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Episode 120 | Lead Generation with Colleen Hilton

colleen hilton


  • Episode 120 | Lead Generation with Colleen Hilton 00:00


Hi Group Practice Listeners! In this episode, I’m talking with Colleen Hilton all about lead generations for group practice owners.

In this episode we cover:

  • What lead generations are
  • Low quality vs high quality leads
  • Leads vs intakes vs converted clients

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Maureen Werrbach

Hey, everyone, welcome back to another episode of The Group Practice Exchange Podcast. I’ve got Colleen Helton, with me of Acuity Counseling, she’s got her own group practice. Where are you at? I should know this.

Colleen Hilton 

We are just in and around Seattle, Washington.

Maureen Werrbach 

Okay. That’s what I thought and then I was like, I’m not going to go out there and say that. Well, today we’re going to be talking about lead generations for group practice owners. This is a topic we haven’t talked about. So I’m really excited to have you on to talk about this.

Colleen Hilton 

Thank you, I am so excited to be here. It’s a topic that I’ve gotten more and more passionate about over the last couple of years. So I’m really excited to kind of get other people excited as well.

Maureen Werrbach 

Okay, so tell us for those that don’t know what lead generations are, and what that means for group practice owners, do you want to give a quick definition of that?

Colleen Hilton 

Sure. Lead generation can plain and simple is the acquisition or the the driving of new clients to the practice. I think a lot of times in mental health industry, we think of it under the terms of referrals. But that doesn’t really qualitatively define it. So we use lead generation to talk about the quality of different referrals or new clients coming into the practice.

Maureen Werrbach 

Perfect. And so I know this is a topic that you feel passionate about and that you have some experience in. Tell us a little bit about you, your practice, and why you know what you do about this topic.

Colleen Hilton 

Acuity Counseling was started in 2016. So we just had our fourth birthday this past May, which is really exciting. And over the last four years, we have grown from just myself as a sole proprietor to about 22 therapists and three locations in the Pacific Northwest, which is really exciting.

And then with the onset of Coronavirus, like many of us, we have shifted gears and we’re doing a large portion of our sessions with our clients via telehealth. So we’re able to access clients all over the state of Washington and really expand our coverage, which is also exciting.

But the short version of this is, when we go into owning a group practice, as I see many people talk about in the forums, one of the challenges is driving enough new clients to the practice to fill the multiple clinicians that you have. And many times the clinicians that are part of a group practice are not really interested in doing the marketing and gathering referrals.

So it falls on the practice owner to kind of take that that role.

And when we’re an individual practitioner, obviously, you need far less quantity wise, but also some of the traditional methods of getting yourself out there, you know, networking, doing coffees, insurance panels, they just don’t work as well on the group practice level. So I found that to be true and really started diving into how do I get not only the right quantity of leads for my clinicians, but also the right quality of leads.

We are a very diverse group. And so everybody has different expertise and specialization. It became really important but also a little bit tricky to figure out how to find the right clients, for my clinicians, so that we have really high quality fit. And over the last two or three years I’ve been really diving in on that and kind of tweaking. But also specializing that and just been really excited to kind of share that with others. Because I think there’s a mindset shift that needs to occur in our industry around quantity of new clients coming to the practice, we want to shift towards quality.

Maureen Werrbach 

When talking about that, because I think it’s such an important piece of information when it comes to getting new clients in the door is the concept of not just the quantity but really the quality. What kind of things are you thinking about when you think quality?

Colleen Hilton 

You know, honestly, and I know you talk about this a lot, Maureen, it goes back to branding and kind of knowing who you are as a practice. Every practice is unique. Some are specialized around a certain population or presenting problem. Some focus on diversity and therefore have several different specializations or populations that they’re serving. And when you talk about quality of lead generation, you have to start with: Who are you? And what are your mission and values so that you can then do the discovery around who is my ideal client?

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So that’s something we talk a lot about is who the ideal clients are. When when figuring out how to appropriately market for, you know, the chiropractors and the clinicians inside of it. What do you notice that people are looking at quantity over quality, I see it a little bit in the Facebook groups and how people kind of word their marketing strategies.

And it’s interesting, it’s similar to you know, people setting kind of arbitrary goals financially for their business saying they want to reach seven figures or things like that, where it seems like a lot of business owners and it’s not just through practice of business owners as a whole are, you know, finding finding success or thinking their success?

There’s going to be success in numbers versus, like, in quality of life or in quality of clients coming in.

Colleen Hilton 

Yeah, I totally agree. I agree. And I think you can actually define success in both ways.

