Like many of you, I am a private practice owner and the dedicated marketing director of my company. Over the last few years, with the continuous evolution of social media and web development, companies are changing their approach to marketing. Modern digital strategies are replacing more traditional, “old school” marketing. Unless you have been living on Mars—although I bet the NASA rover Curiosity has an email address or website URL on it—it seems like every business is putting all their effort (and money) into online initiatives. Where to spend your marketing dollars and time can get confusing and overwhelming. I want to share with you a few interactions I recently had in hopes of giving you some clarity as to the best way to invest your resources.
I recently met with a local podiatrist (Dr. Foot), who I have known for years. Dr. Foot is a huge fan of social media and spent about 20 minutes showing me a very impressive podiatry app that a large media company developed with him. It allows him to interact with people from around the country, and his administrative assistant told me he is on his iPhone tweeting all day. Dr. Foot then went on to tell me that if healthcare companies are not involved in social media they would all go out of business. At that point I was impressed and decided to ask one simple question: “Dr. Foot, how many new patients have come to your office after looking at your podiatry app?” He looked up at me flustered, as if I just asked him to explain to me Stephen Hawking’s work on quantum gravity. After a long pause, he said, “none, but I enjoy speaking with people from around the country.” If talking to people from around the country about podiatry was his goal, then his podiatry app was a huge success. However, it was a colossal failure and waste of time if the metrics were to increase the profitability of his local podiatry practice.
During an initial evaluation of a 30-year-old woman last week, I asked her how she heard about our office. She reported that her physician handed her three business cards of local physical therapy offices. Fortunately, my business card was one of the three. She then went home and started researching the three companies on her computer. She said one of the companies did not have a website so she could not get any information about it. After reviewing the websites of the two remaining companies, she chose our physical therapy company because of the information presented. I was extremely happy to hear this, because the time and money I put into our website was now paying dividends.
A similar situation recently occurred when a 50-year-old man reported to me that he selected our company over all the other local physical therapy providers his insurance company listed. He reported he picked us because he felt very comfortable after looking at our website.
Clearly, social media and internet marketing should have a place in every physical therapy company’s marketing plan. However, it’s very important to keep a close eye on your return on investment (ROI). Not just financial investment but the investment of your time as well. You can spend all day on Facebooking or Tweeting, developing an app, or building your website, but is it the best use of your resources? An effective marketing plan should combine traditional—but proven—practices, such as advertisements and word of mouth, as well as more modern, digital strategies.