There’s a moment when a couple starts sharing during your intake session where you either think, “This is the exact couple I want to see” or “How quickly can I refer these people to another therapist?”
No counselor or couple wants a mismatch. But it happens.
Let’s explore why it’s important to have a clear ideal client, how to develop a content strategy to attract your ideal clients, and creative ways to make sure your ideal clients keep coming back and referring their friends.
Why you need a specialty
I often hear therapists say, “I already work with couples, isn’t that enough of a specialty?” In some markets, it may be good enough, but in most, it’s not. Like treating anxiety and depression, it seems that most therapists say, “I help individuals, couples, and families.”
Imagine you found out your partner just had an affair. Would you want someone who helps “individuals, couples, and families” or someone who says, “I help post-affair couples to determine their direction, find healing, and rebuild.”
We intuitively seek out specialists all the time. Whether it’s where we eat, the types of shoes we buy, or just about anything else, we want the product that is exactly what we’re looking for.
The same is true for choosing a couples counselor.
The benefits of specializing
Imagine there is a couples counselor who works with all couples. They are a Certified Gottman Therapist, have built their website, and network like crazy. They will probably stay full.
But, what if they don’t love every type of couple? What if they have a passion for working with couples who have just had their first baby?
That therapist may spend the next ten years focusing on all couples or ten years on one type. Let’s run some typical outcomes.
- Training: If they annually go to one conference, it may be focused on couples or general work, compared to getting involved with deeper dives that focus exclusively on their specialty, like Bringing Baby Home. If ⅓ of the general conference pertains to their specialty compared to conferences that are specific, that means they will grow at 3x the rate. But, as knowledge grows, extra doors open like speaking opportunities or being on a national board. So the growth will most likely be 10x the rate if they specialize in their training.
- Blogging: During that same time, the niched therapist will be building years of content around their ideal client. Over time, they will own several search terms in their area. For example, a therapist focusing on couples that are new parents will build content that is helpful during this phase, whereas a general couples counselor will have multiple pieces of content that apply to multiple niches.
- Networking: With hyper-focused networking, that counselor will meet doulas, midwives, doctors, trainers, birth coaches, and others who also focus on new parents. That couples counselor will be known as “The New Parent Counselor.”
- Income: Because of the specialty, significant body of content, and referrals from all that networking, that counselor will be able to leave low paying insurances, grow private pay, and maybe start a group practice around the specialty.
How to build a business avatar
The fancy business phrase for an “ideal client” is “business avatar.” In my previous article, I discussed some of the ways to build out a business avatar. You want to have an understanding of a few factors, such as:
- Area they live
- Family demographics
- Work, fun, and family places they frequent
- Biggest pains
Numerous business consultants have said the following phrase about clients: “If you can describe the pain to your clients better than they can, they will assume you can solve it better as well.”
That is so true. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of someone outlining something you’re experiencing and you think, “That’s so me!”
That’s what we’re talking about. You want to know the pains of the specialty better than anyone else.
How to develop a content strategy to attract your ideal clients
Now that you understand that a hyper-specialty will help you stand out, network more, and charge larger rates, how do you set up a content strategy? Those words may actually be new to you, so let’s look at them.
- Content: Anything you write, speak, or present that is educational and connects with your ideal client. This could be a blog, YouTube video, Facebook post, or Pinterest infographic.
- Content Strategy: The planning of how you will have ideas around content, create it, post it, and track the results.
- Content Calendar: A calendar when pieces of content go live at pre-planned times. For example, every month we want to release a larger in-depth blog post.
I teach my consulting clients to break down a content strategy in a few phases.
- Initial Content: If you have not had a content calendar, you’ll want to do a big push at the beginning to attract your ideal clients.
- Ongoing Content: Once you have your initial content, you’ll want to have a clear ongoing calendar of content.
- Outsourced Content: Creating a system for a virtual assistant to help maximize small bits of content.
Let’s take a closer look at these three phases.
Initial content strategy
When you are new to creating content, I recommend that you do three things.
- Write 26 blog posts as quickly as possible that will go live weekly for six months.
- Choose one social media channel (that your ideal client likes) and build your business there.
- Do one speaking engagement to an established audience about your specialty.
Why 26 posts? Blog posts will help you to stand out to Google. They look for regular content. Also, 26 posts is a ton of content. You can always repurpose this as a book or ebook, get more into the flow of writing, and dive deep into your ideal client’s pain. Let’s take the original specialty of being a “Post-Affair Couples Counselor.”
Here’s how those 26 posts might be broken out.
- Three posts: Three posts on why affairs happen.
- Six posts: One summary post on things every couple should do each week and then a post going deeper on each of those five tips for a total of six posts.
- Three posts: Focus on the longterm discussions and planning for the couple. One post could be an annual calendar of issues to discuss once per year. Another post might be monthly discussions and then another one may focus on specific rituals of connection.
- One post: If you had an affair, what should you do and think through?
- One post: If your partner had an affair, what should you do and think through?
- One post: How to set boundaries after an affair.
- Six posts: A summary of communication issues and then individual posts going into those five points.
Once you get a significant body of work, you can link them to one another to build SEO. Next, you’ll want to pick a social media channel to go deeper. In this, you can create content using free tools like Canva and copyright-free images from Unsplash.
Lastly, find a local group to talk about your specialty. It might be a church, yoga class, or book club. Never underestimate the power of a small group that loves you.
Ongoing content strategy
Once you build your main body of content, you can slow down a bit. But usually, the ideas will keep flowing. This is a time to explore doing a Facebook or Instagram Live, creating infographics for Pinterest, and writing a blog post two times per month.
The biggest focus should be on creating content that matters to your ideal client, watching your Google Analytics to see what is working, and asking clients if they utilize your blog posts to continue to grow outside of sessions.
Outsourced content strategy
Once you have your initial content and ongoing content, it’s time to start to outsource more. When we work with clients, we often ask, “What is the best use of your time?”
For many, it is doing a quick Facebook Live to discuss helpful tips, in-person networking, and speaking. When we help with social media management, it is to make sure that the clinician is only using their skills in the best way. Here’s a typical flow that an assistant can take over.
- The clinician does a Facebook Live on: “Five Ways to Improve…”
- They download the video and upload it to Dropbox.
- The Virtual Assistant (VA) makes the video look pretty, adds text and transitions, then uploads it to YouTube and Instagram TV.
- The video is transcribed by the VA and then the video is turned into a blog post, the YouTube video is embedded.
- A quote card and infographic are posted to Pinterest.
That clinician did five minutes of video and created multiple pieces of content. That’s next-level marketing!
When it comes down to it, all it takes is a good content strategy and a few creative ways of marketing to attract your ideal clients to your private practice. At the core, you’re communicating, “I understand your pain, and I’m here to help.”
Isn’t that what we want for ourselves and our clients?