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FAQ: 5 Fast and Cheap Ways to Fix Your Clinic’s Marketing

Polish your marketing strategy and get more patients with these five tips.

Brooke Andrus
5 min read
April 6, 2021
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Yesterday, marketing experts Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer; Scott Hebert, DPT, WebPT Director of Product Management; and Charlotte Bohnett, WebPT Senior Director of Demand Generation, recently teamed up to present five quick and easy ways to tune up your clinic’s marketing efforts and make them last for the long haul. (If you missed the live webinar, you can check out the recording on this page.) During the Q&A portion, we received a lot of questions—too many to answer live! So, if we didn’t have time to get to your question, check out the post below for your answer.


Is it unethical—or does it create a solicitation issue—if we send a referring physician a thank-you note with the patient’s own written words explaining how much they like our outpatient rehab clinic and program?

To our knowledge, this doesn’t create a solicitation issue, but it does create some HIPAA concerns. Communication about a patient to another covered entity without the patient’s authorization is permitted for treatment, payment, or healthcare operations—and this particular use case doesn’t fall under any of those categories. So, before sending out information that includes any patient information, be sure to get your patient’s written permission to do so (e.g., via  testimonial release). Alternatively, you could provide the patient with a self-addressed, stamped envelope and card to provide feedback directly to the referring physician.    

What are some best practices for training staff therapists on encouraging word-of-mouth from their individual patients? Should we conduct formal training?

Ideally, this type of training will be included in your new-employee orientation (though it can extend to additional formal training for existing employees). Your more senior clinicians should lead by example by demonstrating when it’s appropriate to ask for referrals. These opportunities usually come up naturally in conversations—often when a patient expresses enthusiasm over their progress or mentions a friend or family member who is dealing with complaints you can treat. These are perfect opportunities to ask patients to send their loved ones your way—and maybe even hand them a few of your business cards to pass along.

Speaking of which: Providing your clinical staff with business cards is a great built-in employment perk, and it guarantees your therapists will have cards on hand whenever the right moment arises. 

What are some tips for improving word-of-mouth referrals?

Improving word-of-mouth referrals is all about crafting the ideal patient experience—one so perfect that patients can’t help but tell their friends and family about it. If you don’t have that kind of environment, you need to drill down and discover where your practice can make improvements—whether that’s by improving patient outcomes or streamlining your front desk and billing processes. If you’re not sure where to start, consider collecting a Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) from your patients and using their feedback to pinpoint opportunities for improvement.


Can you explain in more detail how a PRM software works with respect to automated messaging?

A patient relationship management (PRM) software—especially one that’s connected to your EMR—can help you automate your email marketing strategy by generating email lists that are segmented by patient type. This helps you create targeted, specific email messaging that drives better engagement and conversion rates. A PRM can also deploy automatic email sends based on milestones hit, time passed, or any other criteria you can think of. Check out this blog post for more information. 

How often should we be emailing/messaging current patients? What about former patients?

There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this question, as it varies by audience. It’s also important to remember that compared to past patients, current patients will likely receive more emails in total, because some of those emails will include content relevant to their care plan. But with respect to marketing-focused emails, specifically, this resource cites a study revealing that “most marketers (35 percent) send two to three emails a month. Nine percent of marketers send six to eight emails a month, and 19 percent send just one email a month.” At the end of the day, these averages represent a solid starting point, but it’s crucial to monitor your email metrics—including open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates—and adjust as necessary to find your clinic’s “sweet spot.” You can learn more about email metrics—and other important marketing metrics—in this blog post.


What is Net Promoter Score® (NPS®)? How does it work?

NPS measures patient loyalty and overall satisfaction. To track NPS, simply ask your patients one question: “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our practice to a friend or family member?” Patients who respond with a 9 or 10 are considered your most loyal promoters. Not only do they love your clinic, but they’re also willing to sing your praises to their friends and family—or even to the Internet in the form of an online review. Patients who respond with a 7 or 8 are called passives. They’re satisfied with your clinic, but they won’t go out of their way to talk about their experience with you. And finally, patients who respond with a 0 to 6 are considered detractors. These are the people who will go out of their way to bad-mouth your business—and they’ll actively discourage others from visiting your clinic. 

To calculate your clinic’s overall NPS score, simply subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters. The higher your score, the happier (and more loyal) your patients!

Our clinic is affiliated with a hospital/health system, and we are required to distribute their patient satisfaction survey. How can we balance this with the NPS survey you explained during the webinar?

Luckily, an NPS survey is extremely short. It contains one question: “How likely are you to refer your friends and family to us?” If possible, you could integrate the NPS questionnaire into the patient satisfaction survey. If that’s not possible, you can send the NPS survey at specific intervals throughout the course of care (e.g., every 10th visit and upon discharge). Fortunately, the short length of NPS should keep patients from feeling overwhelmed by a flood of questionnaires.


