As you plot out your career and life path, should you find a niche within your discipline — that special segment that gives you particular satisfaction and can set you and your practice apart from your competition?
Whether you’re just graduating from your training or want to take your practice to the next stage, read on!
Niche: Solving someone’s problem
First, let’s note that finding your niche is not the same as having a specialty. Specialties are the type of services — typically broad — that you provide; a niche targets a problem you can solve for a specific group of people using your services. It’s been defined as “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.” That’s pretty clear.
For example, a niche could include focusing on nutrition services for patients who can’t digest or choose not to eat meat, but need help structuring a plant-based or vegetarian diet. Or perhaps it’s for someone searching for body weight or strengthening assistance, or “weekend warriors” who overdid it and need sports injury rehab on a knee or other joint injury.
When investing in health, your potential clients basically focus on what’s in it for them (they are healthcare consumers, after all). Finding and becoming known within your niche helps you show potential clients exactly how you’re dedicated to and focused on helping them solve the problem they’re seeking help for.
Benefits to you and your potential client base
So what are the benefits of finding a niche within your field? What are the benefits of that level of specialization, and what are the challenges? And how do you determine what your market needs and what you’re best qualified to deliver?
That’s a lot of questions (sorry). But those are things you must consider if you want to be known for…well… something that sets you apart and rewards you with top-of-mind recommendations as friends ask your patients for a practitioner that meets their needs.
Generalists in any field are vitally important, of course. But even in a large orthopedic practice, for instance, there are providers who specialize in knees and hips, sports medicine, rehabilitation and many other vitally important health services. As a patient, we wouldn’t want someone who specializes in knee replacement operating or providing therapy for a shoulder injury if we have options from someone who’s done it more times (and thus hopefully is more skilled in it) and is likely to deliver a more-positive outcome.
Take physical therapy for example. Of course, there’s general physical therapy (and its “sister specialty,” occupational therapy). It’s a broad and commonly understood area of practice, in which many physical therapists — especially in smaller or otherwise underserved areas — might remain in for their entire career. With an endless list of injuries patients can experience, your career will certainly never be dull!
But with the volume of medical knowledge doubling faster than ever, the trend in delivering healthcare services has almost required the trend toward specialization for any practitioner. Sticking with our physical therapy example, there are more sub-specialties for which you can pursue certification based on your interests, skills and location. After your base 2,000 hours of training in PT, you can seek specialization in women’s health, oncology, pediatrics and many others.
What am I passionate about? Paired with what you’re good at, you need this to mesh with what you truly enjoy. Just because you’re good at working with children or senior citizens doesn’t mean it’s something you particularly like doing. Remember…when you focus on a particular niche, that’s what you’ll be spending most of your time doing. Are you personally or professionally OK with that? If not, keep looking for your niche.
What problem do I want to solve? Similarly, is there a concern that you find yourself thinking about all of the time? As you read medical journals, what articles cause you to stop and invest the time to read them? Life is full of choices and, as Wisconsin clinical psychologist Dr. Nanette Matthews said, “Where our thoughts dwell, so becomes our reality. Choose wisely!”
Where do I want to live? Are you happy with where you’re living? Are you in your small hometown and want a larger metro area with more opportunities for building a reputation and business, plus availability of arts and other activities? Perhaps you want a change of climate?
Does this answer an unmet need in my market of choice? Have you evaluated that location or area of choice for opportunities that may be a match to your life goals, dreams and skills? Some needs are obvious, while others require more research. Ask your family and friends what health and wellness problems they need help with, then expand your search through the web or your professional association.
Don’t forget to consider not just what problems you’ll be solving for your clients, but also the aspects of your clients’ lives that may impact their ability to successfully utilize your services. This could well be a factor as to where you choose to locate your practice, even within a large metro area. If you want to focus on geriatric physical therapy, perhaps consider somewhere that’s easily accessible by public transportation or that doesn’t have horrible traffic issues which could impede older patients from easily reaching you. In many cases, 2020 Census data may help you get a better sense of an area’s demographics. (Data is searchable down to a county level.)
What’s the growth potential? Focusing on a niche enables you to stand out, thus reducing the level of competition inherent in a broad, unspecialized market. (That’s of course presuming there’s an unmet need for your niche in a market that’s not already saturated.) But it can also narrow your opportunities. Again, look at the Census data for the area and the projections for an aging U.S. population.
Recap: The benefits of ‘niching’
Focusing on a niche enables you to (A) speak directly to your potential clients with a voice and message they’ll appreciate, understand and hopefully be moved to act upon, (B) enable you to stand out — both in your market and more broadly through speaking engagements and articles — as an expert in your niche of your field, and (C) very possibly charge more money for your specialized services and skills.
Moving forward, intakeQ can help!
With all of these thoughts to research and consider, it may point you in a direction for the next phase of your life.
practiceQ™ and its integrated online forms solution are used by a diverse cross-representation of allied health professionals, from PT and OT to chiropractors, behavioral health, nutritionists, massage therapists, as well as lawyers and more. If you’d like more information and examples of the segments of our client base and how they’re using intakeQ’s solutions, email us at hello@intakeQ.com or schedule a demo and we’ll follow up pronto!