If you’ve been reading the WebPT Blog for a while now, you’ve probably heard us mention word-of-mouth marketing fairly often. After all, it’s a super important part of any successful PT, OT, or SLP marketing strategy. But, we’ve yet to publish a post specifically on generating this type of referral—until now. What is word-of-mouth marketing, you might ask? Word-of-mouth marketing happens when you create a positive experience for a patient and he or she speaks highly enough of your services—either directly to family members, friends, and colleagues, or indirectly via social media and online reviews—to encourage someone else to seek you out. In other words, it’s when your network markets to their network on your behalf—and you get more patients as a result. While some word-of-mouth marketing occurs organically, you usually need to make a concerted effort to maximize its impact. And this applies whether you practice in a state with full direct access or not. After all, in most cases, you can still see patients first (and even if you can’t, patients can specifically ask their physicians for a referral to you). With that in mind, here are three word of mouth strategies for PTs, OTs, and SLPs:
1. Up your game.
This might sound obvious, but the best way to encourage word-of-mouth referrals is to ensure you’re providing an all-around stellar patient experience—and projecting a consistent brand identity—from a patient’s first interaction with your practice to his or her last. While that certainly includes providing exceptional patient care (which you should be objectively measuring via outcomes tracking), it doesn’t end there: instead, it encompasses everything from the way you present yourself online and the friendliness of your front office staff to the way your practice handles billing—and especially, billing problems.
Map the customer journey.
To ensure your patients are getting the best you have to give, map out their journey with your practice on paper, noting anywhere you spot lag times or room for improvement. That way, you can tighten up your processes to ensure a smooth, seamless experience from start to finish. It’s also worth noting that the patient’s last interaction with your practice shouldn’t be at discharge; there are still plenty of opportunities to provide relevant, valuable content and updates at well-timed intervals, thus keeping your practice top of mind with past patients. You never know when they might need your services again—or when a friend or family member might.
2. Prioritize patient loyalty.
In addition to making overall changes to enhance the patient experience, you’ll also want to provide your patients with an opportunity to give you feedback on what they like—and don’t like—about your practice. That way, you can address individual pain points and overall trends to vastly improve your patients’ happiness levels—and, thus, word-of-mouth referrals. Unfortunately, though, traditional satisfaction surveys have some pretty serious drawbacks, which is why WebPT strongly recommends using Net Promoter ScoreⓇ (NPSⓇ ) tracking to gauge loyalty by literally asking patients how likely they would be to recommend your practice to someone else.
Tap loyal patients to serve as brand ambassadors.
Not only is this the best, and easiest tool for collecting actionable information from your patients, but you’ll also be able to follow up with those patients who are the most likely to recommend you—and ask them to actually do so. You’ll also know who not to ask, because you certainly don’t want to request that an unhappy patient share his or her experience—or leave you an online review—before you’ve had the opportunity to remedy the situation. (We’re such huge fans of NPS that we actually built it into our integrated marketing and patient relationship management platform, WebPT Reach, so Members can automate the entire loyalty-tracking process. You can learn more about Reach here.)
3. Be a thought leader.
While most of your word-of-mouth referrals will come from existing patients who you’ve had the opportunity to wow in-clinic, some could come from people who have only ever interacted with you online or in the community. That’s why it’s imperative that you establish yourself as a thought leader, engage with your community, and ensure that you—and your staff—represent your practice well no matter where you are.
Engage with your community.
After all, you could impress someone at a workshop or community event so much that he or she refers you to a family member—or tells his or her physician about your work and how passionate you are about it. Or, someone could read a blog post or listen to a podcast you’ve done—or collaborated on—and rave about you to their online followers. You never know who could be looking for a PT, OT, or SLP, so make it a point to accept and/or create opportunities to demonstrate your expertise—and build rapport—whenever it would be appropriate to do so. (Bonus points for also teaching people the benefits of your profession, because we all know rehab therapy could use some more brand awareness.)
There you have it: three word-of-mouth marketing strategies for your PT, OT, or SLP practice. Have your own strategies for encouraging pleased patients to sing your praises to their friends, family members, and online network, thereby increasing new patients (and revenue)? Please, share them in the comment section below. We—and your fellow therapists—would love to hear what’s worked for you.