Unless you have a complete monopoly (or run an incredibly niche-based practice), word-of-mouth efforts generally won’t keep your clinic’s doors open. Marketing is an essential part of running a healthy PT clinic, and while many clinics keep a dedicated marketing specialist on staff, smaller clinics might not have the budget to do so. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to leverage existing clinical staff to help with marketing efforts—and they’ll get the chance to flex their creative muscles in the process!
There are countless reasons to involve your own PTs in clinic marketing efforts. Not only does it help fill gaps left by patient cancellations (thus eliminating the need to flex therapists), but it also affords those who best understand your clinic’s services the opportunity to represent what you do—all while giving them more of a stake in your clinic’s brand. And if you’re worried about adding more to your therapists’ plates, keep in mind that some of those staff members might jump at the chance to hone their non-clinical skills—as long as they feel supported in the process.
Here are four ways to involve your PT staff in clinic marketing efforts.
1) Enlist therapists to rep your brand.
Good old-fashioned brand marketing goes a long way toward building awareness around your clinic and what it has to offer.
T-shirts, pens, planners, and other forms of swag are great for getting your name and logo in the public eye. For example, by creating a clinic hashtag—and then encouraging therapists to use it when posting pictures of themselves wearing clinic gear at various community or athletic events—you’ll spread awareness and build team spirit. You can even create fun contests and reward programs to encourage your staff to display your gear in public. For example, perhaps staff members earn points—which they can redeem for PTO, bonuses, or prizes—each time they are tagged on social media while wearing clinic gear.
And don’t rule out involving your team in the creation of the swag in the first place. They’ll be the best ones to weigh in on the types of items you select—and maybe even the design!
You can always take it a step further by putting your logo on team shirts and uniforms. Many local softball and kickball leagues are teeming with weekend warriors who are in desperate need of physical therapy. Consider sponsoring one of these teams and putting your name on their t-shirts—or even signing up as a clinic and playing in a league. Those too-proud-to-stretch 30-somethings on the opposing teams will be limping their way right into your clinic before too long!
There are also plenty of charitable organizations looking for support—some of which your staff may already have connections with. Task your therapists with finding ones with sponsorship levels that fit your budget, and allow them to set everything up—rewarding them with points for the find.
Pro tip: If you create clothing, spend the extra money to print on high-quality materials. Nobody wants to wear a stiff, scratchy t-shirt that feels like a cheese grater on the skin.
2) Encourage community outreach.
Community outreach is an incredibly effective and organic way to bring in new patients. From running booths at community events and races to hosting classes at your facility, your therapists are often the best ones to determine how and where to represent your clinic.
Most locales have at least a few community events to choose from, so why not have a presence at the ones that matter to your own staff? Speak with your therapists and unearth their passions. Do you have a die-hard yogi on staff? Encourage him to run a booth at the local “Yoga in the Park” event. Do you have a therapist who heads to the rock climbing gym after work each night? Consider having her distribute brochures about climbing injury prevention at an upcoming climbing competition. You can reward them with points toward PTO or flex time for the hours worked at the event itself.
Another way to leverage your therapists’ strengths and passions is to pay them to present on their expertise. After all, your therapists are extensions of your clinic, and you are helping them grow professionally—and building their caseloads—when you give them the freedom and tools to create presentations. If you’ve got a runner on your team, why not offer her the chance to host an injury-prevention workshop at your clinic in the weeks leading up to a big race? Not only does that offer her a chance to build her thought leadership and attract more patients, but it also gives community members a chance to see your clinic and get a better idea of how PT can help them become better runners. It’s good for you—and good for the profession!
Pro tip: Organizing events can be a challenge for some therapists, so don’t let the event planning part keep them from participating in marketing-related activities. Speak with your team and identify those who enjoy event planning; then, let them take the lead with the planning part, while allowing the other team members to shine during the presentation part. Also, remember to allow time in their schedules to work on these projects; that way, they will have the best chance of being successful—and won’t feel resentful for having to do extra work without extra pay.
3) Leverage their online marketing skills.
Back in the early days of PT, practice marketing efforts were largely limited to physician marketing and community outreach. But, times have changed. With direct access widening our ability to see patients without a prescription—and social media allowing us to target our outreach to patients in our specific regions—online marketing can be extremely affordable and simple, especially if you have tech-savvy clinicians on staff (and you probably do).
Maintaining an active clinic blog has so many benefits, I could create a whole article on the topic! Some of the main reasons to prioritize blogging include:
- Keeping your website content fresh so search engines find your site more easily;
- Establishing your team as experts on relevant therapy topics;
- Creating informative content to share on other forms of social media; and
- Providing a creative outlet for your staff members, as well as helping them build their brands as clinicians and physical therapy writers.
As tempting as it can be to repurpose content you find elsewhere on the Internet, plagiarism is illegal—and if you straight-up lift your content from other sites, your readers will be able to tell. Besides, chances are you’ve got a talented writer/editor (or two) on staff who is looking for a creative outlet. Choose two or three of your best writers to create content each month, and have one volunteer to run point on editing other writers’ blog posts. That way, you can find a consistent tone of voice for your writing—“cutting-edge and clinical,” “fun and approachable,” or “empathetic and supportive” are all great examples—and ensure your copy is error-free. One to two posts per month is plenty, and shoot for a minimum of 300-400 words per article. Finally, remember that your primary audience is comprised of patients—not PTs—so authors should refrain from using clinical jargon in their posts.
Paid Ads and Search Engine Optimization
Attracting patients with little effort has never been easier. Facebook and Google both allow you to pay to run targeted local ads, which can help you bring new patients to the clinic. Find out if any of your clinicians know—or have interest in learning—how to run online ads. There’s a good chance someone will jump at the opportunity to gain non-clinical work experience. After all, today’s employees are more likely to stay put in jobs if they feel like they’re continually growing—and that they have their employers’ support in the process.
Pro tip: Your therapists’ blogging and online advertising efforts will only be successful if they have the time they need to follow through completely. So, don’t only let your therapists focus on marketing when there happen to be appointment cancellations. A fruitful blog and social media/paid advertising strategy requires dedicated time. For a complete modern marketing resource created specifically for PTs, check out our marketing e-book, “Download: Modern Marketing Decoded: A Guide for Rehab Therapists.”
4) Don’t rule out traditional physician marketing.
With so much focus on online marketing, hashtags, and fancy clothes, don’t forget that, for many clinics, physician marketing remains a powerful tool for attracting patients. And that’s good news for some of your therapists—especially the ones who don’t want to mix business with personal life (a.k.a. their wardrobes or social media profiles).
Encourage therapists who feel comfortable interacting with physicians to set appointments with some of your area’s top referring MDs to discuss your clinic’s offerings—as well as their own specialties. And don’t send your therapists in empty-handed; physicians’ offices are just as busy as you are, so they’ll appreciate some informative brochures, snacks, and swag—pens, specifically!
Pro tip: Create a clinic elevator pitch—as well as a general marketing packet—to give to your your therapists; that way, they won’t feel like they’re being sent to the wolves with no support.
These are some creative ways I’ve seen savvy clinics include PTs in marketing endeavors. How do you get your own clinical staff involved with in marketing? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Meredith Castin, PT, DPT, is the founder of The Non-Clinical PT, a career development resource designed to help physical, occupational, and speech therapy professionals leverage their degrees in non-clinical ways.