Attracting patients can be a big struggle—one that, especially in smaller clinics, often leaves therapists and practice owners wondering exactly how to get more business. And although we’ve talked a lot about some common strategies you can use to lure in new patients (and retain old ones), there are some less-visible forces that could be pulling in a small portion of your patient pool. So today, we’re going to step away from more conventional digital marketing avenues—goodbye, search engine optimization and Google Ads—to focus on the truly weird ways patients are finding your practice.

Ditch the Donuts: Referral Marketing Strategies that Actually Work - Regular BannerDitch the Donuts: Referral Marketing Strategies that Actually Work - Small Banner

1. Partner Marketing

Do you have friendly relationships with other local businesses? And if so, do you occasionally host events—or offer services—with crossover appeal? If so, you could be getting a small portion of your patients from those businesses’ marketing campaigns.

Say, for example, you host a free injury clinic at the local running store. You’ve hopefully promoted the event yourself, but it’s possible that the store promoted the event as well—maybe in its e-newsletter. Even if those newsletter recipients don’t attend your clinic, you’ve generated awareness in a previously unaware group of runners. And if they ever experience an injury, they’re much more likely to consider seeking you out.

Encouraging Cross-Promotion

The best way to encourage cross-promotion is to build strong relationships with local businesses whose customers overlap with your target patient population. So, if you want to get away from treating foot and ankle injuries, don’t team up with the local running store: partner with a local golfing association or tennis store instead. Then, plan events (e.g., free injury clinics or short educational lectures) that appeal to people who visit that local business—and who could potentially benefit from visiting your practice. If that effort is successful, talk to the business owner about hosting semi-regular events. Then, combine your promotional powers to market those events to your respective audiences.

2. Social Sharing

While stumbling upon your practice’s Facebook page isn’t necessarily a weird way for patients to find your practice (it’s actually pretty common nowadays), I’d argue that finding your practice via a post shared by a friend is still pretty darn uncommon. After all, someone has to be really invested in your brand to share your content with—or plug your practice to—their friends. Still, it’s not impossible to win new business this way, especially if you make an effort to encourage it.

Increasing Shareability

If you’re interested in tapping the friend-of-a-friend Facebook market, then the name of the game is fostering shareability. Essentially, you need to sit down and evaluate your content. Ask yourself what kind of responses and results you’re looking to drive (in this case, shares and an influx of patients), and assess whether the posts you’ve created encourage those actions.

In the social world, the more engaging your content is, the better. In other words, you’ve got to hook your readers—and then provide them with a content consumption experience so good that they’re motivated to share it with other people in their network. For example, the average person probably won’t share a long, text-heavy, scientific article on the benefits of hydrotherapy. But, that doesn’t mean the topic isn’t interesting; you just have to repackage the content in a more engaging way. Perhaps you could lead with an eye-catching picture—or make a short video—that includes an interesting fact about hydrotherapy or sports injuries. Pair that with a call to share the post or comment with personal stories, and suddenly, the post has the potential to make some waves on social.

3. Pinterest

Yep, that’s right. The website known as a place to create moodboards, find new recipes, and plan weddings could actually send traffic to your therapy practice’s website. Go figure! When dedicated pinners find content they like enough to repin, some search out the original board, or even the original pinner (you!).

If your profile has a link to your business’s website, then you could suddenly have a stream of pinners—who are specifically interested in your brand of rehab therapy—funneling into your site. WebPT even gets some traffic from Pinterest, which was what clued us into this unusual traffic driver!

Using Pinterest

There are two tricks that’ll help you increase your appeal to the Pinterest crowd. The first (and arguably most important) is to focus on pinning evergreen content—that is, content that remains relevant for a long period of time. If you pin something that isn’t time-sensitive—for example, a picture of you demonstrating your favorite spatial reasoning exercise, or a set of PT valentines—your content is more likely to attract repins over the long haul.

Second, remember that Pinterest is a highly visual social network, and as such, visually engaging content will encourage the most repins. In other words, use vibrant, eye-catching pictures that complement the message you’re trying to convey. So, if you’re posting about a great hamstring stretch, use pictures instead of lengthy text instructions.

4. Hashtags

Hashtags are the key to navigating Twitter and Instagram—especially when users are putting out the feelers and trying to to find new accounts to follow. That’s why it’s a great idea to tag some of your practice’s Tweets and pics with a common hashtag. If you do, a prospecting patient who’s searching, say, #choosePT or #OccupationalTherapy could find your practice via those tagged posts—simple as that. If you step up your savvy and sometimes include trending tags in your posts, your potential traffic will only increase.

Jumping on Trends

Chances are, unless you have a wildly large and active social media following (serious kudos if you do!) you’re going to have a tough time creating your own hashtag movement. You’ll probably have better luck catching hashtag-related attention if you use some hashtags that have already gained traction and are trending on their own. Just be sure to research those hashtags and understand how people are using them! The hashtags need to be relevant to your brand, and you don’t want to accidentally promote something that could hurt your practice.

More Marketing Tips from the Pros

Whether you’re exploring lesser-known marketing channels or creating a plan around traditional marketing tools, finding a strategy that’s perfect for your practice is no easy task. After all, any one campaign could be super effective one month and flop the next—all because the market (and the consumer) is in a constant state of flux. So, in addition to having a solid foundation, it’s important to continually track and measure performance.

Want to take the guesswork out of your strategic planning and create an effective marketing plan that’s right for you? Download our comprehensive marketing guide below. In it, we not only offer detailed guidance on best practices for digital advertising, email marketing, content, and social media, but also provide marketing tips from some of the most successful therapists and practice owners in the biz.

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