There’s a lot at stake when it comes to successfully marketing your physical therapy practice—as well as your profession. But unfortunately, many physical therapists avoid the topic altogether. After all, marketing is closely related to sales—and sales often gets a bad rap. But, we’re not about the hard-ball, cringe-worthy, manipulative sales tactics that make us all uncomfortable; instead, we’re all about positioning your value in such a way that your audience can actually relate to it—and decide for themselves whether they want to partake in your services. Think about it this way: without marketing yourself, without sharing the value of what you have to offer, without singing the praises of your profession, how can prospective patients possibly make an informed decision about their health care options? How can referral sources choose you over another provider in your area? And how can payers finally recognize physical therapy as a valuable, cost-effective solution for their beneficiaries—as opposed to a cost to be managed?
With all that in mind, here are several physical therapy marketing ideas that won’t make you cringe:
1. Get to know what your patients value.
WebPT President Heidi Jannenga has been talking about the physical therapy branding problem for a while now, and that’s because it’s a big part of the reason why 90% of patients who could benefit from seeing a physical therapist never receive your care: they don’t know what you do and how it could benefit them. And the only people who can change that are PTs. Plus, because it’s becoming nearly impossible for private practice PTs to rely on physician referrals and survive—hello, consolidation—PTs who wish to remain in business must figure out how to reach patient-consumers directly (i.e., market to them). But in order to communicate a message that actually lands with this audience, you first must identify their values—and the best way to do that is to ask. You can start during the initial evaluation by asking patients questions designed to uncover their motivations, fears, and frustrations—about their injuries and conditions as well as the physical therapy process itself.
Identify trends at scale.
You can also collect feedback at regular intervals—and regularly read your online reviews—to identify larger trends about the things your patients value in their healthcare providers. Then, use the information you gather to inform your marketing messages—to prospective patients as well as current ones. Here are two examples Jannenga offers in this Founder Letter:
- “If your patients value receiving stellar educational content and an interactive home exercise program, then you could highlight the benefits of your top-notch HEP.”
- “If your patients value a speedy recovery process, then you could showcase your arsenal of outcomes data proving that the treatment you provide for patients with say, low back pain, produces better results in a quicker time-frame than national averages.”
2. Market your value—not your credentials.
As Jannenga explains in the same letter, the key to recognizing your value is to “know thyself, specifically, by understanding what you’re exceptional at.” For example, she asked, “Do you have a passion for treating patients post-ACL surgery or a penchant for helping geriatric patients avoid falls—and do you have the risk-adjusted outcomes data to prove how good you are at it? Is your communication style one that connects with the younger generations—or are you adept at making seniors feel heard and keeping them engaged in their care?” To put it another way, Jannenga recommends you discover your “ideal patient, because that’s who will receive the most value from you.” Just be sure that when you’re communicating with patients, payers, and peers, you focus on the actual value you’re able to provide—bonus points if you can back it up with objective data—not on your credentials. No one wants to hear a healthcare provider rattle off a list of awards or accomplishments—unless those awards or accomplishments directly relate to how that provider can help that person achieve his or her goals.
3. Use the channels that your audience uses.
Most patients today are doing gobs of online research before selecting a healthcare provider, which is why it’s imperative that you market yourself online. That means having a professional, current, easily findable website chock full of valuable information, including frequently asked questions—and their answers—as well as clear directions for contacting your clinic. Your website is also the perfect place to begin establishing yourself as a thought-leader by providing expertly researched and well-written content that fosters trust among prospective patients, potential referrers, and payers.
As WebPT’s Kylie McKee suggests in this article, you’ll also want to “get social”—i.e., maintain an active social media presence on channels such as Facebook and Twitter. McKee quotes fellow WebPTer Brooke Andrus as saying , “These days it’s pretty much business suicide to rely solely on outbound forms of marketing like ads and direct mail. Plus, in addition to being more cost-effective than traditional methods, inbound, content-based campaigns allow you to more genuinely showcase your expertise and value.” Just be sure that you use those platforms to actually engage with patients online: in most cases, you’ll need to be the one starting the conversations and following up.
Could your practice’s website use a dose of TLC? Are you worried that potential patients aren’t finding you online? Have your attempts at connecting with patients over social media fizzled out—or worse, backfired? If so, download your free copy of Modern Marketing Decoded: A Guide for Rehab Therapists.
4. Don’t forget current patients.
As WebPT’s Charlotte Bohnett explains here, “all too often, businesses get so caught up in their efforts to acquire new customers that they forget to retain the ones they already have.” And as Jannenga explains in this article, patients dropping out of therapy early is a $6 billion problem plaguing the industry (and “jeopardizing…patients’ quality of life”). While you may think that the exceptional care you provide should speak for itself when it comes to motivating current patients to complete their courses of care, that’s not always the case—especially if you haven’t:
- prioritized the patient experience, or
- properly communicated the value of physical therapy and set clear expectations about the therapy process.
The former scenario may lead patients to bail on your clinic in favor of one that provides the extra attention they’re looking for; and the latter may lead patients who aren’t experiencing the quick recovery they hoped for to bail on PT altogether.
Keep them engaged.
To keep current patients engaged in their care, Bohnett recommends that providers:
- Communicate effectively with—and actively listen to—their patients;
- Prioritize the patient experience from the first interaction to the last; and
- Adopt technology such as automatic appointment reminders, an interactive HEP program, and patient relationship management (PRM) software that enables providers to not only connect with patients between appointments and after discharge, but also collect patient feedback to better inform operational decisions. (Bonus points if your PRM software also enables you to automatically contact your already-pleased patients to ask them for online reviews—hello, word-of-mouth marketing—thereby strengthening your online reputation and generating new patients.)
While there’s a lot wrong in physical therapy marketing today, there’s also a lot right—especially as more and more physical therapists embrace marketing (and sales) for the powerful tool it can be. To learn more about how to discover your unique value—and sell it with integrity—join Jannenga and special guest host Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, for a free webinar this month. Register to attend here—and if you can’t make the live event, register anyway; you’ll receive an email with the recorded version and handout.