People often ask me how I market my cash-based practice. They're under the impression that my marketing strategy must be completely different from that of a traditional, insurance-based clinic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In my opinion, every physical therapy practice should market based on the assumption that patients will vote with their dollars.
Therefore, we should all market our physical therapy practices as if they're cash-based practices. Why? Because the savvy patient wants to know: “Why should I come to you for treatment?” As co-pays rise and patients (consumers) become more knowledgeable about their options, we need to differentiate ourselves from the crowd.
My colleague, Jerry Durham, PT, and I have written about determining your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) on my blog, which may help you to determine why your ideal customer should purchase from you rather than anyone else. Once you determine your UVP, you need to be able to articulate it to potential clients, and your marketing plan will help you determine the methods and media you use to do just that.
Your marketing plan may include running print ads, sharing blog posts, volunteering your clinic’s services at local races and events, participating in local health fairs, and bringing lunches to doctors' offices. These are all valid ways that physical therapists share their UVP with potential patients (and referral sources) in the hopes of gaining their business.
This is all necessary; yet, if you stop with marketing (lead generation), you will limp along from month to month, without truly knowing which marketing avenues are paying off. A good analogy is to ask yourself if you would continue to do the same treatment over and over on a patient without ever doing a reassessment to see if you were making objective progress toward goals. Hopefully, you answered “no” to this question. And yet, many therapists use a similar head-in-the-sand approach to their marketing plan.
A successful business must go beyond activities for lead generation and use techniques to track data on lead conversion, which we define as the number of new patients scheduled and seen divided by total inquiry calls to your office. For example, if 100 patients call your office to inquire about your services and you schedule and see 80 of those patients, that is an 80% conversion rate.
When you track data on lead conversion, you can see where your marketing efforts are paying off (and where they aren’t). This objective data allows you to measure how new patients are finding you. For example, many clinics volunteer at local races and events. Your clinic may continue to do this for years, assuming that it is a great marketing tactic. But on the other hand, if you have only received four inquiries in two years from potential patients who heard of you at these events, it probably isn’t wise to keep doing this activity as part of your marketing plan. You may still do it to give back to the community or to be an ambassador for our profession, but understand that you're not generating enough new business from that particular effort for it be successful marketing.
Additionally, when you are measuring the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts, if you only track data on the patients who actually schedule, you are only getting half the picture. Your front office staff should be tracking every single call to determine how each caller found your clinic. If you only track scheduled appointments (four over two years in the previous example), you may not know that 30 people called the office after an event. You can learn a great deal from those who call and don’t schedule an appointment:
- Were they looking for a therapist with a particular skill set that you don’t offer in your clinic?
- Did they decline scheduling because you aren’t near a public transit stop or you don’t have parking?
You can use this information to either fix the problem (hire a therapist with the desired skill set) or make a change (open a clinic in a location well served by public transportation).
In summary, by determining your UVP, you can develop a marketing campaign around sharing your value. By tracking calls to your office, you can determine which marketing efforts are paying off through lead conversion. And by talking with patients who don’t end up scheduling an appointment, you can determine if you can make changes to become more desirable to your target audience. Then, once you get patients in the door, you can turn them into brand ambassadors for your practice by impressing them with the quality of care you provide as a licensed physical therapist. It’s a win-win situation!