Blog Post

Founder Letter: The Dos and Don’ts of Patient Marketing

Clinicians looking to take advantage of direct access need to know how to make the most of their patient marketing efforts.

Heidi Jannenga
5 min read
May 3, 2023
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Rehab therapy marketing was a lot simpler and cheaper before the days of direct access; business-to-business marketing was the only game in town, which means you’d show up to a physician's office to shadow a provider, drop off some goodies, and build referral relationships to help fill your therapists’ schedules. But after advocating for direct access for many years and finally earning that right in all 50 states, clinics and individual providers have the opportunity to engage in some business-to-consumer marketing and pitch their services directly to the people most in need of them. 

The problem is that PT school doesn’t include marketing education—which means that direct-to-patient marketing efforts can be a bit hit-or-miss for many clinics. Fortunately, I’ve managed to pick up my share of marketing wisdom, both from my time as a clinic director and from working with some of the big marketing brains here at WebPT over the years. So this month, I’m sharing some of the dos and don’ts of patient marketing, with an emphasis on attracting new patients and making the most of your marketing budget.

Do have a marketing plan.

When it comes to creating a marketing plan, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The right strategy is all about targeting your efforts to appeal to patients based on factors like age, income, demographics, or even social media or paid advertising channels.  

In creating an effective marketing plan, you need to have the answers to a few key questions:

  • Who are your ideal patients, and why are they seeking out therapy services? A good starting place in figuring out your typical patient is—which you can do by analyzing the patient population in your current book of business and the potential patients in a 10- to 15-mile radius of your clinic location. Depending upon the types of patients your research finds, you can match your marketing messaging to better attract those patients. 
  • What kinds of services are they looking for? Grabbing the attention of patients who are specifically looking for what you have to offer is key, particularly if you’re working in a more specialized practice.
  • Where are they going to seek out information about rehab therapy? If you’re looking to be efficient in your marketing, it makes more sense to focus your time and effort (and possibly dollars) on channels that are getting more engagement. 

Do establish your value proposition.

A key element to your marketing plan is having a well-defined value proposition—both internally (i.e., for your staff)  and externally (i.e., for your audience). Your value proposition is a concise, easy-to-understand statement that defines what your clinic does and how you go about getting patients better. What are the things your practice does particularly well? What has your patients singing your praises? What sets you apart from the competition? Those are the strengths that you should be highlighting to potential patients in your marketing. If you can’t easily explain why people should come to you for treatment, chances are patients aren’t going to grasp it either.  

That said, when you’re laying out your value proposition on your website and in marketing materials, avoid being overly generic; trying to talk up your clinic by saying “We are the best PT practice around providing evidence-based modalities and services” doesn’t actually say much.  Instead, do some research on your local competitors and use language that will resonate with your targeted potential patients and differentiate yourself from the competition. 

Do make the most of your web presence.

You don’t need me to tell you how important an online presence is these days for healthcare providers and businesses. Most patients’ healthcare journeys are starting with an internet search for clinicians in their area, and those at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) are reaping the rewards. 

Fortunately, improving your online visibility is a fairly straightforward fix. (We’ve even got a guide to help you.) Here’s a few chances you can make that’ll get you more website traffic. 

