If you’ve been following along on the WebPT Blog, then you already know how important it is to develop a unified brand for the PT profession. After all, as it stands, many people still don’t understand the value of physical therapy. And that’s gotta change—if you want to serve more patients, that is. But, that doesn’t negate the importance of creating a stellar brand for your own practice—one that resonates with your audience and helps them understand the value you deliver.
Sure, you can go the generalist route: there are plenty of successful physical therapy practices that treat athletes with torn rotator cuffs and elderly patients recovering from stroke. But, there’s also something to be said for narrowing your focus and really honing in on one physical therapy area of interest. That way, you can be the absolute best in your field. With that in mind, read on to learn how to discover and market your PT niche.
Discovering Your Niche
In 2011, Jeff Worrell put out a whitepaper titled, “Build Your Practice by Finding Your Physical Therapy Niche”—and it’s still relevant today. In it, Worrell suggests providers write down all of their PT-related experiences and look for patterns—things that stand out. For example, WebPT Co-founder and President Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, experienced a fairly serious sports-related injury in college and, as a result, received physical therapy that not only helped her fully recover, but also changed the trajectory of her future career (from medicine to PT). After PT school, when she was deciding on her own niche, she opted to focus on athletic rehab therapy—because that was the experience that was most transformative in her life (and she wanted to be able to have the same impact on others’ lives that her sports PT had on hers).
If you haven’t had a particularly transformative PT experience—or you have, but it’s not helping you narrow in on your niche—that’s okay, too. Here are several other questions that Worrell suggests all PTs ask themselves:
- What aspect of physical therapy do you most enjoy?
- Who are your favorite patients—and what do they have in common?
- What about you makes you uniquely qualified to excel in a certain niche?
- How much do patients in your area need the services you’re interested in providing?
- Has anyone else in your field built a thriving practice in the niche you’re considering?
Explore your options.
Are you still in school—or simply doing some PT soul-searching for something new? Consider immersing yourself in several different specialties by shadowing other providers to find where your heart truly lies. You can also peruse The College of St. Scholastica’s list of PT specialties for some inspiration. (These are also the nine areas of specialization you can select from for board certification.)
Marketing Your Niche
Once you nail down your niche, it’s time to market yourself to your prospective patients. Here are four steps to help you bring in more of the people you want to serve:
1. Go where your people are.
Even the most well-written marketing campaign will fall flat if it’s not seen by the people it’s meant to reach. So, be sure to choose publications, websites, and other advertising vehicles that will put your practice in front of the people who are actually in need of the niche services you offer. For example, if you decide you want to treat college-aged athletes, then paying for an ad in the local newspaper would probably not be the best way to spend your marketing budget, considering that most college students today don’t read the paper. Instead, do some research to learn not only who your ideal patients are, but also where they go to research their healthcare options.
You’ll probably find that most potential patients are doing at least some form of online research before selecting a healthcare provider, which means that you should have an online presence that they can find—and that includes a plethora of positive online reviews from other ideal patients. (Having trouble pinpointing those patients—or getting them to actually leave you reviews? A top-notch physical therapy marketing software like WebPT Reach can help automate the entire review request process.)
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2. Build relationships with other service providers in your niche.
While you’ll naturally want to build solid relationships with other healthcare providers in your niche, you should also consider forming bonds with non-healthcare service providers with similar ideal customers. For example, when Jannenga was a clinic director for a sports PT practice, a friend of hers began training for archery instructor certification—and she soon realized that there was an entire world of athletes that she wasn’t yet reaching. Almost everyone she met who practiced a wilderness sport was experiencing some sort of musculoskeletal injury and pain. So, in addition to treating her friend’s new friends, she also developed relationships with all the local sporting goods stores. Soon enough, she had established such a rapport that they all allowed her to leave flyers at their shop locations—and even recommended her services to their injured clients.
3. Let your passion show.
Hopefully, you’ve selected a niche that you’re truly passionate about. That way, you are intimately familiar with the community and can provide a service that you know is needed. Take the team at Bike PT, for example: according to the company’s website, “BikePT is the definitive education source on bicycling related injuries, treatment, and bicycling biomechanics, for healthcare professionals and all bicyclists.” And their full-blown bicycling devotion doesn’t end with their boilerplate statement. BikePT also offers:
- online education through blog posts, newsletters, and articles; and
- bike buyer’s guides.
Most importantly, though, they certify other physical therapists to provide BikePT-approved care. And you can bet the BikePT team is out at every major cycling event in the area, establishing themselves as pillars in the community—and having a blast while doing it.
4. Be a thought leader.
One of the keys to success in any field is establishing yourself as a thought leader—that is, a trusted resource for valuable information and expert advice. To accomplish this, you’ve got to, well, provide valuable information and expert advice. And the best way to do that is to start a blog, maintain active social media channels, send a regular email newsletter, and host classes and workshops that are of value to your ideal patients. As WebPT’s Melissa Hughes writes in this blog post, “community events are a great way to draw potential patients to your clinic—especially if your practice is in a small town or a tight-knit community.” But, even practices in larger cities with more loose-knit communities can benefit from bringing people together to learn something new.
There you have it: everything you need to know about discovering and marketing your niche. Do you think having a niche specialty helps you better promote the rehab therapy field? Are you considering branching out into a niche—or expanding your current one? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.