Entrepreneur vs. “Anti-preneur”

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Which one are you?

By Michael Vacon, PT

The word entrepreneur comes from the 13th century French verb entreprendre, meaning “to do something” or “to undertake.” By the 16th century, the noun entrepreneur had emerged to refer to someone who undertakes a business venture. Today, the word is used more to define individuals willing to take risk for financial gain.

If you have ventured into owning your own private practice, then you have most likely had your “entrepreneurial” moment. Despite a number of other practices or hospitals in your area, you decided that you could do it differently and carve your own place in the market.

After the thrill of opening and starting up a business, growing through the lean times, and then having some success, there is sometimes a lull. Do you grow? Do you open a second location? Do you move to a bigger space? As we are currently buffeted with change in rules and regulations, changes (usually decreases) in payment and growing competition from larger hospitals, many people will start to circle the wagons and try to just hold on to what they have. Others will stare into the abyss and try to continue to grow.

Time to Educate!

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By Don Levine, PT

Welcome to the August 2015 edition of the Marketing and Public Relations (PR) Committee’s Impact update. We hope you are enjoying a summer filled with your family and your favorite activities! However, do not forget that success takes planning and your marketing and public relations department does not like too much rest and relaxation! There are a lot of definitions for public relations, but I found one recently that hit home. Public Relations is the management of information flow between a business or organization and the public, conducted in a way that benefits both parties.1 Looking ahead to September, let us look at some ways that physical therapy (PT) can benefit our communities and make sure that information is flowing effectively!

The rush for back to school brings a variety of ailments through our doors and physical therapists are on the front line for providing pain relief from 60-pound backpacks, early season sports injuries, and hours of poor studying postures. We can spread the message of our expertise in the area of treatment of these common problems while at the same time providing our target audience with tips and information on prevention. When we educate our community and deliver useful tips to improve their health then we are seen as the experts in our community on these issues, whether it is in the areas of prevention or treatment. A win-win for everyone!

The topics listed above are only suggestions that are relevant to this time of year. It is important to remember to match the topic and information presented with both the needs of the community and your practice’s strengths. Do not make the mistake of choosing a topic because it is popular. Stay with your strengths and you will be much more successful.

John D. Rockefeller said, “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is letting people know you are doing the right thing.” Managing the information flow may take more expertise than is in your wheelhouse. As people come to us for our strengths and abilities in health and wellness, do not be afraid to seek out experts in the areas of marketing, PR, and social media. Long gone are the days when physical therapy practices only market to their referring physicians. Comprehensive plans need to encompass the consumer. Lisa Stockman, president of global public relations states, “The trend of consumers taking charge of their health care is going to accelerate.”2 We should welcome this change! Take your strengths straight to the consumer, provide them with useful information, and educate them in the benefits of PT. Let us make our community members advocates for our businesses and our profession! Stay relevant and stay real! 

References

1. http://www.contentfac.com/damn-i-wish-id-said-that-50-ofour-favorite-pr-quotes/ Accessed June 2015.

2. http://www.holmesreport.com/long-reads/article/2015-prtrend-forecast-healthcare. Accessed June 2015.

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Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, is chair of the marketing and PR committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at dlevine@olympicpt-ri.com.

Practice Makes Perfect

Make consistency a habit.

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By Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS

As practitioners, owners, and managers, we all understand that honing our skills makes us better able to assist our patients toward their desired outcomes. So, how does that apply to our efforts toward marketing and public relations (PR)? It is exactly the same. Practice makes perfect!

Flex Your Muscles

As Kimberly McCall points out in her article in Inc. Magazine, marketing is a lot like exercise, and consistency is the key.1 How often do we tell our patients, it is vital that they perform their home exercise program regularly to improve. That same concept holds true with regard to implementing a successful marketing or PR program. Hit or miss programs will not provide positive outcomes. Steady, consistent messaging is required to stir your market to action.

Several other marketing experts utilize the analogy of exercise in their discussion of developing effective campaigns. Don Beehler, a PR consultant in Nashville, states, “A start and stop PR effort is a little bit like start and stop exercise—it’s better than none at all, but not nearly as effective as a consistent effort.”2 He goes on to point out that without consistency, top of mind awareness can diminish over time. Much like our patients who, once better, stop doing the things that might keep them healthy, they fail just as we would with our occasional marketing and PR endeavors. Regular marketing and PR, just like regular exercise, is crucial to success.

Stick to It!

Brand consistency is another integral component required for reaching your marketing and PR goals. In her blog, “3 Reasons Why Brand Consistency Is Important,” Ally Scott points out that many business owners are too relaxed with their messaging efforts and notes that consistency:

  1. Differentiates you from competitors,
  2. Increases customer recognition, and
  3. Reinforces your identity.3

Regular use of your logo and your mission statement—even your colors and your font—will help increase awareness of your practice.

Flexibility, strengthening, proprioception, balance, endurance…

There are many components to a treatment plan just as there are to a successful marketing or PR campaign. In designing a plan for a patient, a physical therapist assists in developing goals and, with those in mind, implements a treatment plan to reach those objectives. While the patient may need work in many different areas, the treatment techniques are consistent with the overall functional aims. In this same light, our marketing and PR plans should resonate with consistency. A campaign will have many avenues to reach current and potential clients: websites, social media, e-newsletters, direct mail, print advertising, etc., and the message needs to be consistent across all elements.

