How To Deal With Competition In Your OT Private Practice

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How do you deal with competition when running your occupational therapy private pay practice?


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It is easy to be nervous or scared about competition with your OT private practice. But, competition alone isn't a bad thing. And likely, your biggest competition isn't even another practice in your town.

In this video, Doug Vestal, Ph.D., discusses how to deal with competition in your OT private practice - including the number 1 competitor to your business you likely aren't even considering.

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:

A lot of people in occupational therapy private practices can become really stressed about competition.


In fact, a lot of times, OTs will feel initially very intimidated by competition in their city or town so much that it may give them pause to even starting their business in the first place.


And then, once they open the doors they can start to feel the intense pressure of competition.  The competition could be with another OT or a PT practice.


And all these fears start creeping up – what if my competitors reduce their rates?  How am I going to compete with them?


Or, they just hired a new therapist with some great skills and you start to become worried that your clients will book with that new therapist instead of your practice.


Well, in this video I’m going to show you how we not only dealt with competition, but how we thrived despite there being a lot of competition in our town.


And it may surprise you to find out that the number 1 competitor to your practice isn’t another practice at all.  And once you understand that, and how to deal with it, you won’t be worried about competition again.


Hi, I’m Doug Vestal and I help OTs start and grow thriving private pay practices.  You know, OT school doesn’t teach any business skills.  And I’m on a mission to fix that.  I think the world needs more OT entrepreneurs just like you. We founded a very successful private pay OT practice in NYC and I make these videos so you can have success even faster from the lessons we learned.




Okay – let’s get right into this topic of how to deal with competition.


So, of everything I’m going to cover, here is the most important thing.  This is what I teach in my online course, Private Pay MBA. 


And this little fact, when we realized it, completely changed how we viewed the competition and how we marketed our OT practice.


Your competition isn’t the other practice on the other side of town.  Your competition isn’t the practice that is cheaper.  Your competition isn’t the practice with the fancy name.


Dan Kennedy, who is a famous marketer, said that each and every successful business needs to be able to answer the question: “Why should I choose you over each and everyone of your competitors, including the option of just doing nothing?”


And it is this last part, the “option of just doing nothing” that is your main competition.


Because here is the truth – most people don’t seek out OT services even if they could benefit. 


There are 3 types of people as it relates to your OT services.  The first is someone who has a problem you can help with and is actively searching for a practice to book with.  The second type of person is someone who has a problem you can help with but is doing nothing about it.  They’ve decided they either don’t want, don’t need, or don’t know that help is available.


And the third type of person is someone who just doesn’t have the problem you can help with.  So for those people, we don’t worry about them, they won’t be your clients.


Most practice owners really only consider the first person – the person with a problem who is actively searching for help.  But the problem with this is that everyone goes after this person.  You have to capture this person right when they are doing a google search for “XYZ therapy services close to me.” 


And in terms of percentages, very few people fall into this category.  And yet, everyone worries about this while ignoring the 2nd group of people.


The 2nd group of people are those you can help but don’t yet know a solution exists.  So many practices ignore this person.  But this 2nd group of people is by far larger than the first group.  Most people live in pain or discomfort for a long time before taking action. 


So your biggest competition is from the individual itself.  Your biggest competition is education provided to your future client that solutions exist.


And your marketing material should be focused on educating this person what options are available to them.  Your marketing material should be focused on influencing this person that the problem they have, that they didn’t think could be solved, is actually something other people have dealt with and have gotten better through the services you are recommending.


Your marketing material should be geared towards this 2nd person.  You are building a long term relationship with this person through the education you are providing.  You are starting to motivate them to take action by realizing that their problem isn’t something they need to live with any longer.


And guess what?  Your other competitors, by and large, ignore this group of people even though it is huge.  So when you connect with this person, add value to their life before they ever pay you, then when it is time for them to take action YOU are the ONE.


You are the expert they trust.  They have built a connection with you.  They want to work with you and your practice.  They won’t even consider other options in your area because they will already know, like and trust you.


This insight is absolutely huge and it changed the entire direction we took with our OT business.


The second thing to realize is that competition can actually be good. 

Yes, it may not feel like it.  But, if you are opening an OT private practice and there are already successful, established practices in your area that is actually a good thing.


It shows you on some level there is demand in your area and at least enough potential clients to support your practice.  I always recommend new OT practice owners to niche down and really find their ideal client.  But, you don’t want to niche down so granular that there isn’t just the number of people available that would support your business.


So, the twist about competition, is to view it as a bit of “proof of concept” for your niche.  It can give you the greenlight that there is good potential there.


Now, the 3rd thing we recommend is that you embrace the abundance mindset when it comes to your competitors.

There is enough business for all of you.  There are enough clients to support everyone, because even if you serve the same types of clients, I guarantee your approaches, personalities, business operations will differ enough that only clients benefit.


So, what we did in NYC was we actually organized a professional group with our quote/unquote “competitors”  We called it a study group.


And we invited physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, doulas, etc. to all get together once a month for networking.  We’d cover case studies, clients, books, articles, whatever was topical.


And this was all done with the intention of lifting up our work.  That we were stronger when we were connected.  That we could share clients because no one client was the same.


And through that, that actually became an incredible source of referrals.  Everyone got to know each other a lot better and could refer to each other for their unique strengths.


And in the end, only our clients benefited by getting the help and resources they needed because all the practitioners in the area were connected.


And the fourth thing goes back to the first thing I said:  you have to differentiate yourself. 


So, in the beginning we focused on that statement “including the option of doing nothing.”


But the first part of the statement was why would someone choose you over each and everyone of your competitors.


And being able to answer this is incredibly important.  You need to go beyond just service level things like “we provide great care.”


Everyone says that.


Everyone says “we put our clients first” or “we help those in pain feel better”


Differentiating yourself encompasses everything from the language you use to describe your practice to the experience you provide in the session to the type of follow up you do after the session.


Let me give you just one example.  Let’s say work with postpartum women and in the session your client shares with you that with all the caring for the baby she feels like her and her spouse are drifting apart.  But that, she’s excited because for the first time since the baby was born she’s gotten a babysitter and her and her husband are going to their favorite restaurant for their first date night.


Well  - you could call the restaurant and arrange for a bottle of wine to be delivered to their table when they sit down.  Or you could have a dessert delivered at the end of the meal with some flowers.

And you could accompany this with a card you handwrote celebrating their date night.

Is this work?  Does it take effort on your part?

Yes, but your competition isn’t doing things like this so it is incredibly easy to provide this type of high touch service.


Remember – more than anything, people will remember how you made them feel.


There’s literally 1000s of small and big ways for you to differentiate yourself. 


So use your creative juices and realize that this is your business – you are only limited by what you are willing to do.


If you follow these 4 tips then I guarantee you will be a lot more confident about competition in your area.