The second rule of marketing any professional service is to know your audience. The first is to know yourself—but as an occupational therapist, you most likely have that part covered. Surely, by now, you know the value of the services you provide—but you may still be struggling to identify:
- who you’re best suited to provide those services to, and
- how you’ll reach those patients.
And while it may seem like a good idea to serve everyone, that may not actually be what’s best for your patients—or your business. After all, jacks-of-all-trades are masters-of-none. So, how do you avoid the one-size-fits-all trap? Narrow your focus to find your niche (i.e., consider different specialties in occupational therapy). That way, your marketing can be targeted, specific, and tailored to attract the audience you truly want (a.k.a. your ideal patents).
Finding Your Niche
Choose a specialty.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), specializing and/or receiving board certification can help you “stand out from your colleagues and demonstrate your commitment to the profession.” As noted below, there are nine certification areas: four that are board certifications for occupational therapists and five that are specialty certifications available to OTs and OTAs.
- Gerontology (BCG)
- Mental Health (BCMH)
- Pediatrics (BCP)
- Physical Rehabilitation (BCPR)
- Driving and Community Mobility (SCDCM or SCDCM-A)
- Environmental Modification (SCEM or SCME-A)
- Feeding, Eating, and Swallowing (SCDES or SCFES-A)
- Low Vision (SCLV or SCLV-A)
- School Systems (SCSS or SCSS-A)
Beyond those listed above, this resource provides several other specializations available to OTs, including:
- Certified Hand Therapist (CHT)
- Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT)
- Assistive Technology Professional (ATP)
- Seating and Mobility Specialist (ATP/SMS)
- Certified Stroke Rehabilitation Specialist (CSRS)
While it was originally written for PTs in 2011, Jeff Worrell’s Build Your Practice by Finding Your Physical Therapy Niche is packed full of niche-finding advice that all rehab therapists could still benefit from today. In it, Worrell suggests providers:
- write down all of their therapy experiences, and
- look for patterns that may point to a potential niche.
For example, Monster.com shares several stories of OTs who happened to find employment in assisted living facilities, and then went on to not only specialize in this setting, but also use their knowledge to provide consulting services.
Worrell also suggests therapists ask themselves the following questions to narrow in on their 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 successful practices in this niche?
Still in school? Try immersing yourself in several different specialties to find where your heart truly lies.
Marketing Your Niche
Go where your prospects are.
This might sound simple, but the best way to market your niche is to reach your ideal patients where they’re researching healthcare options and potential providers. Have a marketing budget (even just a small one)? Earmark some of it to promote your services in appropriate publications and web outlets—as well as to attend events and trade shows—where the people you wish to win as patients are already active. Instead of recreating the wheel, tap into existing communities of prospective customers. Just be sure that you also have a professional and comprehensive online presence—with plenty of positive reviews—so potential patients and referral partners can find you.
Immerse yourself in the community.
Want to help kids and young adults? Check out your local school district for opportunities to get involved with programs that are addressing childhood 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's disease and dementia. Don’t have the time to get involved with every group you come across? Identify the ones you are most passionate about and focus on them; then, consider sponsorship, advertisement, and participation.
Be a thought leader.
Promoting—and immersing—yourself in the community is a great first step toward becoming a thought leader for your OT specialty. To take it a step further, be sure you’re applying your knowledge online—through social media 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.
Reap the benefits.
Once you get your name out there as a specialist in a particular occupational therapy area, start building relationships with local physicians and professionals in your industry who could refer patients your way for the issues you’re best suited to address. Just don’t forget the outcomes and patient loyalty data. After all, in today’s value-based healthcare paradigm, physicians are looking for more than sweet treats. That’ll garner you—and the profession in general—some serious respect.
What advice do you have for other therapists seeking a niche? How do you market yours? Do you think having a niche specialty helps you better promote yourself—and occupational therapy in general? Tell us in the comment section below. Then, be sure to download our free marketing e-book to learn more great strategies for effectively marketing your practice.