Marketing Your Occupational Therapy Practice

If you are in need of connecting with new clients for your occupational therapy practice, check out this updated guide to marketing OT

I became an occupational therapist (OT) to help people. To make a difference in the world. To become a change maker for the better.

If I believe those words to be true (and I do) then we need to talk about the elephant in the room. 

Most OTs can’t answer one of the most fundamental and essential questions of every business in the history of business.

“How do I get customers?”

I don’t practice anymore (now I help practitioners with their marketing) but when I did. I was also responsible for growing my practice.

This meant that during my “downtime” when I wasn’t treating patients, documenting, responding to emails, and shoving food down my throat as fast as possible. I was also responsible for getting more patients in the door.

Let me say… it was a total and utter failure. I pride myself on doing good work and generally being good at most things. At the time, marketing was not one of them.

Looking back at it, I should have given myself some grace. I was never trained on how to get patients.

I can recall one class in OT school that briefly touched on the business aspect of our profession. We read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” and created a SWOT analysis.

It helped to understand the nuts and bolts of a business plan but it taught me nothing about marketing.

Years later, after lots of pain and a whole lot of self-learning, I now make a living in marketing. I love it.

If there is one thing in business that will never go away. It is the need and the desire to get more customers. Now I’m on a mission to make sure those customers go to the right people. The people who are making the world a better place *high-five OTs*.

Ready to learn how to market your practice?

Define your ideal client

My first gig out of OT school was hand therapy at an outpatient clinic. The previous OT had already moved out of state and so most of his caseload left with him. This meant I had to find ways to build the practice.

Not having a clue what I was doing, I took the spray-and-pray approach. Cold-emailing doctors. Visiting local gyms. Sending hand-written cards to surgeons. Asking current clients for referrals. Setting up booths at local senior centers. You name it I tried it.

Sure, I got a few new patients. But the insane amount of hustle it required to get those few patients wasn’t sustainable. 

This was my first taste of burnout.

The silver lining in it all was that I got to work with all sorts of people. After a while, I started to figure out who I didn’t enjoy working with, but more importantly who I did enjoy working with. I also started to notice that the people who I looked forward to coming into the clinic were also the people that recovered the fastest. I was more engaged. I went above and beyond to help them get better.  And in return, they were more likely to refer their friends to me. 

This was my first massive marketing “ah-ha” moment.

That I’m not meant to serve everybody and that’s completely ok!

I get it, you’re an OT, and you want to help everyone. That’s fine. But don’t mistake helping someone as the same thing as providing a true transformation.

You’re an OT, by all means, help people! But those are not the people you are going to target with your marketing. 

The people you are looking for are the people you would bend over backward for. The people that you would show up early and stay late for. The people that absolutely love what you have to offer and want to tell all their friends about it.

Do yourself a favor and let the people that aren’t right for you go to someone else. That way you have more time and energy to serve the people that are right for you.

Here’s my point.

Define your ideal client. Get clear on exactly who it is you want to serve (your target market).

Once you are clear on WHO it is you are best positioned to serve. It will make every other aspect of your marketing 10x easier.

Here are some questions to get your brain going.

  • What is their age?
  • Male or female?
  • Married?
  • Kids?
  • Job? If yes, what?
  • Do they commute to work? If yes, how long?
  • Do they like their job?
  • What are their passions?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • What do they do in their free time?
  • What are their dislikes?
  • What are the skills they’ve acquired over the years?
  • What value can they bring to the world?
  • What are their life goals, ambitions, hopes, and dreams?
  • What does a perfect day in their life look like?
  • What type of content do they consume? How often?

Most people skip this step because they are perfectionists. They think “well I’m not sure who my ideal client is so I’ll wait until I figure that out.”

Hard truth… you’ll never stop figuring it out. Hell, I’m still figuring it out!

It’s not about getting it right. There are no wrong answers. It’s about getting as clear as you can so that you can start making steps in the right direction.

Remember… you can always change your mind.

Find your watering holes

I have a background in personal training and am obsessed with fitness. So my ideal client, while working as an OT, was my fellow fitness buffs.

