WebPT recently completed its annual state of rehab therapy survey, and we found some really interesting trends: some positive—and some, well, less-than positive. For starters, as WebPT President Heidi Jannenga wrote here, “the data showing the distribution of men and women in leadership roles appears to be evening out, which means more women are stepping up to take on bigger professional challenges.” That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, though, we also found that the majority of rehab therapy executives either spend nothing on marketing—or have no idea how much they’re spending on marketing. And that’s a bad thing—especially in the age of the patient-consumer. In order to be successful in today’s healthcare climate, healthcare administrators must not only have a marketing budget, but also track the results of each campaign they spend money on. Here’s why:

It’s no longer sustainable to rely solely on physician referrals.

Consolidation in health care is on the rise—and that means more and more physicians end up working in networks with dedicated rehab therapists. So naturally, that’s where their referrals are going. To remain competitive with those providers, independent, private practice rehab therapists must up their marketing game to establish their value with local physicians—specifically, by implementing campaigns based on objective outcomes data that speaks directly to the quality and cost efficiency of their care. Additionally, rehab therapists would be wise to expand their marketing efforts to reach patients directly—before they ever set foot in their physician’s office (if they ever do at all).

So, it’s a good thing that some form of direct access exists in all US states.

Some form of direct access is now available across the US, which means, at the very least, physical therapists can perform an initial evaluation on a patient without a physician referral. And when you do so, it puts you in the role of care coordinator—something physical therapists are uniquely qualified to do for patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions. Once a patient is in your office, you can then use your expertise to determine whether physical therapy is an appropriate treatment path for that particular patient. If it is, great; you can either proceed, or—if you don’t practice in a state with unrestricted direct access—you can send that patient to a PT-friendly physician in your network for the necessary referral. If PT isn’t the best treatment option for that patient, then you can refer him or her out to a provider in another discipline, thereby strengthening your already-growing network. (To learn about the specific direct access rules in your state, check out this free guide—and your state practice act.)

But, none of this is possible unless patients know they can—and should—see you first.

Being legally able to see patients first is all well and fine—but many patients, especially in the US, don’t fully understand the benefits of rehab therapy, which means they’re not likely to seek out your services unaided. We here at WebPT—and all of you reading this—already know that rehab therapy often produces better outcomes at lower price points that other, more invasive interventions, but that’s because we work in this field. The general public doesn’t know what we know—and the only people who can change that are rehab therapists themselves. And that’s going to require spending some money on marketing campaigns designed to educate the patient-consumer about the benefits of first-line rehab therapy services.

The market opportunity to reach new patients is huge.

Earlier this year, the Strive Labs team discovered that less than 10% of all people who could benefit from seeing a physical therapist ever do. That means more than 90% of your potential patients don’t ever make it in to see you. That’s a huge market opportunity that’s currently being missed—and all it would take to remedy this problem is a concerted, unified marketing effort designed to educate people on the long-term benefits of rehab therapy. Just think about what tapping into an extra 10% of that market would do for your business—not to mention the wellbeing of those individuals. From there, you’ll be able to zero on in the unique differentiators of your particular clinic. In other words, your marketing efforts should be two-pronged: (1) market the profession, and then (2) market your practice.

Venturing into the brave new world of modern marketing can be a lot—especially if you’re new to the game. So, click here to download your free copy of Modern Marketing Decoded: A Guide for Rehab Therapists today.

And tapping into it is going to require some trial and error.

Sure, there are some common-sense guidelines when it comes to developing and implementing your marketing strategy—many of which we outline in our new (and totally free) marketing e-book. However, successfully marketing your practice to physicians and patients is going to take some trial and error. That’s why it’s imperative that you not only establish a solid marketing plan—and budget—but also track the results of the campaigns you launch. That way, you’ll know what’s working—and what’s not. Good marketing is an iterative process—even in established markets. So in a relatively untapped market like PT, it’s going to take some willingness to experiment (smartly, of course).

Yes, not spending any of your budget on marketing—or not knowing what your practicing is currently spending on marketing—is the biggest budget mistake in all of rehab therapy. But, that doesn’t have to be the case for long. Start simple, with a solid marketing plan. Then, track the results of each campaign. You’ll quickly learn which strategies resonate with your patients—and you can nix the rest.