Jan. 17, 2022

Developing Niche Expertise in Podiatry

Developing Niche Expertise in Podiatry

How are you different from the podiatrists and other health care professionals in your area that treat feet and ankles? By highlighting your specific area of interest and expertise in podiatry, you set yourself apart from the competition.

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In this episode we discuss:

  • How to determine the type of care you want to provide
    • What was your initial motivation for getting started in podiatry
    • What got you excited as you started to practice?
  • Understanding the size of the opportunity in your local area
  • Assessing the financial reality of the work you enjoy doing
  • Developing an action plan to differentiate yourself
  • How to expand your expertise & the area you draw patients from a larger area
  • Why it's less about competition and more about awareness & cooperation?
  • Developing Win-Win relationships with other providers
  • You don't have to go all-in, you go as deep as you want to.


Tyson Franklin 0:09
Hi, I'm Tyson Franklin. And with me today is Jim McDannald. And if it sounds like we giggling a lot, it's because it's about the fifth take. We've done a lot of starting this, I keep calling him a criminal mastermind. So which he might be? I don't know, but we do know each other pretty well. So Jim, how are you doing today?

Jim McDannald 0:27
I'm doing well. I haven't committed any crimes yet today. But I still have about three hours left here and Mancell. To do so. I'm happy to be your partner in crime. Hopefully, we haven't lost the entire audience who thinks that marketing is a crime, but marketing, that's the real, it's not marketing. It's a real crime. But no, I'm excited to jump in with you today and talk a little about today's topic.

Tyson Franklin 0:52
And I want to start, stop laughing anyway. So today, we're gonna talk about developing expertise in a niche. So what does that mean from from your perspective? What does that mean?

Jim McDannald 1:05
Yeah, so I think it's really about kind of podiatrist, taking an active role and seeking out kind of the type of care that they want to provide. Right. So developing an expertise in kind of a subspecialty, of podiatry, and then finding the right messaging, and really kind of putting it out there for the public to see, I think last time, we talked in great detail about why it's important to start with kind of a ideal patient with this is more of a I would say, internal motivation from the actual podiatrists themselves, you know, you know, some of us went to school podiatry school for a very specific reason. There's something that motivated us to kind of get us into the profession. So it's how do we translate that initial motivation, and it can change over time, it doesn't have to be the exact same thing. But how do you kind of build a practice that is separating yourself or differentiating yourself from kind of other providers, whether it's in the profession or healthcare providers in general,

Tyson Franklin 2:00
So when you say motivators to get into so other than money, which is, which is I know, some people did podiatry purely because they knew it made good money. So bad. I know a lot of other people got into podiatry because they might have been a sports person. So they've always had that interest in sports, or my background was art. So when I heard that you could make these things called orthotics into my hand into plastic cars, that actually really excited me, which is why I went down that pathway. So is that what you mean by when people that get into the health professional, you didn't podiatry for a certain reason? And then they actually follow that interest?

Jim McDannald 2:43
Yeah, for sure. I think they're, I mean, not everybody is that way, but I think someone either, for example, when I was younger, as I was always a kind of a competitive runner, and had all kinds of foot and ankle and lower leg issues. And, you know, seeing a kind of a top level podiatrist who had treated some Olympic level athletes was pretty inspiring to me, and, you know, kind of wanting to get into that sports medicine, and that running niche was kind of what I definitely could see myself doing something like that. So that's what was kind of my initial driver to learn more about the profession. Obviously, as I jumped into it more, there's a huge, different types of opportunities available, you know, maybe somebody, you know, it's not wasn't my case, but maybe someone, you know, has had to deal with, you know, diabetes and the complications of diabetes as a family member, you know, they had something like that, that it was kind of a motivational thing about how they learned about, you know, footcare. And those ways, obviously, like, you know, the combination of kind of clinical and surgical aspects of things is somewhat appealing, especially in the US to some people that want to, you know, kind of jump into a subspecialty right away, but it's trying to find like, I would say, the like, the first point is like, knowing kind of what you what you what kind of care you want to do more of where that's from your initial, you know, motivation or kind of where you've learned along the path during your education, your residency about this is the type of practice you want to have, like, do you want to be going to the hospital all the time? Do you want to treat wounds, you want to treat runners, you can treat sports medicine athletes, and then it's about you know, taking action off of the, you know, those things are gonna provide more professional satisfaction in a way?

