As a physical therapist, you proudly provide individualized and high-quality care for all of your patients. You strongly believe that you work in the best practice in your area, and you’re constantly seeking new treatments and techniques to help your patients heal more fully and properly than before. There’s just one problem – a serious one: no one seems to know about you!
So, what’s the solution? It’s high time that you upgraded your physical therapy marketing and created a more seamless experience in your practice.
Get stuck in where to begin when it comes to your marketing efforts? Don’t panic! We’re here with a comprehensive guide about physical therapy marketing, from increasing word-of-mouth referrals and social media engagement to designing an effective website and kick-ass email marketing strategy.
Before diving into the specific strategies, let’s first have a look at the fundamentals of marketing communications.
Marketing Plan and Basic Concepts of Physical Therapy Marketing
As with every new endeavor, it’s wise to have a plan. Before you put pen to paper, though, it’s essential that you perform some researches into:
Hopefully, you already have an idea of who is best suited to receive your services. Now it’s time to go even deeper and really get to know your customers. Based on the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), your physical therapy 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.” To identify your target audience, first look for the common characteristics your patients share. Then, gradually “picture” your idea patients by considering things like:
- Why would your audience seek physical therapy?
- What propels your audience to seek your services?
- Where does your audience go to learn about the services you provide?
- Who (or what) influences your audience’s buying decisions?
Have you scoped out your neighborhood yet? If not, look around. Who in your area provides similar services to yours? And you’d better think beyond physical therapy. Who offers wellness services, yoga, pilates, or chiropractic care? Then, take a look back at what you provide. How do your services stack up? How do they differ?
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. If you’re having a hard time identifying what sets you apart from your competition, it may be time to shake things up and consider a new niche.
State of the Industry
Effective marketing requires staying up to date on all that’s going on in your industry and the greater healthcare landscape. Profound insights into the trends that affect the medical community as a whole can help you adapt your marketing efforts to account for changing market conditions. Don’t get bogged down, though!
It’s advisable to pick for yourself three or four reputable news sources and subscribe to their feeds. Then, at least once per year, participate in and review the results of some surveys designed to unveil trends about the current and future state of the rehab therapy industry such as WebPT’s Latest State of Rehab Therapy Report.
Once you’ve figured out the above-mentioned questions and gained a better understanding of the rehab therapy industry at large, it’s time to harness your brainstorming power to determine the marketing strategy that’s right for your clinic and your patients. Here are some more questions to get your thoughts flowing:
- When, and how often, will you market your services?
- What are the goals of your marketing efforts? How will you measure the success of those efforts?
- Which specific marketing tactics will get your services noticed?
- What’s your budget?
- What’s your timeline?
- Where do you see your practice in a year? What about five or ten?
Your Own Marketing Plan
Before starting the marketing journey, map out your own plan! Below are the steps you should take to set the ball rolling:
- Address how this marketing plan will support your overall business goals.
- Define your purpose: what are you trying to accomplish, and why?
- Detail who your audience is and what current market conditions are like.
- Set in-depth marketing strategies for your services.
- Outline your communication and messaging tactics.
- Establish your budget.
- Explain how you’re going to achieve your goals within that budget.
- Communicate how you plan to measure your progress.
- Explore opportunities for long-term marketing development (beyond what’s addressed as part of your current goals and action plan).
Winning Marketing Strategies For Physical Therapists
It’s fair to say that the value of your marketing plan lies mostly in the strategies you are building. Your marketing efforts are going to pay off or go to waste? Sometimes, there is just a fine line!
Let’s go through some super-powerful marketing strategies which are going to make a huge difference to your medical business!
I. Patient-centered Care Marketing
Considered the model of the future, though, patient-centered care has increasingly become the care model of the present. That’s because this model puts patients front and center when it comes to the decisions that impact their health. Whereas most of us would agree that this is the way things should be, this shift requires that providers in all disciplines change the way they deliver care to incorporate more collaboration, greater transparency, and more robust use of technology that fosters interoperability. Such a new paradigm also requires a shift in the way that physical therapists market their practices. Of course, marketing to referral sources and third-party payers still performs an important role in running a successful practice, but marketing to patients is becoming more than crucial, especially given the fact that some forms of direct access are now available in every state.
