So, you’ve got a marketing plan, you’ve honed your content-creation skills, and you’re ready to get down to business—or, to be more accurate, you’re ready to get down to marketing your business. As with any new endeavor, you’ll probably experience a few bumps along the road to building a successful marketing campaign—and that’s okay. After all, some of the world’s best innovations came about through trial and error. But while mistakes often present you with valuable learning opportunities and allow you to fine-tune your marketing efforts, no one wants to get stuck with a problem that they could have avoided all together. With that in mind, here’s a rundown of common rehab therapy marketing pitfalls along with advice on how to steer clear of each one:
Mistake #1: Highlighting yourself, not the benefits of your services. Too often, marketing messaging focuses on the product (e.g., therapy services) rather than the positive value it provides to the consumer (e.g., pain relief). Such self-centered marketing is weak and ineffective.
How to avoid it: As you craft your marketing materials—ads, flyers, blog posts, and the like—try to think from your target audience’s perspective. How will your therapy services make their lives better? Swap “we-centric” statements like, “Here at ABC Physical Therapy, we strive for excellence in patient care.” for “you-centric” ones like, “Do you suffer from low back pain? Let ABC Physical Therapy help you eliminate it for good.” This clearly demonstrates your value and shows potential patients that you truly care about helping them.
Mistake #2: Marketing only to potential patients. Many healthcare professionals get so wrapped up in generating new business that they forget all about marketing to the patients they already have. But remember, building a base of loyal customers not only ensures their continued business, but also increases your clinic’s word-of-mouth marketing reach.
How to avoid it: Obviously, providing exemplary patient care is the biggest factor in retaining patients and giving them a reason to plug your services to their peers. But your efforts shouldn’t stop there. Look for opportunities to recommend some of the other services you and your clinic offer—not just to your patients, but to their family and friends as well. For example, if one of your patients mentions that her son runs marathons, tell her you’d love to get him in for a gait analysis. If a patient compliments you, take it as an opportunity to hand out a business card and encourage him or her to refer you. You can even use patient relationship management (PRM) tools like WebPT Reach to leverage your most loyal patients even further by automatically requesting online reviews from them. After all, most potential patients start their searches for new healthcare providers online, and the more positive reviews your practice has, the more likely a patient will be to choose your practice over someone else's.
Mistake #3: Deprioritizing your online efforts. When you first enter the blogging and social media scene, it will all seem very new and exciting. You’ll have lots of ideas for content, and you’ll post new stuff all the time. But once the novelty wears off, it might start to feel a bit chore-ish, which could lead to a decline in your posting frequency. Next thing you know, it’s been months since your last blog post or Facebook update, and any interested, loyal followers you had before have long since abandoned you. (For some depressing statistics about that, check out this article.) Furthermore, you’ve convinced yourself that it’s no big deal because your target audience probably isn’t that hip to social media anyway.
How to avoid it: First, let’s clear up any misconceptions about age and social media use. You might think it’s an activity reserved only for those born after the Reagan administration, but according to this New York Daily News article, nearly two-thirds of people 50-64 years old and 43 percent of those over 65 are now on Facebook (Tweet this!), so no matter which age demographic your patients fall into, social media should be an important part of your marketing strategy. (On a side note, establishing a strong social media presence also boosts your clinic’s SEO, thus increasing the ease with which potential patients can find you online.) To prevent your content creation efforts from fading into oblivion, you’ve got to treat it as you would any other job function. Schedule time to devote to it each week and force yourself to follow through. As you go through your emails each morning, make it a habit to check your social platforms and respond to any questions or comments in a timely manner. Remember, these days it’s pretty much business suicide to rely solely on outbound forms of marketing like ads and direct mail. Plus, in addition to being more cost-effective than traditional methods, inbound, content-based campaigns allow you to more genuinely showcase your expertise and value.
Mistake #4: Ignoring the competition. It’s easy to get so caught up in your own marketing efforts that you forget to stop and survey what’s going on around you. But to successfully differentiate yourself from other rehab therapists—not to mention chiropractors, personal trainers, and massage therapists—you’ve got to tune in to the messaging they’re using.
How to avoid it: Keep tabs on what your peers are up to. Make it a point to check their websites and social media pages periodically. You might just get some ideas on how to better market yourself and your practice. You definitely don’t want to straight-up copy your competitors, but you do want to stay current on the marketing methods that will reach your target audience most effectively. If you see something that appears to be working—by generating a lot of buzz on social media, for example—make it better, tweak it to fit your practice, and incorporate it in your marketing plan.
Mistake #5: Letting HIPAA scare you away from publishing original content. The threat of incurring a hefty HIPAA fine is enough to deter many would-be healthcare bloggers from sharing their—and their patients’—stories with the cyber-world. For rehab therapists reluctant to write about their experiences online (or in any other public-facing format), HIPAA provides a ready-made excuse to back away from the keyboard.
How to avoid it: HIPAA does not ban you from talking about therapy in generalized terms; it merely prohibits you from disclosing any information that could potentially identify a specific patient—things like names, dates, addresses, and of course, photos. In some cases, sharing clinical information regarding a particular case could be enough to violate HIPAA. Therefore, as Kevin Pho, MD, points out in this blog post, “Better to be safe and obtain written patient permission before posting a patient story online.” If you wish to publish or distribute any content that could potentially identify a patient, ask him or her to sign a release form like this one.
Mistake #6: Failing to track the results of your efforts. The goal of any marketing campaign is to increase business. But if you don’t monitor how your marketing efforts are impacting your bottom line, then what’s the point of putting any more time or money into them?
How to avoid it: There are plenty of ways to gauge how well your current marketing strategy is working. The easiest? Asking new patients how they heard about you and keeping track of their responses. If you want to get a little more technical, use a free web analytics tool such as Google Analytics to figure out how people are finding you online. That way, you can focus your attention on the things that appear to drive the most traffic to your site.
Remember, even if you get tripped up by one of these common marketing pitfalls, all is not lost; simply correct your course and move forward. Have you or your clinic experienced any bumps in the road to effective marketing? How did you overcome them? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.