Developing Trust

To be effective physical therapists, we must develop a sense of trust with our patients. Successful marketing and PR campaigns require the establishment of trust and credibility with your target market. Eric Holtzclaw outlines the five rules on power of consistency in business, stating that consistency:

  1. Allows for measurement,
  2. Creates accountability,
  3. Establishes your reputation,
  4. Makes you relevant, and
  5. Maintains your message.4

Do not confuse and lose your potential clients with inconsistent messaging and branding.

With all of the areas of your practice calling for your attention, it is easy to let your marketing and PR plan take a backseat. Just like a successful exercise program, your marketing and PR campaigns must be well planned and regularly followed to provide the desired outcomes of increasing consumer awareness and driving business through your doors.

Be reputable. Be relevant. Be consistent.

Be successful!

Resources

1. Website: www.inc.com/articles/2000/03/17909.html. Accessed May 2015.

2. Website: http://donbeehler.com/tag/pr-consistency. Accessed May 2015.

3. Website: www.pulsemarketingagency.com/Branding/3-reasons-why-brand-consistency-is-important. Accessed May 2015.

4. Website: www.inc.com/eric-v-holtzclaw/consistency-power-success-rules.html. Accessed May 2015.

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Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, is chair of the marketing and PR committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at dlevine@olympicpt-ri.com.

Differentiate and Thrive

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By Susan Nowell, DPT, PPS, and Annika Lundmark

The adage “with adversity comes great opportunity” certainly rings true for physical therapy private practice owners of today. The health care climate is rapidly changing. In light of increasing reimbursement-based demands, the need to implement new national health care delivery systems is evident; however, definitive, strategic paths remain to be seen. The United States spends more than any other developed country on health care and the costs continue to rise at a high rate. With increasing administrative burdens, declining payment for services, and growing patient cost-sharing, more providers are implementing cash-based service into practice as a way to survive.

I believe that physical therapists can act as leaders of a proactive, patient-centered, preventative health care movement not only to thrive in private practice, but also to reduce the growing costs of the current “reactive” health care system. In order to move beyond survival and to truly thrive as a vital health care profession, we need to actively differentiate ourselves. As of January 1st, 2015, direct access, in one form or another, has been gained in all 50 states. This is very exciting for our profession. Unfortunately, this autonomy is not mirrored in our current reimbursement-dictated system.

If our profession can prove its central place in reducing overall costs of health care with preventative, patient-centered care, I believe our autonomy will gain incredible traction. In the meantime, I think we should focus more of our marketing strategies directly on the payers of our growing cash-based system approach—our patients.

I was formerly the rehabilitation director of a hospital-based outpatient clinic. I recall the challenges of improving clinic revenue while simultaneously implementing Medicare functional reporting and other compliance standards. We organized some outreach events, initially aimed at educating the community on the wellness benefits of physical therapy. Outreach initiatives ranged from hosting a foam roller postural lecture series to supporting Kona Ironman athletes onsite the week of the world championship event. As we received patient walk-ins and increased overall revenue in following months, I realized that these community outreach events were excellent marketing strategies for our clinic. Furthermore, they were active and patient-centered.

In a regulated industry such as health care, it can be difficult for therapists to tackle differentiation in marketing. I think we can learn from other industries where products and services are also held to regulatory standards. As I am at the starting line of building a niche private practice, I find it valuable to consult with business professionals who succeed in differentiating themselves while upholding regulatory standards.

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Here are some of the top marketing strategies I learned from Annika Lundmark, primary marketing consultant for a business that is at the top of their game in the world of sports surfaces for large sports venues and schools districts across the United States:

Q: What was the initial mission of your company?
A: Founded in 2003, Hellas was originated to fill a differentiated need in the marketplace combining both construction services with sports surfacing products and installation services. Hellas’ athletic fields, running tracks, and tennis courts all have quality advantages, technical components, and unique specifications for athletes in terms of safety and performance characteristics. However, the fact that we have differentiated ourselves in our delivery in addition to our quality products is really what has set the company apart.

Q: How do you achieve differentiation in your marketing messages?
A: Consistency is crucial in building brand recognition and increasing your footprint. By differentiating your message from other providers or finding that special niche you can increase the likelihood of getting on your audience’s radar screen.

So how do you differentiate? Is there something in your offering, practice, or even personality that stands out? It can be subtle or it can be bold. Think of effective marketing or advertising campaigns you have seen and how you can stand out.

After you find your point(s) of differentiation you have to consistently hammer that message in all areas of communication and interactions. The more unique and differentiated, the more people will pay attention—but remember it still has to be relevant, and it has to be true!

For example: If you decide that your promise to your customers is going to be “Always with a smile,” you better make sure you and your service always come with a smile. You must show photos on your website with smiling people, you have to smile when you first encounter new patients or clients; if not, it will not work—your message has to be manifested in your interactions and ways of doing business.

