A business coach once asked me, “What’s your specialty?”
“I’m a specialist of the human body,” I replied unwilling to get more specific.
As an osteopathic manipulative medicine specialist, we treat the whole person. This is a great philosophy and I no longer can no longer address any particular issue without addressing the whole. However, in terms of trying to grow and market yourself, it will not serve you. It is important to have at least an informal specialty.
This is something I struggled with for years. I didn’t want to limit myself to anything because I treat everything. I didn’t want people to be turned away when I was struggling. The problem is that by trying to cast such a huge net to include everyone, we catch few people by being vague. To grow your practice, you should have a specialty. Why?
Put yourself in your potential patient’s shoes. Imagine you suffer from debilitating headaches on a regular basis and you’re looking for the best person to go to. So you do a search. First you find someone who treats every problem: headaches, neck pain, back pain, knee pain, digestive issues, pelvic pain, and more. Then, you find a doctor who is considered the headache specialist in town.
Who do you think the patient is more likely to see? The doctor who does nothing but help people with headaches or the person who claims to be a master of everything? It certainly is possible that the person who treats everything may get a better result but the potential patient may not see it that way. Eventually if the headache specialist cannot satisfactorily help the patient, they may make their way to that person, but the chances are less. Especially, since the person who treats everything hasn’t targeted that patient population.
Also put yourself in the shoes of a potential referral source. If you’ve let them know you’re the person to send patients to for pelvic pain and they get someone with pelvic pain, are you more likely to come to mind for them as a referral source rather than someone who helps with pain. Referral sources have more clarity about who to refer if you have a specialty.
Let me emphasize that if you treat everything and choose a specialty, you can still treat everything. The only difference is that by choosing a specialty, you cast a smaller more specific net directed at the people you want to reach. By doing that, you actually reach and draw more of the right people in. You also will have more clarity above how to reach the right people. They also will have an easier time finding you.
How do you go about choosing a specialty? It’s actually not as hard as it seems. Think about a problem or patient population that you get excited about helping when they come to your office. It can be anything like traumatic brain injuries, migraines, and cervicogenic headaches for problems. It can be moms and babies, cyclists, or musicians. You can have multiple specialties although I would focus on one or two to start out and you can always build on it later.
You have to be honest with yourself when you choose. Are you being specific enough? For example, you could say, “I deal with head issues,” and think that was sufficient. However, I guarantee that no one who has a particular head problem is doing a search online for “head issue relief.”
On the other end of the spectrum, you have to choose a problem that isn’t too specific where there are such few people with that problem or patient population that you will not get many people from it. For example, if you say “I specialize in supermodels,” and you live in a city where they generally are not concentrated, it will not work. That population might be tough to build your practice on even if you live in a large metropolitan city where they are more concentrated, but at least you could start thinking of ways that you might change your practice and how people perceive you to bring them in.
Once you’ve chosen a specialty, then what? Now you have more clarity about how to proceed with marketing. You can write blog articles on your website, add it to your biography, do talks, and go spend time where that population might be. You can discuss the problem, why it is such a terrible problem and must be dealt with, and what’s missing in the care they’re currently getting that you address. You can be clear to your referral sources what patients to send to you rather than “everyone.” You can begin to define yourself as the expert and go-to-person for that problem and ultimately reach more people that way. Without that, we are ambiguous to most of the population and they don’t know why they should come to us…and they won’t.
If you like these tips on growing your practice, sign up below for the “Financial Health” section below and you’ll get articles on a regular basis about growing your osteopathic medical practice.