If you want to build a successful physical therapy clinic, there are a few non-negotiables you’ll want to keep in mind, and one of those is building a solid brand. In order to brand a PT clinic, you’ll need to know who you’re serving, why you’re serving them, what you’ll provide, and how you’ll generate income in the process. Of course, there are tons of additional—and equally important—considerations, including your company’s legal structure, payer mix, and technology stack. But when you’re in those first stages of developing your clinic’s philosophy and brand, your who, what, and why are crucial.
What is a brand?
The reason it’s so important to know your who, what, and why from day one is that your clinic’s brand—essentially, what the general public thinks about when they hear your name—hinges on the answers to those questions. On the flipside, your brand also helps shape those thoughts—which means it can help you attract the right people to your practice (and dissuade the wrong people from booking appointments with you). That way, you can treat your clientele to the very best of your ability.
Facts + Emotions = Brand
You can think of your brand as a witches’ brew of emotional and factual information about your clinic. For example, people might know that one clinic’s colors are red and gray, its logo is crisp and clear with a bold font, and its overall tone and vibe are cutting-edge. That makes discriminating patients feel secure and confident in their choice to receive expert treatment at that facility. Another clinic’s colors might be lavender and peach, with a soft, pillow-like logo, swirling text, and a warm overall vibe. This might inspire feelings of comfort and security in patients seeking a safe space to discuss their physical challenges.
There is no right or wrong way to brand your clinic, provided you have a rationale behind your decision. For example, if you’re treating children, you’ll probably want to commit to a youthful and whimsical brand, and if you’re treating cyclists, you’ll want an energetic, slick brand.
Now that we’ve covered what a brand is, let’s go over six keys to properly brand your PT clinic.
1. Understand your who, what, and why.
Knowing who you want to help, why you want to help them, and what you will provide to solve their problems is extremely important when it comes to building your brand.
- The Who: Think about the patient population you’re going to serve, including age, interests, motivation level, activity level, and typical therapy goals.
- The What: Consider the tools and interventions you’ll use, your overall treatment philosophy (e.g., passive vs. active), and the pace at which you will work with your patients. Will you be a high-volume clinic, or will you be providing longer treatment sessions with more one-on-one time?
- The Why: Explore your reasons for treating these patients. Do you want to help them return to sports? Be more independent? Have more confidence? Return to intimate activities?
The answers to these questions will be invaluable as you craft your message and form your overall brand.
2. Create an aesthetic to match your brand.
Your logo, font, color pallette, and overall aesthetic should reflect your brand. If you have established that your pediatrics brand is playful and whimsical, consider a fat, round-edged font. Conversely, if you intend to appeal to competitive athletes, try a tall, slanted font.
Choose the Right Swag
Many clinics create swag as part of their branding efforts. It’s tempting to blindly order pens, water bottles, or t-shirts without putting much thought into the “why.” If you’re serving pediatric patients, pens might be a bit silly—unless you’re a pediatric OT clinic focusing on handwriting! In that case, you might want to pick some brightly colored pens to hand out to patients as they progress. A cycling clinic might opt for branded water bottles in the shape that fits in water bottle holders on bikes. A yoga-focused clinic might opt for flowy tank tops.
Consider the Clinic’s Interior Design
Aesthetic goes beyond colors, logos, apparel, and other branding materials. The clinic itself, if possible, should match the overall branding from your website and business cards. If a patient books an appointment at Cutting-Edge PT, which boasts a slick gray and red website with images of athletes using modern equipment––but then the clinic’s actual treatment tables are worn and the carpet needs replacing, it detracts from your projected brand.
3. Use language that matches your brand.
The language you use on your website, brochures, and other promotional materials can support, or detract from, your PT clinic’s brand.
There are plenty of vocal healthcare professionals who illustrate this point. For example, consider the difference in tone between, say, ZDoggMD (Zubin Damania, MD) and Atul Gawande, MD. While Damania has branded himself (even his name, if you think about it) as a fresh, dissenting voice of change in our broken healthcare system, Gawande takes a much more gentle, yet powerful, approach to disseminating his message of change.
Create a Tone of Voice
How you speak and write about your clinic should match your brand. Some call this a clinic’s “tone of voice.” If you’re targeting a fun, active population of triathletes, you might use a lot of slang in your tone to keep things young and fun. Sentences might start with “and” or “but,” and there might be some humor in the mix.
Conversely, for a clinic treating pelvic dysfunctions, the content might be more focused on establishing trust and ensuring a discreet experience. The language will likely be much more gentle and encouraging.
4. Hire people who represent your brand.
Your clinic might be approachable, fun, and youthful, or it might pride itself on developing strong athletic competitors. Whatever the case, hire people who understand your patient population and overall brand. This has nothing to do with age or gender, but it does mean you should hire employees who fully appreciate and embrace your who, what, and why.
5. Attend the right events.
If your clinic caters specifically to runners and other endurance athletes, you’ll probably want to set up a booth at local road races and other running events in your region. A well-meaning colleague might suggest that you set up a booth at a local arthritis walk, and while that might boost your visibility, it also could attract an older clientele that likely does not run competitively.
Similarly, if you’re targeting your branding to a somewhat active older adult population, the arthritis walk might be the perfect place to set up a booth. This all comes back to understanding your patient population—your “who”—as well as what your community has to offer potential event attendees.
6. Spend your marketing dollars wisely.
Part of building a PT clinic brand, as mentioned above, is truly understanding your target audience. And a significant part of understanding your audience is knowing how to reach them. While direct mail and newspaper advertisements might work well for an older audience, younger patients tend to spend more time browsing the web and using social media.
Depending on your target audience, optimizing your site for search, running an Instagram or Snapchat account, or building a Facebook group might be a better use of your marketing resources than newspaper ads.
A good way to determine where you should be investing your marketing budget is to ask your potential or current patients where they go for recommendations. If they say they use Yelp for restaurants or Google and TripAdvisor for travel, you’ll know that your money will be best invested in online marketing efforts. If they say they ask friends, clip coupons, or read columns in magazines, you’ll know that you need to invest in those channels instead.
At the end of the day, your branding should be as consistent as possible, but it will (and should) evolve as your PT clinic grows. Many of you have successfully branded your own clinics. Comment below to let us know what has and hasn’t worked for you!
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.