If We Want #GetPT1st to Work, We Have to Think Like a Startup

Every year, 1 in 2 Americans experience a significant musculoskeletal injury… that’s 108 million people.

Just about 9 million people get physical therapy every year. Meaning, physical therapy owns 8.3% of the musculoskeletal injury market share (9mil/108mil).

If we take a look at the diffusion of innovations graph, we are very clearly still working with true early adopters of our service.


If we view this from a business perspective, physical therapy is a fledgling startup. We’ve got a small contingent of customers, but the market leaders are stalwarts- the Apples and IBMs of the world that have been around a long time and have ubiquitous brand recognition.

The good news is that we’ve got a damn good product; the customers we do have are highly satisfied, have had their problem solved in a more efficient way than they could have elsewhere, and are very likely to do business with us again.

Having a good product and satisfied early adopters can be a blessing and a curse. A common mistake startups make (I can speak from experience) is making the false assumption that their product can scale throughout the entire market at this very moment.

In essence, they see the massive amount of customers in the center of the bell curve and lick their chops. The problem is, the people in the center of the bell curve are skeptical, resistant to change, and unlikely to adopt. Regardless of if these people have a problem, the current solution is good enough for the time being. They're willing to try out a new solution... after they have some indications from the marketplace (i.e. early adopters) that it is a solid option.

There is a significant difference in thought, risk-taking behavior, and willingness to adopt new ideas between early adopters and early majority. Reaching a critical mass of early adopters (~18% market share) is usually enough to start convincing the early majority to try it out as well.

This is the tipping point that Malcolm Gladwell talked about. The point where an idea enters the mainstream like wildfire, and mass adoption takes place.

Remember when Facebook was only for college kids, you blinked, and then your grandma was commenting on your posts? That's what we're talking about here.

This conundrum is so common in technology startups that it's been dubbed crossing the chasm.

alt Here's the problem: we’ve still got a while to go before we cross the chasm… we need to pretty much double in size to get there.

Trying to market and sell our service to the masses is not the most effective or efficient way forward.

The successful startup approach is to continue to focus on the early adopters, and do everything to attract them to our offering. In order to do that, we need to understand everything about our early adopters: who they are, what makes them tick, and why they chose physical therapy first.

If we can do that, and then create messages that resonate with this vital sub segment, we’ll be well on our way. But, if we spend a ton of time & money trying to market to the masses before they’re ready to adopt (as I fear we might), most of the effort will be wasted.

Let's stay focused. Let's be strategic. Let's convince the people who are most likely to #GetPT1st to adopt.

Let's use this strategy to reach a critical mass, the tipping point, and then spread like wildfire.

Let's act like a startup.

Ryan Klepps

Physical Therapist, Membership Chair of APTA of MA, COO & Co-Founder of Strive Labs, Inc.

Somerville, MA http://strivehub.com