Last month, I had the privilege of speaking at the NASW-NC Clinical Social Work Institute, and I loved getting to meet so many therapists interested in building client-centered, successful practices. After my second talk, Business Planning and Marketing for Therapists, I spoke one-on-one with several therapists who expressed confusion and frustration about marketing.

These therapists are not alone. Most clinicians and coaches are comfortable working in their business as a service provider, but when it comes to working on their business as an owner? Not so much. (BTW, this isn’t limited to therapy and coaching. I see it with professionals of all backgrounds – physicians, dentists, chiropractors… feeling uncertain in business doesn’t discriminate.)

And it all makes sense. I don’t know about you, but my graduate program focused on mental health and client care – and zero information on the business side of being a provider. Even after graduating, many continuing education courses continue to focus on therapeutic models and client service provision. No wonder so many attendees reached out after my talk, in person and via email, with their questions and concerns about how to actually be a business owner.

So when I’m working with a clinician or coach who owns their own practice, their first question is usually, “How do I find more clients?” My response? Attracting clients (and not just any client, but the right client) starts with having a clear message. You need to know how to talk about what you do, so that when you’re marketing your business, you are solid on who you serve and how you serve them.

But how do you develop a clear message? No worries – I’ve developed three steps to help my clients – and you – know how to talk about what you do.

Talk to your ideal client with ease.

Download your free cheat sheet today!

Step One: Position yourself as the guide (not the hero)

In Building a StoryBrand, Donald Miller says the key mistake most businesses make is casting themselves as the hero of the story. All of the language and marketing is about the business, the business owner, and the brand – and that results in alienating the client.

Instead, Miller says that successful businesses allow the client to be the hero of the story, because they understand their role is that of the wise guide. The guide understands the journey the hero is undertaking, often because the guide has already completed a similar journey, and uses their wisdom and experience to help the hero navigate the path.

This approach is ideal for clinicians and coaches – many of us embody a client-centered approach and prioritize our clients’ needs, so we’re accustomed to the client in the hero role. But when you talk about what you do, it’s also important to convey your authority and expertise in such a way that positions you as the best solution. The focus remains on the client while you introduce yourself as the ideal guide.

Step Two: Learn your client’s language

Often times, when therapists talk about what they do, they focus on their therapeutic approach and the disorders they treat. For example, “I’m a cognitive behavioral therapist who works with clients with eating disorders,” or “I help women with borderline personality disorder using dialectical behavioral therapy.” While it might be accurate, it’s not engaging, and it certainly doesn’t place the client as the hero. And if the client isn’t the hero, they might not see themselves in your story at all.

Instead, use your client’s language to describe their experience and how you can help. Imagine your ideal client is sitting in front of you. How does she describe herself? What does he say he’s struggling with? What are their goals? What do they want? When you pay attention to the words your clients use and incorporate them into your marketing, your clients get the sense that you truly understand where they’re coming from and what they need.

So now that you’re clear on your client’s language and you’re keeping them the star of the show, it’s time to tie it all together into that all-important marketing statement – the elevator pitch.

Step Three: Perfect your pitch

Ah, the classic “elevator pitch.” You’ve probably heard of it before – it’s a brief description of who you are and what you do. However, many business owners overlook the “brief” aspect, and provide far too much detail in their initial interaction with a potential client or referral source.

An elevator pitch should take you about 15 seconds to say – any longer than that and you start losing the other person’s interest. Think of your elevator pitch as a movie trailer – it’s meant to spark curiosity so that people go see the movie. If you share your elevator pitch and the other person is interested, then you can follow up with more information.

When it comes to crafting the perfect pitch, I recommend breaking it down into four parts:

Clients – Who do you serve?
Problem – What is your client’s main struggle?
Solution – How do you help solve that struggle?
USP – What is your “unique selling proposition,” or what do you offer that your competitors don’t?

Once you’ve answered those four questions (using your client’s language, of course!), you can use this format to start creating your elevator pitch:

I help (CLIENTS) who have (PROBLEM) by providing (SOLUTION) using (USP).

For example, let’s say you work primarily with couples and your background is in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s tempting to simply say, “I’m an ACT-trained therapist who works with couples,” but as we discussed, that doesn’t speak directly to your client. However, if you use your client’s language, you can work through the four parts like this:

• Clients – Couples
• Problem – Communication (client language: feel disconnected, can’t get on the same page, always fighting)
• Solution – Build connection and trust (client language: feel like a couple again, rekindle the romance)
• USP – focus on values-based action and mindful living (consistent with ACT)

Using the format, you might start your elevator pitch like this:

I help couples who feel like they’re constantly fighting renew their relationship and get back on the same page by helping them get clear on what matters most to them and living mindfully in the moment.

That feels a little stiff, right? So let’s play with it a bit more:

I work with couples who are tired of constantly fighting and who want a better way to connect with each other. I help them get clear on what matters most and focus on the present moment, so that they can take mindful action to rekindle their relationship.

Getting better, right? You can play around with the order a bit, but as long as you pull in all four parts – the client, the problem, the solution, and the USP – you’ve got the bones of a solid elevator pitch.


And there you have it! Three easy steps to help you talk about what you do with your clients and referral sources. By positioning yourself as the guide, learning your client’s language, and perfecting your pitch, you create a strong foundation for marketing your business and attracting clients.

So tell me – how will you talk about what you do? Share your key takeaways in the comments below, and feel free to post your elevator pitch too. I can’t wait to read them!

Talk to your ideal client with ease.

Download your free cheat sheet today!