Harness the power of word of mouth marketing: a guide for counsellors and therapists - Jane Travis, Grow Your Counselling Business

Marketing your therapy practice can feel so complicated, especially at the start, and especially if it’s your first business. So many skills to learn: blogging, social media, email marketing, networking, websites, not to mention accounts and admin... wow, just writing that’s made me exhausted!

But what if I said you're already an expert in a really powerful marketing tool, and that you just need to harness the power?

Let's take a look at the power of word of mouth marketing.

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Harness the power of word of mouth marketing - Jane Travis - Grow Your Private Practice

What is word of mouth marketing?

Word of mouth marketing is in it's simplest form talking about what you do. It's about creating interest, and letting people know who you are and what you do. 

It's about making connections with other people, so they remember you and then potentially refer people to you. 

Word of mouth marketing is something all therapists are able to do, because it's doing what we do best - connecting with other people. 

(Great news if you're a technophobe, no tech to learn!)

In 'Why word of mouth marketing is the most important social media', Kimberly A Whitler says 'The problem is that for the last few years, marketers have been focused on “collecting” instead of “connecting.” In other words, brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them'.

In this post, we can see just how valuable this often overlooked marketing is: 'Why is word of mouth marketing so important', Social Media Today say 'Consumers trust their friends. This is why word of mouth marketing is the most valuable source of marketing.

According to a Nielsen study, 92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising - this stat alone solidified the word of mouth use case'.

You can see how important this is for marketing any business, but none more so than a private practice. 

Referrals are a massive part of running a private practice, and although previous clients happy with your service may refer people to you, counselling is private and they might not want to share that they have been to therapy. 

Being visible, making connections and letting your warmth shine through will mean you stay in peoples minds, and they will happily refer people to you when the opportunity presents itself. 

You become known in your local area, and it increases your 'know/like/trust' factor. 

Ever had this conversation?

Person: ‘So, what do you do?

You: ‘I’m a therapist

Person ‘Oh cool, who do you counsel?

You: 'Oh, erm...anyone!

Person: <silence>

Well it’s happened to me - many times! That awkward ‘what do I say here’ moment, followed by kicking myself hard for sounding unprofessional and boring.

Apart from it being embarassing, it’s also an opportunity lost because every time you speak with someone new is a chance to spread the word about your practice.

But before we go on, let’s look at what we're NOT trying to do! 

What word of mouth marketing isn't

It's important to remember that:

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    You're not trying to sell your services
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    You're not trying to teach people about therapy
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    You're not trying to show off by using psychobabble

Remember, no one except us therapists either cares about or understands different counselling theories, and if they do, the information will be on your websites 'about me' page. You don’t need to mention it here.

how to answer when you’re asked ‘what do you do?’

Grab some paper and a pen and play around with some ideas.  If you want some feedback, hop on over to our private Facebook community and join in the conversation.

1. What is your niche?

Having a niche makes it easier to get more and better quality referrals, as people know exactly when to refer to you. 

It also makes you:

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    Stand out in a crowded market
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    Attract more clients
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    Save time and money with focused marketing - drop the scattergun approach
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    Concentrate on CPD that will be of most benefit to your clients, saving time and money
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    Work with your passions for sky high job satisfaction as you make a real difference in your clients lives
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    Use your unique mix of experience, skills and training to get better client outcomes
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    Speak directly to your ideal client in everything you do
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    Become the go to resource

2. Play around with some simple concepts.  

Remember, you’re looking for a simple way to communicate what you do. 

  • Who do you work with?
  • What benefit can they expect working with you?

I help ideal client to feel better

You could add that you're a counsellor/therapist, but if you don't at this point it encourages conversation. 

For example:

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    I work with couples to help reignite the spark.
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    I work with women that want to step off the diet hamster wheel
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    I help stressed people get back to a good nights sleep
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    I help people grieve after a bereavement

Make it benefit driven - how are they likely to feel after a course of therapy? (Take a look at Features Vs Benefits: A Therapists Guide for help) 

TIP: Think about the people that have left therapy with you having got what they needed - how did they feel? What difference did it make to their lives? What could they do they couldn't before?

You can also use this as your social media bio.

Business Networking

We can't talk about word of mouth marketing without business networking. 

Business networking is is simply business owners that get together to connect and help each other via referrals. 

Again, it's not about selling to people, it's not about pushing yourself or your practice, it's about connecting. 

Take a look at 10 Reasons Business Networking Is Perfect For Therapists

What we're aiming for

All we are doing (and all we are ever doing!) is letting people know who we are and who we work with, so they think either:

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    I need that
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    I know someone that needs that
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    I don't know anyone that needs that now, but if I do in future, I'll know where to send them

That’s it, that’s all.

You don't seed sales techniques, you don't need anything fancy at all - though a few business cards won't go amiss! 


TIP: If you feel uncomfortable talking about your practice, take yourself out of the picture. Think of it as talking about a counselling practice, not talking about you personally as a counsellor.

Make it real and relateable.  

The more we as counsellors work together to normalize the counselling process and talk about the benefits they can expect to experience, the more people will want to access it.

We all win, both counsellors and clients.  

A rising ride lifts all boats - Jane Travis.co.uk


So the next time you're at the hairdressers, at a party, at a social or business event and asked what you do, don't waste the opportunity to let people know who you are!

Want more help with your word of mouth marketing? Then take a look at 'Taking It Offline: The Power Of In Person Marketing', available now in the Grow Your Private Practice club

Taking it offline: the power of in person marketing. A course for counsellors and therapists in private practice

About the Author Jane

Jane lives in beautiful Lincoln with her 2 boys and rescue dog. When she's not talking about herself in the third person, she's usually found drinking wine and eating Maltesers. Sometimes she even shares them with friends.

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