Which meant getting in front of them was pretty intuitive. It was all the places I was already going.

  • Gyms
  • Rock climbing facilities
  • Community workouts
  • Facebook fitness groups
  • Fitness blogs
  • Orthopedic doctors offices

Marketing was easy… until it wasn’t.

I practiced as an OT for 4 years before I realized something very important about myself. I liked treating patients… but I LOVED helping my fellow health providers.

I was fascinated by the business, marketing, and sales aspect of our profession. Eventually, I realized that I’m best suited to serve practitioners, not patients.

In this transition from OT to marketing, I had to rediscover my watering holes.

  • Small business associations
  • MeetUp groups
  • Entrepreneurial Facebook groups
  • LinkedIn

So where are your watering holes?

Where are all the places where your ideal clients already hang out?

If you don’t know where to look, here are some questions to get you thinking:

  • What websites do they visit?
  • What events do they attend?
  • What communities are they involved with?
  • What Facebook groups are they in?
  • Who are the influencers they follow?
  • What YouTube channels do they subscribe to?
  • What podcast shows do they listen to?
  • What blogs do they read?
  • What keywords are they searching for on Google?

Once you figure out where they hang out. Get involved!

  • Join the group
  • Sign up for the newsletter
  • Subscribe to the channel
  • Listen to the podcast show
  • Follow the influencer

The more involved you get in the communities of your ideal client, the better you will understand them. 

The better you understand them, the more you will be able to resonate with their challenges.

Develop relationships

After I figured out WHO I wanted to work with and WHERE they hang out, the next step seemed obvious to me.  Ask them to work with me!

Turns out I was wrong.

Have you ever attended a party and met someone that only talked about themselves?

How did you feel about that person?

Selfish? Egotistical? Narcissistic? Annoying? Crude?

Did you want to hang out with that person afterward?

I doubt it.

Yet, this is how most people market themselves.

  • “Buy my thing!”
  • “Join my group!”
  • “Read my newsletter!”
  • “Subscribe to my channel!”
  • “Come to my clinic!”

We make the mistake of trying to GET before we GIVE.

Don’t get me wrong, there was a time when this used to work. Before the internet, it was enough to just be known. If you were the only person they knew that could solve their problem. Then what choice did they have?

We no longer live in that world. With the age of the internet, we are now competing with quite literally everyone. We are flooded with an endless stream of content and information. To the point where it feels like drinking water out of a fire hydrant.

So what do we do?

We have to find a way to stand out.

What’s the best way to stand out?

Developing authentic relationships.

  • Not spamming.
  • Not badgering.
  • Not pushing.

Real, authentic, empathetic, human-to-human connection.

“But I don’t have time for that!”

I’m not suggesting that you connect with everyone you find in your watering holes. What you’re looking for are a few raving fans. People that you truly believe you can provide a complete transformation for. People that you can add so much value that they can’t wait to tell their friends about you.

I’m going to tell you something most marketers won’t tell you about marketing.

Your best marketing will always be referrals.

Referrals come from transformations.

So how do you add insane value to your ideal clients you ask?!

Great question.

If they go to a specific website… maybe you can write a guest blog.

If it’s an event they attend… maybe you can volunteer.

If it’s a Facebook group they are in… maybe you can write a helpful comment.

If it’s an influencer they follow… maybe you can collaborate on a post.

If it’s a podcast they listen to… maybe you can be an amazing guest on it.

The key is to find ways to contribute and collaborate with the communities of people that you want to work with. Look for opportunities where you can step up and add value for free. Join in on the party that is already happening.

Don’t be the person that only talks about themselves.

A relationship is a place you go to give, not to get. 

You’re an OT. You should know this better than anyone.

Build your machine

I host a podcast show where I interview people in the health industry about how they built their businesses and the lessons they learned along the way. With every new release, I post a photo of my guest on social media and tag them in it to help promote their business.

On a recent episode… I couldn’t.

When I went to tag my guest I got denied. “COVID-19 warning.”

Uh… what?

