ERIC Identifier: ED414523
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Hopkins, Sareena
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Marketing Career Counseling Services: ERIC Digest.
[person's] judgment cannot be better than the information on which it is based."
--Arthur Hayes Sulzberger
Today's socio-economic reality has created an unprecedented demand for career
counseling services. While career counselors continue to offer excellent
services behind the closed doors of counseling offices, the Canadian public,
including policy-makers and funders, are not aware that counseling's impact on
clients' lives. Talk of the need to "sell" services and discussions of features
and benefits tends to send career counselors into retreat; they typically have
had no training in marketing concepts, nor are they comfortable as marketers.
Yet service-providers face a unique opportunity today to reframe career
counseling services as being personally, socially, and economically essential.
Basic marketing principles can assist counselors in achieving these goals.
Marketing our services must begin from the "inside-out" by strengthening the
professional identity of career counselors, resulting in the public's
recognition of career counseling as an indispensable service. This, in turn,
will translate into higher priority given to career counseling services by
funders and policy-makers.
The 1990s have brought a shift from
resource-based industrialism to an information-based economy. Over the last
decade, more then 90% of new jobs created in Canada have been in the service
sector. By 1990, these jobs accounted for 70% of all employment nationally
(CLMPC, 1990). We have seen efforts among some of those offering services to
become increasingly "outcome-oriented." Marketing strategies, long-used within
the private business world of free-market competition, have "invaded" the
non-profit service sector. This shift has been embraced by some service
providers. Many hospitals and community-based medical services, for example,
have become more aggressive in using marketing strategies to raise awareness of
their services in order to survive economically.
Career counseling, however, has largely resisted this trend. Many career
counselors argue that marketing corrodes professional ethics--that promoting
services somehow diminishes counselors' quality and respectability. Marketing is
seen as the "hard sell," driven solely by profit. However, it is worth taking a
closer look at marketing before passing judgment. It may be that limiting the
application of marketing techniques is ultimately self-defeating, resulting in
the profession turning inward, becoming increasingly non-competitive, invisible,
and under-funded. The ultimate risk in under-marketing is the disappearance of
essential services. The perception that marketing conflicts with the goals of
career counseling must be challenged. Marketing has long been characterized by
the four P's: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion, all of which should be
considered in a successful marketing plan (McCarthy, 1968). Product development
must be based on market research. In fact, marketing really begins with a fifth
P - People. A thorough analysis of the needs and wants of the target audience is
the first step in marketing. This information is then used to develop a product
that is attractive and useful to the target market. Place must also be
considered in order to ensure access. Is the product accessible to the target
market? Price refers not only to the financial cost of a product, but also to
other related costs. These might include emotional, mental, or physical costs.
They might also refer to the investment of time required, or to lost
opportunity. Promotion is widely identified as the cornerstone of marketing.
Promotion ensures that the target buyer is aware of the product and has accurate
information about its features. Promotion also enables buyers to have
information which enables them to see the benefits associated with the product.
To be effective, this information must reflect the original market research,
must be communicated using language that is understandable and meaningful to the
buyer, and must highlight benefits which are important to the buyer.
Marketing ultimately serves to ensure that a product is addressing an
identified need, is clearly defined, and is accessible. It guarantees that those
who could benefit from the product receive accurate information about its
features and its benefits. Seen this way, marketing can be used as a tool to
support the goals of career counseling. By changing the terminology and by
re-framing the way marketing is understood, we might begin to see marketing less
as "selling" and more as "educating."
There are three ways in which marketing can support career counseling
Direct Service Delivery. The provider must identify who is to be served, know
their needs, and clearly define services based on those needs. Such market
research ultimately contributes to the provision of quality services. Riddle and
Bezanson (1994) developed a way to assist counselors through this process. They
suggest that quality service comes from a clear definition of who is being
served and an understanding of their needs (people). This awareness shapes the
organizational mandate and directs decisions regarding services offered
(product). Issues of access must then be considered (place and price) and
clients must be educated regarding the features and benefits of services
Survival Insurance. Career counselors, alone, must ensure their own survival.
Basic marketing principles apply here and through an understanding of the needs
of policy-makers and funders in terms of desired outcomes, career counselors can
ensure that a communication plan includes clear messages linking services to
those benefits identified. The United Kingdom has emerged as an international
leader in this respect. The National Institute for Careers Education and
Counseling (NICEC) and the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) have produced for the
Department of Employment a series of briefing documents specifically targeted to
promote career counseling as economically beneficial to policy-makers and
funders. These documents clearly outline the features of career counseling--what
it is and what it is not. They present evidence of the benefits of career
counseling, showing that services ultimately lead to social and economic health,
a maximized use of human resources, reduced market failures due to drop-out,
fewer mismatched/discouraged workers, lower turnover, and institutional reform
that supports an effective labor market. Ultimately, unless managers and funders
have accurate information about the nature of services and an understanding of
their benefits, the security of funding will remain fragile.
Public Awareness. Charles Dudley Warner once suggested that, "public opinion is
as strong as the legislature, and nearly as strong as the Ten Commandments".
This would suggest a third possible marketing step as career counselors move
career development more into the consciousness of the general public. The
application of marketing in this way is termed "social marketing."
"ParticipAction" and the "Don't Drink and Drive" initiatives are examples of
highly successful social marketing campaigns, which changed the way people
think, what they value and how they act. As a means of promoting career
development, Conger (1993) backed a social marketing campaign to foster a
"Career Development Culture" in Canada. Messages about career development and
its importance to everyone over their entire life span, would be disseminated
widely. He suggested that such a social marketing campaign could increase the
value of career counseling services and help to equip individuals with
strategies to take a more active role in their own career development. As a
result, career development would become integrated in, and integral to, our
school, work, and family cultures.
At a time when career counseling services are
increasingly essential, they remain marginalized and under-used. An opportunity
exists for the profession to move more into the mainstream. The application of
marketing could provide the framework needed.
Marketing principles can be used to ensure that services reflect the career
development needs of the population served (people), that services are clearly
defined (product) and accessible (price and place), and that consumers fully
understood the services offered (promotion).
By marketing services to policy-makers and funders, counselors could
demonstrate how career counseling benefits policy makers, resulting in higher
funding for counselors.
Wider marketing would also help the Canadian public become more aware of
labor market opportunities this enabling all Canadians to maximize their skills
and to assume greater personal control over their career futures.
Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre
(C.L.M.P.C.). (March, 1990). A Report of the Canadian Labour Market and
Productivity Centre Task Forces on the Labour Force Development. Ottawa, ON:
Conger, D. S. (1993). Career development culture. In M. Van Norman (Ed.),
19th National Consultation on Career Development Papers (pp. 75-83). Toronto,
ON: OISE Press.
CGCF. (1993). Ready For Change: Career Counseling and Development in the
90's. Ottawa, ON: The Canadian Guidance and Counseling Foundation.
McCarthy, E. (1968). Basic marketing: A managerial approach (3rd ed.).
Homewood, IL: Irwin.
Riddle, D., & Bezanson, L. (1994). Quality career counseling services: A
policy workbook. Ottawa, ON: The Canadian Guidance and Counseling Foundation.