Blog Post

Patient-Centered Marketing: 7 Strategies to Drive PT Self-Referrals

Direct-to-patient marketing is a must in today’s digital- and convenience-driven world. See why—and how—here.

Mike Willee
5 min read
July 12, 2022
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Healthcare providers agree about the importance of placing patients at the center of the healthcare experience—but are you selling your clinic and services as such? If your patients aren’t aware of the ways your unique services can improve their ability to function, it’s not unlike the proverbial tree falling in a forest with no one around. Metaphor aside, there are a lot of things PTs can do to better market themselves, especially given the growing importance of self-referrals as an income stream.    

Direct access laws have made direct-to-patient marketing initiatives essential for any PT. If you’re not trying to pitch your services to potential self-referring patients, you’re missing out on a considerable chunk of business that might go elsewhere. In Clinicient and WebPT’s recent PT Patient Experience Report, we found that 64% of the patients surveyed would go back to a PT without a doctors’ referral. Capitalizing on those potential clients, however, requires a marketing plan to help you stay top of mind with prior patients, and get your name in front of new ones.  

Make sure your web presence is keeping up with best practices.

A simple starting point that can make a considerable difference is optimizing your website so that potential patients can easily find you online. The PT Patient Experience Report found that 44% of patients chose a clinic without a doctor’s recommendation, making your online footprint that much more vital. Fortunately, it’s easy and inexpensive to make the necessary changes.

Optimize your online presence to better attract, retain, and engage patients with our powerful patient marketing software, WebPT Reach.

Use keywords to help patients find you. 

In this blog post, WebPT Co-Founder and Chief Clinical Officer Heidi Jannenga lays out some simple tips for improving your website, like including important keywords about the services you offer as well as your locale in order to appear more readily in relevant Google searches in your area. You should also make sure your essential contact information—name, address and phone number—is prominently and consistently featured on your site for website visitors to easily find. 

Given the outsized role Google search results play in which businesses get noticed online, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a must for every company website. If you’re a novice to the SEO game, never fear; this blog on SEO for rehab therapists has great tips on how to increase traffic to your practice’s website.  

Ask your patients for positive reviews.

Positive patient reviews are perhaps this century’s version of word-of-mouth marketing, and can be a big online boost for your business. Among the 44% of patients who chose a clinic without a doctor’s recommendation, online testimonials from patients were a big factor in deciding which clinic to schedule an appointment with—not a surprise to anyone who has ever checked Yelp before making a restaurant reservation. All you need to cultivate positive reviews, beyond providing high-quality treatment, is to simply ask patients to write one. It’s really that simple. Yet, because therapists may be uncomfortable asking, clinics aren’t getting the online love they deserve. 

Stay active on social media.

If you haven't set up social media accounts for your clinic, it could seem like it’s more hassle than it’s worth. But you can’t discount the power of social media marketing in helping your clinic’s visibility, even if rehab therapy isn’t necessarily the stuff of TikTok trends. Having a social media presence is a great way to boost your profile for self-referrals. Plus, it provides you with another channel to get the right type of content, aimed at the right people, out there to spur engagement among existing and potential patients.       

Target your desired patients. 

Making it easy for patients to find you online is great, but effectively marketing your clinic to the right patients is the key to kicking your business growth into a new gear. The typical patient might not understand what differentiates one PT clinic from another, especially when it comes to different types of injuries and treatments, so it’s incumbent upon PTs to make clear what sort of care their clinic offers. That’s why establishing brand awareness and your value proposition is so vital to marketing efforts. If you can’t clearly lay out what services you provide, why your care is exceptional, and why patients should come to see you, you can’t expect your audience to connect those dots for you. It’s also a great opportunity to remind people that they may not need a doctor’s referral to come in! 

Create a paid ad strategy.

Some PTs may wince at the mention of spending money on digital marketing, particularly if they’re working with a tight budget. But, paid ads can be a good way to reach potential new patients and increase revenue. What’s more, advertising doesn’t have to be any more expensive than you want it to be; as noted in this blog post, your budget can be whatever you’re comfortable with to start. The most important thing is to have a strategy for how you want to advertise: what keywords you should target, where you want to direct people who click on your ad (like a specific landing page), and how to craft your ad to catch the reader’s eye. You should also consider what sort of incentives you may want to offer to further entice patients. Regardless of how much paid advertising you choose to do, make sure you know what you want to achieve—and have a way to measure how effective your efforts are.   

Use email marketing to reconnect with patients

Patients may find themselves in need of PT again in the future, and as previously noted, a healthy majority would be open to returning to PT without a referral. All you need to do is make sure to stay in touch.

Email marketing is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to follow up with current and past patients. And in the case of the latter, it’s a tremendous tool for checking in and educating patients on additional PT services they may need in the future. All it requires is building an email list of the patients you've seen, and creating marketing campaigns for each stage of a patient’s journey—including post-treatment.  

A previous relationship is a big driver for patient decisions on a provider. And outreach can make a big difference: when we asked people in our PT Patient Experience Report why they chose a particular provider, 23% cited the fact that they had previously been a patient at that clinic. This assumes, of course, that you’ve made patient trust and patient satisfaction a cornerstone of your practice, so that current patients would want to return in the future. Regardless, don’t lose sight of patients just because they’ve finished with one course of care. 

PTs are always looking for opportunities to grow their business by increasing revenue opportunities, and direct access provides that opportunity in spades—provided that PTs can sell patients on the value of their unique services. 

For even more marketing tips and tricks, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to marketing your rehab therapy practice.


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