One of the best ways to make your mark in your local market is to embrace your community with open arms—and an open house (so to speak). Community events are a great way to draw potential patients to your clinic—especially if your practice is in a small town or a tight-knit community. You can use events to showcase what your practice is all about, or even just to interact with patients in a relaxed setting, when your mind isn’t buzzing around productivity requirements or Medicare's latest data-reporting program. But hosting a successful community event isn’t as simple as posting flyers and crossing your fingers: as with any marketing endeavor, you must have a strategy that oozes intention. So, let’s get down to brass tacks and discuss some healthcare open house ideas.
Determine your goals and define your audience.
Your first to-do is deciding what you’re trying to accomplish with your community event—and who you should invite. Are you hoping to attract a new subset of patients? Holding a grand opening and trying to nurture community awareness? Celebrating a clinic milestone? Trying to generate new patients and referrals by unveiling a new product or service? Whatever the purpose behind your event is, you need to define your target audience and figure out what you want them to take away from the event.
Plan the event around your audience.
So, you have an audience in mind, and you know what you want your audience to do after attending your event. Great! Now, you need to plan your event around your audience and goals. After all, the general public won’t be interested in the same event as, say, potential referring providers. Let’s run through a couple of examples:
You’re interested in sliding into the sports therapy market—specifically with patients who are long- and mid-distance runners. So, you decide to host a community event where you provide a free running gait analysis and injury screening. You reach out and invite the local running and track clubs as well as the local community college track team.
It’s the grand opening of your practice’s new geriatric location, and you want to encourage patients to check out your clinic (and maybe court some physician referrals, while you’re at it). You decide to host an “open house” event at your clinic, where you’ll offer food and drinks, deliver a short presentation about your practice and the treatments you provide (along with their benefits), and spend time mingling with attendees. You reach out and invite existing patients, the local senior event clubs, and other local providers.
Create an event you’d like to attend.
Really think about what interests your target audience, and feel free to get creative! You don’t have to limit your events to educational seminars or procedure demonstrations. This article, for instance, suggests an art show as a potential event for an ophthalmology clinic. Your PT clinic could host a coordination olympics—or a class on proper stretching.
Even if you’re sticking with a more formal, informational event, don’t be afraid to plan fun activities to keep the atmosphere relaxed (e.g., raffles, office scavenger hunts, or live music). And don’t skimp on the refreshments, either. You don’t need to break the bank to provide attendees with an expensive meal, but saltines and water aren’t going to cut it.
Pick your location, date, and time.
Figure out where you’ll host the event. There are benefits to hosting it inside your clinic (e.g., it’s cheaper and easier to plan), but there are perks to renting nearby rooms or venues as well (e.g., more seating and a better presentation space). It really depends on what type of event you’re planning.
You also need to set a date for your event. Typically, Thursday is the best day for a healthcare event because it won’t conflict with weekend plans—but you’ll also want to be sure that your shindig won’t conflict with any big local events or holidays. And don’t forget to account for the weather! Nothing kills a party like a big ol’ blizzard.
At this point, I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but picking your event’s time is yet another strategic decision you must make. If you’re competing with typical work hours, then you’re going to have a tough time reeling in attendees. For this reason, most events have the best attendance when they occur in the late afternoon or early evening.
That’s not always the case, though. If you do decide to host a weekend event, then an early afternoon or late morning start time may serve you better. You’ll also need to decide if you’re leaning more toward an open-house situation where people can filter in an out at their discretion, or an event with scheduled activities and a concrete start and end time.
Set your budget.
Your event doesn’t have to come with an intimidating price tag—it can be as inexpensive as you’d like it to be. But sometimes, spending a little moolah gives your event the pizzaz it needs to really be successful. Take these costs into consideration when calculating your budget:
- Food (e.g., charcuterie boards, vegetable trays, fruit platters, finger sandwiches)
- Drinks (e.g., water, soda, juice, ice, alcohol*)
- Decorations (e.g., balloons, flowers)
- Staff (e.g., PTs and/or office staff who stay after hours)
- Advertising (e.g., flyers, ads in the local newspaper)
- Miscellaneous (e.g., location rentals, swag, live music, equipment rentals)
*Note: While there’s nothing technically stopping you from serving alcohol to of-age adults, it’s not necessary—and it can potentially detract from your event.
Track your RSVPs.
If you’re hosting a class, you might want to create (and track) a registration list, and even cap the number of attendees. On the other hand, an open house might not merit an RSVP list at all—unless you want to get an accurate idea of how much food you’ll need. In any case, if you decide to track your RSVPs, you’ll want to make the process as simple as possible for attendees. Provide them with a phone number to call or an email address to contact, and create a spreadsheet of all respondents.
Clean up the joint.
If you’re hosting the event in your clinic, take the time to spruce up your space. There are few things less welcoming than a dirty, cluttered space, so wipe the blinds, vacuum the carpets, wash the windows, and eradicate all dust bunnies before your event takes place. Address any repair needs in your location (think dripping faucets or chipped paint), and make sure your clinic has a neutral smell.
Cover your legal bases.
If you’re planning anything beyond an open house and a quick slideshow presentation—in other words, if you want to host a yoga class, offer injury screenings, or provide free wellness services—then you need to make sure your event won’t accidentally cross any legal boundaries. Check in with your legal counsel to make sure you’re under the umbrella of your liability coverage, and verify whether you need attendees to sign waivers. Also, if you plan to host a class, ensure that your instructors are certified.
The Marketing Strategy
Market your event digitally.
You can’t have a party without party people! Post about your event on all your social media pages (including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), send emails to the patients and contacts you think might be interested in attending, and put event invites on your practice’s website. Additionally, you could tap your personal network and ask other local businesses to promote your event. If there are any local event websites or guides, reach out to see if you can get on their digital calendars.
Consider in-person or traditional marketing.
A great way to secure event attendees is to find, meet, and invite them face-to-face. If you’re trying to attract specific subsets of patients—like the runners I mentioned previously—figure out when and where the local running clubs meet, and get permission to show up and pitch your event in person. You can also post flyers in community spaces or take out ads in the local newspaper.
And there you have it! I hope you feel prepared to host a community event at your PT clinic. It’s a great way to promote your practice and give back to the community in one fell swoop. I wish you luck, and happy hosting!