Tyson Franklin 4:22
Well, Isuppose it's one of those things, too. It's like nail surgery, for example, like in Australia, there's some people that really love nail surgery, and they want to niche down into that area. And sometimes they get afraid I finish in the one area once again, am I going to lose patience? I'm thinking No, you will just see more if of that type of thing that you want to see. And I don't think someone from high school sort of sits back and goes, oh, I want to do more. Now surgery. That's probably one of those skills or specialities that once you bring provide your work at all, I actually really enjoy that. And maybe the diabetic foot care might be the same thing unless you've had a family member that may have been exposed. You've been exposed Let's do it that way. But if you haven't been, there may be some that you gain interest in. Once you actually start working, you don't even know that that actually really floats your boat until you do more of it.

Jim McDannald 5:10
No, you're completely right there. And I think it's a matter of tapping into that interest and that area, kind of professional satisfaction, but also it has to be, you know, grounded in kind of the financial realities of the area of the country, or the type of you know, reimbursement or the type the financial aspect if you're practicing well, because if you know, like, if you're treating runners and, you know, you're not getting compensated fairly for orthotics or other types of treatment, and like, maybe you can still do some of that, and some different capacities, but, you know, in order to kind of be a viable business, you know, as a private practice, it's super important that those, you find those areas that you're interested in professionally, but also ties into the financial reality of what you're doing and how you're practicing.

Tyson Franklin 5:54
And we just say, depends where you live, as well, like the size of the area that you live in. If you want to trace a lot of sports people, but you live in a really, really small country town, that there may not be as feasible an idea, if you're in a larger city, where you're, you're exposed to a lot more people,

Jim McDannald 6:11
No 100%, I think you have to like, you have to understand the demographics, the population, you know, if you move to the middle of the desert, you're not, if you want to have a skiing practice, or a ski orthotics practice in the middle of desert, like, you're probably not in the right spot. So I mean, there's definitely ways that if you're already set up somewhere, that you can meet your practice, or kind of treat more of your ideal patients, but obviously, take into account kind of what the reality of the surrounding areas is super important to kind of be cognizant of where your struggles are, where the opportunities are, because every, every every location, whether it be a big city, a small town, in the mountains, on the ocean, you know, there's going to be subsets of different types of patients that are going to live in those specific areas. But when you know, when you know what you want your specific niche to be or your area of expertise, it's super important to, like I said, have an act of plan to differentiate yourself. And sometimes that's, it's not only just marketing, necessarily, but it's you know, if you want to be a sports medicine, podiatrist, maybe it's being a part of the American Academy of Pediatrics, sports medicine, or going to the American College of Sports Medicine meetings or meeting more people in, you know, volunteering at an event in your local area, like the marathon or applying to work at the Olympic trials, there's ways to kind of expand your reach. So even if let's say you're in a smaller location, if you have a resume or training that's beyond the scope of you know, the other providers in a local area, maybe those types of steps will help you expand geographically, along with the types of patients you treat, but also get your name your name more well known. So people are willing to come and see for specific types of problems,

Tyson Franklin 8:02
It makes perfect sense because you might have an interest in wounds, for example. So if you have an interest in wounds of Heaven interest in dermatology, let's say you need to go along to the events where these things are being held where you can actually learn more about it. And, and sometimes see the person who creates a niche or becomes a bit of an expert in a particular area. Normally, they don't know a huge amount more than it's not like they need 10 times more than the average podiatrist they just know more than the average podiatrist and they have an interest in that area. And I don't think it takes long for Word to get around when you're actually good in a particular area of podiatry, more so than the average podiatrist and then you can use that in your advertising your marketing, and therefore you start seeing more of those patients. And your expertise gets even better than the average podiatrist

