Marketing your clinic may not be your favorite part of running a business, but it’s wholly necessary if you want to keep your doors open. After all, you can’t do the thing you love most—help patients—if you don’t have patients coming through your doors. And though we’ve provided a lot of marketing advice on everything from creating a value prop to properly using CTAs, that advice doesn’t always address the subtleties of marketing a specialty—especially when you’re trying to reach younger patients.

So today, we’re going to talk about the foundational rules of marketing when your target audience is under the age of 18—and impart a handful of golden pediatric marketing ideas.

1. Market to parents and caregivers—but don’t forget about the children.

When you get down to brass tacks, children—your patients—aren’t going to be the ones who decide whether or not to schedule an appointment with you. They may be able to influence the real decision-makers (i.e., parents and caregivers) by talking about whether or not they like their time with you, but that’s probably the extent of it. That’s not to say your marketing shouldn’t appeal to children—but it should definitely address the needs of parents and caregivers.

That means that while your brand should be geared toward kids (think bright and fun), the majority of your marketing should radiate with a kind, restorative, kid-friendly vibe (which appeals to maternal and paternal minds). Ultimately, you need to convince caregivers that you’re the absolute best person to help their little bundle of joy.

2. Use the most powerful marketing tool under your belt: education.

According to this infographic from ASHA, “1 in 4 parents have had concerns about their child’s ability to communicate,” but around 27% didn’t seek help—generally because “they didn’t know where to go to for help.” And according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI), “1 in 10 children made a health care visit for a musculoskeletal problem,” but 74% of them went directly to a PCP—not a therapist. So presumably, there are many, many children who could greatly benefit from therapeutic treatment—but they (and their parents) just don’t know that they should seek rehabilitative care.

Generating Direct Access Patients

Rehab therapists (generally) have the freedom to market to patients directly. There’s some form of direct access available to PTs and SLPs across all 50 states and—even though OTs don’t always have the same kind of patient access—all therapists can reach out to the patient population and inform them about their services.

An Educational Blog

In the past, we’ve waxed on about the benefits of running your own blog—and we’re going wax on about blogging again now. Running a blog and publishing valuable information on the Internet is a wonderfully effective way to draw in patients—or rather, the parents of pediatric patients. “Parents of children who need PT are avid online researchers,” this source states. “Providing that information will establish you as a trusted expert, and they will almost always prefer for you to provide the care and be an in-person guide.”

A Success Story

Take Dr. Roy Benaroch (a pediatric MD) and his blog, The Pediatric Insider, for example. He spent enormous chunks of time creating educational materials and handouts for his patients—until one day, he realized he could compile and publish all that information online. So, that’s exactly what he did. Now, his blog has nearly 3,000 followers, and he successfully markets his business by posting engaging, educational information (with the occasional joke thrown in for good measure). He even plugs into the wants and needs of his readers—and his potential patients—by providing a topic suggestion form.

A Word on Reviews

As stated above, parents and caregivers are meticulous when it comes to researching (and selecting) healthcare providers for their children. They want only the best for their kids—and that means hunting down the most highly-rated pediatric providers in their community. So, if you’re not actively managing your online reviews and continuously soliciting positive public feedback, you need to jump on that horse, ASAP. Luckily, there are many ways to do this—one being a top-notch patient relationship management (PRM) software like WebPT Reach. Reach can help you manage communications with your patients (and their parents), including automatically requesting reviews from those who are the most satisfied with your care.

Generating Referrals

You don’t have to stop at patient (and parent) education; there are a few other referral sources you could tap via education.

An Informed Provider

Say you’re a pediatric OT who specializes in treating Asperger syndrome—and you know that it’s frequently misdiagnosed as a temporary behavioral issue. You could create a small flow of referrals by reaching out to different providers (e.g., pediatricians, behavioral therapists, or pediatric therapists) and educating them about the signs and symptoms exhibited by a child with Asperger’s. If you schedule and host short, educational sessions at several different local clinics, you could spread awareness across your city, helping children get proper diagnoses—and helping you get some referrals, to boot.

If you don’t have a niche to promote, don’t worry. Pediatric audiologist Jacqueline Rogers Scholl, AuD, CCC-A, recommends reaching out to local pediatricians in general, building strong relationships with them and their staff, and making the effort to maintain those connections.

An Informed Teacher

Don’t be afraid to think a little outside the box: You could reach out to—and educate—local teachers about the diagnoses you can treat. After checking the restrictions in your state (some states prohibit providers from reaching out to public schools), you could contact schools that are open to listening to your expertise (e.g., a private school). Ask to speak at teacher meetings and consider offering free screenings for students, thus helping teachers identify when students could benefit from your care. Pretty soon, you might just have a steady stream of school referrals.

3. If you host a community event, address a community need and keep it kid-centric.

Community events are probably one of the few marketing gambits that pediatric providers need to plan more with a mind for the kids who’ll attend—not so much the parents. You want parents to think of your practice as a safe, welcoming, and enriching space for children. The perfect way to do that? Put your therapeutic mettle to the test, and host a community event that’s fun for kids and educational for parents.

Planning a Relevant Event

Pediatric occupational therapist Nicole Sampson, OT, planned a successful string of events by identifying a need in her community: there were no group play times for children in the county—at all. She jumped at the opportunity to establish “Toddler Time,” an hour-long group play period where children, ages two to five, could “participate in fun sensory and fine-motor play activities.” But this was no typical playdate. Kids were playing and learning, sure, but parents were also learning new ways to interact with their kids to encourage their behavioral and motor development. The event really took off during its second meetup, and Sampson was able to spread awareness about the pediatric unit in her practice.

And there you have it! Following these rules (in addition to your other marketing plays) should help convince caretakers to red rover, red rover, send new pediatric patients right over! What marketing gambits have paid off in your clinic? Drop a comment below and let us know!