What is your advice for responding to a negative review?

To start, as Scott explained during the Q&A, you must respond to every negative review. That’s because, minus a few rare exceptions (e.g., the content is threatening or you can prove that the information is blatantly false), you cannot take negative reviews down. As for the actual content of the response, we typically recommend being direct, empathetic, and eager to make things right. We also recommend trying to take the commentary off the review site.

Below is a good generic example response to a negative patient review:

Also, as our hosts mentioned, try to source as many positive reviews as possible to outweigh the negative ones. The more positive reviews you have, the better they’ll “bury” the negative ones.

How can we make it easier for patients to leave reviews on Google and Facebook if they don’t have logins for these platforms?

Our experts believe Google reviews are more valuable than Facebook reviews, as they drive patients directly to your website, boost your search engine result placement, and make it extremely easy to locate your practice. Luckily, patients don’t actually need a Google account to leave a Google review. In fact, they don’t even need to use Gmail. Patients can leave anonymous reviews on Google using any email address. So, simply send your patients a link to leave a Google review, and let them do the rest!

As for Facebook, patients without accounts unfortunately cannot leave reviews. That said, most people have Facebook nowadays, so don’t assume that someone doesn’t have a Facebook account just because of their demographic!

Is it legal to encourage patients to leave reviews by entering those who do into a drawing for, say, a Starbucks gift card?

While we cannot comment on the legal nuances of this practice, broadly speaking, we don’t recommend it. Hebert says that in general, review sites (e.g., Google and Yelp) have policies in place that prohibit businesses from paying people to get reviews. On top of that, it’s simply unnecessary. Patients will leave reviews without monetary incentives. Simply ask your most pleased patients—a.k.a. your “raving fans”—to leave reviews of your clinic online, and make it easy for them to do so. 

Social Media

What are your thoughts on using Pinterest as a social media tool?

Compared to other social media platforms, Pinterest has a much smaller audience—though it is a highly engaged one. Using Pinterest as a marketing tool certainly has merit, and many large-scale, multi-location practices have found great success on this platform. Also, as Hebert mentioned during the webinar, practices or providers with niche specialities can have great success with more traditional forms of content (like blogging and podcasts)—and because of Pinterest’s high level of engagement, it can be a great platform for promoting these types of content.

That said, unless you have a specific strategy that includes Pinterest, we definitely recommend focusing your energy on larger platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Have you seen any trends with content that patients actually engage with?

We’ve found that the most successful content has some sort of visual component—whether that be an image, GIF, or video. Scott mentioned that he’s seen many practices have success with this on Instagram, in particular. The visual format of an Instagram post—along with Instagram Stories and Reels—tends to generate more engagement.

Also, think about your audience. Who is your target demographic? What kind of content do they want to see? For example, runners love content about running. For this reason, practices with more niche specialties may do very well with longer-form, more formalized content like blogging and podcasts. If your target audience are runners, for example, creating longer forms of content that cover all things running will grab their interest and position you as the go-to provider.

For practices with less-niche specialties, bite-sized content is incredibly effective, which is something platforms like Instagram and TikTok are known for. Include text on your stories or videos so that people can still watch your content without having to turn on sound. (This also makes it more accessible for the hearing impaired.)


As a new clinic, how can we break into the market and establish our practice among those that have been around for a while?

Hebert says that when a clinic is first getting started, referral marketing is actually the most reliable and stable method to establish patient volume. Once clinics have a modicum of stable patient volume, then Hebert suggests driving supplemental volume through direct patient marketing. 

Generally speaking, when marketing your clinic, let patients and referring physicians know how your services are different from your competitors and how you provide value. Be sure to measure patient loyalty and leverage that to drive reviews. Keep your patients engaged by reaching out to them during and after their care—and implement a reactivation campaign to draw patients back to your clinic. 

Additionally, Bohnett recommends conducting some serious competitor research. Start by looking up your competitors on Google. Review their websites, their Google Maps results, and their search engine ranking. Then, optimize your marketing strategy to do well what your competitors don’t. For example, if your competitor does not provide a new patient FAQ, create one. If your competitor’s website looks dated and is difficult to navigate, make sure your website is simple and modern. These things matter when you’re trying to capture patient attention. Beyond that, Bohnett suggests making an appointment with your competitor to get a feel for their patient experience first-hand.

How can a new cash-pay clinic get paying clients? I know there’s a demand for hand therapists in my area, but I don’t know how to reach out to folks—and the local MDs prefer therapists who take insurance.