With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know to orient your marketing efforts into what patients care about most:
1. Define Your Own Value Proposition
Taking a baseline measurement of your own strengths and weaknesses is a smart starting point for any marketing campaign, especially one that targets patients. You absolutely must know what you have to and can offer before you can actually market it – and marketing something that you’re unable to successfully deliver is never a good idea. That’s particularly true when it comes to patient-centered marketing because patients are significantly more likely than payers and even other referral sources to air their grievances about particular therapists with the world. To get an accurate assessment of how your clinic is performing, you’d better collect and track outcomes data. In that way, you’ll know which aspects your clinic already excels at and which ones you should pay a little more attention to before you highlight them in your next marketing campaign.
2. Message with Intention
One-size-fits-all marketing strategies aren’t going to be nearly as effective as tailored messages that get to the heart of what your patients are expecting to achieve through therapy. For instance, a patient with a rotator cuff injury will most likely want to know whether you excel at treating that sort of thing and the same goes for a patient with low back pain, chronic headache, and any other condition or injury you can think of. No matter what you land on for your newly crafted message, though, be sure to support it with data— specifically, outcomes data that speaks to your successful tracking record.
3. Target Your Audience
Once you’ve clearly assessed your strengths and weaknesses and developed your data-supported marketing message, this is high time that you delivered it to your soon-to-be patients. It’s, by all means, a good idea to train your entire staff on how to use outcomes data to market to the prospective patients they interact with on a daily basis. But you may also want to get your message out to a wider audience and what better way to do that than to take it online? After all, more and more patients are doing online research about treatment and therapy provider options before arriving at any decisions or stepping foot in a physician’s office.
4. Harness the Power of Social Proof
You could publish the most compelling marketing copy ever written, but its impact will still pale in comparison to that of a patient review. This is to say that prospective patients know you’re inherently biased about the value of your services whereas other patients are more likely to provide well-rounded, objective feedback which paints an accurate picture of their experience. To garner the type of social proof that prospective patients are looking for, it’s essential to generate an arsenal of positive online reviews on the most popular online review sites in your niche.
II. Word-of-mouth Marketing
Before you begin marketing your therapy services to increase your patient volume, have a look at the type of experience you’re currently providing as your existing patients actually have huge influence over the success or failure of your marketing efforts. How? By spreading the word, of course. In today’s Internet-centric world, there is no shortage of highly visible review outlets and in fact, people take reviews pretty seriously.
That’s a large percentage of potential customers either clamoring for your services or shrinking away, afraid that they’ll receive the same subpar treatment as their predecessors. And by the way, when we talk about the experiences you’re providing for your patients, we’re talking about more than providing exceptional patient care and an interactive, easy-to-complete multimedia home exercise program. Instead, we’re referring to the little things you can do to go above and beyond—to truly set yourself apart from your competitors and give your patients a reason to tell all of their friends and family members how wonderful, caring, creative and magnanimous you really are.
1. Cultivate the Warm Fuzzies
In fact, patients are just like other consumers in that they get to choose the therapists from whom they seek care. So, unless you live in a very small community where you are the only therapist around, your patients always have a choice of whether to seek for your services or someone else’s. Ironically, the decision to “buy” is rarely a rational one. Rather, people usually make emotional decisions when it comes to doling out their patronage – and perception is everything.
So how do you apply this new nugget of knowledge into your marketing? Prioritize the patient experience throughout the course of care, and cultivate so-called “the warm fuzzies”, which produces all-around positive results. Not only will it help you establish an excellent reputation, generate more revenue, and boost your staff’s morale, but it also prevents early patient dropout, making your patients heal better and faster. So how can you create this magical “warm fuzzies”?
- Smile More
Just like yawning, smiling is contagious, and sincere smiles can actually make the smiler happier. Plus, smiling communicates openness, warmth, and even intelligence – all wonderful attributes for developing a positive rapport with your patients.
- Truly Listen
When it comes to developing rapport with patients, a good bedside manner involves more than just rattling off clinical jargon and expecting patients to follow along. Instead, really listen to your patients – their expectations, their possible fears and beyond. This will help you better tailor your prescribed treatment plan so that both you and your patients get the most out of therapy.
- Stay Positive
It’s a “must” that you always focus on the bright side, especially in the presence of your patients. Speak highly of your competitors, be kind to your staff, and maintain good control of your body language, your tongue, and even your typing fingers! Anything that may cause your patients to rethink your kind nature or feel insecure in your presence will create the opposite of the warm fuzzies. Not only will this be less than ideal for your business, but it also will be less than ideal for your patients’ healing process.
