In keeping with this month’s theme of marketing physical therapy as a profession, I wanted to share the three things that I believe lead to success with any endeavor. There are many different ways to market, but if you want your campaign to have impact, you need to connect, inspire, and assist.
Let’s consider the first principle: connect. Before people will listen to what you have to say, you must connect and build a relationship. These days, the Internet (and social media in particular) makes it easier than ever to reach people with your message. However, the key to success isn’t what you say, but how you say it. Messages and advertisements bombard us all day, every day. In order to survive, we have learned to tune out much of this noise.
So how do we cut through the noise to reach our audience? When we have the goal of marketing a profession, business, or product, we must command the attention of the audience we want to reach, and the best way to do this is by building relationships with our target audience. The most successful campaigns are launched through conversations. Social media is a very effective way to connect and build relationships; yet, many people forget this step and go right to direct marketing. However, if you only use social media to push your products or services, most people will tune you out. There has to be a balance.
I’m reading an excellent book right now called Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Sinek makes the very important point that “people don’t buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it.” When we focus on building relationships first, it is easy to share with people our beliefs and purpose (our ”why”), which drives what we do. While our “product” (therapy) serves as tangible proof of what we believe, Sinek makes the point that “when an organization defines itself by WHAT it does, that’s all it will ever be able to do (commoditization).” If we have connected and built a relationship, then potential clients know why we are physical therapists (desire to help others; love for patient education; mission to teach people how to live more independent lives; and desire to ease pain and restore mobility through hands on work). If we make our interactions about the client—so that they understand why they need us—then we don’t have to do the “hard sell.”
And this leads us to the next idea which is to inspire. Sinek makes a great point that “those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act, not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.” Out of all the people who hear our message, only some will act—those who felt a deeply personal motivation to do so. When we focus only on the “hard sell” or on the “what” (e.g., best education, musculoskeletal expertise, or an abundance of research), we fail to motivate our audience. While education and research are the backbone of our profession, we need to actually inspire people to seek physical therapy; otherwise we are only researchers and academics, not clinicians.
Because we have already connected and built relationships with our patients, we are in a better position to inspire them. We can do this through providing free, valuable content on our website (and shared through social media); through speaking in the community and in schools on career day; and through sharing stories about our own injuries or illnesses that created our passion for helping others through therapy. Inspiring people (“why” marketing) leads to loyalty (and long-term business), while “what” marketing leads to one-and-done transactions.
Once we have built relationships and inspired people to take action, we are in a position to assist them in reaching their goals. Again, this is about them, not us. Through our interactions, we can better understand the health care challenges that our patients face and offer skilled assistance. Sometimes people just need information; sometimes they need treatment; and sometimes they need an appropriate referral. When our focus is on assisting people in finding what they need (versus what we want), we will do the right thing, thereby strengthening the relationship. People value those who are committed to helping them reach their goals, and that drives loyalty. When we know why we are in the profession of physical therapy, we don’t have to convince anyone of our value. As Sinek explains, “You’re different and everyone knows it.”
I have successfully used these principles as I have grown my own business, and I believe that we can effectively market the profession of physical therapy in the identical manner. By connecting, inspiring, and assisting, we can build a reputation as the musculoskeletal experts.