The Complete Guide to Email Marketing for Physical Therapists
The vast majority of physical therapists—including those who eventually become practice owners—graduate from PT school without receiving any formal marketing training. Unfortunately by today’s business standards, you need a solid marketing strategy to stay competitive.
One often overlooked, but vital component to amplifying your practice, is email marketing. Luckily email marketing for physical therapists is easier than it looks, and it offers a strong return on investment (ROI). How strong? According to Litmus, “For every $1 marketers spend on email marketing, they receive $36 in return.”
So, with that carrot dangled, let’s begin. We’ve wrangled some top tips from a successful PT practice that has email marketing down to a science, combined that advice with lessons I’ve learned by growing an online physical therapy business, and mashed it all together into the complete guide to email marketing for physical therapy clinics.
Don’t view email marketing—or any marketing, for that matter—as “selling.”
The minute you consider what you’re doing “selling,” your whole approach to email marketing changes. Remember: You’re a highly trained professional with the ability to dramatically improve your patients’ quality of life. You’re not selling; you’re providing people solutions and opportunities to improve their lives.
Brian Wilson, MSPT, of Catalyst Physical Therapy and Wellness, is a strong proponent of this mindset. He runs a successful interdisciplinary clinic in the highly competitive San Diego market.
“I don't consider marketing ‘selling our services,’ but rather helping people find something they truly could benefit from having in their lives,” Wilson explains. Catalyst offers physical therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and massage—and there are a lot of people out there who would greatly benefit from the convenience and collaboration found at Catalyst. But, as Wilson points out, that can only happen if they know these services exist in the first place.
As with any form of marketing—social media, blogging, physician visits, or community outreach—consistency is key. We live in an era of information overload, and if your clinic is not consistently delivering subtle reminders about your services, people can quickly forget about you.
Wilson recommends creating a set schedule for email sends. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how frequently you should engage with your email list, but it’s important to stay consistent. Some practices send weekly e-blasts; others, like Catalyst, opt for fewer mailings—they send emails monthly that are densely packed with helpful content.
Cater your physical therapist email list to your audience.
One of the golden rules for any business owner or marketer is to “know thy audience”—and that rule certainly applies to physical therapy practices.
Any email you create should reflect your clinic’s brand, tying back to your mission and giving folks a good feel for your clinic’s personality. Thus, it’s essential to ensure that whoever manages your email correspondence truly understands the culture at your office.
Catalyst is known for being fun, welcoming, youthful, and light-hearted—and the email communications reflect that vibe.
Segment your list whenever possible.
Chances are, your full email list includes many readers, all with diverse interests. Consequently, a particular piece of content might be incredibly valuable to some readers—and irrelevant to others. That’s why savvy marketers segment their email recipients as early as possible. Most email providers allow you to tag people who click on specific links, and you can then take that information and use it to develop more targeted sends in the future.
For example, say you own a PT clinic in Aspen, and you include an article about common skiing injuries in your monthly newsletter, which you send to your entire list. You can tag readers who click on that article—which places them in an email database or group called “skiing.” In the future, when you run an exclusive event about injury prevention in skiers, you can send a targeted series of invite emails only to that group.
Some automation solutions—like WebPT Reach, which is designed specifically for rehab therapy practices—even allow you to segment based on diagnosis or patient type. Additionally, you can schedule sends at various points throughout treatment or trigger them based on event type (e.g., progress note or discharge).
Choose the right email provider for your needs.
Some email platforms are free for smaller audiences and then start charging when a user’s email list reaches a certain size. Others cost more from the get-go but provide additional features to help you fully leverage your email list. When looking at options, keep in mind that some providers have more flexibility with design and appearance, audience segmentation, and sequencing than others.
A quick search on Google will turn up more email marketing platforms than you can count, but clicking on the first one you see—or the cheapest—is certainly not the best choice when looking for the best fit to maximize your reach and engagement. To help, we have published a free guide on modern marketing practices, which—you guessed it—includes some of the best email platforms for rehab therapy.
