The natural health industry is booming.
With rising costs of conventional medicine, consumers are increasingly receptive to trying alternative healing methods—many of which are finally getting well-deserved recognition for their scientific validity.
Even with this tremendous opportunity in the vast healthcare industry, many practitioners make the mistake of offering services that are broad, generalized, and non-specific… which leads to a practice that is forgettable, even in a booming market.
In this post, I’ll explain why choosing a niche can help your practice stand out and succeed.
Why Use a Niche in Healthcare?
Patients no longer rely solely on conventional medical care such as a General Practitioner (GP) or Medical Doctor (MD).
Increasingly, they seek relief from a variety of other sources:
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) providers such as Naturopathic Doctors, Chiropractic Doctors, Licensed Massage Therapists, etc.
- Conventional medical doctors who integrate with CAM providers (also called Integrative Medicine)
- Natural health products like supplements, vitamins, and essential oils
- Do-It-Yourself treatments and therapy
- Unlicensed and unregulated providers and products, including Multi-Level Marketing schemes
This shift in consumer choice provides a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on a market that is hungry for trained and licensed healers. But although practice owners are highly qualified to practice medicine, most of them are not trained in business, strategic planning, marketing, or sales.
With a crowded market and fierce competition, practitioners need to develop a marketing strategy that achieves long-range goals, rather than quick wins from a short-term perspective.
A marketing team can help handle your advertising, SEO, web design, copywriting, and other marketing steps… but it will never be enough if you don’t have a clear message to start with.
That’s where niching can give you a strategic advantage.
What Is a Niche?
The word niche comes from the Latin root nīdus, meaning “nest.”
A niche is a distinct segment of the market that
- serves very specific customer needs,
- offers well-defined solutions,
- provides a comfortable environment for customers, and
- makes the business owner feel excited and satisfied… both professionally and financially.
How Can Niching Result in Success?
Practice owners who focus on a niche area stand out from competitors for several reasons. A niche owner is able to:
1. Find and connect with patients who are a great fit for their practice.
Some patients are a delight. They arrive at appointments on time, pay you promptly, and enjoy immediate results from your services.
But other patients aren’t a good fit at all. They arrive late to appointments, complain about your rates, don’t respect your policies and procedures, or disagree with your fundamental philosophy.
These patients will ultimately damage your company rather than helping you to reach your ultimate goals. Even if you serve a few “Non-Ideal Patients,” you run the risk of seeing 1-star reviews, negative word-of-mouth recommendations… and constantly putting out fires that waste your precious time, energy, money, and resources.
You can eliminate this frustration by following the 80/20 principle. This simply means that you identify which root cause leads to results such as the source of your greatest profit margins, or the qualities of your Ideal Patients. Using this data, you can create an environment that attracts patients who will best benefit from your services.
2. Offer services or products that will provide positive results for patients.
Choosing to set limits on what you offer can seem counter-intuitive. That’s because because limitations require you to say NO to good things.
But consider that “good” things will keep you from “great” results.
For example, you are likely offering a wide variety of service options, products, group events, and packages. A simple profit margin analysis would show that just a handful of activities are actually generate any profit (money left over after expenses). And of those, only a few services or products produce a significant Return On Investment (ROI)… meaning that they are worthwhile both to you as the owner, and to your patients’ well-being.
An honest evaluation of your business will likely reveal some uncomfortable truths… services you want to provide, even if they aren’t making money. Methods that you enjoy doing, even if patients aren’t interested in them.
Read more: How to Use Good and Bad Pain in Decision-Making
A healthcare practice is profitable due to a small number of tasks. These few activities are all that is necessary to generate a profit; it could be setting a certain type of appointment, collecting payment, completing the exam, and scheduling a follow-up visit. Any remaining services don’t actually serve the business; they merely exist because the owner prefers them, or because she or he believes that someday those services will be profitable.
Something amazing happens when you start to focus on a profitable niche. By providing an area of specialization, you immediately distinguish yourself from all competitors in the market. You’ll be able to create a compelling story that resonates with your Target Patients. When you combine this with services and products that have high profit margins, your practice suddenly has the potential for huge success.
This takes us to benefit #3. A niche practitioner can…
3. Share a clear message in a crowded marketplace.
In your city there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of practitioners doing exactly the same thing as you. Unless you are using a message that is unique and compelling, patients will have no way to decide whether your expertise can relieve their pain better than the next practitioner on the list.
Research tells us that 72% of patients search online to find a medical provider, and 63% choose a provider based on their online profile (Sources: Software Advice and HealthcareDive).
When patients visit a practitioner’s website, they are looking for confirmation that the practitioner is:
- visually trustworthy
(a photo of the practitioner is often the first thing patients look for on a website, along with testimonials and reviews),
- capable of treating their pain or discomfort
(the content and images must match the needs faced by the patient),
- emotionally accessible
(it must be obvious that the practitioner is willing to listen and understand their problem), and
- immediately available for an online booking on the practitioner’s website
(online booking is preferred by 45% of patients).
Crafting a message that communicates these things to your Ideal Patient requires significant planning.
Successful niche practitioners know that they must focus on a pain point that validates the patient’s suffering, and connect with them in a meaningful way. By providing a clear path to solve their problem, a Niche Practitioner can cut through the confusion and reach patients who will most benefit from their expertise.
Finally, a practice owner with a niche is able to:
4. Increase profit margins by charging higher prices, collecting payment faster, and working fewer hours.
Profit is like oxygen; without it, the business will choke and stop functioning. Although practitioners are excellent at providing care and providing a useful treatment plan for their patients, most are not comfortable calculating the profit margins in their business.
This problem is greatly reduced when you niche, because selecting a more specialized area can generate more profit margins. A narrow focus will limit the patient population, but will also give you the ability to charge a premium for your services.
In addition, niche practitioners can set stronger parameters in their practice operations:
- changing to a cash payment practice (which avoids the nightmare of billing insurance and waiting weeks for payment),
- setting clear policies (such as requiring payment prior to rendering services and recognizing Transaction Avoidance Syndrome),
- offering concierge and other high-value services, and
- limiting office hours to eliminated wasted time and maximize revenue.
Read more: What is Transaction Avoidance Syndrome?
As you can see, picking a specialized practice area has many benefits that will help you stand out and reach patients who are a perfect fit for your expertise.
If you’re curious about how to reverse a toxic workplace, let’s talk about it over a virtual cappuccino. Find out more here.
Grace LaConte is a business consultant, writer, workplace equity strategist, and the founder of LaConte Consulting. Her risk management tools are used around the globe, and she has successfully reversed toxic work environments for clients in the healthcare and non-profit fields. Grace specializes in lactation law compliance & policy development, reducing staff turnover after maternity leave, and creating a participatory work culture.
Find more at laconteconsulting.com, or connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @lacontestrategy.