This isn’t a bash against social media. Social media is an incredible tool. I bring this up to stress a very important point. You don’t own your social media account.

If you are building your entire business on your social media. You are building your business on rented land. Don’t make the same mistake I have seen so many of my clients make. They become 100% reliant on their social media to connect with their clients.

I’ve had clients that have had their social media accounts deleted, hacked, censored, and restricted. Only to realize they had no other way to contact their clients or potential clients.

So what’s the solution?

Build your email list.

“Isn’t email dead?”

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this phrase… and how dead wrong it is.

Find me someone who doesn’t have an email address… I’ll wait.

Find me someone who doesn’t check their emails daily… I’ll wait.

Find me someone who doesn’t appreciate a good newsletter… I’ll wait.

This is not true of any other platform.

Think about how much time you spend reading, deleting, organizing, and responding to emails.

It is the single best option we have to connect with our current and potential customers. 

Now that you understand why you need an email list. I’m going to show you how to build it in 3-easy steps.

Step 1 – The Freebie

This is the content that you are going to offer them in return for their email address. Nobody (except maybe your mom) is going to share with you their email address without getting something in return.

“Why not?! It doesn’t cost anything to give me their email address!”


  • It costs them attention.
  • It costs them trust.
  • It costs them time.

Those costs are more scarce than money these days.

What can you provide to your ideal client that will get them to think “Oh hell yeah I need that!”

If you followed the advice in the last section (develop relationships) then this should be obvious to you.

  • What are their challenges?
  • What are their concerns?
  • What are their pain points?

Find a problem and create a solution for it.

Unsure of how to package that solution?

Here are a few that I recommend you choose from:

  • Ebooks
  • Checklists
  • Infographics
  • Video training

Pick one and create it. NOW!

Step 2 – The Email Marketing Software

Now that you have your freebie, we need a place to collect emails. This is where email marketing software comes in. There are dozens to choose from but here are a few I recommend.

Don’t overthink it, pick ONE.

This is what you’ll use to build your email list. When they submit their information, it will automatically send out your content (saving you time!).

Step 3 – The Landing Page

Now you have to have somewhere to send them in order to sign up.

You have almost unlimited options for a landing page but here are a few simple ones.

There is a bit of art and science to creating a landing page. But let me give you my best 10 pieces of advice.

  1. Keep things simple – less is more.
  2. Only include one offer per page – I repeat, less is more.
  3. Write a clear heading – big, bold, and specific.
  4. Highlight the benefits of your offer – tell them the problem you’re solving.
  5. Short sign-up forms – name and email is usually plenty.
  6. Have a killer call-to-value button – tell them what they are getting.
  7. Use video & images – people want to know what they are getting.
  8. Write like you talk – be yourself.
  9. Remove the navigation bar – a landing page should be for one thing only.
  10. Remove the footer – again… less is more.

Uffda! We covered a lot in this section but let me simplify it for you.

  • Create a free piece of CONTENT your client WANTS.
  • Set up your marketing software to collect EMAILS.
  • Have a simple LANDING PAGE for people to go to.

See examples of OT websites here.

Feed your machine

When it comes to growing your list, you have two options. Paid and free.

Let’s talk about free.

When I started my career in marketing, my mentor at the time suggested that I start creating evergreen content.

Evergreen content is content that continues to grow the longer it lives on the internet. Unlike social media which has a shelf life of only a few days.

When it comes to evergreen content, you have 3 choices.

  • Writing – Blogs
  • Video – YouTube
  • Audio – Podcasting

I live for 1-on-1 conversations so the natural choice for me was podcasting. Initially, my podcast started as a way to have interesting conversations.

After about 50 episodes I was starting to wonder why my podcast and my email list weren’t growing. I was creating content, staying consistent, and engaging with my audience. 

What the hell?!

And then… I met a fellow content creator here in Austin. When I met him he had grown his newsletter list to over 37,000 people from writing one day a week (Mondays for him).

“You only create content one day a week?! How the hell did you grow your email list so big?!”

He did it all by paying $0 on advertisements.

Here’s what he told me that will forever change the way I look at content.