Jim McDannald 8:53
And I think it helps you actually develop Win Win relationships with other podiatrist Yes. You know, sometimes we see ourselves as this one profession, we are podiatrist, right? So like the the podiatrist down the street, oh, no, like they opened up, you know, two blocks away, and now we're having competition with each other, right? It doesn't have to be that way. Maybe that podiatrist likes to do wound care and you'd like to do sports medicine. Maybe he hates seeing runners, right? Yeah, there's some sometimes runners can be a bit high maintenance, you know, they want to run they want to run 50 to 60 miles a week and not take any time off despite you telling them to rest and do do things like that. So, you know, there are ways to you know, develop these women relationships, even within a you know, a tight community of podiatrist that everyone's kind of getting what they want out of it, obviously like if there's a lot of kind of nice, oh, you know, crossover, maybe that's not quite as possible, but you'd be surprised how many of these kinds of women relationships you can have with other even podiatrist in your local area. You know, it's, you know, if you're in sports medicine, it's with, you know, physical therapists or physios. You know, chiropractors just general sports medicine doctors, even even orthopods in your area in your in the US maybe, you know, they love doing knees and shoulders. And they just kind of do feet because they have to and people come into the clinic. But if you're referring them or you know, you develop a good working relationship with some of these other specialties, it can really help your own practice grow. So you can, like I said, Do more of the work you love, and really kind of double down on your expertise and be seen as that local expert.

Tyson Franklin 10:28
And I think it's really important what you said about working with other doctors, it's not, you don't always have to be in competition, it can be a win win. And I think any podiatrist that's moving into a new town, and you're about to set up a practice, is get on the phone, ring up the existing podiatrist in there and say you want to have a meeting with them over coffee, and get to actually meet them not every podiatrist out there is is mean or nasty, or wants to be competitive. There's I've heard so many stories of Podiatry that have moved into an area and the existing podiatry there has reached out and said, Hey, I see that you're new, you want to catch up for a coffee, and all they get is crickets. The person and then the next thing they're hearing negative stuff about them and they go I don't get it. So I think if you're the new person going into town, ring up the existing people tell them you come in but tell them you don't have to tell them or give them warning that you're coming way to open your doors. Surprise them surprise and but then have a meeting with them and find out what are they good at what is something that they like that you might want use it but that you may not like? And you go oh great. I don't like seeing those sort of patients, can I send them to you and start actually creating referral relationships with other podiatrists in your area and therefore gives you more time to niche into a certain spot?

Jim McDannald 11:47
Yeah, 100% I think you're trying to kind of build your own kind of podiatry network in your local community there, right the the goal of everybody in that community a podiatrist is to provide great care to the, to the to the patients in his local community. So if you can, you know, become an expert and be really good at you know, a subset of patients or a kind of a niche focus, then you're able to really, you know, provide great care for those patients in the local area. I was lucky enough when I was in Eugene, Oregon, even when I joined a large orthopedic group, you know, a lot of private practice, podiatrists were kind to me and we had, I think it was monthly meetings where we get together all have dinner is kind of like talk about, you know, difficult cases. I'm talking about, you know, how our how business is going or how the practices going. And people are very welcoming to me as a young podiatrist straight out of residency. So I'm all for collaboration and you know, finding Win Win relationships with other people, whether it's podiatrists other specialties, because at the end of the day, we're all trying to help patients solve their problems and live happier, healthier lives.

Tyson Franklin 12:54
Have got any examples of people that are podiatrist that, you know, that a niche, they practice a certain way that have done well what what the type of things they've niched into, because I know a couple have come in mind, we're going to let you have a shot first.

