Fast Company

Marketing a Physical Therapy Practice: What Works, What Doesn't

The most frequently asked question we hear is, “What is the most effective way to market my practice?” The answer to this is both simple and not-so-simple. The simple part is that you should market your practice at every possible opportunity and from every position in your clinic, and you should market to everyone who either has the potential to be a patient, or has the ability to refer you a patient.

Marketing a private practice is a multi-faceted activity. The most successful practices utilize many different types of marketing and promotion. Successful practice owners realize that marketing is not just something that one does only when the patient volume is low. They know that marketing is a perpetual pattern of behavior that never slows or comes to a halt. Some clinics spend thousands of dollars each month to market their practices, while others spend virtually nothing. Ironically, some owners spend thousands of dollars each month and get virtually nothing in return. They simply market the practice the way they have seen others market their own practices. Handing out colorful brochures, expensive prescription pads and other “educational” materials is common practice. Another popular strategy of many owners is to set up lunches with physicians to gain the opportunity to market the practice to the physician and his/her entire staff. The question is, “do either of these methods work?” In some instances, such marketing efforts may, indeed, be effective. Many of the owners who participate in marketing of this type will testify that their efforts pay off, but few have any statistics to back up their assertions. Factually, printed materials such as brochures, flyers, prescription pads and literature are only effective when presented in such a way that the recipient is actually desirous of the information being presented. An example is when you are walking down a busy sidewalk and a local business has hired a “hawker” to loudly announce the product being sold while aggressively stuffing flyers into the hands of anyone who will make eye contact with him. Typically, you will reluctantly accept the printed material, only to discard it in the trash can down the block. Do you want your expensive, glossy, four color brochures handled the same way? With regards to marketing lunches, a similar phenomenon occurs. The physician’s office has become so accustomed to pharmaceutical representatives providing lunches for the staff that they have extended this practice to physical therapy clinics. These “meet and feed” sessions are simply standard operating procedure and have no inherent value to the physicians or their staff. In their minds, the therapist is simply another “drug rep,” hawking his goods or the latest and greatest treatment technique. What’s an hour or so in exchange for a free lunch? The physician did not ask for this “education” nor does he desire to be educated. In fact, in the physician’s mind, therapists are so dependent upon physician referrals, that they will often dodge the lunch entirely, showing disregard and contempt for the therapist’s intentions. They simply don’t desire or appreciate the marketing effort. The therapist is over-reaching in his or her efforts to promote the practice. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies spent $7.2 billion last year marketing their drugs to physicians. It is doubtful the pizza you ordered will ever measure up to those standards. If physical therapists are going to learn to market our services, we are going to have to learn the laws which govern effective promotion and marketing. What makes people want what you are selling? How do we get consumers to want what we have to offer? How do we get others to reach for what we are capable of providing without demeaning our profession in the process? Since developing the New Patient Course Jeff and I have been constantly striving to answer these questions with better and more efficient answers. The current success of our clients demonstrates that we are getting this product. If you have any questions on how to market your practice please let me know.

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2 Comments

  • Steve Ventimiglia

    I have questions for you. Can you please get back to me at your soonest convenience? Thank you

  • Kathy McCoy

    Another good source of information on how to market your practice is http://www.phystherapists.prac..., where you can take a practice marketing assessment, evaluate your staff and your website, and find free tips every month. Free monthly e-newsletter and "Ask the expert" too.