ACA Blog

Anthony Centore
Jan 26, 2011

Marketing a Counseling Practice: Don’t Censor Your Fans!

[Readers, don’t forget to leave your comments below—I reply to every comment or question!]
It’s hard to get people to talk about your business…if you’re a restaurant. If you’re a counselor, you’re really fighting an uphill battle, as clients need to overcome the social stigma of being in counseling in order to tell others about your service.

Therefore, to recruit a “raving fan” (that is, someone who passionately tells others about your service), you have to make a big positive impression. You have to exceed your clients’ expectations, provide outstanding service and care, and offer a “remarkable” experience that they can’t help but to tell their friends about.

Once you accomplish this, and you have clients who are talking about you, or writing blogs about you, or posting reviews about you, or maybe even singing songs about you (who knows?), there is something very important that you need to do.

Ready?
This is what you need to do:
Stay Out Of Their Way!
It took a lot of fuel to get that car moving…don’t hit the breaks!

The only reason you should intervene is to help, encourage, reward, thank, or incentivize your fans to continue talking about (thereby promoting) your counseling service.

It should be Common Sense Not to Hush your Cheerleaders, but…

Businesses make mistakes all the time as they try to manage their fans, and control the way that their fans share their brand. For sure, your customers won’t market your counseling practice the way you market your counseling practice. They will do it their way -- in chat rooms, on a blog, in unscrupulous terms to their friends.
They might quote you without permission.
They might copy text from your brochure.
They might copy and paste your logo.
They might take a picture of your office, and tag it on Facebook.
A client could mention that you wore an ugly sweater on Wednesday (my clients have told others that I wear brightly colored socks. Not exactly what my marketing message is, but I’ll take it! And I feel fortunate that my clients are talking about my practice).

Learn to love your clients’ creative and unorthodox methods of spreading the word about your service. Learn to get comfortable being reviewed: even if reviews are mixed. Even some of the reviews are negative (and some will be).

A Real Life Example of What Not To Do

I had been promoting a company (let’s call them “Company X”) in my writing, speaking, and consulting for a couple of years. Recently, I copied an email they had sent me about an upcoming sale, and posted it online to share with my readers in hopes of sending Company X more customers,

Sounds good, right? Not to the marketing department at Company X. 24 hours after posting the email, a company representative contacted me to request that I remove the post. Here’s the email I received:

***
Hi Anthony!

I hope this email finds you well. I was doing some
searching on the internet and noticed you posted up our entire Black
Friday email on your wordpress blog www.startacounselingpractice.com
This was a special offer sent out only to our previous customers, and
not intended to be posted up for the public to see. I would appreciate
it if you removed the coupon code and email entirely. Thanks so much
and please let me know if you have any other questions.
[Name Removed]
Director
__________________________
[Company Name Removed]

***

This is a polite email, for sure, but it’s the opposite message you want to send to anyone trying to send you business. If Company X was smart about getting the word out about their product, the staff would have sent me more offers to promote. Instead, they couldn’t handle that my promotion approach was different from theirs! How unfortunate! Don’t make this mistake with your clients.

More Articles on Marketing a Counseling Practice

I’m going to be writing on this topic more, but for now, let me recommend a few books that could help you market your small businesses / counseling practice:

“What Would Google Do,” by Jeff Jarvis
“Raving Fans,” by Ken Blanchard
“The Gift Economy,” By Gary Vanerchuck (Coming soon. I normally would never recommend a book I haven’t read, but this author writes good stuff)
“The Referral Generator,” John Jantsch

Thanks for reading!



Anthony Centore is a counselor, and helps other counselors build successful practices. For more information on private practice and insurance panels go to http://thriveworks.com .

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