Use a clear call to action (CTA).
As with all marketing campaigns, there must always be a “call to action.” A CTA is simply a line of text, a button, or any other content that prompts the reader to take action. For example, it could be a button that says, “Book a complimentary injury screen”; or, it could be a link to watch a video that will draw potential patients into the clinic.
Wilson recommends using multiple CTAs throughout the email rather than only one at the very end. Many people skim through emails, and a single CTA could be easily missed at first glance.
Match your CTA strategy to your end goal.
Catalyst’s newsletter is broken into unique service departments, each of which might have its own news or articles to share. So, in many cases, each section warrants a separate CTA.
However, if the point of your email is to sell a single event, injury screening, or discounted product or service, you’ll want a single CTA—but you’ll want to intersperse it throughout the email (perhaps in different formats) so people don’t miss it.
Match your CTA to the type of recipient.
If you’re promoting the same event to different groups of people, be sure to tailor your CTA to each type of recipient. For example, suppose you’re promoting a free injury screen. Your CTA for a patient you’ve treated for one or more injuries in the past will differ from your CTA for a potential new patient whose email address you collected at a local 5K.
Wilson also points out that a CTA is only half the story: “Once someone follows the call to action, it's all about personalized follow-up.” For example, if someone clicks to book a complimentary injury screen—and the front office manager takes three days to call and schedule the appointment—you could lose that person’s interest.
Understand the nuances of a good email.
Depending on your end goal, you’ll need to adapt your writing voice to capture readers’ attention and drive appropriate action. You won’t necessarily approach an email the same way you would tackle a blog post or research paper. Perhaps you already have a gifted copywriter on staff who can help you craft your email messaging. If not, you may want to consider enlisting the help of a freelancer—or even a PT-specific marketing software.
Choose your subject lines carefully.
Speaking of writing, a good subject line can ensure that readers actually open your email in the first place. Many of us suffer from “inbox fatigue,” and a boring or uninspired headline might cause us to delete the email without even a cursory glance inside. An intriguing email headline can make all the difference. Consider the difference between these two headlines:
- Skiing Injury Prevention Clinic
- Don’t Let an Injury Steal Your Season on the Slopes!
Which one would you click?
Think beyond written content.
Keep in mind that your email content isn’t limited to the written word. Some clinics find that video resonates best with their audience. The key is identifying the type of message you want to deliver and then determining which medium—text, video, illustration, etc.—is best suited to communicate what you want to say.
Ideally, all your emails will be personalized (i.e., address individuals by name), and you’ll send them when your potential clients are most likely to check their email. Most email platforms allow you to track the performance of each send.
Don’t forget to stay HIPAA compliant.
When emailing new or previous patients, don’t neglect the elephant in the room: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA applies to email as well, so don’t get caught sending protected health information (PHI) or “replying all” to your entire email list. To better help you understand the nuances of compliance, check out our blog post on HIPAA and email.
Have an end goal for every email—and it doesn’t always have to be about driving revenue.
Depending on how frequently you deploy emails, you might get on people’s nerves if you keep badgering them to come in for treatment. Remember, half of growing your business is developing genuine goodwill. And fostering a lasting relationship means providing value beyond the time patients spend at your facility.
If you write a blog post that you think your readers will appreciate—think, “5 Easy Ways to Prevent Common Running Injuries” if you work with runners—don’t be shy about blasting it out to your email list (at least the ones you’ve tagged as runners!). You can also share happy news—like the addition of new team members or extended office hours.
We all know how important blogging is to keeping your website fresh in Google’s eyes, so if there’s something you want to communicate via email, explore the idea of writing a blog post about it instead—and then sending the post out to your email list.
There you have it—our guide to physical therapist email marketing. Do you use email marketing in your clinic? What tips can you share with your fellow readers? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.