2. Measure Patient Loyalty
Patients’ happiness and loyalty really matters when it comes to physical therapy. After all, a patient’s attitude, as well as the patient-provider relationship, can significantly influence that patient’s recovery. It can also mean the huge difference between a patient dropping out of therapy early or completing his or her entire course of care, the latter of which is better for your patient and your bottom line. But the question is how you determine whether your patients are happy and loyalty enough. Fortunately, there’s a super powerful tool that can effectively assess patients’ loyalty and then improve their experiences – Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) tracking. It’s a simple metric, which involves asking patients one simple question: On a scale of 0 to 10 (with 10 being most likely and 0 being not at all likely), how likely are you to recommend our practice to a friend or family member?
Despite its simplicity, NPS, when implemented correctly and consistently, can help therapy professionals tap into a wealth of actionable data which they can use to reduce patient dropout, enhance patient experiences, and minimize litigation risk, especially if they add an optional freeform textbox to collect additional patient-specific feedback.
3. Increase Professional Referrals
Now that your patients are content with you and your services, it’s time to turn your attention to other providers, specifically the referring ones. Instead of throwing hundreds of advertising dollars around, though, focus on building lasting relationships within the medical community by positioning yourself as an expert and demonstrating them your value. Here are some tips:
- Ensure your contact information (on your website, business cards, and social media accounts) is up to date
- Create an easy-to-complete patient referral form for physical therapists and other providers to fill out on your website (highly recommend Google Docs Form). Then, include the URL on your business cards and other marketing materials.
- Occasionally pay a visit to a handful of the largest physician groups near your clinic. Let your fellow therapists recognize you and expand your relationship network!
Don’t forget your partners, either! It’s advisable to invite a local athletic trainer, gym instructor, or massage therapist for a lunch and learn about him or her. Maintain these relationships, and help out whenever you can—they might just have the perfect opportunity to return the favor.
Word-of-mouth marketing might stand out as the most engaging and effective form of marketing there is. And capitalizing on it requires building strong relationships and then fostering those relationships over time. And bear in mind that once you receive a rave review or a referral, always follow up with a sincere “Thank you”.
III. Digital Marketing
Nowadays, the Internet is ubiquitous, and as a result, traditional marketing efforts have expanded into the digital realm. To get your business image widely exposed to the digital world, pay close attention to these tips:
1. Build a Great Website
If you don’t have your own website already, then it is high time that you got one up and running. If a potential patient can’t find you online, you might appear less than legitimate, which is never a great message for a medical professional to send. For do-it-yourself (DIY) website creation, try Squarespace or Wix, both of which have drag-and-drop functionality so you can create a site that fits your brand without hiring a developer or a designer.
No matter whether you already have a site, or you’re just getting started, though, keep in mind:
- Clean Up Your Layout
When designing a layout, look for formats that align well with your clinic’s brand. Whereas you might be tempted to go with something wild and flashy, remember that first and foremost, you are a medical professional, which means your patients expect something simple, classy yet clean and compelling.
- Aim for Balance
Too many colors, fonts, or distracting graphics can completely throw off the “look and feel” of your site. Instead, focus on achieving aesthetic balance. Choose one font style and one font color, two at most, and use interactive features sporadically to entice visitors to stay on your site.
- Organize Your Content
Basically, your website is one big piece of content. It’s up to you to communicate relevant and well-written information about your practice and your expertise.
- Make It Navigable
When building your website, it’s essential to consider how your users will scroll around your site. Navigation acts as a map, directing the visitors through the site based on their interests, so don’t let your potential patients get lost in your own site.
2. Start a Blog
Once your website’s up and running, you should start creating captivating content and the best way to do that is to start a blog. Patient care shouldn’t stop at the end of the session. Rather, you should supplement your patients’ regular therapy visits and home exercise programs with wellness and prevention resources on your blog. Additionally, blogging is a great way to establish your expertise and heighten brand awareness. Not only will your existing and prospective patients appreciate your healthcare advice, but they also will grow to trust you as an expert in your field, which is good for you and your brand. Plus, remember to promote your content on various social media channels. After all, the more people who see it, the better, so let’s start talking about it on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter!
It’s noteworthy that regular and positive interaction promotes loyalty. By frequently publishing valuable information and responding to comments and questions in a timely and thoughtful manner, you’ll establish lasting relationships with your audience. So, whenever they’re thinking about physical therapy, they’ll automatically think of you and hopefully, they’ll tell all of their friends about you, too.