Start by hunkering down and solidifying your value prop. Know your value; know who your services benefit and why you, specifically, are the best person to provide them. This will help you refine your messaging so it is laser-focused on your target audience. Then, determine where you’re going to pour your marketing resources: into patient marketing or referral marketing

Patient marketing is—as it sounds—when you market directly to patients, either via traditional marketing methods (e.g., going to events and sending direct mail) or digital marketing (e.g., hosting a website and running search engine ads). Referral marketing involves seeking referrals from physicians or other third parties. While there’s no marketing silver bullet, we recommend investing resources in both types of marketing—though how you distribute those dollars is totally up to you. 

When it comes to referral marketing, don’t give up hope! Continue reaching out to local physicians and trying to establish relationships with them. Insurance-based physicians sometimes treat patients who prefer to see cash-pay specialists—and you want your name to be the go-to for those patients. Additionally, try establishing relationships with other local cash-pay referral sources.

What should be included in our “documented marketing strategy?”

We explain everything you need to know about planning and executing your clinic’s marketing strategy in our free rehab therapy marketing ebook, “Modern Marketing Decoded: A Guide for Rehab Therapists.” You can download your copy here.

We’ve been in business for more than 40 years, but we’ve only recently started to focus more on modern marketing methods. How can we break through the mentality of, “We tried that before and it didn’t work?”

If you’re struggling to get buy-in from leadership, start by examining the performance of your current marketing methods. We’re betting that traditional tactics—like physician office visits—have yielded diminishing returns over time. This helps build your case for trying something new. Next, focus on low-investment initiatives that will drive immediate results—like optimizing your Google My Business page and soliciting positive reviews from your most satisfied current patients. This will improve your site ranking—and thus, site traffic—allowing you to gather metrics proving that your efforts are working. From there, track your conversions (i.e., new patient appointments) over time—and be sure to record where each new patient came from. This can be as simple as asking patients where they heard about you when they schedule their first visit. Within a few months, the numbers should speak for themselves. And as you fine-tune your strategy (using tips you can find in our free marketing ebook and our free digital advertising guide), you should see performance improve even more.


Most of our patients self-discharge because they start to feel better and don’t believe they need further therapy. How can we stop this from happening?

First, it’s critical to have a good understanding of what a good patient experience looks like to your patients—and whether or not you match that image. We suggest collecting NPS (explained above) to gauge your patients’ satisfaction levels, because the earlier you identify a detractor, the more time you have to intervene (i.e., reach out and solve the patient’s problem before they drop out of care). 

Hebert also recommends supporting the patient journey as much as you can by giving your patients the resources they need to succeed. For example, if you notice that patients with a particular injury tend to ask a particular set of questions, create a little FAQ that you can provide them. Also, be sure to set expectations before you begin care, letting patients know what they can expect when they visit you and helping them understand why returning—and completing their full course of care—will impact their long-term success.

Is it possible to get self-discharged patients to return to my clinic?

Yes! Our WebPT Reach data indicates that the most-engaged post-discharge patients are the ones who receive outreach four to eight weeks after they dropped out of care. We believe these patients self-discharged because their care was going well; they felt better, and they decided they no longer needed to attend therapy. But after a few weeks, they realized that they should have listened to their therapist—and that they need to return to care. By touching base with these patients during this time frame, clinics may be able to get these patients to return to care—and it could improve the patient’s relationship with the clinic and their therapist.

How can we get feedback on our current website design and performance?

We recommend enlisting the help of a freelance marketer or marketing consultant—specifically, someone with a background in designing, building, and optimizing business websites. To learn more about how to hire and leverage marketing freelancers, check out this blog post.

What about the old-fashioned marketing method of visiting physician offices in person? Is this still effective?

Traditional referral marketing methods (e.g., visiting physician offices or sending treats) will always have a place in rehab therapy, especially in smaller markets. That being said, you likely won’t be able to stay in business on this strategy alone—and today’s physicians are interested in more than just your kind words and gift baskets. With value-based care moving to the center of the healthcare paradigm, providers are paying more attention to the quality of care their patients receive—which means you must be able to supply objective data demonstrating the outcomes your patients achieve. To learn more about the changing referral landscape—and how your practice can evolve to succeed in a value-driven referral environment—check out this blog post.

What resources did you share during the presentation?

8 Patient Email Templates to Use in Your Physical Therapy Clinic
How to Set up a Google My Business Page for Your PT Clinic
The Complete Guide to Creating a Physical Therapy Clinic Website
How to Set up a Google My Business Page for Your PT Clinic
Founder Letter: Social Media Madness: 5 Points for PT Practices to Win More Patients Online
How to Solicit Patient Reviews and Testimonials
Testimonial Release Form
The Rehab Therapist’s Guide to Digital Advertising

Don’t see your question above? Drop us a line in the comment section below!


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