Then again, a smile will not replace quality. Your client will still judge you on the quality, but that smile is memorable and will help create a strong reference.

Q: What is your approach for reaching new clients?
A: Mindful expansion is important. By doing a traditional profiling of your current clients, you can most easily find more of the same. Ask yourself: Who are my clients? Age, gender, income, where do they live, occupation, and hobbies. You may be surprised to find a pretty narrow segment, or what marketers call your target audience. From that profiling decide “How do I find more of the same or can I reach a new audience?” Or do I need to expand geographically by finding the same profile in a new area? Doublecheck that your differentiated message will resonate with your target audience. Create a referral incentive. Make your existing clients do the work for you if they are pleased with your services. Be straightforward and honest. “I am expanding my business; do you know of anyone that may benefit from my services?”

Q: What are some active ways that you market your products?
A: Hold a “lunch and learn.” If you want to educate and network, combine spreading your differentiated message and education with a positive event. Everyone is busy but most of the time can make time for lunch. Offer to bring lunch and have an informative session while your audience is eating. Do not forget to leave behind a promotional item with your differentiated message and contact information that they keep on their desk. Also dress well! Wear something very nice with your company name/logo embroidered on it, and make your employees always wear company apparel when they visit clients. It is such an easy way of branding your business.

Q: How do you retain your customers?
A: Mindful communication is important. Do not bombard your clients with email, newsletters, or promotional offers, and keep a database of what they are interested in so you can get the right message to each group at the right time. If you have a strong base of athletes that is in need of sports rehab, send a promotional offer during the “off” season to drum up some extra business. Set aside one day per month where you decide on next month’s promotion or client outreach. Pick up the phone!

Do not neglect the importance of a phone call in this electronic age. “Just touching base to see how are you feeling after the last visit, any continued aches or problems, did my services help?” I guarantee this will differentiate your services and personal care.

Annika Lundmark is a marketing consultant for Hellas Construction. She can be reached at annika@hellasconstruction.

Susan Nowell, DPT, is a PPS member and Impact editorial board member. She can be reached at sunowell@gmail.com.

It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

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Mr. Rogers and developing relationships.

By Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” —Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers had some great advice not only for children, but for those who own or operate a business. The importance of building relationships has become increasingly more important in this everchanging world of private practice physical therapy. In this month’s column, the Marketing and Public Relations (PR) Committee would like to highlight some of the ideas of Fred Rogers and why his vision may have significant meaning for our practices.

“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” —Fred Rogers

Most physical therapists I know entered the field because they were passionate about helping people. As we move from staff physical therapist to manager to owner, our interactions with patients may decrease and we find ourselves in meetings and conversations with a wide variety of individuals. Your day may be made up of interactions with insurance companies, vendors, legislators, human resources directors, and other business owners. Just as it is important to develop relationships with our patients, it is equally critical to our success to do the same with all these other contacts. As Mr. Rogers points out, showing others kindness is the way to success. In fact, thinking about the qualities you use to engage and empower your patients is an excellent way to develop relationships with your other contacts. Let’s look at a few areas:

Interest
The first job in our evaluation process is obtaining the patient history. While we ask for information on date and mechanism of injury, it is important to understand the patient’s activities and their goals. The more we recognize the desires and objectives of our patients, the better equipped we are to assist them. This same aspiration should hold true when we develop relationships with our other “neighbors” in our health care and business community. Understanding the needs of others is a crucial step and relaying that perception is a great way to build a relationship.

Education/Expertise
Physical therapists have an expertise in health care and wellness and our patients look to us for answers that will assist them back to full function. Many of our “neighbors” are also looking for answers, many that we may be able to provide. As health care costs soar, employers, legislators, and third-party payers are looking for ways to decrease expenses and improve the bottom line. As research continues to demonstrate the cost-saving value of physical therapy, the relationships we develop with the individuals in control of the dollars are critical. It is imperative that they understand our expertise and our contribution to their goals.

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Motivation
Our patients must understand that, while we are here to help guide them back to health, it is ultimately the hard work that they put in, both in the clinic and on their own, that will complete the job. Motivation plays a critical role throughout the rehabilitation process and extends to relationship building throughout your community network. When motivating others to continue a course of action or inspiring different groups to work together for a common cause, our energy and our passion demonstrate our commitment to those relationships.

Hard Work
Practicing physical therapy is incredibly rewarding, but few physical therapists would say that our job is easy. The initial education process, as well as keeping up with the changes in the field, makes us lifetime learners. The ever-increasing burden of paperwork further impacts the amount of time we spend on work activities. It is important to carry this work ethic on as we build our relationships. Just like a marriage, relationships require work and can fall apart without effort. There may be times when you feel like the work on the relationship is all one sided. For those times remember this Mr. Rogers quote, “I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said ‘yes’ when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly only helpful to someone else.” When we do for others without always concentrating on the return, our relationships will strengthen.

Relationship building is critical in the success of not only our own businesses, but also in the health of our profession. The time and energy we put into our connections and community partners will have long-lasting, positive effects. Remember, don’t disappoint Mr. Rogers. 

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Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, is chair of the marketing and PR committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at dlevine@olympicpt-ri.com.

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