Blog Post

FAQ: Rehab Therapy Marketing for Every Budget

Learn how to effectively market your clinic—on any budget.

Brooke Andrus
5 min read
August 21, 2020
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Attracting patients to your rehab therapy clinic can be challenging—even on a good day. During a pandemic, it can seem downright impossible—especially if you’re operating on a tight budget (and these days, who isn’t?). But despite all of the challenges 2020 has brought our way, the fact is, there are still patients out there who need rehab therapy services. To help you find them, Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer; Dr. Scott Hebert, DPT, WebPT Director of Product Management; Josh Golden, WebPT Digital Marketing Manager; and Charlotte Bohnett, WebPT Senior Director of Demand Generation, joined forces to host an hour-long webinar focused on marketing advice for practices of all sizes. (If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you can view the recording on our webinar page.) During our Q&A, our experts received too many questions to answer, so we compiled them all into a comprehensive FAQ. Take a gander! And if you still have a lingering question, be sure to leave it in the comment section at the bottom of this post, and we’ll do our best to get you an answer!

Referral Marketing 

Our most successful marketing stems from building and being in relationships with our referral resources. How do we successfully expand our relationship-building with people who are more geographically distant?

Get creative! The past six months have changed the nature of how most people connect, with many turning to online video calls as a substitute for in-person meetings. If you usually host in-clinic events to reach potential referral sources, consider hosting a video conference instead. You could spend the first portion teaching something valuable and the remainder facilitating an open dialogue about patient needs during the pandemic and how the people on the call could collaborate to increase their value to patients.

How can I start and maintain relationships with doctors during—and eventually after—the pandemic?

Building relationships with referring providers is not too different now than it was prior to the pandemic. The building blocks of your referral marketing strategy should remain largely the same. To create a solid referral relationship, you must: 

  • research your mark (i.e., identify the type of patients the referring physician sees, the practice’s payer mix, and its referral gate-keeper); 
  • craft a patient-centric pitch (that uses outcomes data!); and
  • communicate humanly and openly. 

At this point, all that’s left is to roll the pandemic into this strategy. When you research referring physicians, identify how the pandemic has affected their organizations—from hours to staffing to payer mix. When crafting a referral pitch, communicate how your practice is:

  1. keeping patients safe (e.g., by explaining your infection control protocol), and
  2. continuing to improve patient outcomes (even through telehealth).

Finally, aim to be overwhelmingly human when talking with potential referral sources. This is a tough time for everyone in the country, and a kind-hearted question about how the physician is holding up could go a long way. 

For more tips and tricks, check out these three blog posts. 

How should I market our clinic to our local physicians? I want to efficiently build rapport without wearing them down.  

Building referral relationships is less about quantity of contact, and more about quality. Your strategy shouldn’t be to wear down referral sources. Instead, you should craft a pitch that demonstrates the value of a relationship with your practice. What do you do better than any other PT, OT, or SLP clinic? Are your outcomes exceptional? Do the vast majority of patients complete their course of care? Are your patient reviews and satisfaction scores out of this world? Pinpoint your clinic’s unique value prop, and capitalize on it. 

Once you identify your value prop, start researching local physicians. Find a physician who treats patients who could overwhelmingly benefit from PT (and who are insured by carriers that you contract with). Then, craft a patient-centric pitch that demonstrates your value prop, is supported by data, and accounts for pandemic concerns. 

If physician offices are open and our clinic is open, is it okay for us to do physician office visits?

If you’re comfortable conducting in-person marketing meetings, then we would recommend reaching out to the physician’s office to see how the team there feels about it. We certainly wouldn’t recommend dropping by unannounced right now.

Are there consultants who know how to get providers on insurance companies’ referral lists as a covered provider?

Unfortunately, we’re not aware of any consultants who specifically work to get clinicians onto preferred provider lists. But, there is advice out there. This blog post recommends:

  • Pitching your cost-saving measures to the payer, 
  • Offering services in an underserved area, 
  • Offering special clinic hours,
  • Indicating your expertise working with specific niche populations, and
  • Flaunting your advanced training and credentials. 

If all else fails, the author recommends affiliating with another already preferred provider. Consider joining your local chapter of the APTA, AOTA, or ASHA, to connect with your peers. 


How do you obtain mailing lists, and how do they work? What’s the best use of a mailing list?

