As a therapist, counselor, or coach you have a lot of options for specialization. There are a lot of great articles about why and how to develop a niche market, so I won’t go into too much detail about generally how one finds a niche, but here are a couple I recommend for more detailed information:
How and Why to Develop a Niche
How to Define Your Target Market
So, How does this apply to YOU?
Bottom line: You want to be specific, but not so specific that you have no possible clients!
The goal is to find the right balance for your practice that is somewhere between: “General Therapist – Able to cover any and all issues” and “Therapist specializing in Divorced Bi Polar Mothers of quintuplets between the ages of 20 and 22 within 5 miles of Small Town, USA dealing with Internet Addiction”
So, let’s consider the following criteria when considering how to target the kind of client you love to serve, and also making sure there are enough of the people who meet that criteria for your business to thrive:
- What topics are you passionate about? Where do you crave to keep learning?
- Who do you ENJOY working with? What problems do you like addressing?
- Who are you good at helping, what makes you feel strong? And more than competent?
Unless you want to become such a niche expert that you can coach or counsel from anywhere (via video chat or phone sessions) – which we will cover in a subsequent post – you are limited to the population in your location, so you have a few choices:
- You can move your location to a more convenient place for your clientele
- Depending on your situation, that might be a whole new city, or just down the road.
- Ie. If you want to specialized in the LGBT population, and you are in Chicago, maybe you move your office from the suburbs into “Boystown” (or even Andersonville – aka “Girlstown”)
- Your location/clientele/niche will also determine how far they will be willing to travel. You will be able to expand the radius more if you specialize than if you remain general.
- You can tailor your services to those who are close to your location:
- Ie. If you are near an army base, maybe you tailor to PTSD in soldiers
- If you are in a really small town, maybe you don’t need to, and aren’t able to, specialize as much. Maybe it is specific enough to say: Adult Men and Women with income of 60k+ (so they can afford your services) who are having emotional difficulties or personal problems within 20-30 miles of your location. (NOTE: You would NEVER market it this way, this is simply an understanding for your own purposes to help you determine HOW to market your services). This is also a function of your nearby competition, which brings me to my next point:
- Who are the other therapists, coaches, and counselors in your area targeting?
- What do they specialize in?
- Can you be more specific than they are?
- Could you be more broad effectively? (Ie if their focus is too narrow)
- Can you offer a different service than they do? Something ancillary to a typical 50 min session (a blog, newsletter, ebook, workshops, worksheets, email coaching in between sessions)?
- Do you bring something different to the table: style of counseling, personality, background?
- Or target a different population in need in your target location?
- Ie, If you are in the suburbs, and a lot of your competitors are specializing in new mothers, and there is a strong presence of new mothers nearby, maybe you differentiate by:
- Offering a toddler disciplining workshop
- Distributing a parenting ebook or newsletter about developmental stages of the first 3 years
- Offering a group for young mothers of newborns to decompress, or a group to process postpartum depression
- Advertising that you specialize in motherhood anxiety or stress
- Advertising that you do couples therapy for new parents, and specialize in keeping a relationship strong through the transition (vs just when problems arise)
Income and Insurance limitations:
- Would you ideally target insurance users, or out-of-pocket clients?
- Which option would maximize your value and time?
- If you want to target those with insurance, would you be able to educate your clients about how best to use their insurance?
- Can you make it easier for them to find out?
- Do your clients know that they get three sessions free, for example, from their insurance provider? Can you help them find out? Maybe it is as simple as saying before the first session: “I take Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, and Humana, if you have any of these, a lot of my clients are able to take advantage of discounts or free sessions, you should contact your provider to find out if you qualify for anything!” This could mean the difference between one session and ten!
- Even for out of pocket clients — for the longest time, I didn’t know that I could use my HSA/PayFlex account for out-of- pocket therapy services – you better believe I doubled the amount I put into that account the year after I found that out! Income-tax-free therapy?? That adds up! I can do a lot more therapy that way, and feel less guilty for spending all that money! Now it has to be spent either way, and that could mean more sessions for you!
- Or, does your target audience have enough disposable income to pay for your services out of pocket?
- Do you want to modify your target so that they are able to pay for your services?
- Are there enough of either kind of client in your target market? Or does it make sense to mix/match?
What about multiple niches?
There are a lot of options to stand out!
“But, but, what if I LOVE working with new mothers, but I also LOVE my office location in Boystown! (see above)”
That’s ok too! Boystown and the surrounding areas are a big enough market that you may be able to get away with working with new mothers only, but even if you find there aren’t enough, you have several options:
- You can try to specialize further so that you appeal to the demographics of that area: maybe you cater to new lesbian mothers, or new working mothers (since it is close to downtown, the area attracts a lot of young professionals and first time parents), or mothers of newborns specifically.
- You can add another few niches that are complementary: maybe you add new gay fathers too, or couples with a new baby.
- OR add or something totally different you are interested in: young professional women dealing with stress/anxiety, recent college graduates who need career counseling, etc, etc.
Ok, so now that you have some ideas for where you want to specialize:
TEST A FEW THINGS OUT!
Trying a niche, or even a few, it cannot hurt! Do you really think you will lose any of your current clients? And you can always advertise as a generalist wherever and whenever you want. But you open up a whole new world of advertising options by specializing. Want to work with new lesbian mothers? Put a flyer up in an LGBT community center! They will be MUCH more open to it, and probably appreciative, than if you want to put up a flyer about your general counseling/coaching services.
Maybe you try to target one population, you realize it is too narrow, so you broaden the message. Maybe it is too broad, and you realize you should narrow it down. Be open the feedback you get! And ask for it!
- How did you hear about me?
- Why are you here today?
- (Does this match with any of the themes you have been marketing?)
Next Steps: Marketing and Advertising – Figuring out HOW to reach your target audience. Now that we have the WHO, let’s figure out where and how we connect with them!
If you are still tentative about the niche approach, check out this article:
Is Niche Marketing Limiting Your Business?
And Stay Tuned for Niche Marketing:
Part 2: Large Contracts – Developing Programming for Businesses
Part 3: Online Counseling and Coaching, and Informational Products
CONTACT ME today to figure out how I we can work through this together,
and how I can take some of these marketing tasks off your hands!