Business Advice for Counsellors

Marketing your counseling practice: Define your 'ideal' clients

By Kiku

Good marketing of your counselling practice is a cornerstone of its success. It's all too easy though to end up wasting time and money on marketing ideas that won't bring you a return on your investment. When first setting up a marketing strategy for your counselling business it's important to first get clear in your mind who it is that you're trying to reach. Marketing professionals call this your "ideal" client.

Generally speaking there is a vast potential audience out there for anyone starting their own counselling business, especially now that many of us are working online. Targeting your marketing efforts to reach those who are likely to need your services is therefore essential if we are to get the most out of our time and money.  

How then do you begin to identify your target audience? And how do you work smartly and strategically when it comes to creating marketing strategies that get counselling clients through your door?

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1. Defining your 'ideal' clients

Think about the kind of client who is likely to be most interested in, and the best fit for, your counselling services. 

This should be based on two main considerations: 

First, which clients you can be of most value to (based on your training, specialism, personal preferences and experience or interest in particular presenting issues etc).

Second, which clients will be of most value to you (based on what you get most satisfaction from in terms of therapeutic work (ie. long term depth work or short term solution focused), what might be of special interest or needed for professional growth (ie. work with couples or families to extend your skills etc.).

After considering what specialisms and particular skills and strengths you have as a therapist, ask yourself the following questions: 

Who have I most enjoyed working with in the past few years? 

Which clients stand out in the time that I have been training/ practicing as reminding me of why I chose to become a counsellor?

We’ve all had those experiences in the counselling room that confirm we made the right choice and give us energy and inspiration. 

Alongside considering where your skills are going to be most valued, you'll also need to consider the logistical aspects of your therapy practice's "ideal" counselling clients. 

For example if you're offering face to face sessions only, how far are clients likely to travel and what locations should you therefore be targeting in your marketing efforts?

What kind of client has the ability to comfortably pay your fee? Which type of client is most motivated to successfully follow through and complete the counselling process?

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Once you have some answers to these questions you're ready to create your ideal counselling client personas. These are detailed descriptions of the people you believe would be most receptive to the therapy services that you offer.

These should include the following information:

Basic demographics: Occupation, age, location, income bracket, educational levels etc.

Other therapy specific features: presenting issues, life stages, values, interests and hobbies, psychological types etc.

When it comes to marketing your counselling  practice, learning more about your ideal counselling clients will give you an edge when creating strategies. The more defined the picture of your target audience, the more ideas you will be able to generate to focus your marketing efforts. 

Woman stands in front of a whiteboard with her social media marketing strategy for her counselling business written on it in red, blue & black pen

2. Direct your marketing strategies to your target audience

Now that you've identified your ideal counselling clients, you'll need to focus your marketing efforts towards these clients. The next step is to therefore brainstorm how to reach these people.

Marketing strategies for therapists include google ads (utilising keywords that you think your ideal counselling clients will search for when looking for support), social media (instagram in particular is a great way to engage potential clients by creating content that is relevant to them and to your services), online directories, print marketing (such as posters and flyers around your local area) and direct mail marketing to other healthcare professionals who may be able to refer clients your way.

Maintaining your focus upon the areas of your counselling work that you are passionate about conveys your specialism to prospective clients and is a really good blueprint for future success. 

Thinking about your ideal counselling clients is the starting point of all good marketing for private counselling practices and it doesn’t stop there.

As your counselling business grows you will gradually build more information about the demographics of your clients. To get this off to a good start you could ask clients to complete questionnaires giving further information about themselves and how they found your private therapy practice. 

Familiarising yourself with the basics of marketing is a must for any private therapy practice and something that will continue to be necessary as your therapy business grows. Getting the basics right will give you a good foundation that you can return to as your marketing strategy evolves.

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