[This post is for my counseling colleagues but will also apply to almost all private professional service practices!]
Have you ever surfed the internet to read up on what other counselors are doing? What are their specialties? What is on their website?
If you have you will usually find a laundry list of every disorder known to man. Or it least categorized in the DSM IV!
We help with depression, post traumatic stress, communication, women’s issues, men’s issues, addiction, anger management, anxiety, and so on and the list covers it all.
So if I am an individual suffering with clinical depression who do I go see? All counselors work with depression.
If I have a sexual addiction who do I go see? Many claim to work with sexual addiction, but as a counselor you know what a difficult diagnosis this is and the work to be done is truly daunting. The person really needs an expert! Who do they go see?
It is confusing for the clients who need help. It is also not good for business!
Why Christian Counselors should Specialize?
There are many ethical and practical reasons to specialize, however, here I want to just focus you in on the business reasons:
#1 Specialize so you become great at it.
The best way to grow business is to be great at what you do. How can you be great at a type of counseling, or with a target group, if you are spread so thin. Without a specialty you never have time to study up on all of the areas, nor do you ever see enough clients with a particular issue that you see all the facets of the disorder. Having an area of specialization focuses your time and attention on these areas so that you truly can become the expert.
#2 Specialize so you become known for something.
When you are known for something you get more referrals. First of all people know who to refer to you. Second, your name comes up all the time in relationship to this expertise, therefore the potential client call you because they are hearing about you from multiple voices. They see your name everywhere.
#3 Other Counselors become your best referral source.
I focused early on with helping people in business with their stress or helping people with careers that are unfulfilling. Now when another counselor has a client with business or career issues they refer them to me.
It is a win-win. They can provide a good referral to their client connecting them with a resource that they need. Plus, I am not directly competing with the other counselor because I don’t profess to do everything. Usually I am not an expert in their area!
If you do everything then you are a competitor to everyone!
#4 Marketing becomes effective once you specialize.
It is unaffordable to create marketing pieces for five (5) different areas of specialty. It is ineffective to have one marketing piece with a diluted message that you do “a little of this and a little of that”.
Having one or two major areas of specialty allows you to create strong marketing messages. You have room to make them tasteful and communicate the difficult messages that counselors must communicate to reach their customers. We have a unique business. We can’t just offer a sale!
Also, with the digital age the internet is one of the most significant referral sources. In order to rank high on the search engines for certain issues the content of your website needs to be focused. If not, the search engines won’t pick it up. I won’t go into detail regarding search engine optimization here, but basically, without focused content your site won’t be optimized!
#5 Assuming you choose a specialty you are passionate about, you will more often attract your ideal client.
We learn in graduate school that building rapport is one of our very first steps. We learn in reality that if we don’t connect with a client they won’t come back. Your chances of connecting to a client on an area you are passionate, experienced and knowledgable is much more likely than in an area at the bottom of the endless list of services.
I am passionate about business. I love counselors and what they stand for and how they help. Helping counselors stay in business and thrive in their practice is a calling for me and every counselor I have helped coach has turned out to be an ideal client for me. It really makes a difference!
Just Starting Out
I understand if you just graduated and are beginning your counseling career that you may need time to decide. That is fine. But be purposeful about it. Explore. Research. Analyze. And choose.
If you have been practicing for a couple or a few years you should be narrowing it down. You can always add another area of expertise later. But, go ahead and focus on one or two now. Get great at it so that you have a strong referral base. Then work on the next.
Staying focused on everything because you think you need to in order to stay in business is a misconception.
My practice grew substantially as I specialized. My prayer is for you to enjoy the benefits of specializing too.