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:
Do Have a Marketing Plan
In the days before Google Maps, getting from Point A to Point B required some advanced planning. If you didn’t follow a map—or print out directions from good ol’ MapQuest—taking a wrong turn was practically inevitable. Similarly, you should always map out your plan before you begin your marketing journey—that is, unless you have a real taste for the unexpected and a surplus of money to burn through. To start, picture your ideal patients. Think about things like:
- How do they spend their time?
- Why would they seek physical therapy?
- What kinds of physical therapy services do they need?
- Where do they go to get information about PT services?
As the APTA explains here, your marketing efforts “will be most effective if they are highly targeted―from age and gender to income bracket and the type(s) of publications your potential patients read.” So, consider those characteristics as you create a mental image of your ideal patient, and build a marketing campaign that targets these demographics directly.
Another crucial piece of your marketing plan is your budget. The patient personae you pictured before will help you decide where to allocate your marketing funds (e.g. social media versus email marketing), but here’s the real question on everyone’s mind:
How much money should you spend on your marketing efforts?
We have an entire blog post (which you can read here) that lays out an in-depth, step-by-step process for creating your marketing budget. Essentially, it all boils down to this:
- Assess your current financial situation.
- Hammer out some specific financial goals.
- Decide where your marketing efforts will have the biggest bang for your buck, based on your aforementioned patient personae.
- Allocate a certain percentage of revenue to marketing, based on the size of your business (approximately 7% to 8% for small-to-medium-size businesses).
- Based on your goals and priorities, divide that amount among the marketing efforts you pinpointed in step three.
As WebPT’s Shawn McKee wrote in this post, “You’ll want to start with a few key investments and build from there as you start seeing results. Once you have a foundation of key channels, you can start to test new channels and diversify your portfolio.”
Put It to Paper
Once you figure all of this out, it’s time to write it all down. That way, you’ll have a resource to refer back to throughout the various phases of your marketing campaigns. (WebPT’s Charlotte Bohnett lays out the steps for writing your plan in this post.)
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Don’t Ignore Your Competition
Your competitors can tell you a lot about what works—as well as what doesn’t—when it comes to marketing physical therapy services in your area. As we recommend in our PT-centric e-book Modern Marketing Decoded, “Find providers in your locale who offer services similar to yours, including wellness facilities, yoga and pilates studios, and chiropractic offices. Examine how they market their services, and compare that to how you market your own practice.” Consider things like:
- Do you offer something they don’t?
- How do your services differ?
- What do they do better than you do?
- What do you do better than they do?
Once you have that figured out, you can build a marketing campaign that highlights what makes your practice the best choice for your target audience.
Do Have an Online Presence
Before the rise of the Internet, patients were referred to PTs by their physicians. (In other words, they got what they got—with little say in the matter.) But nowadays, patients have wised up, and you can pretty much guarantee they’ll be looking you up online before setting foot in your practice. So, when patients plug your name into Google, will they like what they see? If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure,” then it’s time to get online. There’s a myriad of online platforms and websites that contribute to your overall online reputation, including:
- your practice’s website,
- social media sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram),
- online review sites (e.g., Yelp, Healthgrades, and Zocdoc), and
You don’t necessarily need to be on every platform, but the more profiles you have, the larger your Internet presence will be. Just make sure you devote time to updating your clinic’s various social media profiles every day.
Don’t Replace Your Website with Social Media
Beef Up Your Brand’s Image
Speaking of social media, while you don’t need a profile on every social platform, you definitely need to have a clinic website. While social media is a great way to engage with patients online, using a social media page in place of a website can make your practice appear less-than-professional to prospective patients and referral sources. Conversely, having an attractive, well-constructed website shows all of your web visitors that you take your business seriously.
Resist Cutting Corners
Additionally, some practices opt for social media alone in order to save a buck or two. It makes sense—Facebook is free, right? But here’s the dirty truth: social media marketing isn’t all that effective for practices that don’t pay to play. So, the money you save by skipping the website could actually be more damaging, revenue-wise, in the long run.
Optimize Your Online Visibility
If you still think social media is a viable replacement for a website, consider this: Having a website will actually boost your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs), which means potential patients are more likely to see you when scanning the web for physical therapists in their local area. And if you also happen to be on social media as well, your SERP ranking will climb even higher.
Do Interact with Patients Online
Your clinic’s culture is essential to creating a positive experience for your patients, and the culture you have in your practice may not be the same as the one in the practice down the street. Basically, your culture should help you attract the kind of patients you want, and one way to ensure it does just that is to accurately represent that culture on social media. So, make sure you post regularly and respond when people comment on your posts. Plus, consistent posting to social media can help you connect with and reactivate past patients—as well as retain current patients—by keeping your practice top of mind.
Avoid Advertisement Overload
That said, be careful not to oversaturate your social media pages with advertisements for your services, as this can actually be a turn-off to your followers. (It’s pretty much the social media equivalent of email spam.) Instead, share engaging content that’s relevant to your target audience; put friendly faces on your page by spotlighting your clinic staff; or get creative with social media contests and follower polls.
Engage with Email Marketing
While social media is an incredibly effective tool that connects you with a wide audience, don’t discount the power of email marketing. The vast majority of adults worldwide use email (about 3.7 billion as of 2017), and targeted email messaging can help you connect with those who aren’t on social media. For example, you can send relevant content directly to current and past patients, which can prevent patient attrition and spark patient reactivation. What’s more, with targeted email marketing, you can curate that content to be even more specific to a patient’s condition and speak to him or her directly. (Hint: A robust patient relationship management [PRM] platform like can help you easily craft email marketing campaigns and automate content delivery between appointments and after discharge.)
Don’t Hesitate to Leverage Your Loyal Patients
So, your online presence is important. But, if your digital reputation leaves something to be desired, it could end up hindering your practice more than helping it. When patients seek you out online, they’re mostly interested in (a) location, (b) your service offerings, and (c) what other people are saying about you. And according to BrightLocal, “84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.” If that’s not enough to convince you of the power of online reviews, remember that a business’s number of reviews and average rating factor into its Google SERP ranking. The more reviews you have—and the better your average rating is—the higher you’ll rank. So, if you want to literally rise above your competition on search pages, you need to make sure you have great reviews—and plenty of them.
Tap Trusted Patients for Reviews
The question, then, is, how can you get those reviews? Simple: Ask. Or, more accurately, ask your loyal patients. To get started, you must first figure out who those patients are. I’d recommend using loyalty tracking tools like the Net Promoter Score® (NPS) to determine which patients are the most likely to promote your services through word-of-mouth—if they aren’t already doing so. Then, leverage that data so you can confidently approach those patients about leaving positive feedback online.
Heading into uncharted waters without a guide is a dangerous undertaking. So, in addition to heeding these essential dos and don’ts, make sure you download this comprehensive resource for physical therapy marketing. (Think of it as Google Maps for your marketing efforts.) That way, you’ll always have a roadmap you can rely on—no matter how many twists and turns you encounter along the way.