Call me old fashioned, but writing thoughtful, handwritten letters is a lost art. There’s nothing like sitting down and putting pen to paper to make one feel like a character in a Jane Austen novel. That said, while sending out handwritten notes is a great way to make recipients feel special, the fast and furious pace of modern life leaves little room to wax poetic for every communication—even when those communications are going to your patients.
Attracting patients can be a big struggle—one that, especially in smaller clinics, often leaves therapists and practice owners wondering exactly how to get more business. And although we’ve talked a lot about some common strategies you can use to lure in new patients (and retain old ones), there are some less-visible forces that could be pulling in a small portion of your patient pool.
Unless you have a complete monopoly (or run an incredibly niche-based practice), word-of-mouth efforts generally won’t keep your clinic’s doors open. Marketing is an essential part of running a healthy PT clinic, and while many clinics keep a dedicated marketing specialist on staff, smaller clinics might not have the budget to do so. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to leverage existing clinical staff to help with marketing efforts—and they’ll get the chance to flex their creative muscles in the process!
If you’re like many physical therapists and practice owners, promoting your clinic’s brand often feels akin to stumbling across a minefield loaded with revenue-destroying marketing mishaps and blunders. Or perhaps you feel lost in a maze of budgetary figures, ever-changing social media platforms, and web design and development. But, as long as you stick to a few rules of thumb, you can easily avoid an expensive mistake. To that end, here are some major dos and don’ts to consider as you market your physical therapy practice:
Surely: Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to open a private practice
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.
As a clinic owner, director, or manager, you know that marketing―both to consumers and referrers―is crucial to your business’s success. And as with any new endeavor, it’s good to have a plan. As Joanna L. Krotz at Microsoft Business explains, “a marketing plan gives you a roadmap that can drive action and point the way.” Beyond that, a marketing plan can help:
Remember the movie Glengarry Glen Ross with Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, and Alec Baldwin? While it certainly isn’t the most uplifting of films, the famous line still lives on: “Always be closing” (please note that this link contains R-rated language).
This month, we’re talking a lot about marketing rehab therapy to consumers. And while that’s an important piece of the marketing puzzle—especially in a world dominated by search engines and social media—we’d be remiss to skip over another key method of generating more business for your practice: referral marketing. To significantly boost the number of referrals you receive, you’ve got to be proactive. So, here’s a rundown of some referral marketing best practices to help drive more patients through your front door.
The purpose of this month’s blog theme—small business best practices—is to help you be better in business. And as any business guru will tell you, advertising is a huge factor in not only creating new business, but also in solidifying brand identity. As a small business owner, you probably don’t have a lot of money to throw at media buying opportunities. But if you’re smart, you can get a lot out of the ad spots you do purchase—even on a tight budget. Here is how you can create an advertising plan for your practice while maximizing your marketing dollar:
One way to better market the physical therapy profession is to ensure that you’re appropriately marketing your own clinic. As is the case with any business, you need to know your audience. A common mistake is the “we’ll-fit-anyone” approach. You either end up clueless as to how to promote your clinic or cast too wide of a net, catching flitting minnows rather than loyal marlins. But by narrowing your focus—by finding your niche—you can better position yourself and your profession to increase business. Your marketing will be targeted, specific, and tailored to attract potential patients.
Finding Your Niche
In a whitepaper entitled “Build Your Practice by Finding Your Physical Therapy Niche,” Jeff Worrell suggests a few ways rehab therapists can go about finding their niche: “Take some time to jot down your experiences on a piece of paper…be as specific as possible. Look for similarities and highlight the experiences that are similar.” For example, our very own Heidi Jannenga experienced a sports-related injury in college and received physical therapy as a result. After college, she carved her specialty in athletic rehab therapy.
Worrell also offers a questionnaire as a guide to finding your niche:
- What type of physical therapy work do you enjoy doing?
- What is the market potential for the area you are interested in focusing on?
- What type of patients do you enjoy working with?
- What experience do you have that can help you be successful in your chosen niche?
- Are there other physical therapists who have built a successful practice in this niche?
Still in school or doing some PT soul searching? Try immersing yourself in several different specialties to find where your heart truly lies. You can also peruse Monster’s list of emerging PT specialties.
Marketing Your Niches
Nailed down your niche? Now it’s time to market to your prospective patients.
Go Where the Prospects Are
Seek out publications, websites, and other advertising opportunities within your niche market to promote your services. Additionally, make sure you’ve amassed a library of online reviews from patients who are representative of your ideal patient market. (Having trouble pinpointing those patients? A top-notch patient relationship management software like WebPT Reach can help automate the review request process.)
You can even take it a step further, like Heidi did. When Heidi’s husband (and WebPT President) Brad was obtaining his archery instructor certification, the two frequented numerous sporting goods stores. Through Brad, Heidi met many wilderness athletes, and she discovered they all suffered from some sort of musculoskeletal injury (for archers, shoulder injuries are incredibly common). Heidi began treating some of these athletes, and her customer base grew through word of mouth. At that point, Heidi realized, as the director of a clinic, that there were opportunities to expand her business by exploring the wilderness athlete market. Because she had frequented so many sporting goods stores, Heidi had established relationships with the managers and employees who let her leave flyers at the different stores, promoting her services as a PT specializing in treating archers and other wilderness athletes.
So you’ve tacked up flyers, bought ad spaces, and sought out places where you can connect with prospects. Now kick it up a notch by fully immersing yourself in your niche’s community. For example, Washington’s Bike Therapy, or Corpore Sano PT, specializes in physical therapy for bicyclists. According to their website, in addition to ensuring proper bike fit, they bring patients their “extensive musculoskeletal knowledge, bike industry and equipment experience, and looking at the goals of bike riders from all walks of life.” They share their “experience, knowledge of physicality—strength, flexibility and conditioning—to work out everyday on-the-bike issues that hold you back from reaching your goals.”
The full-blown bike devotion doesn’t end with their elevator pitch, though. BikePT offers classes; online education through blog posts, newsletters, and articles; and bike buyer’s guides. Most importantly, though, they sponsor and participate in biking events, like this past weekend’s Cycle the Wave.
Be a Thought Leader
At the point that you’ve promoted and immersed yourself in the community, you’ve basically become a thought leader for your PT specialty. As a thought leader, you can apply your knowledge online through social and blogging as well as in your community, like BikePT’s classes and seminars.