Innovative Therapists are Marketers at Heart

Innovative Therapists are Marketers at Heart

Innovative Therapists are Marketers at Heart (and can be marketers by profession, too!)

“Marketing?  Really?” You ask.  “Why would a therapist decide to pursue marketing?”

When I first decided to become a physical therapist, I wanted a job where I could work directly with people and make a positive difference in their lives.  I wanted a job where I could use creativity and problem solving.  I was also 24 and I did not want a desk job.

Fast forward eleven years and I still love creative problem solving while working with people.  However, at 35 I am beginning to feel my age.  I’ve also looked around and noticed there are very few PTs past 45 who are still doing full time clinical work.  It’s definitely a young person’s game.  So, what can a therapist do?  How can I satisfy my core passions and earn a living after my body says “no more” to clinical work?

First I considered writing.  I’ve always been a writer in my spare time but I never looked at how to turn it into a career.  I scoured the internet for information on how to become a professional writer.  It turns out a lot of people try to make it as journalists and novelists and most of them struggle to earn a living. 

"The real money for writers is in regulatory writing and marketing."

If you’re anything like me, then the words “regulatory writing” are so boring that they would cure your insomnia in a heartbeat.  However, the idea of marketing piqued my interest.  Marketing can be face to face or it can involve behind-the-scenes work.  Marketing is more than just clever jingles and engaging long-form content.  However, if you have a way with words then it’s definitely a career option.  Marketing is also evidence-based practice.  That’s right - marketing is driven by data.  So, anyone who is accustomed to using evidence to guide clinical decisions will feel at home in a marketing role.

I know what you’re thinking.  Marketing is a part of the evil corporate empire.  Healthcare professionals are supposed to answer a higher calling that transcends the soulless aims of corporate America.  Hear me out though.  Marketing positively impacts society.

At its core, marketing aims to understand what people value and then deliver to those people in the most efficient way possible.  Some people associate marketing with convincing people to waste money on things they don’t need.  There may be some truth to that – especially in the domain of traditional “inside-out” marketing.  However, with the rise of digital marketing, all companies have been forced to take a consumer-centric approach.  Companies cannot succeed by brainwashing people into buying a product.  Instead, they have to carefully study consumer wants and needs to determine what matters to people.  Next, they craft their products and services – not just their ad campaigns – to meet the needs of real people.  Marketing requires a variety of skill-sets, similar to what is needed to succeed as a rehab professional.

If you’ve succeeded as a PT, OT or SLP then you’ve already had to apply marketing principles in your work.

Ever had to convince a reluctant patient to participate in therapy?  You basically did a sales pitch to show someone the value of your service.

Ever had a patient who felt like therapy was not addressing his or her needs?  If you sought feedback from the patient on what he or she wants then you basically did market research.  If you used that feedback to adjust the plan of care, then it means you made your service more relevant to your target audience.

Ever reached out to a patient’s doctor or a patient’s family member to help your patient with something that is out of your control as a clinician?  Marketers coordinate with people in a variety of departments to ensure that everyone is on the same page and making moves that support the ultimate goal.

“But wait”, you say, “I don’t have a degree in marketing and I don’t want to spend another four years getting a new degree.”

The good news is that you don’t need a marketing degree to get a job in marketing.  A general bachelor’s degree is often enough to check off the education box.  In some cases, it’s possible to get a marketing job without a bachelor’s degree, but those opportunities are less common.  Just because your bachelor’s degree satisfies the education requirement, that doesn’t mean you can just quit your therapy job on Friday and start a marketing job on Monday.  Like any career, marketing requires a specific skill set.  Also, you have to show prospective employers that you can use those skills effectively in the real world.

What kind of skills do you need to get started?  Well, do you remember how I said that marketing is evidence-based practice?  I wasn’t kidding.

Marketing is driven by research and data analysis.  There are numerous software tools you can use.  Google Analytics is a popular data tool that is relatively simple to use and it has a free version.  It’s a great tool for beginners to learn on but it has some significant limitations.  Google Analytics tracks how many people visit your website as well as how they get there.  However, it does not provide adequate information about how visitors interact with your website.  Knowledge of how people interact with your website is critical for understanding your audience and optimizing your strategy.

There are too many different marketing analytics tools for me to list all of them.  However, if you are interested in learning more about them, Asi Dayan – a growth marketer – wrote an excellent article http://blog.oribi.io/marketing-analytics-tools/ on the five major types of marketing analytics tools.  There are also countless online classes for learning digital marketing skills.  Ryan Deiss – an internationally renowned marketer – has a website www.digitalmarketer.com with dozens of classes to help you build your digital marketing skills.

Once you have developed your data analytics skills, it’s time to put them to use.  There are two major ways for aspiring marketing professionals to gain marketing experience. 

One way is to do freelance work for small businesses that want to increase their market visibility but don’t know how to do it.  The other way is to start your own website or social media channel (or both) dedicated to something you are passionate about.  In either case, you will use digital marketing skills to improve your search engine rankings and convince site visitors to take action (e.g. sign up for your weekly emails, watch more of your videos, buy something from you, etc.).

Also, don’t neglect your networking game while you are developing your marketing skills.

Talking to current marketing professionals will help you to position yourself to get your first full time marketing job.  Apart from live networking events, there are numerous online discussion groups for current and prospective marketing professionals.  As a general rule, great marketers are also great networkers.  So, if you’ve been avoiding networking as a healthcare professional, it will pay to get some practice.

What are the job prospects?

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook https://www.bls.gov/ooh/ all marketing jobs are expected to have average to excellent growth between now and 2028.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics divides marketing jobs into several categories, including business, management and communications.  Although traditional marketing channels like print, radio and television are not dead yet, they are getting replaced by digital marketing channels like websites, social media and email campaigns.  You can get a better idea of all the traditional and digital marketing opportunities available by reading Allie Decker’s Hubspot article on marketing https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/marketing-jobs.

Once you have learned the essential marketing skills and practiced them by doing freelance work, you are well positioned to gain an entry level marketing job.

The salary for an entry level marketer can be a bit of a letdown for anyone who is used to earning a therapist salary.  Entry level marketers can expect to start at $40K to $55K per year.  However, mid-level staff marketers can earn $60K to $70K and marketing managers can earn well above $100K.  It can take five to ten years to become a manager, but it is well within reach for anyone who has hustle – and if you’re an innovative therapist then you definitely have hustle.

It may seem like quite a leap to move from healthcare to marketing.  However, healthcare companies need marketing experts too.

Healthcare professionals are uniquely qualified to fill these marketing roles because they have an in-depth understanding of the terminology and the complicated factors that affect the delivery of healthcare services.  The opportunities are numerous and include medical equipment and pharmaceutical companies, insurance and continuing education companies, and companies that provide treatment – from hospitals to outpatient clinics to home care providers.  Every company needs a team of marketers to handle the two-way communication with consumers.  It’s that skilled communication strategy that ultimately guides a company’s decisions about which products or services to provide as well as how to reach people.  Marketers use communication and analytical skills to help people achieve their goals – just like healthcare professionals.

Written by guest blogger Ian Bertram, physical therapist. Ian's LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian-bertram-4835b8a8 if you would like to connect with him. Thank you for reading!