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A MARKETINGSTRATEGYFOR CONSULTATIONAND EDUCATIONSERVICES

ANDREW HINKLE, PH.D.

DANIEL ANSEL, M.A.

Although consultation and education (C&E) was


mandated as one of the five basic services under the
Community Mental Health Act of 1963, there has been
little attention given to making such a program
financially self-sufficient. For example, in a review of
the literature, Dy and Kay (1980) note that there are
"few references to active and systematic marketing in
the mental health area."

tals, fire departments, and emergency squads are also


potential sales targets for C&E. Finally, there is an
enormous potential market and revenue in the private
sector of business and industry. Employers are always
interested in ways to increase employee morale, reduce
scrap-rate, prevent absenteeism, thereby increasing
productivity. This provides a myriad of possibilities for
consultation and education programs (Bowler, 1977).

Consultation and education programs have typically


been seen by mental health centers as a free public
service with little revenue-producing potential. Yet
with ever increasing demands for human services and
decreasing fiscal resources, it has become imperative
that such mental health programs begin to pay their
way or cease to exist.

Assessing the Market. There are several types of

The following guidelines were derived from the


theory and practice of a community mental health
center that established a marketing orientation for its
C&E program. Though still developing, the program
has been successful in generating several thousand
dollars for services and programs that were previously
provided gratis. The following model is not intended
to serve as a blue print to be followed in scrupulous
detail, but rather to serve as a guide and incentive for
others to use in developing a strategy that best suits
their particular needs and circumstances.

Establishing a Policy. To begin a marketing orientation


for C&E services, staff must know that such a formal
positi6n is an agency policy. To establish this the
appropriate board, community, executive director,
executive staff or others must discuss and decide as to
whether this orientation is desirable and/or feasible
for their program. Until this is established, one can
only expect confused and half-hearted staff participation
with such a plan. Once established, the policy statement
should outline the desirability, goals and means expected of such an orientation.

Identifying the Market. It is axiomatic in the business


world that one cannot sell everything to everybody.
Thus the parameters of the market must be defined in
at least general terms as there are different market
strategies for different populations. In the public
sector, Plantz (1980) has outlined an excellent concept
for viewing the market of the general public. In
addition, there is a market of human services professionals to consider. For example, clergy, teachers,
police, welfare workers, vocational counselors, lawyers,
physicians, nurses, etc. are just a few of the community
caretakers who are continually seeking mental health
advice and education as it pertains to their roles.
Nursing homes, schools, churches, group homes, hospi-10-

assessment techniques that can be used to determine


the market needs of a population and \Varheit, Bell
& Schwab (1979) have discussed the various models
and methods. However, it should be kept in mind that
these methods have varying strengths and weaknesses.
For example, Hinkle & King (1978) found that the
commonly used mail questionnaire not only cost more
than phone or door-to-door surveys, but tended to give
negatively skewed results. Similarly, a key informant
survey might work well for business and industry but
not be suitable for interviewing the human service
market. Thus careful consideration should be given to
the cost-benefit ratio of a particular approach.

Analyzing the Results. Once collected, the data should


be analyzed, and discussed. Analysis can range from
simple inspection of the response to sophisticated
statistical procedures for combined data. (Generally
the more the results can be quantified in objective
scaled numbers, the easier to interpret). As it is easy
to miss trends or misinterpret data, it is often valuable
to have a committee or task force review and discuss
the data.

Assessing Your Resources. Having identified and assessed the market, the next step is to review your internal
capacity to meet the identified needs. Questions to be
asked are - - "do we have a requested C&E topic already
developed or not? Do we have the staff to present it?
If not, will we have to recruit or contract? If not, will
we have to provide training? Do we have funds
allocated for advertising or other promotional expenses ?
Will we have to purchase supplies or materials ? These
are but a few of the many questions that can be
answered before proceeding to the next step.

Planning. While this entire paper constitutes planning,


at this point "planning" is defined as matching or
developing your resources to match the market. This
is the point around which all previous steps are
integrated in order to develop the program. A common
error is to begin the whole process here without having
completed the earlier tasks. Without data from your
market research, your planning will be based on
speculation and guesswork. However, should this

become apparent, it should be noted that it is usually


never too late to go back and do these necessary steps.
Once you can be satisfied that you have the ability
to make sound planning decisions based on objective
data, then you can proceed with increased confidence.
Planning details here should include the actual program
content, format, audience, presenters, location and fees.
Each part here should be considered in light of your
described objectives. For example, if you decide to
develop educational presentations for the general
community, then a community location (i.e., church),
may be more desirable in terms of acceptance and
accessibility. If you plan programs oriented to the
business community, then the actual work site may be
the more convenient location. These are but a few of
the practical considerations that must be made during
this step. While the costs, budget, and promotion are
certainly part of the planning process, they are sufficiently important to deserve a separate heading.