  • Use search engine optimization (SEO) to improve your ranking. If you want patients to find you when they’re looking online, tweak your site with the right keywords throughout so that it shows up higher in searches. While you don’t want to spam keywords to game the system (Google will ding you for that), you do want to make sure you’re including the right phrases in your website copy, headers, and page titles so that search engines see your site as relevant for those search terms. 
  • Create a Google Business Profile. Given that Google dominates the search game, it helps to tailor your efforts to improve how their algorithm rates your site. One quick and easy way to do that is to create a Google Business Profile and make sure it remains updated. With a Google Business Profile, you can easily share important details about your clinic and respond to online reviews. (We’ve got a guide to help you with that, too.)
  • Build landing pages for targeted audiences. It would seemingly make sense to direct potential patients to your website’s home page; after all, that’s where you’ve conveniently located everything you need to know about your practice. But if you’re targeting patients for particular services or specialties, it doesn’t make sense to direct them to a page with a lot of information that’s not relevant to their interests. With a landing page, you can create a tailored experience for each audience that gives them everything they need to know—and nothing they don’t—and keeps moving them towards your ultimate goal, which is scheduling an appointment or engaging with a “subscribe to learn more” landing page.
  • Make it easy to book an appointment. Speaking of making appointments, the easier it is for patients, the better. Having an integrated scheduling tool prominently featured near the top of your website so patients can quickly request an appointment is key. Self-scheduling might not work for every patient; insurance requirements can make it difficult to schedule a specific time with a specific therapist in the practice. But you still want to make that option available to any patient who wants to book time during off-hours, or prefers the simplicity of online scheduling.   

Also, you don’t have to go exclusively digital—some patients may prefer to call your front desk, so have your clinic phone number prominently featured on your site for questions and requests. However you do it, make sure you’re interacting efficiently with patients to keep them engaged, and that you’re given them the options they’re seeking.  

Do make use of every tool at your disposal.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of other options for connecting with potential and current patients.   And while not every one might be right for your practice, each offers its own benefits for extending your reach. 

  • Social media. At a minimum, having some sort of social media presence is key for any practice in today’s market of media-savvy consumers. Countless patients use Facebook to research and even reach out to potential providers. And LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok might not have quite the same impact or reach depending on the demographic of your audience, but each can be valuable tools for expanding your presence and connecting with different audiences that might not be active on other platforms—provided that you’re dedication someone to monitoring those channels on a regular basis.  
  • Email. Email marketing is one of the best tools around for marketing your clinic—after all,  almost everyone has an email address that they check on a daily basis. Not only is it cost-effective, you can use email marketing to keep your current patients engaged with relevant content—and to keep in touch with past patients who have completed an episode of care but might need treatment in the future. 

Before you start blasting out emails, however, make sure that you’ve gotten opt-ins from everyone on your email list—and that you’re using a HIPAA-compliant service. No one wants to earn a reputation as a spam emailer, particularly given how much of a problem spam is in today’s climate; according to one article from Mailmodo, 45.37% of the nearly 319.6 billion emails sent daily in 2021 were deemed as spam emails. Thankfully, you can avoid that label if you’re smart with your email practices; this article from Sendgrid offers some tips to keep your company’s emails from going to your patient’s spam/junk folders.

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) ads. If you’re ready to invest a bit of money in your marketing, PPC ads can be a great way to get your website noticed—and to engage potential patients. But it’s not necessarily for beginners; depending upon how many other practices in your area are bidding for specific keywords, costs can get a little steep.  And if you’re not budgeting correctly, you could find yourself spending more on ads more than you planned to—or are comfortable with. I’d recommend giving this blog post a read before you dive into paid ads. 

Don’t ignore your marketing metrics. 

Part and parcel with developing a marketing plan is executing that plan—and then making sure that it’s actually working. And to get a better understanding of how your marketing campaigns are performing, you need to review some specific metrics.  

If you’re relatively new to marketing, it can be hard to suss out the signal from the noise when you’re looking at data. Here are some of the important marketing metrics you should be looking at to determine if your marketing campaigns are performing well:

