The second rule in marketing any professional service is to know your audience; the first is know yourself, but as an occupational therapist, you have this part covered—for the most part. You know you want to provide exceptional service, but to whom and how may still be challenging questions. A common mistake in business is the we’ll-fit-anyone approach, which results in a jack-of-all-trades master-of-none phenomenon. While you may catch a few flitting minnows, you certainly won’t attract the loyal marlins that can make your business a true success.
So how do you avoid the one-size-fits-all trap? Narrow your focus to find your niche, and thus better position yourself and your profession to grow. This way, your marketing is targeted, specific, and tailored to attract the audience you truly want.
Finding Your Niche
The AOTA explains that “to meet society’s occupational needs, occupational therapy practitioners need to respond to how society is changing and evolving.” To support that, they “researched trends in the six broad areas of practice defined through the Centennial Vision process.” They then go on to list those emerging niches, but which niche do you choose?
While written for PTs, Jeff Worrell’s whitepaper entitled “Build Your Practice by Finding Your Physical Therapy Niche” is packed full of niche finding advice that all rehab therapists can consider. Worrell suggests, “Take some time to jot down your experiences on a piece of paper...be as specific as possible. Look for similarities and highlight the experiences that are similar.” For example, Monster.com shares several stories of OTs who happened to find employment in assisted-living facilities who went on to not only specialize in this arena, but used their knowledge to provide consulting services.
Worrell also offers a questionnaire as a guide to finding your niche:
- What type of occupational therapy work do you enjoy doing?
- What is the market potential for the area you’re interested in focusing on?
- What type of patients do you enjoy working with?
- What experience do you have that can help you be successful in your chosen niche?
- Are there other occupational therapists who have built a successful practice in this niche?
Still in school or considering dipping your toes in a different OT pool? Try immersing yourself in several different specialties to find where your heart truly lies. Reference the AOTA’s list of emerging niches, which links to supporting topics, conditions, populations, and other helpful info, to aid with your search.
Marketing Your Niche
Got the to whom question answered? Now it’s time to tackle the how.
Go Where Your Prospects Are
This might sound simple, but the best way to reach your potential market may very well be to go where they go. Have a marketing budget—even just a small one? Spend it to promote with publications and websites and attend events and trade shows where the people you wish to reach are already active. Instead of recreating the wheel, use the resources and tap into the communities that already exist to reach your prospective customers.
Immerse Yourself in the Community
Want to help children and youth? Check out your local school district for opportunities to get involved with—and thus promote your services to—programs helping children fight obesity; teaching disabled children to drive; or creating awareness about autism. Hoping to work with the elderly? Scout out community mobility associations and groups dedicated to finding a cure for Alzheimer disease and dementia. Don’t have the time to devote to every group you come across? Identify the ones you are most passionate about and focus there; then consider sponsorship, advertising, and participation.
Be a Thought Leader
At the point that you’ve promoted and immersed yourself in the community, you’ve basically become a thought leader for your OT specialty. As a thought leader, you can apply your knowledge online through social and blogging as well as in your community. For example, if you focus on worker rehabilitation, you could provide educational seminars and blog posts on ergonomics and workplace injury prevention.
Reaping the Benefit
Let’s talk increased referrals and references. Once you get your name out there as a specialist in a particular occupational therapy area, local physicians and professionals in your industry will send—and continue to send—patients your way for the specific issues in which your expertise shines. That’ll garner you—and the profession in general—some serious kudos.
What advice do you have for other therapists seeking a niche? How do you market your niche? Do you think having a niche specialty helps you better promote the OT field?