Marketing is the lifeblood of any private practice
Whether you’re just starting up a new practice or have been in operation for years, marketing is a key component of your private practice’s financial success.
Marketing tasks are often one of the most dreaded that a rehab professional must do. The good news is it has never been easier to consistently get your brand out there. Notice we said consistently because that is key. Marketing is not a “one and done” or an occasional activity. Your marketing “activities” must be consistently carried out.
This blog post will look at some of the best ways to market your practice as well as some of the less effective or avoidable activities.
What Is Your Brand?
Your brand is everything about your practice. It’s what people think about when you say the name of your practice. When one thinks about Nike or Apple you don’t need a list of things they have or sell. You just know what they are. This is crucial because the business with the strongest brand will get customers just because they know the quality and content of the services.
Inherent in a strong brand is trust. People know what they are getting when they buy that brand and they value that service or product. Developing your marketing plan and promoting your brand in a way that builds and holds the customers trust is paramount for success.
Who are your Consumers?
First, it’s critical you know to whom you are directing your message. That matters because your messaging should be tailored to each different consumer. Most say that patients are your primary consumer because with direct access today you can go directly to your potential patients. However, these other consumers are equally (if not more depending on how you get patients) important to consider.
• Physicians/APRN’s or PA’s
• Insurance companies
• Other providers like PT’s, OT’s, or Home Health Agencies
They are consumers of your services because they are a source of potential customer. All the above groups often need rehab services for the people who use their services. Because they can direct patients to your services don’t neglect them as important consumers.
Internal Marketing to Your Current Patient Base
The first place to initiate your marketing efforts starts right within your practice. You can promote your practice right in-house at no cost and it can be enormously effective. The most powerful way to drive your brand is by providing an excellent patient experience.
Over the course of time many of us have come to realize that patients really value two things above all else.
- They want to know they matter to their therapist. In other words, does their therapist demonstrate that they really care about them?
- They also want to get the sense that the care being provided is of value – meaning is it well directed towards their problem and will it have a reasonable chance of helping them get better without costing them too much.
The first one is really about the patient experience and their sense of whether everyone they encounter in the practice cares about their welfare. The patient experience is an entire topic all by itself.
The second point is about the quality of the care being provided by the therapist. The patient needs to feel that the specific interventions and interactions with their therapist is helping them. With high deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance payments coming from the patients pockets they need to know that their time and money as being spent effectively. This is a very powerful part of the patient experience.
Patient Experience Self-Assessment Questions
For your first marketing activity you should do a gut check and see if your patients can say their experience is wonderful.
Is the phone answered by a live person every time it rings? No one likes talking to a machine.
Can they get information, access scheduling, get forms, or contact you via your website? More on this later but the customer experience today is all about web-based access.
Does the administrative staff do all it can to help patients with scheduling issues, insurance or authorization issues? Health care is tough and patients often need help navigating the hurdles.
Do the therapists listen to patients, give them a sense they understand their problems and seek to work collaboratively to solve the issues? If you don’t get the importance of this, you are in the wrong business.
You want people going out to their friends and relatives relating how incredible their experience was at your practice. Be sure you’re making that happen.
Don’t underestimate the importance of solid EMR/practice management software to help you improve your patient experience. A big part of offering a top notch patient experience is having software and tools in place that make it possible for your staff to deliver. Staff need information at their fingertips for maximum efficienc.
Some Other Examples of Internal Marketing
Other activities you should do every day that can be considered marketing:
- Education of a patient about their problem or another problem that you may not be treating them for but they ask you about.
- Discussion with a patient about a relative or friend who may need care.
- Discussions with a referral source about a patient.
- Discussion with a case manager about your care of a patient.
- Flyers or “advertisements” posted in the clinic about niche services offered.
Taking an active approach to marketing inside your practice is enormously successful. In fact, one practice used to tell patients at discharge, half-jokingly, “OK now that you are done you need to find someone else to take your place!”
There are many traditional marketing techniques historically that rehab practices have employed. These include:
• Personal selling – meeting with referral sources or the public to “sell” your services.
• Advertising – placing ads in local papers or magazines.
• Promotions – gift certificates or free screenings
• Publicity – appearing as a guest on media or making a presentation
• Direct Marketing – mailers to local residents with your advertising message
• Digital advertising – advertising on Google, etc
• Sponsoring Events – think of road races or setting up a tent at a local marathon
Many of these work to a degree depending on the recipient. For example, targeting individuals with a piece of direct mail may not be overly effective because unless the person is in need of physical therapy services. With that said, there are also intangibles with marketing such as name recognition and a person may see your name and may think of you the next time that they need PT services. You really have to have a discussion about the cost of advertising and your willingness to commit to it consistently to enjoy branding benefits. Running one ad or sending one post card is not likely to have an impact.
Your referral base is a different story. Physicians you work with may regularly send you patients and continuing a steady stream of marketing materials may be helpful. You just need to be careful not to overdo it and annoy your referral partners. Referral partners may also be more interested in a different message than patients. They may want to know, for example, if you have new equipment or treatment methods that are unique to your practice.
It can be difficult to know where to spend your marketing dollars and you need enough data to make decisions. If you’ve never really spent on marketing – start by building a plan that will cover a strategy for 6 months. Then, re-assess and take it from there.
When External Marketing Works Best
External marketing works best when people need what you offer. In light of that your website and social media are the absolute way to go.
Your website is the first place you better invest your time and money. Like you, anyone and everyone is starting there when searching for anything, including rehab services.
Your website must be powerful…meaning not just pretty but great with content, user experience, and search ability. The one thing you absolutely need to do on your website is tell stories. People trust stories and you need to develop their trust in your brand. Patient testimonials work fabulously as a marketing tool. Just be careful to think about HIPAA when it comes to stories and images. Make sure you have permission from patients if you are going to post about them (preferably in writing).
Here’s a blog post that we wrote about physical therapy website basics: Click Here. It’s key that you have the basics covered on your website before getting into more of the marketing aspect. If the basics aren’t covered, visitors won’t stay long enough to read your content, no matter how good it may be.
Social Media Is a Great Option, With Caveats
In addition to your website – having a social media presence is the other half of this style of marketing. This should include Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook. Yes, there are people still on Facebook who are in the demographics of clients that you need to reach. Plus, you are not limited by word count.
The major caveat for social media is you must be tweeting or posting all the time…meaning 3-4 times a week. In this way social media is a commitment and one that you need to analyze before taking on. Consistency is important. A twitter feed where the last post is 2 years old can make your practice look stale. It’s important to sit down and think about whether you have the time and desire to participate in social media. If you do, it’s important to think about who in your practice should be responsible for social media – posting things, responding to messages, etc. If you’re going to have staff managing social media – it’s a good idea to have a written social media policy that covers what topics are OK, which are not, what you may retweet or reshare, etc and not. It’s also important to cover how you may handle controversial topics.
The Bottom Line
Marketing your services has never been more important in today’s health care economy regardless of whether you’re a new or established practice. To make your business soar you must show the world what you can do for them.