There are many different ways to build an email list. And, just to be clear, we believe that organizations should always build their own lists and never, ever buy an email list. For instance, you could ask for an email address on patient intake forms. (Just be sure to explicitly tell patients that they’re opting into marketing materials when you do this.) You could also set up a monthly raffle where patients provide their email address for a chance to win a $5 Starbucks or a $10 Amazon gift card. Or, you could post exercise videos on your website and require patients to enter their email address after they’ve watched 30 seconds or so. (Some video hosting services like Wistia offer this feature.)

Once you’ve curated your email list, you can sort and categorize its recipients so you can send specific emails to particular patients. For instance:

  • If you have a group of patients who you haven’t seen for a while, you can send them a check-in email that highlights your ancillary wellness services and encourages those patients to stay in touch.
  • If you have a group of new patients, you can send them welcome packets.
  • If you have a group of patients who haven’t been discharged—but have stopped scheduling appointments—you can encourage them to create a new appointment and round out their course of care.

The idea is that making your emails more relevant will improve engagement and prevent patients from getting annoyed at seeing you in their inbox.

Is there a HIPAA issue with uploading patient emails to Facebook?

If providers are not careful, they can get into legal trouble when using patient emails for marketing purposes. Patient emails are technically considered PHI, so providers must get permission from their patients to use that information for marketing purposes. We recommend including a marketing opt-in form as part of your patient intake packet and explicitly noting the ways you plan to use each patient’s information. That way, you know if you’re in the clear to use patient emails for that purpose.

That said, if you have legal questions regarding HIPAA, we recommend reaching out to a healthcare lawyer for advice. 

Which email marketing platforms do you recommend?

We personally like Constant Contact, MailChimp, or WebPT Reach. These platforms allow you to schedule content and create email lists, making it very easy to curate and send relevant content to specific patients. However, if you use a service that doesn’t integrate with your EMR, then you will have to export all of your marketing information and ensure that you don’t violate HIPAA. If you use a service that integrates with your EMR (like WebPT Reach), then all of your patients’ marketing data will be queued up and ready to go—not to mention totally secure.

How frequently should we email patients? What’s not enough? What’s too much?

There’s really no set rule when it comes to posting frequency. It really depends on your practice and the type of content you send. Of course, you don’t want to overload your patients’ email inboxes, which is why we suggest creating a content schedule. Some practices send a weekly email blast; other practices send monthly content packets (e.g., newsletters or blog digests). 

Beyond helpful content, you’ll also want to send patients a satisfaction questionnaire at specific intervals throughout each patient’s course of care. A good example would be after their initial visit, every third appointment, and discharge. (You can adjust this schedule depending on the needs of your practice, but we always recommend at least collecting this information after the first and last visits.) That way, you get a clear, real-time snapshot of each patient’s level of satisfaction with his or her care.

Social Media 

We struggle with knowing what to post on social media—and when. Any ideas?

Your best move is to lean on the numbers. All social media platforms have some sort of analytics tracking baked into the user experience. This can help you track vanity metrics (e.g., likes, comments, and shares) in addition to more meaty metrics (e.g., clicks and general engagement). From there, try pinpointing the circumstances around your highest-performing posts. Did you post them in the evening? Did they all have pictures? Were they posted on a particular day of the week? This can be a time-consuming task, so if you have the budget, you may want to invest in a social media management service (like Sprout Social) that will do it all for you. Sprout (which is what we use at WebPT) tells you exactly what day of the week and what time generates the most engagement on your social posts.

How can we use hashtags on social media?

Each social media platform uses hashtags a little bit differently. Consider Facebook. Most people navigate Facebook by scrolling through their feeds—not by searching hashtags. So, if your hashtags aren’t adding value to your posts, then you may not want to use them. For Twitter, choose only one or two hashtags per post, and be strategic about the tags you choose. Posting #blessed on a tweet might feel trendy, but it’s not going to drive anyone who’s on the #blessed navigation page to your clinic. However, if a local hashtag is trending (and it’s appropriate to jump on board), then you have a much higher chance of driving local residents to your practice—or at least adding them to your list of followers. As for Instagram, hashtag away. Add local hashtags, fitness hashtags, or even photography hashtags—if they’re relevant. You won’t get penalized for driving people to your posts with excessive hashtagging as long as your posts match the theme of the hashtag. For more detailed information, check out this post.

How do we determine which posts to “boost” on Facebook?

