If you’re a private practice rehab therapist looking to grow your business, you have a lot of options for attracting new patients—from diversifying your revenue stream with unique services to boosting your marketing spend. A less obvious—but equally important—piece of the growing-your-practice puzzle: tapping your existing customer base to help you gain new customers.
In this guest post, PT and author Paul Potter shares ten strategies for driving more patients into your clinic.
Is your physical therapy practice a cut above the rest? Find out by calculating your Net Promote Score.
Starting a clinic in a new city—with new referral sources and limited networks—can be very challenging. But with the right online marketing strategy, you can expedite the process. In fact, over the last three months, I’ve been able to grow my patient base by using old school word-of-mouth marketing and establishing an online presence in the local community. There are many ways to use the power of the Internet to market to patients and referring providers, and in this post, I’ll provide one tip for each area of digital marketing—blogging, social media, and email—that has produced results for me.
1. Write Blogs Patients Actually Want to Read
More and more, patients are using search engines like Google to find physical therapy services. Direct access has played a major role in this change, and patients are taking it upon themselves to do the research and find the right physical therapists for their needs. Almost all physical therapy websites have pages dedicated to highlighting their teams, their areas of specialization, what services they offer, and where to find them. So, how can you make your clinic stand out online? Writing engaging blog posts is an excellent first step toward standing out from the crowd.
Most physical therapists, including myself, aren’t Hemingway. For that reason, writing a blog post may seem like a daunting task. So, break it down to something simpler: If you had to write one blog post this month, what would it be about? How do you know your audience is looking for that type of information? To get a better look at your prospective patients’ online behavior, you can use Google Webmasters—a free Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google search results—in conjunction with Google Analytics, another free service that helps you monitor website activity. Google Webmaster allows you to see what keywords led your visitors to your website. In my case, I saw that I had a couple of users who were looking for ways to prevent skiing injuries. Based on this piece of data, I organized my blog calendar to prioritize posts about skiing and snowboarding-related topics above all else. I then shared my blog posts across all my social media channels—including Google+, Twitter, and Facebook—and, with help from Google Analytics, I’ve been able to track how many new web visitors I garnered as a result of the posts as well as which social media channels were the most effective in driving traffic to those posts. Making time for writing can be difficult—especially when you have a good volume of patient visits—but it’s an important activity that will help to attract new patients.
2. Ask Patients to Share Their Experiences
In addition to using search engines to look for physical therapy services, patients are consulting review sites like Yelp to find clinics and read reviews from current and former patients. In this post, I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details of how Yelp works (for more information, read this post), but a general rule of thumb is having a healthy number of highly-rated reviews—especially compared to your competition—from Yelp users who have a strong history of reviewing on Yelp will increase your clinic’s ranking on this particularly influential directory.
We love hearing how we have positively impacted our patients’ lives, and—as simple as this may sound—asking our patients for reviews has been our best way of getting them. As the old saying goes, ask and you shall receive. We educate our patients on how testimonials play a huge role in:
- helping future patients decide where to seek medical care and
- determining where doctors refer their patients.
We ask our customers for feedback online via an automated survey and I follow-up with our patients a week later if I don’t hear back. In addition to asking customers for feedback online, we always ask for feedback after every visit. That way, we can make sure they are getting the service they want.
As a physical therapists, we love helping people get back to functioning and living pain free, but if we’re also passionate about enlisting our patients as advocates for building our practices—via testimonials, reviews, and social media participation—we can grow our practices and thus, help even more people.
In this month’s founder letter, Heidi explains why WebPT created the Mean Tweets video and why she wants PTs to get on Twitter and share with the world their value.
Before the dawn of the Internet, building a community—around a business, an institution, or any other entity of mutual interest—required a heavy investment of face time (and I’m not talking about the iPhone app). These days, though, starting a conversation around virtually any topic is as easy as hitting “Enter.” But as with face-to-face interactions, it’s one thing to run your mouth—or in this case, your keyboard—and another to wrangle your listeners’ interest enough to get them talking, too. With that in mind, here are some tips for creating—and leveraging—social media content that will foster a true sense of community among your online followers.
1. Get educated.
You’re already an expert when it comes to providing top-notch rehab therapy services—but what do you know about the people seeking those services? Specifically, what do you know about their social media habits? If those questions have you scratching your head, it’s time to do a little research. (Don’t worry—it’s not the kind that requires a trip to the library.) Do a bit of social media sleuthing on a handful of users who already are—or who closely resemble—patients in your practice. Pay attention to the things they’re sharing and the conversations they’re having; this will give you insight on the types of posts and content that have the best shot at hooking their interest.
2. Rein in your content.
We’ve all been there: you’re making the rounds at a networking event, and somehow you get cornered by the token Chatty Cathy, who proceeds to talk your ear off for the next half hour about topics ranging from oil prices to Taylor Swift’s latest music video. At that point, you’ll do anything—anything!—to excuse yourself from the conversation. (Which really isn’t a conversation anymore, because you stopped actively participating three random tangents ago.) This is how your followers feel when you word-vomit irrelevant content all over their social media feeds. For example, if you specialize in sports rehab, there’s a good chance your followers will be interested in hearing about how physical therapy helped Tiger Woods get back on the links after back surgery. But they might not particularly care about DIY glitter glassware. So, before you craft a post—or hit the share or retweet button on someone else’s—ask yourself if it truly caters to the interests of your audience. What value does it deliver to them? Does it jive with the reason they followed you in the first place? Does it tie in with the purpose and brand of your social media account? If not, you should probably think twice about posting or sharing. Don’t give your followers a reason to ignore—or worse, unfollow—you.
3. Go easy on the self-promotion.
One of the biggest traps a business can fall into online is letting its social presence devolve into a steady stream of shameless plugs. Sure, social is a great place to promote your services and inform—or remind—your followers of how you can help them live better, healthier, more fulfilling lives. But that definitely shouldn’t be the purpose of every single post. Why? Well, first of all, it’s annoying. The bigger problem, though, is that promotional posts aren’t very conducive to conversation. You wouldn’t chit-chat with a television ad—so why would your online audience respond to a post in which you’re basically just tooting your own horn?
It’s tough to say how often you should throw a promotional post into your mix of educational content; that ratio will vary depending on your level of social activity and whether you’re running some type of special offer (e.g., complimentary initial evaluations for new patients who book an appointment by the end of the week). But to give you a ballpark idea, this article on LinkedIn suggests that you “add a promotional update about one in every three posts on Facebook and one in every five updates on Twitter.” The article uses a restaurant as an example: Post one could be a recipe, post two could be food-related advice or details on a local event, and post three could “mention the restaurant’s special for that week.”
4. Respond promptly.
The Internet is all about instant gratification. When someone reaches out to you on social media—via tweet, comment, or direct message—he or she expects a fairly quick response. And while you don’t need to pause a therapy session mid-treatment in the name of social engagement, you should check into your social channels a few times a day to make sure you’ve answered any urgent questions or jumped into any timely conversations. When you participate on a regular basis, it encourages the other members of your social community to participate as well. And the more participation you can drum up, the more visible you’ll be.
Your reputation precedes you; your reputation follows you, and once established, your reputation is—for better or worse—tough to shake. That’s why actively positioning yourself and your professional brand is so important. Think of it this way: your reputation is on the line with every tweet, shared image, Facebook update, LinkedIn post, and response (or lack of a response) to a negative review or customer complaint online.
Marketing campaigns only matter if they work, and you won’t know that unless you track the data. Here are key marketing metrics your PT practice should be measuring.