We can quantify it around money. And I think it’s important to have those goals and particularly for new group practice owners, or even sole proprietors. I’d love to see them have goals, even if they are arbitrarily set because you got to start somewhere.

But converting that to kind of a blended picture of these are my goals for revenue and how does that translate into actual profits? Then also, what are the intangibles that come with that? How hard do I have to work for the money that I’m that I’m going after? And one of the things that I’ve really drill down on is how do we define within Acuity, what a high quality lead is versus what a low quality lead is? And it really is that blend of revenue and effort.

For us, a low quality lead would be somebody that it takes my intake specialist a lot of work to convert.

So maybe you have to go back and forth with numerous phone calls or lots of emails, tons of explanations, which it’s time consuming, because at the end of the day, that costs money. And a low quality lead would also be a client who’s relatively short term. For us, a retained client is 10 sessions. So if I’m only going to keep them for four, for example, maybe the EAP are not likely to convert into a cash pay or an insurance client that makes them technically a low quality lead.

The other things that might be that are in the consideration are low paying insurance. Many of us talk about dropping low paying panels or really prioritizing cash pay, as well as being low functioning and high need. So if they’re a client that’s going to take a lot of hand holding, or kind of push towards case management, all of those things define that potential client as a low quality lead for my practice. And as much as I want those people to get help, they’re not really a great fit for Acuity and for our clinicians.

So when I’m looking at high quality lead, I’m looking for the opposite of those four things.

I’m looking for someone who is easy to convert, they already trust my brand, they already know about Acuity, maybe they’re an internal referral, like they want to work with us. So it doesn’t take a lot of work.

They’re long term client. So ideally, they would stay at least that 10 sessions but I would love it if there may be a six, nine or 12 month client. The acquisition cost goes down at that point and of course, there are a lot less work because you don’t have to go through that intake process again to refill that spot.

And financially they are cash pay or they are my highest paying insurance.

And then I think as we all kind of aspire to in therapy, they’re really high functioning, and they’re low need. So they’re coming in, they’re really wanting to make their lives better. They’re not struggling with any immediate needs around housing or finances. They’re just kind of looking to to level up.

So we really try to focus on how do we get this high quality leads? Because not only does it translate into more money for the practice, but it also translates into less work for all of the staff within the practice. Right.

Maureen Werrbach 

And so I like what you’re saying in this because you keep referring back to that those are the that’s your practices, ideal client. And it’s really important that, you know, listeners are really figuring out who the ideal client or the client avatar is for their group practice, because that’s going to drive you know, figuring out these next steps that you were talking about.

Colleen Hilton 

Yeah, and I think sometimes therapists we kind of default to what are their presenting problem as the primary thing that we’re looking for when we’re looking for a client. I really encourage people to expand, like you said that avatar and really think about, you know, what is the age? What is the gender, the sex? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? You know, where do they hang out? Like really think of them as a whole person, so that you get a better idea of how to connect with them through your marketing, your advertising. Yeah.

Maureen Werrbach 

What feedback do you have for group practice owners who are in this stage of now trying to figure out who their client avatar is, so that they could better figure out how to set up a good lead generation for their businesses?

Colleen Hilton 

I think there’s I think there’s a couple of kind of big tasks in front of people right now.

On the surface, it looks like there’s a huge demand for mental health care And there is and I’m sure that a lot of people are seeing it. I’m certainly seeing it with Acuity, just high quantity of clients seeking care. But you really need to figure out what you need and who that ideal client is.

So thinking about your own group practice, are you in a maintenance mode, so to speak, where you are staffed up, and you’re just looking to sustain case loads? Or are you actively growing and bringing on new clinicians so you probably need more leads in order to get get enough clients into support your clinicians.

Also, knowing what percentage of leads your practice typically converts to clients, because leads don’t necessarily mean intakes and intakes don’t necessarily mean long term clients.

So knowing how efficient you or your staff are at making those conversions is a really important piece of information that will allow you to drill down on how many leads do I really need?

And then have a budget. I know we talked a lot about Profit First, I know Acuity uses Profit First, I’m a huge fan. But figuring out what is the budget you can allow for marketing and advertising? And what is your expectation on how many leaves that’s going to drive? And then based on the conversion, what is the cost of each of those leads, understanding all of those numbers, allows practice owners right now to really focus their efforts as opposed to just kind of throwing darts out there, or or just kind of waiting for the clients to come to you. Because again, you know, quantity of leads is great, but quality of leads is really what we’re looking to attain.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, I saw this with one of my therapists and we had talked to them about, you know, they were getting a lot of clients and their specialty was a little bit broad. They liked  to see a variety of people, but their retention wasn’t great. And when we started really digging into what their retention, like, what were the common themes of the clients that that person that clinician was led up by when they got to see them? What were the common themes for the type of clients who were retained? What was the common theme of the clients who weren’t retained?