Golden recommends boosting (or putting money behind) posts that are already performing well. The idea is to amplify engaging content so more people interact with it, and the post continues to reach more and more people.  


Why do we need to have both a website and a Facebook page? How are they different?

There are a few different reasons, actually. For one thing, having both is incredibly beneficial in terms of SEO. As Hebert mentioned during the webinar, “[Google’s] algorithm is designed to provide the most accurate results based on a user’s search terms.” That means it’ll pull information from all over the web and use it to decide which results are the most trustworthy—and accurate. The more websites Google can pull from, the higher your website will rank on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Additionally, having a website positions your practice as a serious, professional organization—and for many folks, it’s the first place they look to find more information about your clinic. After all, not everyone uses Facebook, and the information you post there is relatively limited compared to the high level of customization a website offers. At the same time, many people do use Facebook, and having a business page can help you reach potential patients before they ever even search for PTs in their area. It’s a powerful marketing tool, and you can use it to boost your reputation by having patients leave Facebook reviews.

In short, having a Facebook page in addition to a website is absolutely essential. Both platforms work together to boost your online visibility and drive patients to your practice.

What are some examples of effective blog content?

First and foremost, effective blog content provides value to your audience on subjects that are relevant to them. It’s an educational tool you can use to establish yourself as a thought leader and build trust with your audience. For example, if you’re a pediatric physical therapist, then you’ll want to create content on topics that your client’s parents and caregivers might be searching for in order to support their children. Once you have quality content, you can optimize it by implementing SEO best practices to ensure that people are able to find it online. Using keywords that match the terms your audience often search for online is an incredibly effective strategy, but we don’t recommend keyword stuffing or creating subpar content purely for the SEO benefit. While this may get a potential patient to land on your blog, it’s not likely going to convince them to book an appointment.

For some stellar blog examples, check out this post.

What is your opinion of GoDaddy as a website builder or hosting service?

Ultimately, finding the best website builder depends on your personal taste. Some builders offer more customization (like WordPress) while others are more limited but easier to use (like Wix). If GoDaddy’s setup makes sense to you, then go for it! As for hosting services, GoDaddy is a perfectly good option, though you may want to shop around for other, better-priced hosting services. In our guide to creating a website, we recommend checking out Bluehost.


How do you get your website to show up at the top of the list for a search?

Getting your website to display at the top of a Google results page is a matter of playing the algorithm game and implementing a handful of best practices. Start by: 

For more tips and tricks about optimizing your website for search engines, check out this post

How can a clinic with a small budget obtain more reviews on review sites?

The easiest—and most effective—way to boost the number and quality of your online reviews is to ask every single pleased patient to provide a review for you. Fortunately, that costs absolutely nothing. Just be sure that you’re not asking patients to complete their reviews while they are in the clinic. Google tracks the IP address of all reviews and will flag reviews as “fishy” if most of them are originating from the same location.

If you have a little bit of room in your budget, WebPT Reach offers automated NPS tracking, which identifies the patients who are best suited to serve as brand ambassadors for your practice and encourages them to leave you a review. You’ll see an increase in great reviews in no time.

Why is it important to use a business email account when setting up a Google My Business Page rather than a personal email? What’s the difference?

Generally speaking, we recommend keeping your work and personal accounts separate. While creating a business email is another box to check, it’s more professional—and easier to manage.

How can mobile practices that don’t have addresses use Google My Business Pages? Should we use a PO box?

Google can’t confirm a PO box; it has to be an actual physical address. In this case, your home address—or wherever the business is registered—would likely be ideal. Just keep in mind that this will be the address that appears for your business online. If you don’t want patients showing up to your home for appointments, be sure that you fully complete your Google My Business Page to indicate that you are a mobile practice.

How does having multiple locations affect the way we organize our Google My Business Page and social media accounts? Do we need separate pages for each clinic?

Ideally, you want all of your clinic locations to individually show up on local maps. To do that through Google My Business, you must create a separate listing for each location. Once you register each location with Google My Business, Google will send a postcard to the unique address to confirm the listing. Keep in mind that you cannot use a PO box for this. 

As for social media, unless you’re a large enterprise organization, you probably don’t need multiple social accounts on a single platform. Social media is all about brand-building and capturing patients’ attention while they’re scrolling through their feeds, and a single, unified social media account will do that just as well as individual, local accounts. That said, if you do decide to stick with one overarching social account for your organization, be sure to include all of the contact and location information for each individual clinic on that page.