  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): To determine your CAC, take the amount of money you’re spending on marketing for a month and divide it by the number of new patients you’ve brought in for that month. Optimally, CAC should remain as low as possible to get a better return on your investment. A good rule of thumb is to keep your CAC 33% lower than your average income per episode of care, or at a 3:1 ratio of your marketing-spend-to -revenue/patient.
  • Conversion Rate: To measure the success of a particular marketing campaign, conversion rate is the metric to watch. Your conversion rate is the number of visitors to a marketing page or viewers of an ad who actually become patients relative to the total number of people viewing the page or ad. 
  • Open Rate/Click-Through Rate: A big email list will not have an impact if people aren’t reading what you’re sending—or responding to your calls-to-action. As you might guess, your open rate is the percentage of recipients that are actually looking at your emails, and the click-through rate is the number of people who opened a link in your email, whether that’s to book an appointment or to read your latest blog post. Don’t panic if you’re seeing a small number; most businesses see a click-through rate somewhere between 2-5%
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Let’s face it—we are all on tight budgets, and there isn’t a lot of room for error in your marketing. And digital advertising can get expensive quickly, depending upon the industry and market. That’s why you need a firm grasp on your ROAS, which is the total revenue from all patients acquired directly from a particular ad or campaign minus the amount you spent on that campaign. If you’re seeing a large ROAS, that is a campaign you want to double-down on; if not, it’s time to consider how to adjust that campaign—or whether to allocate those resources elsewhere.
  • Sentiment: Likes and retweets are great, but how exactly does that translate to your business? By measuring sentiment on social media, you can take the temperature of how people are feeling about your clinic online. Calculating sentiment is less cold, hard math and more analysis; how many positive mentions are you getting online, and what are those people saying? How many detractors do you have? It’s not an exact science, but it’ll give you a better notion of how the public views your brand. (For more tips on measuring sentiment, check out this helpful guide from Hootsuite.) 

Don’t forget your current patients.

We tend to think of marketing as getting patients through the door, but keeping those patients— and keeping them engaged—is just as important. After all, research from Bain & Company shows that increasing customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95%. That’s why putting the necessary time and energy into internal marketing efforts that promote patient engagement is so critical. Your efforts should include emails with timely, relevant content and Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys, as well as collecting positive patient feedback to share on your website and social channels (with permission, of course.) Not only are your current patients giving you the social proof you need in today’s consumer climate, you’re cultivating advocates who can help market your clinic with positive recommendations and good word-of-mouth.     

Don’t be afraid to ask for positive reviews.

We’ve all been told by parents or teachers that a job well done is reward enough in itself. While that’s a nice sentiment, it’s not especially helpful in building out a business—especially when positive word-of-mouth is essential in attracting new patients. Online reviews can make or break a business in 2023, so why not do everything you can to collect as many positive reviews as possible from your satisfied patients?

Admittedly, it might be a bit of an awkward ask as you’re sitting with a patient. But the pitch can be pretty simple: “By sharing your experience online, you’re helping us to reach other patients that may need treatment just like you did.” It’s pretty easy to persuade patients who are already raving fans of your practice and are comfortable posting online to share their positive experience—you just need to ask.

Mining your NPS data is a great way to find those raving fans. We tend to address the negative scores (which is important, of course) but forget about all of the positive scores and comments that patients have provided—positive feedback they might be willing to share with the larger public. Using software like WebPT Reach can make it easy to ask for those positive reviews from your promoters and convert them into testimonials. You're working hard to help patients achieve their goals for recovery; why not highlight these success stories?   

Don’t lose sight of the competition.

You’re not selling yourself and your services in a vacuum—every other rehab clinic in your area is trying to attract patients, and likely many of the same patients you are. In order to set yourself apart, stay aware of how they’re marketing themselves and look for opportunities to highlight the differences and distinctions of your practice.

You can also find inspiration on how you can improve your website and better showcase your practice and providers by looking outside your walls. To that end, it’s worth taking a periodic look at other local clinic’s websites, digital ads, and social media presence to stay apprised of the digital landscape for rehab therapy in your area.

It’s not enough to put up a website and wait for patients to start rolling in; if you want to attract new patients for your practice, you must start marketing to them, not at them. Start engaging potential patients with your content, and make it easy for them to find the information that they need efficiently wherever they’re looking. And stay on top of the best patient marketing practices, and use the data you collect to fine-tune your marketing operations into a well-oiled machine. 

If you’re looking for more marketing tips, be sure to sign up for our webinar later this month on marketing hacks for inside and outside your practice.


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