We were able to see that there’s, you know, really specific data around, that person and who their real ideal clients are. And, really washing away some of the outskirts of that. I know can sometimes feel scary for clinicians do that and obviously translating that over to business owners when it comes to lead generation.

It can sound scary to sort of limit or eliminate possibilities.

But it tends to I mean, every time we’ve, you know, kind of gotten rid of the outskirts or closed in on, what we’re focusing on, it always meant increased revenue. It’s always increased clinician satisfaction increased, client satisfaction because they were matched to the right fitting therapists. So I guess I want to give that out there for anyone who’s listening who feels scared or nervous by, you know, limiting or closing in on who they’re who practice so that they could have higher quality lead generations. It is such a good thing for you to do for your business.

Colleen Hilton 

Yeah, it really is a big scary step. I think it’s important to acknowledge that especially if you’re in the early stages of growing your group practice. You really are, you know, you’re kind of holding everything together with tape and shoestring at times, and you’re just going cash. We just need enough clients, but you work really hard for those clients. So like you said, A honing in And having those clients be a better clinical fit so that they last for the clinician just creates this wonderful feedback loop that improves everything within the practice. Yeah.

Maureen Werrbach 

So this episode was about lead generations and your thoughts on it. But there is a secret second part of this right?

Colleen Hilton 

There is I’m really, really excited. And I can’t let ever let the cat completely out of the bag. But when when I was really drilling down on lead generation for Acuity, and fine tuning it at the end of that process, and not even the end because I continue to, to refocus on that, I realized that this wasn’t just something that I was struggling with as a group practice center in Seattle.

But in chatting with other group practice owners, I realized that this was really prevalent across our mental health industry. You know, we go to grad school and we learn how to be healers and helpers. And there’s no business side of that. And so it’s kind of the school of hard knocks but that this was something that we could create a solution for, for group practice owners and help them move faster to a place of profitability and you know, ease and satisfaction in what they do.

So myself and a few partners have been working on a lead generation solution.

And like I said, I can’t really go into a ton of specifics yet but we are going to unveil this new product at your conference marine this upcoming July. I’m really excited about so we put together a splash page at the new company is called Thrive Lution. And if you visit the website at, you can get yourself added to an email list and we’ll be pushing out new information as it becomes available and you’ll be at the front of the line to be able to take advantage of this new really exciting tool.

Maureen Werrbach 

I’m really excited to see how this opens up. And I’m myself and Mike both feel really honored that you’re choosing to Practice Builder Summit to be able to, to kind of launch that. And I’m really excited to see this, the start so I literally am just like, my 24th can we can we get here so we can see?

Colleen Hilton 

Well, I want to I want to say thank you. I’m super excited. Yeah, Maureen, I’ve been kind of following you and part of the group practice discussion boards and whatnot for the last couple of years. And I’ve really been able to gain a lot of invaluable information and I just really want to be able to give that back. You know, I made a lot of mistakes, expensive mistakes, to get Acuity to where it’s at. And I would just really love to be able to help others avoid some of those expensive mistakes and at a time when mental health care is really coming into its own in a whole new way. There’s no reason why all of us can’t be incredibly successful.

Maureen Werrbach 

I agree. So where can people go to get on your email list so that when it officially launches very shortly there at the front of the line?

Colleen Hilton 

Yep, you can go to www dot thrive lution dot com. And there’s beautiful splash page that my partner’s to put together. And you’ll be able to add your name to our email list and get all the updates as they come out.

Maureen Werrbach 

Thank you so much for coming on and for talking about new generations and giving a little sneak peek into your new business revolution. I’m really excited to see it launch.

Colleen Hilton 

Yeah, well, thank you for having me, Maureen. I’ve really enjoyed chatting.

Maureen Werrbach 

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard. Give us five stars. on whatever platform you’re listening from, need extra support. Join the exchange a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours live webinars and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange com forward slash exchange. See you next week.

Thanks For Listening

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard? Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra suppor? Join The Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange dot com forward slash exchange. See you next week.


Here are the resources and guides we recommend based on this episode

therapy notes

*Need a good EHR for your group practice? TherapyNotes is it. I’ve been using it for years in my own group practice, and it does really well when it comes to having the features group practice owners need. Try it out for FREE for 2 months by clicking here.

* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

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Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


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