6 Reasons Counselors Need Content Marketing

Yes! You need a website! Yes! Content marketing is more than a website!

You think you have good referrals from your insurance panels? What if you could get better clients by doing something different?

I am incredibly blessed to be a member of a group practice before finishing my graduate degree.  Even so, one draw back is that I can’t bill insurance. That means that I can’t rely on insurance companies to send me clients.

Like everyone else, I have bills to pay. Like every other grad student, I’m broke. So I asked my supervisor if he knew any counselors in the area that needed a new website (I’m kind of good at those). He laughed and told me that none of the sole proprietors would be interested in what we’re doing (referring to “content marketing”), implying that they probably don’t want new websites either.

I won’t go down the rabbit trail about why counselor’s private practices should be LLC’s or nonprofits instead of sole proprietorships.  That’s a post all its own.

I want to give attention to the absurdity of counselors balking at having websites, or beyond that, at content marketing. I could say that “everyone knows” that you “should” have a website. But that would be a bandwagon fallacy. Content marketing isn’t new, it’s just a new word for a combination of old practices (educator + journalist + marketer = content marketer).

In this day and age, you cannot do content marketing without a website. So instead of arguing that you should have a website, I’ll argue that you, as a counselor, should be doing content marketing.

Here are the first six reasons that I can think of.

Bonus: To help you put this into action, I’ve created a FREE 4-page worksheet to help you get started with blogging to build your practice. Click Here to get it.

1. Content Marketing Counselors Educate Clients

Only used car salesmen are afraid of an educated consumer. Counselors should be ecstatic when they get clients that know what to expect. You may have already experienced an educated client if you have seen clients who work in other professions subject to HIPAA.

But for everyone else, when you say “HIPAA” they probably think you just mispronounced “hippo.”  What if you could automate your first session spiel reel, give the client on demand access to it, AND have it serve a marketing function for you? Jay Baer’s book Youtility is an argument for this type of marketing based on just this point. That book is a must read, but if you’re not convinced, here’s a 5-minute summary to whet your appetite.

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If you were providing Youtility, would your client’s anxiety level be lower at their first session because they know what to expect? Would you spend less time explaining the arcane paperwork of our field and be able to get to work grinding grist in the mill?

2. Content Marketing Counselors Get a Head Start on Therapeutic Alliance

The highest predictor of success in counseling is the client’s own motivation, followed closely by their support system. And then guess what’s in third place: The way they click with you. The “therapeutic alliance.”

Guess what the most important skill is for building the therapeutic alliance: empathy. Guess what the most important skill is for effective content marketing: empathy.

Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter, uses a tool called an empathy map to plan his content. If this tool is effective for marketers, who base their work on demographic data; imagine how effective it can be for counselors, who base their work on data from experience.

John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing and Referral Engine, uses a tool called the marketing hourglass for the same purpose.  The first three steps of the hourglass are pretty straight forward.  You need your prospective clients to know, like, and trust you so that they will work with you.  At that point, they will try and buy your services.  If they’re still happy, they’ll give you referrals.

6 Reasons Counselors Need Content Marketing

3. Content Marketing Counselors Get Better Referrals

This is the combined effect of 1 and 2. Because you educate your clients by practicing content marketing, you have a better therapeutic alliance from the first session. Because you satisfy people who try and buy your services, you get referrals that are a better match for you than for your competition.

A referral that you earn this way is better for you because you’re more likely to enjoy the work and be good at it. It’s better for the clients because they’re getting the type and style of services they need and want. It’s better for the financially responsible party, which might still be an insurance company, because they’re getting what they pay for.

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4. Content Marketing Counselors Have More Client Contact

I like to tell my clients that therapy is 1 hour out of 168 in the week, less than 0.6% of your week. If I suggest a book or a worksheet, it’s like me and the therapist that wrote that book or designed that worksheet are still doing therapy with you. If you do the between-session work, you will get more value out of our time together.

I think that spiel does an amazing job of getting clients to do their homework. If I practice content marketing, then there is a high chance the book or worksheet I will suggest is actually my own. So they really are spending more indirect time with me.

Social workers talk about increased client contact, or collateral supports in terms of “wrap around care.” Counselors use all kinds of ten dollar ivory tower words depending on what theory they hold. Content marketers like Jay Baer call this a “shotgun” approach. He’s talking specifically in terms of reaching a potential customer with more social media touch points, but the same principle applies to how much more care we can provide to our clients if we make this type of marketing our practice.

Incidentally, this is also the reason that your two page brochure website isn’t winning you any business. It’s only a single touch point, and clients probably only look at it once.

For you to win business through your website, you need:

  1. New content published with reliable regularity.
  2. Reliable traffic to your website.
  3. A website that converts a prospect to a caller.
  4. A sales response that converts a caller to a client.
  5. A way to point clients back to your website on a regular basis, so that they share your content.

5. Content Marketing Counselors Contribute to the Profession

In academia, the rule is “publish or perish.” The problem is that the current peer review process is so obscenely slow compared to the rate of change in the rest of the world. Peer review is necessary to Western society’s scientific process, but there is a faster way to accomplish the same goal if institutions can adapt (can you see my maximizer, futurism, and optimism in that?).

One way that search engines measure authority is similar to how peer reviewed journals do it. A link from one website or article is essentially a citation. More links to a site or article means greater authority (or infamy, but I’ll keep being optimistic). An internet search is more accessible to your potential clients than a database full of peer reviewed journals.

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There will be a time, I think sooner than later, that an internet search will be an equally valid way to find credible information as in peer reviewed journals. If you are on the front end of the adoption curve, you will make a greater contribution to our profession than simply writing for peer reviewed journals.

In the mean time, if you have peer reviewed work, here’s what to do:

  1. Break it up into 500 to 1,000 word chunks.
  2. Rework it and rephrase it using as little jargon as possible
  3. Shorten the sentences.
  4. Use section heads (like the main six points in this article).
  5. Use bullet points.
  6. Get the Flesch Reading Ease score as high as possible.
  7. Add visual support (Power Point Smart Art is great for this).
  8. Republish it on your website.

6. Content Marketing Counselors are Ethically Adaptive

This point is the combined effect of 1 through 5. If you practice content marketing, you will adapt more quickly to new ethical challenges to the profession. For example, proper use of social media or other new technologies.

Even though I am skeptical of macro-biological Darwinism, I have few objections to economic Darwinism (it is actually observable, for one). A reality of our profession is that it selects against bad ethics. If you practice content marketing, it requires reading and consuming new material beyond the continuing education requirements of your license. A corollary to that is that you will consume more material on ethics than what is required to maintain your license. If you apply that material, you will be practicing at a higher ethical level than your competition.

Of course, that’s just my opinion

If you have a different one, comment below and let me know what you think.

Bonus: To help you put this into action, I’ve created a FREE 4-page worksheet to help you get started with blogging to build your practice. Click Here to get it.

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By Dan

Founder, Executive Director, Mental Health Counselor at Restored Life Counseling