26 May 2009

Projecting Expertise

Last week I spoke to two groups of naturopathic medical students about marketing their practices after graduation. As expected, there was some resistance to the concept of marketing themselves as an expert when just out of school. This is a normal and appropriate concern.

And it's not just my ND clients who have trouble with this claim. My counselor clients also feel inhibited about calling themselves a specialist. Naturopathic doctors and psychotherapists alike are trained to be generalists, and marketing as a specialist rubs uncomfortably against that.

Plus, let's face it, a lot of us in the healing arts are recovering from poor self-esteem and low confidence. It stretches our own belief in ourselves to say out loud that we have expertise in anything. If I could give us all a pill for that, the magic med would erase all the early life programming we've experienced that damaged our self-concept as relates to the joyful quality we naturally have in childhood when we KNOW we can do anything.

But I digress. One way around this marketing need to project expertise, while still staying in integrity with the truth, is a very simple language shift. In the examples here, do you spot the difference?
  • I'm an expert anxiety counselor. Or, My expertise is in eliminating anxiety and depression.
  • I specialize in helping women with anxiety gain confidence and freedom from debilitating worry.
In the first example, the claim implies a high level of experience, extra rigorous training, or something beyond the average accumulation of education and years in business. (It also is rather egocentric, and just begs to be proven with statistics or some other quantifiable method).

The second example defines a narrow scope of interest and merely says
this is where I put most of my attention -- it's what I like doing best. The focus remains on the client type, their problem, and the result they want, rather than staking a claim about myself. It directly states that my role is facilitation of the client's work.

The second example is much different in that it doesn't claim to know everything about anything. It simply states what is true from day one after graduation -- I'm a helper.

If you are graduating this spring as an ND or a therapist and you can't say you're a helper -- well, why did you choose this profession?

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