“80% of your effort should be on distribution and 20% on new content creation.”

“What?! I thought the point of creating content was to create as much as possible!”

Wrong… well sort of.

Here’s what I learned.

  • Pick a topic you want to be known for.
  • Create 1 really good piece of pillar content (i.e. blog, YouTube or Podcast).
  • Cut that long-form content into short-form content pieces.
  • Distribute that short-form content to your favorite social media platform.

This is the best way to avoid the rat race of social media. Feeling like you’re trying to keep up and never quite knowing what you should post or what you should talk about.

Most people try to talk about everything and end up resonating with no one.

The key is to know a specific topic in depth.

The key is to hammer one message again and again.

The key is to learn how to say the same thing 100 different ways.

A couple of bonus tips.

  • Collaborate with other people that serve the same audience you do
  • Choose the platform you can stick to for years.
  • Master 1 platform before you expand into others.

Both free marketing and paid marketing could be entire blog posts of themselves.

For now, get good at the free stuff before you start pouring gasoline on it.

Once you know what you’re doing with the free stuff… then you can multiply it with paid ads.

Be the solution to their problem

Watching my podcast show grow was a blast. Like most things in life, it’s fun seeing progress.

However, despite having a marketing machine in place and having an increase in traffic. I STILL wasn’t seeing that convert into paying customers.

What gives?!

I was afraid of the ask.

I was afraid of looking “salesy.”

I was afraid that people would say no.

I was afraid of charging money for my services.

Part of creating an offer means that you get paid for the services that you provide.

We spend thousands of hours studying how to be an OT. We spend thousands of dollars going to school. We spend thousands of moments wondering “what the hell did I get myself into?!” Alright, the last one is a joke… sort of.

Yet, as OTs, we feel like we should work for free.

Why is that?

It’s in our blood to think of others first. We want to help everyone. We want to be insanely selfless humans.

Ready for the kicker…?

People don’t value what they don’t pay for.

You are actually doing your clients a disservice by not charging what you are worth. This does not mean price gouge. It means that you should be getting paid for the amount of value you bring to someone’s life. And I’m here to tell you that you can’t put a big enough price on someone’s health.

How to create your offer:

  • Listen to their problems.
  • Create the ultimate solution to that problem.
  • Ask them if they want it.
  • Reiterate your offer again and again until there are no more problems.

If you did the step I recommended earlier of developing your relationships. Then this should feel light and easy. It shouldn’t feel like you are pushing something onto them. If you have something that could help them, why wouldn’t you tell them about it?!

There is no perfect ratio for how often you should pitch your audience with your offer. It really all comes down to how much trust and authority you have built up with them. Only you can determine that based on how your audience feels about you.

A good rule of thumb though is 10/1. Give free valuable information 10 times for everyone 1 ask.

I will say this though… the longer you can wait to ask, the bigger the ask can be.


And just like that, you have a flood of customers! Ok, not so fast. Keep in mind that building your marketing machine is a lot like building a car. Everything has to be running in sync to get a smooth ride. 

It will require some tuning to get it ripping down the highway. But once you do, you’ll never have to worry about where to find your next client again.

Here’s what we have learned.

  • How to define your ideal client.
  • Where to find them.
  • How to connect with them.
  • How to capture them with a marketing machine.
  • How to feed your machine.
  • The art of the ask.

This all probably feels like a lot, but it’s one of the most important things you can do for your business. 

Without it, you will make the same mistake I made and I’ve seen so many of my clients make. 

It can be super stressful… I’ve been there.

Build your machine and eliminate the stress.

If you need further help with your marketing or just have questions. You can find all of my information and resources on my website.

Don’t hold back. I’m always happy to help my fellow OT.

– Corey Hiben, OT/L

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3 replies on “Marketing Your Occupational Therapy Practice”

THANK YOU! I was looking for an OT with such vision to empower all of us OTs. Recently, been disheartened and bombarded with PT driven businesses to show me how to market. Lets just say the price tags were up to $4000.00. I am ready to expand my business but not for that additional cost! I know there are talented business-oriented OTs too! Let’s talk more!

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