Jim McDannald 13:08
Yeah, sure. So like the probably the one that I've kind of been fixated on or when I was in school, wanted to be like, was a guy by the name of Amol Saxena. He's a highly regarded sports medicine podiatrist and surgeon who has operated basically almost on every single Olympic medalists for the United States over the last 15 or 20 years. And he practices in Palo Alto, California. He's someone that's a very good, he's a member of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine and a lot of other organizations. But he's someone that, you know, has a very specific focus, like in sports medicine, and it's pretty narrow. Yeah. But there's, there's definitely definitely examples of other podiatrists in the US and in Canada that do something similar, but like when I was going through my training, and in school, he was like the kind of person that I kind of looked up to, and I saw the research papers, he was writing about running and sports medicine, and was kind of a motivation for me getting into practice.

Tyson Franklin 14:08
There were a couple that come to mind me straightaway. Joseph Frankel, who's in Victoria, and he loves wounds. So he's really trying to create a niche in that area. But I remember when he was on my other podcast, and we were talking about it, I'm pretty sure he said was like, I bet 10 or 20% of his patients were related to wounds, he still that 80% of his practice was still general podiatry with a bit of sports but everything but about 10 to 20% was in that area that he really, really liked. And he was getting well known for that. And then another clinic in kg active and UK, Nick Knight, they are purely they're just a sports clinic and that's what they've really based everything around. They don't do any general footcare that niche in that area and they are doing extremely well. So there's just room there's room for you to say you've got Nick Knight this doing it 100% sports, but then you got law, Joseph, there's doing a 10 or 20% in an area he loves, but they're both really happy the way they've got it set up,

Jim McDannald 15:08
I think you're perfect. Those are two perfect examples. Because, you know, niching, or developing an expertise, it's kind of a, you know, it's a spectrum, it's not like you have to, like, if you decide that you want to see more runners, right, you don't have to, like, literally go all in Yeah, and, you know, turn everybody away, I think that's one of the things that we sometimes, you know, when I bring up a topic, and at least one of the clients I work with initially is like, we really need to put out a specific message. So when people look at your website, or they, you know, if they interact with you, they see kind of themselves in the treatment chair, right. So it's definitely, it does, like I said, doesn't have to have to happen overnight, and you don't necessarily have to live in a big city to make it happen. But if you can get, you know, 20% or 25% of the the types of doing the type of care that you'd like to provide, you know, it's gonna lead to more professional satisfaction, you're just going to enjoy going to work more. But really, like I said, like it's about it just, it's helpful in so many other ways. Because, you know, you can really project that, that message out into the public. And then you have a clear path, as far as, you know, which conferences Do you want to go to? You know, what, you know, how do you want to expand on your expertise, and just really kind of go in deep, as deep as you want to, you know, maybe it's not as deep as you know, Amol seksyen, or some of the folks that you've mentioned, but when you when you do nice, though, you can look different, you know, you're different from everybody else, you're not just another podiatry clinic, in your community.

Tyson Franklin 16:41
Well, when I had my last clinic in Carnes, and if anyone had asked us most of people, I spoke to friends and all that, if somebody said, just describe what my client was all about, they'd say, either to sports biomechanics, orthotics clinic, but pretty much the description went to our website, or you would assume sports, biomechanics, orthotics, that's it. But when I look at the figures, and I did this just recently had a look at my last figures from 2015 2016, for a soul that 30% of our income came from general footcare. So we were technically 70%, biomechanics, sports and orthotics, but 30% of our income came from general footcare. But if you went to our website, we wouldn't have even mentioned that general footcare was there. So we never turned it away. But we did it on certain days. And we, we managed to practice that. We wanted to put a certain admission to this, but we want the nation, but we still saw other patients, that was not really ideal patients, but we treated them anyway.

Jim McDannald 17:42
Now, I think that's a great point. I think that's that kind of addresses the overall fear, right is that, if I don't have if I don't have at different diagnosis, you know, like on my homepage, with with a drop down tab to see like, every single thing a patient could come, come to my clinic for, like, my website is not complete, right. But you set like you said, just by kind of developing that area of expertise and basing your marketing message messages around that expertise. You're, it's almost like a gravitational pull of other types of procedures, other types of patients are going to be pulled into your clinic. But you don't have to actually spend any marketing on them, you can just kind of find their way to your door, and whatever you want to treat, you can treat more of those types of patients.

