In the digital age, it’s easy for physical therapists to get caught up in developing a social media presence at the expense of developing face-to-face relationships in their own communities. While it’s vital to have an easy-to-navigate website that uses SEO to reach your target audience, there are a few things you can add to your marketing program to develop a strong local presence. Here are five ways to connect with your community and build relationships that support your business:

  1. Connect personally with other business owners. My office is located in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Through the Old Town Boutique District, a group of small business owners who work together to maintain a vibrant shopping neighborhood, I have developed friendships with some amazing people, and I’ve received mentoring from a number of successful owners in industries other than healthcare. These business owners are able to refer potential clients to me (one of them owns a shoe store and refers her customers who complain of foot pain). In turn, I shop in the local stores, and I also refer clients to them. It’s a win/win for everyone.
  2. Offer community education and movement programs. Work with the Parks and Recreation Department in your town to co-sponsor events that get people moving. Walking, running, and cycling events are popular and provide a venue to discuss health and wellness with members of your community. When you build relationships and offer valuable information and programs, people are more likely to think of you when they need physical therapy. Fellow physical therapist Brian Finch described how he did this in his community here. If you decide to adopt this strategy as part of your marketing program, be sure to keep track of the number of clients you get from these events.
  3. Write for local publications. Most cities and towns have local papers or online magazines that need content. I have been fortunate enough to develop relationships with a number of these publications, and I frequently contribute to Northern Virginia magazine and Washingtonian online. These publications are highly visible to my target audience and provide a perfect opportunity to introduce potential clients to physical therapy. When you provide content in your area of expertise, you will draw your perfect clients to your practice. I’m often amazed by clients who call to schedule an appointment because they read one of my articles two years after it was published.
  4. Create brand ambassadors. When you provide high-quality service to your patients, they will be happy to tell others in the community about your practice. Your perfect patients already understand your value; you don’t need to convince them. Their values align with your unique value proposition (UVP), so they’ll be happy to work with you and tell others about their experiences. As the saying goes, “When you talk about your business, it’s marketing; when others talk about your business, it’s PR.” Word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways of drawing new clients to your practice.
  5. Collaborate with other professionals. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only building relationships with other physical therapists, but we need to branch out. Get to know personal trainers, massage therapists, hairstylists, and manicurists. These service providers interact with clients all day long and often hear about pain that their clients are experiencing. If you have built good relationships with them, they will happily refer clients to you (and you can refer to them as well).

I hope that these tips are helpful. I find that building relationships with members of my community is an effective way of marketing without the “hard sell.” What are some ways that you build community?

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