Top Occupational Therapy Practice Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

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Marketing your occupational therapy private practice is critical to ensuring you have a steady stream of clients coming through the door. But if you aren't getting the results you want from your OT marketing efforts, make sure you aren't making one of these mistakes.


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For Occupational Therapist who are marketing their services there are a few best practices to ensure you are getting the most results from your efforts.

In this video, Doug Vestal, Ph.D., discusses the top marketing mistakes he and his wife made and the ones he sees his OT clients often making as well.

This video is not intended as professional or legal advice. Be sure to seek the services of a professional and understand the risks you are undertaking. 


Transcript of Video:

Marketing and occupational therapy is a little like putting pineapple on pizza.  Or getting a root canal.

Most people hate it.

But marketing is literally the fuel for your OT business, its literally how you will get to make the impact in your clients lives.

So ignoring it is like sabotaging your OT business before you even get started.

And there are a few mistakes that we made, and that I see other OTs make when they go about marketing their services.

I’m Doug Vestal and I help OTs just like you start and grow thriving private pay practices.  And I make these videos based on what we’ve learned owning our own OT private pay practice so that you can have the success you want faster.

And, if you want to have a successful OT private pay practice, then marketing is one of the most important activities for you to focus on.

But marketing is one of those things that for the OTs I work with they are most afraid of or intimidated by.  They feel that marketing is sleazy or manipulative.  Or that it is high pressure.

And no one wants to do that.

But, the type of marketing we teach our OTs is based more on relationship building.  And building relationships is something that Occupational Therapists are naturals at and excel at.

So let’s jump right into the mistakes that we made and that we see other OTs make. 

So mistake number one is not having a marketing plan in place.  It sounds so basic, but its totally true!  A lot of OTs maybe do some marketing here and there, but not with a specific plan and intention in place.

Remember how I said most OTs don’t like marketing?  Well what ends up happening is that this thought ends up residing in your subconscious and so there can be a big resistance to actually putting a plan in place.

Or, and I’ve seen this happen numerous times, is that a practice becomes so busy that marketing drops off the list of priorities because so much time is being spent by the individual therapist in sessions.  But this is problematic because without a plan, you are very susceptible to a slow down when it happens.

But regardless of the size of your practice, how busy it is today, or even if you are just starting out, you need to have a marketing plan in place.

The plan can be elaborate or simple, but the most important thing is actually creating the discipline to have one and follow through with it.

Marketing is the thing that brings in clients week after week, month after month and year after year.

And in my book, marketing is building relationships.  And this relationship building can take a couple of forms.

It can be building relationships with your referral network and deepening those relationships. 

It is also building relationships directly with your potential clients by hosting community workshops and establishing yourself as a local expert in your area.

And, it can also be marketing you do online through social media if that’s something you are pursuing.

And your plan should consist of a schedule for when you are going to do these activities.  You should plan them in advance so you know exactly what you are doing each week, each month.  This way you don’t leave it to chance.

And the second biggest mistake I see is not following through enough.  You know, we are building a long term business so it takes long term effort.

If you decide to host a community workshop and only 2 people show up, what’s your response?  Well, it would be completely natural to be disappointed and wish more people showed up.

And it would be totally natural to think to yourself “well, you know, maybe community workshops just don’t work.” 

I mean, I totally get that.

But, often, we are just a few steps away from big breakthroughs.  And consistency is something that breeds legitimacy.

You have to establish your expertise and credibility in the community and that takes sustained, persistent effort.  You have to show all the incredible things you are capable of.

Think about it this way – have you ever been in a relationship where you had success just giving 65% of yourself?  Where you could show up just 65% of the time?

No – building relationships takes time and it takes your commitment. 

The same is with marketing your OT practice.

For instance, think about your potential referral sources.  It is going to take more than one outreach to them to establish your relationship.

It could take you reaching out 5 times.  Or 10 times.  It’s a little like dating.  They have to get to know you.  They have to see what you are about.  They have to see you are serious.  That you are committed.

And that happens when you are consistent with your follow up with them.

If you find that you haven’t been consistent, hey that’s okay.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Start doing it now.  Put the plan in place.  You can’t change the past, but you can change how you operate going forward.

No one is perfect, so its okay to falter.  Just catch yourself and then start working the plan.  This self-awareness is so crucial so you can self correct.

The third biggest mistake is not being clear on the person you are trying to attract and the language you use to communicate what you do.

But, we have to put ourself in the client’s shoes.  And here’s the thing: unless your client comes from an OT family or has worked with an OT before, it is highly unlikely they know what an OT is.

And for the most part, they don’t care.

Its not because they are rude, mean or uncaring, but is because you being an OT is about you – not them.

They care about their own transformation.  How their life will get better.  How they will get out of pain.  How they will be less anxious.  How they will be able to do the things they love again.

They care about the destination – not the vehicle they took to get there.  And OT is the vehicle.

And so what we see is that when we focus on their transformation in our marketing message we get a much stronger response and engagement.

So, highlight the benefits of working with you, not all the nitty gritty inside industry knowledge that your OT colleagues would be interested in.

And the final mistake we see is there is no clear call to action in much of the marketing that OTs do.

A call to action just simply means that you are asking the person to do something, to take some action.

The call the action can vary, but you should be asking the person to do something with the information they just received.

It could of course be to book with you, but it could also be a lot of other things.  It could be to attend a workshop, to watch a video you made, to call for a 15 minute consult, to stop by your booth at a community event, to try an exercise and respond to you their finding.

You get the idea.  But you have to motivate them to do something with the information you provided that would be a natural next step for them.

And the reason for this goes back to the relationship building. 

You are trying to build a relationship with them.  And that means trying to promote more interaction.  Its hard to build a relationship without interaction. 

And so the calls to action are critical to building an actual relationship with you.

And when you focus on the specific language that appeals to your client, that makes them stand up, take notice and say “hey that’s me” and you include a strong call to action then you will become an OT magnet, attracting those clients you can serve.