Tyson Franklin 18:28
In the last episode, we're gonna talk about my ideal patient, and I described my ideal patient, 42 year old male, and I went through it all. Now this he was a real person, I won't say his name. But he he was. And I saw him just a couple of weeks ago, I gave him wave. He was just my ideal patient I've seen soaring for over 20 years. So it's 42. And he started but he's not 42 now. And but what was interesting about about him, we'll call him George. What was interesting about George was George standard out as biomechanical patient. But then after that, he was also then coming in for general footcare. So if I looked at how much money George spent with me, say over a couple year period, probably 70% of it was to do with sports biomechanics and orthotics. But 30% was general foot care. So it's a thing when you're targeting a certain area, you still going to get all aspects of podiatry if that's what you're you're still willing to treat? For sure, for sure. That's a great example. And I love what you said about websites too. You'll get a website, you'll click on a drop down box and also I'm 42 things pop up. And I'll tell you right now, there's no patient scrolling through the gun. Have you got something here about cracked heels? Not not not you don't so therefore I'm not gonna go and see you. They just assume you're a podiatrist. You're gonna do cracked heels, unless you tell them otherwise when they ring up?

Jim McDannald 19:48
No 100% I think you just really have to, like, keep it as tight as as your local community allows, you know, as as large as your population is but like I said, you can always build those things up and having a tie either a marketing message and kind of your how you how people view you, you know, it starts with, like how you view yourself though, right? Like, like we've been talking about, like you have to really understand who you are what you want. And then what's what's a realistic, you know, estimation in your local area. And then you know, you experiment doing some different things, whether it's your website, or you know, the things you sponsor or just being out in the community or the conferences you go to, or the relationships with other providers. Maybe you start a sports medicine, if you want to do running or sports medicine, maybe start a sports medicine journal club, that invites anybody of any, any provider with any specialty. And so there's no limit to the bill to kind of like put your name out there and put your stamp on what exactly you want to do. It's a matter of, you know, obviously, we're busy, we're doing things, it's finding those time efficient ways to get those messages in front of the right people.

Tyson Franklin 20:58
Now, I agree with you. And I have nothing else really to mention on this particular subject other than I think you've nailed it, in so many different ways. of just, and I think we've we've looked outside of niching more than what people probably thought this episode was going to be about?

Jim McDannald 21:16
Well, it's easy when you see like, it's going to be about niching, right, they're going to tell me I have to do this one type of procedure, or that I have to do this one type of, you know, one type of like, kind of sub specialty. I mean, like you mentioned previously, like, just someone who is like laser focused on saying that they do ingrown toenails, you know, and just does a lot of things around ingrown toenails, is going to gain more awareness for that than someone that has 30 things on the website, right? So it's not about like saying you only do something and or otherwise you're gonna fail, right? But by having a little bit more of a focus, you're able to kind of craft your messages and get it out in front of those ideal patients in a way that, you know, it's gonna help you build a practice that you're excited to go to each day and really help people and provide them with great care. So yeah, it's been fun talking to you today, Tyson. I can't wait for our next one.

Tyson Franklin 22:08
No, so the next one is going to be even better than the first four we've done before. What's the what's the name of our website? If people want to go to the website what we've got set up for podiatry marketing?

Jim McDannald 22:20
Yeah, so people just check out podiatry dot marketing that is the URL there's no.com there's no WWE just type in podiatry dot marketing to your browser. You can check out our episodes and feel free to leave us a voicemail. Let us know what you think about episodes thus far and what you'd like to see in the future.

Tyson Franklin 22:37
That'd be cool. Okay, Jim, I'll talk to you next week.

Jim McDannald 22:39
Sounds good Tyson.