Congratulations—you’ve finally fulfilled your dream and opened your very own brand-new PT clinic! The walls have a fresh coat of paint, you have a first-class documentation and billing software in place, and your gym equipment is ready to get broken in. Now, all you need are patients to fill up the space. But, that’s easier said than done; marketing a brand-new clinic is a little different than marketing an established practice. For example, pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is a wonderful strategy for drawing in new patients—but it’s not feasible when you don’t have the revenue to support it. So, what’s a newly minted PT clinic owner to do? Start with a strong (and affordable) marketing foundation.

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1. Create your brand.

Before you market your clinic, you need to establish a brand that reflects your practice’s goals and voice. For the uninitiated, a practice’s brand is, as we say here, “a witches’ brew of emotional and factual information about your clinic.” So, if you’re looking to treat children, you probably want your brand to be friendly, inviting, and fun. You can model that in your marketing by creating a colorful, whimsical logo and website—and by offering informational content that speaks to both parents and children. Think strategically about your brand, as it will say a lot about your clinic’s mission and personality—and it’ll be reflected in all of your marketing efforts.

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2. Make a website.

If you don’t already have a website, you need to make one—stat! As Scott Hebert, PT, DPT, said in our webinar about Internet marketing, a 2013 Pew Research Center study discovered that 77% of online healthcare seekers started their search on a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing, or Yahoo). Without a website—and a user-friendly, informative one to boot—how are all those searchers ever going to find your clinic?

Website Must-Haves

When you first make your website, start with all the mission-critical basics. In other words, make sure your site has information that’s crucial to your patients’ ability to contact and visit you—like your clinic’s hours, location, and phone number. You’ll also want to provide a list of accepted insurances, scheduling information, and the conditions you treat.

Website Nice-to-Haves

From there, sprinkle in some SEO plays, make sure your site is mobile-friendly, and start a blog. If all of this seems like a little too much to handle, that’s okay! You can always hire someone to make a website for you. Just be sure that you allot a small budget for site upgrades, because website and SEO best practices are always changing.

3. Establish a rapport with local physicians.

When you’re first starting out, it’s important to get in touch with local physicians and establish your practice as a reputable place to refer patients. Making nice with physicians is crucial for generating an initial patient flow, and it can help lend credibility toward the PT profession as a whole. In this day and age, though, a fruit basket or catered lunch isn’t going to go very far. Instead, you need to forge referral relationships rooted in data (like outcomes and NPS® data) that demonstrates the quality of your care and the measurable benefits you provide to your patients.

4. Keep in touch with past patients.

Keeping in touch with past patients is a great way to get them thinking of you as more than a one-time episodic provider. Instead, they’ll start to see you as a lifetime practitioner—like a primary care doctor for all their musculoskeletal needs. Maintaining a dialogue after discharge can also go a long way toward convincing former patients to take the leap and check out your new practice—especially if they develop another pain or mobility issue you could help them solve. Maybe your new practice is a little farther away from them, but they appreciate the relationship you’ve fostered and are willing to make the trek. Or, maybe your new practice is actually closer—and now they’re more willing to seek treatment from you than ever before.

5. Host a grand opening (or any event).

Hosting a community event—whether that’s a grand opening or a free injury clinic—is a great way to attract potential patients or referring physicians to your practice and introduce them to your brand and treatment style. Be deliberate when you plan your community event. If you want to attract young patients, then consider a fun, game-filled event with side activities for the parents. If you want to attract referring MDs, consider planning an educational event where you demonstrate your therapeutic techniques. If you play to your crowd and invite the right people, your event could potentially drum up a lot of business for your practice.

6. Track your stats from the get-go.

This is less of a marketing tip, and more a “general success” tip. Many business owners—inside and outside of health care—make the mistake of letting the marketing chips fall where they may, and they often push metrics-tracking off somewhere down the line. But, that won’t set anyone up for success. You absolutely should track your stats right off the bat so you know which marketing campaigns are successful—and which ones aren’t worth the investment. Think of it this way: this is the time when you need the biggest marketing bang for your buck. Don’t you want to pinpoint the most effective marketing strategies as quickly as possible?

Starting a business takes mountains of time and dedication—especially when that business is a PT practice. But if you put the axe to the grindstone and provide top-notch service (and dedicate part of your budget to top-notch marketing) you’re sure to succeed. Good luck!

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