Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the importance of focusing on the foundations of our business in order to help develop it by:
- Understanding what it is we really do so we are able to market our business
- Understanding the life that we want so that we are able to make decisions about our business that are right for us
- Understanding our USP and why this is so important in growing our business
This week I’m going to take a little look at the idea of ‘competition’. While I alluded in my last post that I don’t perceive other therapists in my area to be my ‘competition’, I still think that it’s important to understand the complementary therapy market, why people use complementary therapists, and who else is working in our area; to do some research on the ‘competition’, but not necessarily for the reasons you might be thinking
The complementary therapy market
I think it is important to get an idea of the complementary therapy market in the UK. Unfortunately, because complementary therapies are unregulated in the UK, there is very little ‘official’ data available. What little there is comes from a report complied by Lynn Vos and Ross Brennan in 2005 called Marketing Complementary and Alternative Therapies. Their report looked at what data there was for both the UK and the US, along with a very small scale study of their own, and this is a summary of their findings:
- In 2000 the CAM market was estimated to be worth £581 million, 1% of the total UK healthcare market with around 48,000 – 60,000 CAM practitioners
- Exploratory research suggests that most marketing in the sector takes place through customer relationship development, word of mouth, and social networks
- There has been no research in client loyalty specifically, but there is a strong suggestion that many clients value a personal, enduring relationship with their therapist, and they quote the House of Lords as saying:
The NHS has long waiting lists for outpatient appointments…, and there is a common impression among patients, even in primary care …that the doctor’s time is precious and must not be wasted. In comparison, CAM therapists are numerous and often easy to access; they are very welcoming to patients, positively encouraging long consultations… [and] some CAM therapists work in more pleasant environments, and patients appreciate the better, and often more relaxing, quality of their surroundings.House of Lords 2000 para 3.9, in Vos & Brennabut,2005, Marketing Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Their report also indicated that people came to see a complementary therapist for:
- Long term chronic health problems – e.g. muscular-skeletal, depression, skin disorders, and allergies
- Shorter term conditions – e.g. viral infections and injuries
- Therapy helped in the past
- Dissatisfied with conventional medicine
- Desire to try a new approach
- New health problem
- To improve general well-being
- Stress-related condition
Despite the limitations of the research, their findings tally with my own experiences, and I am sure that most seasoned therapists would agree with these reasons, and with the message from the whole report – that the CAM sector is one that is growing, and that client relationships are key to our success.
So what does this mean for us?
Well, it means ‘great news’, you’re working in a sector that’s growing! You’re working in a sector where anyone could be your client – there is no defined ‘type’ of complementary therapy user. You are also working in a sector that, by it’s very definition is difficult to ‘market’ to as people generally seek us out through reputation and word of mouth. That said, I believe herein lies the key to your success as a therapist, because reputation and word of mouth is formed by people’s senses:
What they hear – word of mouth and recommendation, as well as what you write. People will form an opinion of you based on how you communicate with them, the words you use whether said out loud or written on your website.
What they see – there’s no point in denying that people make first impressions based on what they see, so why should it be any different for our potential clients? They like to know what you look like to see if you are the kind of person they think they will like. So, this could include photographs of you, photographs of your work space on so on.
What they feel – many people get a gut feeling based on what they hear and see of you before contacting you to make an appointment – they want to know that they will feel safe and secure, valued and respected if they chose to have a treatment with you. And then obviously what they feel as a result of the treatment feeds back to word of mouth and reputation, and so on…
What this means for us, for you, is that what you write, what you say, the public images you share, how you make clients feel, must come from your heart. So, whatever you do, do not try and second guess what your clients might want to hear, see and feel, just be you and you will attract the clients that need you. This might seem like a giant leap of faith, but you have to trust me on this one – actually, not just me, ask most seasoned therapists and they will say the same. And you are right, I haven’t mentioned price as being a key factor in choosing a therapist, because that is way down the list and something we’ll cover in the next couple of weeks!
So what about your direct ‘competition’?
I still believe that there is no such thing as competition in the complementary therapy market, and I stand by that, you will attract he clients that need you based on what they hear, what they see and how you make them feel both before, during and after their treatment.
But, while there is no competition, you are part of a community. Out there is a community of fellow therapists who can offer you advice, support, encouragement and ideas. And I’m not just talking about your immediate vicinity – I’m talking as far and wide as you want it to reach. So, do your research, get to know some fellow therapists to find support networks, look at what other therapists do in terms of reaching out to potential clients, be inspired by them to create your own marketing materials, or emulate it in your own way if you think that what they have done is amazing – asking their permission first.
The complementary therapy market is still a mystical beast as far as pinning down statistics goes, but we do know that:
- Our clients value the long consultations and the relaxed, safe environment we provide
- They chose us based on what they hear, see and feel
- We are perhaps unique in the ‘business world’ in that we exist not in competition, but in a community, with our fellow therapists, so make the most of it!
Next week: Qualifying: the ‘friends, family and case study’ myth, and managing expectations.
Marketing Complementary and Alternative Therapies
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/251380430_Marketing_Complementary_and_Alternative_Medical_Therapies [accessed Apr 18 2018].