Rehnbursements. Establishing a fee has several benefits,


aside from actual monetary value. A fee places a
value on the service in the eyes of the recipient. People
have an inherent suspicion of something that is "free"
(for example, would you use a free brake repair service
or accept a complimentary haircut?) There is an
implication that if something is free, it is inferior.
Fees also place a value on the service in the eyes of
staff and administration. If your C&E program is
generating revenue, your staff will consider it a more
important, legitimate mental health activity. W e have
also found that remuneration for C&E provides reward
and satisfaction for staff by demonstrating that consultees value their skills and are willing to pay for their
services. Put another way, it is an endorsement and
proof of their professionalism.
If you are establishing an ongoing consultative
relationship such as with a school system, Headstart or
nursing home, then it is advantageous to negotiate a
contract for services (Cochran, 1980). In addition to
the previously discussed benefits, a contract sanctions
the presence of the consultant and helps to overcome
recipient resistance to "intruders." By specifying the
terms, data, location, etc. of the consultation service,
a contract also serves to prevent potential "mix-ups"
or misunderstandings. Contracting increases the organizational constituency of mental health in the community.
This potentially increases the vested interest of the
community for financial and other support (MacLennon, Quinn & Schroeder, 1971).
In addition to collecting fees directly from participants, such as with workshop registration fees and
contracts with agencies, there is also a third kind of
reimbursement mechanism. In some cases, it may be
possible to get a "third-party" sponsorship of a C&E
service. For example, if you develop a workshop to
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help the unemployed worker, it is probably unreasonable to expect the unemployed person to pay a fee.
However, it may be possible to obtain sponsorship
from a church group, chamber of commerce, business,
industry or other community group who has an interest
aiding the local employment and economic conditions.
Labor unions may also be of some support in this
approach.

Promotion. Advertisement will, of course, vary with


the program design and interested audience. For
workshops oriented directly to the community, such as
"Parent Training" or "Divorce Survival," the electronic
and print media are good sources of promotion. It is
especially useful to get a newspaper feature story on
a planned program and Morrison & Liebon (1977)
have shown the efficacy of newspaper publicity.
If a specialized program is developed for specific
audiences such as business and industry, then a printed
brochure may be desirable. This is particularly true
if the program is not time-limited and the material
can be used indefinitely as a sales brochure.
It is also important to consider the personal contact
as part of the promotional process. This is, of course,
the role of a sales person and may be unfamiliar to
clinically-oriented staff. Yet, this may be the most cost
effective method of promotion, if staff have the
necessary skills or can obtain training in this approach.
An alternative is to actually employ or contract for a
trained sales person with a marketing orientation to
supplement your clinical staff.
One further promotional incentive is the utilization
of certificates or credits for training and education
received. Many lay recipients of a workshop are pleased
to be awarded a certificate of attendance or completion.
While serving as an inducement to participate, their
actual display of the document will provide additional
advertising for your program. For professional audiences, Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are often
highly desirable. This can usually be arranged through
any nearby university or state professional organizations.

hnplementation. This is the actual step of service


delivery and its outcome will be already determined
by the accuracy and effort of all prior steps. However,
one should not hesitate to make modifications in a
particular program if new information comes to
light. It should be remembered that your original plan
was based on the best data available at the time. If
new, better or more accurate information becomes
available, allowances should be permitted for contingency plans. For example, Ansel found in his
original contracting with nursing homes for consultation
that most of the treatment techniques discussed were
only being utilized by those actually involved in the
consultation process. Therefore, the contract was modi-

m o o _

fied and in-service training for all levels of staff was


included to help improve the effectiveness of the
program. It is a mistake to "bull your way through,"
as is occasionally done, because "that was the plan."
While the importance of a good plan cannot be over
emphasized, allowance for flexibility and implementation is a desirable and necessary factor.

AUTHORS
Dr. Hinkle is the Associate Director o/ Community
Services /or North Central CMHC in Columbus, Ohio. Air.

Ansel is the Director o/ Consultation and Education for


North Area AIHS in Columbus, Ohio. This paper was
developed out o/ their joint pro/essional experience in
marketing consultation and education programs.

Evaluation. This is a crucial but often under emphasized


aspect of C&E work. To know how well you have
implemented your plan and to establish an ongoing
involvement with the consultee, feedback is essential.
Generally, the more objective your evaluation process,
the stronger it will be. It is also important to plan for
your evaluation at the beginning so that it is part of
the entire process, rather than added on at the end.
Theoretically a good evaluation should be based on
your program goals and reflect an accurate measurement. Evaluations of workshops, seminars can usually
be conveniently and accurately measured through a
post workshop evaluation form. In addition, a needs
assessment can be incorporated as part of the process
with the primary purpose of being able to provide for
other identified needs. Including on the evaluation
form a place for the program participants to choose
their own or pre-selected topics based on perceived
needs can be used effectively in providing services to
the consultee. Other types of C&E activities often
mistakenly thought to be too difficult or impossible
to evaluate such as case consultation or program
consultation can also be accomplished and are easily
facilitated if planned. For example, Hinkle, Silverstein
& Walton (1978) showed that a mail questionnaire
could be effectively used to evaluate consultation to
schools. The reader is referred to the N I M H source
book on Program Evaluation for other ideas and
examples of evaluations (Landsberg et al, 1979).
Planning. This topic is introduced again to emphasize
the often neglected fact that the evaluation results
should be utilized as part of the whole marketing
process. The evaluation is, in a sense, another market
survey and results obtained should give a good idea
of consumer satisfaction. These results should always
be incorporated into your market strategy and as an
ongoing program should be a continual cycle of
planning-implementation-evaluation-planning, etc.
Summary. This paper has discussed the several steps
essential to effectively marketing C&E. The major
points considered are philosophy, assessment, planning,
implementation, and evaluation. Sub categories under
these are discussed in some detail with particular
importance placed on the issue of reimbursement.
Although each step is important to the overall marketing process, it is suggested that the pre-assessment and
post-evaluation phases are probably the most neglected
factors in the program-planning process.

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REFERENCES
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AND EDUCATION COUNCIL NEWSLETTER, 1977, 2111, 1-3.

Cochran, Donald J, Contracting in Consultation: Training


Guldetlnes and Examples. COUNSELOR EDUCATION AND
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HinHe, Andrew & King, Glen D. A comparison of three
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Hinkle, Andrew, Silversfeln, Barbara & Walton, David M. A


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HEEDS
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