State of the Industry

How are other rehab therapy clinics handling the economic downturn? Our clinic hasn’t fully reopened yet.

According to our own data, the rehab therapy industry is mostly on the road to recovery. However, clinics across the country are still not operating at their pre-pandemic capacity. In this founder letter, Jannenga discusses some of those numbers in detail, stating that “in July, total patient volume was down 27.6% compared to pre-pandemic levels, and the average daily number of patients per therapist was down to 7.6 (from 8.8 pre-pandemic).”

That said, clinics are still finding ways to attract new patients. Roughly 10% of clinics’ patient visits are initial evaluations—compared to 8.8% pre-COVID. 

What do clinics anticipate future hiring to look like?

That likely depends on your specific location, as individual markets have been impacted differently. Regardless, the principles of good hiring remain: as much as possible, hire slowly and prioritize cultural fit and skill match.

Will clinics continue to use teletherapy after the COVID-19 pandemic? 

We certainly hope so! Telehealth has proven to be an invaluable tool for therapists across the country. Providing remote care opens doors for patients who may not have access to transportation or who need to stay home for their own safety. Additionally, even though telehealth usage is trending downward as the country reopens, we’re seeing many clinics settle into a hybrid model where they provide in-person care in addition to remote services.

That said, it’s up to state legislators and CMS to pass permanent laws that allow PTs, OTs, and SLPs to provide remote care after the pandemic. Prior to COVID-19, few states legally allowed rehab therapists to provide telehealth services—and few insurance carriers paid for it. As it stands, most telehealth privileges granted under the pandemic are temporary, which means that PTs, OTs, and SLPs will need to advocate to ensure that they can continue to provide remote care once we return to normal.

Do you anticipate that practices will need to spend more on marketing during the pandemic just to maintain the new patient volume they averaged before the pandemic?

It’s tough to say. Clinics can accomplish a great deal of effective patient marketing without having to spend much money at all. Creating and hosting a website can be fairly low-cost if you do the work yourself, and social media is only as expensive as you choose to make it. That said, pre-COVID marketing strategies may not be as effective now—but that doesn’t mean clinics have to funnel more money into their marketing programs. Instead, clinics should reconsider their marketing approach and refine their message so it resonates with what patients need and want right now. 


Our clinic focuses on geriatric care, and our patients don’t use social media as much as we’d like. What are some alternative marketing ideas for us?

Many elderly patients are quite active on Facebook, so we wouldn’t necessarily rule out social media marketing for this demographic just yet. However, you could also explore more community-based or print marketing campaigns—or investigate purchasing ad space in media channels that you know your patients tune into.

How do you attract cash-pay patients?

Ultimately, attracting cash-pay patients is the same as attracting any other direct access patient. You must establish a clear value proposition and market around it. Ask yourself what value you can provide your patients that they can’t receive from anyone else—in-network or not. Once you’ve pinpointed the unique benefits of your services, make them the focus of your marketing campaigns. Then, really hone in your digital marketing strategy. Nowadays, patients largely find their providers online, so having a strong digital presence—from your reviews to the quality of your website—is critical.

If you’re just starting out, is it better to focus on marketing to patients through online ads and social media, or marketing to physicians to receive referrals?

If you want to reach patients who are searching for local PT clinics, we highly recommend using Google Ads. (Check out this post and this one to learn about Google Ads best practices.) For example, if someone uses Google to search “physical therapy clinic near me,” Google Ads are the best way to get in front of those searchers. When you set your budget, start with whatever amount you feel comfortable with. If you only have $100, start with that. Once you see more patient volume as a result of those ads, you can pour more money into them.

That being said, there are plenty of free marketing strategies you can leverage—physician networking being one of them. When done well, networking with local physicians can produce a great ROI. All it takes is a simple phone call to start building a relationship. You can also “double dip” by connecting with physicians of patients who find their way to your practice on their own. If you provide a patient with great care, and the patient’s physician is aware of that care and the positive effect it has had on the patient, the physician may recommend you to other patients. Another free strategy is asking your friends, family, and past patients to leave positive reviews of you online.

What sort of questions should we ask when hiring a marketer?

