Discovering and Marketing Your Physical Therapy Niche

One way to better market the physical therapy profession is to ensure that you’re appropriately marketing your own clinic. As is the case with any business, you need to know your audience. A common mistake is the “we’ll-fit-anyone” approach. You either end up clueless as to how to promote your clinic or cast too wide of a net, catching flitting minnows rather than loyal marlins. But by narrowing your focus—by finding your niche—you can better position yourself and your profession to increase business. Your marketing will be targeted, specific, and tailored to attract potential patients. 

Finding Your Niche
In a whitepaper entitled “Build Your Practice by Finding Your Physical Therapy Niche,” Jeff Worrell suggests a few ways rehab therapists can go about finding their niche: “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, our very own Heidi Jannenga experienced a sports-related injury in college and received physical therapy as a result. After college, she carved her specialty in athletic rehab therapy.

Worrell also offers a questionnaire as a guide to finding your niche:

  • What type of physical therapy work do you enjoy doing?
  • What is the market potential for the area you are 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 physical therapists who have built a successful practice in this niche?

Still in school or doing some PT soul searching? Try immersing yourself in several different specialties to find where your heart truly lies. You can also peruse Monster’s list of emerging PT specialties.

Marketing Your Niches
Nailed down your niche? Now it’s time to market to your prospective patients.

Go Where the Prospects Are
Seek out publications, websites, and other advertising opportunities within your niche market to promote your services. Additionally, make sure you’ve amassed a library of online reviews from patients who are representative of your ideal patient market. (Having trouble pinpointing those patients? A top-notch patient relationship management software like WebPT Reach can help automate the review request process.) 

You can even take it a step further, like Heidi did. When Heidi’s husband (and WebPT President) Brad was obtaining his archery instructor certification, the two frequented numerous sporting goods stores. Through Brad, Heidi met many wilderness athletes, and she discovered they all suffered from some sort of musculoskeletal injury (for archers, shoulder injuries are incredibly common). Heidi began treating some of these athletes, and her customer base grew through word of mouth. At that point, Heidi realized, as the director of a clinic, that there were opportunities to expand her business by exploring the wilderness athlete market. Because she had frequented so many sporting goods stores, Heidi had established relationships with the managers and employees who let her leave flyers at the different stores, promoting her services as a PT specializing in treating archers and other wilderness athletes.

Bike Therapy diagram

Immerse Yourself
So you’ve tacked up flyers, bought ad spaces, and sought out places where you can connect with prospects. Now kick it up a notch by fully immersing yourself in your niche’s community. For example, Washington’s Bike Therapy, or Corpore Sano PT, specializes in physical therapy for bicyclists. According to their website, in addition to ensuring proper bike fit, they bring patients their “extensive musculoskeletal knowledge, bike industry and equipment experience, and looking at the goals of bike riders from all walks of life.” They share their “experience, knowledge of physicality—strength, flexibility and conditioning—to work out everyday on-the-bike issues that hold you back from reaching your goals.”

The full-blown bike devotion doesn’t end with their elevator pitch, though. BikePT offers classes; online education through blog posts, newsletters, and articles; and bike buyer’s guides. Most importantly, though, they sponsor and participate in biking events, like this past weekend’s Cycle the Wave.

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 PT specialty. As a thought leader, you can apply your knowledge online through social and blogging as well as in your community, like BikePT’s classes and seminars.

In his whitepaper, Worrell suggests marketing your niche through educational seminars. Cindi Prentiss Lattanzio, MBA, PT, OCS, Cert. MDT, LMT, “promotes her unique niche (women’s health and back pain) by holding monthly educational seminars at her clinic. Entitled ‘Helping You Help Yourself,’ each monthly seminar features Lattanzio and another specialist. The seminars have provided two key benefits to her clinic. Not only do patients learn more about ways physical therapy can improve their lives. But physicians also learn about the benefits physical therapy provides patients. Lattanzio says she still receives referrals from a seminar she participated in several years ago.”

Speaking of referrals, all of these examples have that in common, and that’s another benefit of having a niche. Once area physicians and other specialists hear from patients that your treatments work, they will send—and continue to send—patients your way for issues in which your practice specializes. You become the resource, the go-to specialist, the musculoskeletal expert for those patients, thus garnering you—and the profession in general—more respect and authority.

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 rehab therapy field?