? Or had a client be upset at your “email response time” (however reasonable that might actually be)?

Be available when your clients need you, and give them that warm & fuzzy convenient experience. Build mobile communication into the core of your workflow, and form a deeper and more direct relationship with your customers.


Give Customers Mobile Convenience

We’re talking CONVENIENCE across the board here.

Payments, scheduling, messaging, e-signing documents, and more.

In a major way, introducing all these parts of your business to clients in the palm of their hands is incredible. Your clients can be literally ANYwhere and pay an invoice you send them….Get a reminder about tomorrow’s appointment…Field a text saying “Running 15 mins late”…Receive a waiver to sign. Literally ZERO effort on them to take any action.

And that last sentence ties into why convenience is good for YOU. The “zero effort to take any action” I just mentioned? Well that “action” typically drives the success of your business — your getting paid, winning a new client, filling up your schedule, etc. 

Give clients what they want and good things will happen 🙂

Best Communities to Help Personal Trainers Succeed

Fitness Trainer Communities

Being an independent health and fitness professional can feel lonely. You don’t have co-workers, you don’t have any staff – it’s you and your clients.

As fitness-focused groups and communities have grown online (on top of what already exists “offline”), fitness, health and wellness professionals are starting to take advantage of the vast wealth of knowledge and benefits out there. Being a part of a group or community won’t just help you get more clients or help you learn tips/tools from successful peers, but they can also act as your psychiatrist – helping you connect with fellow fitness and health professionals across the world relating to your daily frustrations, questions and concerns.

We’ve spoken to thousands of personal trainers, wellness professionals and yoga instructors to get a sense as to the most powerful communities (online and offline) to help them get the upper hand when it comes to building their own small business.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups can help your fitness business in two ways:
(1) Shed light on great educational resources
(2) Connect with peers to help your sanity

LindedIn Groups focus around fitness, health and wellness businesses are hyper-targeted and can add hyper value to your business. Groups that were recommended to us include Fitness Trainers and Coaches (52,815 members), Health & Fitness Industry Professionals (21,507 members), and The Health & Wellness Networking Group (60,790 members).

These groups are best described by a summary from Fitness Trainers and Coaches. “Allowing professionals in this industry to network, gain knowledge and share techniques among other group members so that the common objective of improving the lives of our clients, can be achieved along with the advances in technology.

LinkedIn Groups are great because the members of these communities share training tips. They share useful blogs and they share tech tools that will help their peers succeed. The fantastic thing about these communities is the professionals don’t consider each other competition. Members are open and happy to be helpful to other professionals – it’s not a zero sum game in this community…everybody can succeed together.

LinkedIn is also a great way to connect with peers to help vent any frustration. On top of public communication feed, you can create direct and private relationships with other trainers on the platform. You can share stories, experiences and advice (public or private). Advice based on any working situations or experiences you’ve had with clients. You can decide if you’d like act as social media shrink doling out advice to peers. Act as the patient with a sea of eager fitness, health and wellness entrepreneurs who are willing to help.

Certification Programs

Don’t get me wrong – getting a 3rd party certification as a fitness trainer or health professional is work. Discovering the program that will benefit your business, analyze its benefits, pay money for the certification, and then actually prepare and take an exam to complete certification. The return on this investment can be huge for a variety of reasons.

Popular certification programs include ACE Fitness, IDEA Fit, and NASM. Becoming a part of these certification programs is great because it not only opens you up to a network of other professionals, but allows you to leverage the network for benefits. Things like employment listings, exposure within a client-facing directory, liability insurance discounts, product discounts and more. Here’s a great comparison table detailing the variety of benefits across certification programs.

Communities like these are more active and force you to do work. In return the amount of work you put in can yield tremendous dividends. About 100,000 trainers across the U.S. are part of these certification groups.

Twitter Influencers

There are a lot of these “influencers” on Twitter that dole out useful tips, tricks and advice. Especially relevant within the fitness and health industries that thrive off it. Typically most of these people cater to consumers who are looking for D.I.Y. advice. This is not as relevant to eager entrepreneurs looking to build their own business. Similarly there are many influencers you can follow on Twitter who talk about broad or niche topics that you will find interesting. Therefore, you can then pass on to your clients in the form of consulting advice or enhanced services.

Adam Bornstein (@BornFitness) provides great content and articles around a whole host of educational fitness topics. Meaghan B Murphy (@meaghanbmurphy) is an ACE certified trainer and also provides useful tips focused on training integrated with a healthy lifestyle. Jen Sinkler (@jensinkler) has a hyper focus around female heavy lifting (niche industry for some trainers). Bobby Strom (@BobbyStrom) is known as the “trainer’s trainer” with must-read tips revolving around not just fitness but medical help as well. Bob Harper (@MyTrainerBob) is meal oriented and clearly one who is friendly with food-conscious celebrities. Point being, there are all types of fitness and health personalities you can follow. To further your entrepreneurial career, depending on your business needs.

Twitter communities keep you and your specific industry in-the-know on a variety of topics. Never let any trends, topics or tips slip under the radar – turn this knowledge into power by improving your client relationships and services.