Key Marketing Initiatives for the Private Practice

An Interview with Neil Trickett, PT*, of Practice Promotions

Interview by Matt Slimming, PT, DPT

Matt Slimming: What are the one or two most important items for a clinic owner to consider when designing or updating their website?

Neil Trickett: You really have to understand that it’s not about you, it’s about the patient. It’s about what really resonates with the person’s own interests when visiting your website. Make them the hero, show the transformation they will attain.

For example, if I have a back problem, can I get to that relevant information quickly? You should have great pictures that show smiling, fit, active people doing the kind of things patients want to be doing. The primary thing is really not making it about you as the physical therapist, but making it about the patient’s desires.

Matt Slimming: What percentage of income do you think the marketing budget should be for a physical therapy clinic?

Neil Trickett: This is a great question and it’s where a lot of practice owners really hurt themselves. They could be at a very different level of success, if they knew what the metric should be and if they invest wisely in their marketing. If they get a good return on their investment, they shouldn’t have any problem spending the right amount of money. The problem comes when people spend money and they don’t see returns. Then they feel burned and are frightened to spend more money.

On average, across the rehab industry, 1 to 2 percent of gross income is being spent on marketing, which is mind boggling. It just goes to show you the actual power that physical therapists have in word-of-mouth marketing. If you could put a good marketing plan behind that strong word-of-mouth effect, then you can get even better results.

If you look at data from other industries, most small businesses are spending anywhere from 8 to 12 percent of gross revenue on marketing activities. Because we, as physical therapists, don’t get much marketing or business training in school, we often don’t put enough attention or investment into our marketing, and then we struggle. I would say a physical therapy practice should initially aim to spend 5 to 8 percent of gross revenue on marketing activities. As a clinic grows, that should move toward the 8 to 10 percent range.

However, these numbers do depend on the profitability of the business. You could be very large, but not profitable because you have a lot of inefficiencies.

Matt Slimming: I imagine an important number to consider is return on investment (ROI). We want to be investing in marketing activities that have a positive ROI. Should that be measured based on gross income or net profit?

Neil Trickett: I think it should be gross income. The job of marketing is to get new people in the door, and also to help with retention.
A key number to measure is customer acquisition cost (CAC). Add up all of your marketing expenditures, all your advertising, and all of your marketing salaries. When you divide the number of new patients by your total marketing expenditures, that will give you your CAC.

You also have to look at the value of each new patient. If you have, on average, each patient coming for 10 visits, and each visit is worth $80, then the average patient value is $800. You want to make sure that your CAC is obviously well below that number.

Matt Slimming: That makes sense, because it is difficult to measure ROI on some important marketing activities, such as sending out patient newsletters. How important is it to market to your patients?

Neil Trickett: The vast majority of practice owners that I talk to are not doing any marketing to their past patients. I feel they are sitting on a gold mine. The costliest marketing activity is trying to attract new patients. Therefore, practice owners need to be investing first and foremost in building their customer list, and keeping those customers well connected with them.

We are now in an incredible age where we have lots of technology to go direct to the consumer. For physical therapy practice owners, their strategy should be to leverage their customer relationships more, and focus on going direct to consumer. Physician relationships can continue to be built, but more from us referring to them. Now that’s an incredible flip for us to be able to perform as a profession!


Neil Trickett

Neil Trickett, PT,is owner of Practice Promotions and can be reached at neil@practice-promotions.com.

*The subject has a vested interest in this topic.

Matt Slimming

Matt Slimming, PT, DPT, is a PPS member and member of the Impact editorial board. He can be reached at matt@starptclinics.com.