It depends what type of marketing you want to focus on at your practice. If you see the greatest returns on social media advertising, then ask candidates how they can improve post engagement and click-through rates—and what types of new social campaigns they’d like to try. If you’d like to focus more heavily on email marketing, ask the candidate for examples of email campaigns they recommend and how they suggest refining your clinic’s email schedule and use of dynamic content to better engage patients. If you’re looking for an SEO whiz, ask how the person tracks keywords and adapts websites following Google algorithm updates.

If you’re unfamiliar with what a good marketer can accomplish, do some research and learn more about general expectations for someone in this role (reading job descriptions for other companies can be helpful). Ultimately, your hiring process shouldn’t be too different than how you hire, say, a biller. You may not be totally familiar with all the ins and outs of Medicare billing, but you figured out how to find and hire someone who was. And whether you’re hiring a freelancer or an in-house employee, be sure to check out this blog post on hiring marketers

What local public advertising do you recommend to help people understand the importance of PT (post-surgery and for long-term maintenance)? 

This is a big question, and ultimately, one clinic is not going to solve the PT brand problem by itself. It will take a coordinated effort of PTs across the nation (and multiple PTs in every locality) to reach their different communities and demonstrate the value of PT. It may sound counterintuitive, but effectively evangelizing the PT brand might start by infiltrating niche communities. In the Profitable PT download, Jannenga talks about how—back when she was a clinic director—she stumbled across an underserved community of bow hunters. Turns out, the bow-hunting community suffers a lot of shoulder injuries. So, she promoted PT as a rehab option and ended up cultivating a loyal patient following within that community. You can be sure those bow hunters will tell other hobbyists about their PT experience for years to come, and the ripple effect could be pretty notable. If every PT finds an underserved, niche community and markets to them, PTs’ brand influence will grow exponentially.

During the pandemic, do you recommend general brand awareness campaigns, or more targeted campaigns? We are struggling with whether we should change our pre-COVID approach to messaging.

It depends on your clinic's situation—as well as the economic situation in your city and state. If most clinics in your area shut down for a long period of time, then you'll probably want to focus on: 

  • letting people know you're open, and 
  • educating them about the safety measures you've implemented. 

If case counts are high in your area, it will be even more important to focus on your in-clinic safety measures. If case counts aren't high—and your local economy has been mostly “open” for some time now—then there’s less of a need to focus on those things.

Additionally, look at your referral sources. If most of your patients typically come from referrals, then reconnect with your referring providers—especially those who are performing elective surgeries—and let them know you’re well equipped to accept new patients. Be sure to emphasize the precautions and safety measures that your practice put in place to protect patients and staff.

If you largely depend on direct access patients, then look at the types of patients you typically attract and target your campaigns toward them. Ultimately, it’s difficult to track the effectiveness of general brand awareness campaigns, and your efforts are better spent elsewhere. If you’re spending money on ads, your call to action should be specific, clear, and measurable (e.g., “Book an appointment now.”). Most people don’t know they need physical therapy—or that it’s even an option—so it’s always better to target specific audiences and tailor your pitch so it resonates with them.

Should we test advertising on several different platforms? How would we go about this?

Yes; if you can, definitely test your advertising efforts on any and all platforms at your disposal. But, if you're just starting to advertise on paid channels (e.g., through Google Ads or on social media platforms), you should probably focus your efforts on one area, perfect your strategy, and then consider adding more platforms.

Golden recommends first setting up your Google My Business profile, which will ultimately help you increase free organic traffic to your website. Completing your listing will also help your clinic’s site show and rank on local maps searches. Once you’ve created a Google My Business listing, Golden recommends creating a Google Ads account and building a strategy there. When building a Google Ad strategy, remember that you’re trying to target relevant keywords. In other words, you’re trying to guess what people in your area are typing into the search bar. Usually it’s something along the lines of “physical therapist near me” or “physical therapist in {your town}.” Remember that you can run those ads on your local Google Maps. “Using this approach is like feeding two birds with one scone,” says Golden. 

Say you want to test another platform—like Facebook. If you have the time, you can simultaneously run separate ads to different audiences. Ultimately, you must develop a comprehensive Facebook strategy and determine who you want to target with what content. Remember that Facebook can help drive people to your website for less dough—but Google Ads will put your clinic in front of people who are actively looking for rehabilitative services.

What are the resources that you provided during the presentation?

Didn’t find your question in the FAQ? No worries! Drop a comment below, and our team will do their best to find you an answer. 


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