3. Promote SEO
It goes without saying that having a strong online presence is of great significance. And if a practice is looking to boost its online presence, Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) saves the day. In fact, the majority of online health seekers use Google to find therapy providers (62%, to be exact, according to Kyruus), having a top ranking in Google search results is becoming increasingly important. Several comprehensive guides are available on the Internet to instruct you to promote your website content and utilize techniques for a better SEO ranking. So, if you are a newbie in the SEO marketing world, invest your efforts into understanding and mastering it.
IV. Email Marketing
Once you’ve already built a solid online presence for your therapy business, it’s time to move on to another more advanced marketing communication: email marketing. Understandably, customers would rather receive permission-based emails than old-fashioned snail mail. Furthermore, regularly connecting with patients by sharing valuable content via email can boost patients’ engagement and active involvement in their course of care.
1. Collect Emails
- Make it Worth Their While
Email collection is all about reciprocity so make sure that your email truly creates value for your existing or potential customers. It may be around some helpful and relevant physical therapy tips, appointment reminders, or even loyalty discounts. Whatever the benefits are, remember to communicate them clearly before you ask someone to trust you with their email address.
- Be Trustworthy
Speaking of trust, it’s a vital factor in any relationship especially when it comes to a client-provider one. So, under no circumstances should you spam your patients’ inbox. Candidly communicate what sort of information they may expect to receive from you so that they can make an informed decision as to whether they wish to opt-in to your mailing list or not.
- Maintain Your Reputation
As a medical professional, your reputation actually speaks volumes. Don’t get it dampened by doing something silly such as purchasing a list of emails, selling the ones you’ve collected, or failing to honor unsubscribe requests. Be responsible for your email marketing!
2. Write Your First Marketing Newsletter
The only thing left on your email marketing to-do list is to craft your first-ever marketing newsletter. What can you do so that your audience would like to see your newsletter in their inbox?
- Keep it Short
Human attention span for digital content is pretty short so that it’s advisable to include around three to five articles and only teasing viewers with two to three lines before linking to the full-length feature on your blog or website.
- Make Your Feature Article Count
The focal point of your newsletter will be whatever article you choose to feature, so do make it relevant. It’s absolutely great if you can analyze your patient population and take a more targeted approach with well-classified newsletters.
- Include a Testimonial
Social proof, like an inviting testimonial, can go a long way toward retaining your existing customer base and encouraging prospective patients to choose your practice. Thus, consider adding a relevant patient testimonial to support the services you feature in your newsletter, especially if it’s a new service or special offering.
- Personalize it
It’s a well-known fact that emails with a personal message outperform those without one, so be sure to include something from the heart. It can be anything, ranging from a personal anecdote, something happening in your clinic, to some new clinical findings you’ve discovered. Whereas we’re on the subject of personalizing things, it’s also a good idea to send your newsletter from a real person rather than a company email address.
- Be Straight to the Point
The most effective marketing emails include a call-to-action. So, first be clear on your goal, whether it’s to generate your web traffic, boost your blog views, or drive new business, and then let your content guide your readers to that end.
- Craft a Good Subject Line
One final touch of a great email newsletter is a “click-worthy” subject, which means keeping it brief, avoiding spam triggers (words like “free,” dollar signs, exclamation points, or over-capitalization), and being direct about what content is inside.
- Don’t Stop Communicating at Discharge
It’s more than crucial that you continue to communicate with past patients to stay their top-of-mind should they, or their relatives, need your services again. Consider providing your past patients with super-relevant, highly valuable content such as well-written articles about preventing their previous condition from recurring or nutritional advice to support a high-performance athletic goal as well as regular updates about the clinic and additional cash-pay wellness services. Whereas you could establish a process for doing this type of engagement and boosting outreach manually, it can be very challenging to maintain, especially for growing clinics. Instead, consider adopting an advanced email software that enables you to automate the process and ensure no former or current patients slip through the cracks.
3. Consider Email Automation
As already mentioned, email marketing is a cost-effective method for establishing and maintaining relationships with your patients, hopefully with a massive return on investment. Yet, reaching out to them in a timely and consistent manner can be somehow complicated. Fortunately, marketing software with email automation capability—like ActiveCampaign, Hubspot, or Ontraport —takes the guesswork out of effectively identifying who, what, and when of email marketing by allowing users to segment based on diagnosis or patient type. Besides, you can set emails to deploy at various points throughout the course of treatment or trigger them based on event types such as progress notes or discharge announcements.
The Bottom Lines
Let your therapy services well recognized by investing constant efforts into your marketing communication. Whether you’re a new graduate therapist, a experienced veteran clinic owner, or you fall somewhere in between, you can always benefit from those above physical therapy marketing tips and tricks.