Six Tips for Being the Best Marketing Mentor
By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS
Many physical therapists think that if they provide great care, the patients will come. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. While word of mouth and great care will get you part of the way, growing your patient base also requires good, consistent marketing.
The word marketing can conjure up images of a used-car salesman haggling with and scamming customers. But marketing isn’t about haggling or misleading anyone—it’s about communicating what your practice has to offer via messaging, advocating for your business, and developing relationships.
Typically, the owner of a physical therapy private practice will understand both marketing concepts and the need for marketing. But as a practice grows, new employees must learn the skills of marketing, and owners need to take on the responsibility of teaching these skills to their staff. Physical therapists value clinical mentorship, but mentoring in marketing is just as important to ensure a clinician is successful. There’s no point in a physical therapist being amazing clinically if they don’t have any patients to treat!
Read on for my top six tips on being the best marketing mentor for your physical therapists (PTs):
1 Help your PTs so they can answer the common questions. Many physical therapists are unable to provide succinct, clear answers to questions such as “What do physical therapists do?’’ or “Why would I go to physical therapy?’’ or “How is physical therapy different from seeing a chiropractor, massage therapist, or personal trainer?” If a physical therapist is not able to confidently answer questions about their professional services, then the chances of them talking about our profession or practice in a positive way is unlikely. Practice with and help ensure all physical therapists in your practice can confidently answer the commonly asked questions.
2 Make sure your PTs are communicating well with physicians. Physicians refer patients to physical therapists they trust and have a relationship with. Developing these relationships is an important part of a practice’s sustainable growth and ability to expand its staff. It’s important that the private practice owner isn’t the only one investing in these relationships—you should be mentoring your physical therapists on how to best correspond with other clinicians. Many new physical therapists do not have the confidence, experience, or knowledge to understand how their communication style can affect their credibility, likability, or relationships.
You can review and mentor physical therapists on their correspondence with referral sources to ensure it’s written appropriately for the recipient. For example, an occupational health physician needs and expects different information than what an orthopedic surgeon needs, and helping to instruct staff on these differences will improve both communication and the relationships they create. You can also help coach therapists on their phone etiquette; for example, on when it is appropriate to call the referral source, what to say, and how to say it. Calling a doctor and stating, “I am the physical therapist who is seeing your patient and I can’t help them any more,” is certainly not providing valuable, clinically relevant information or recommendations. Part of marketing to physicians is demonstrating your value to them as a health care provider. Therapists need to be mentored on how to provide concise, clinically relevant information. For example, “This patient with a six-month history of low back pain of an insidious onset, presents with stiffness in his SI joints, lumbar spine, and hips. Due to the pain being dull in nature, not related to movement, worse at night and in the morning, inflammation is indicated, and possibly ankylosing spondylitis. I would recommend this patient be referred to a rheumatologist for further evaluation.”
3 Invite your PTs along to events. Invite physical therapists to join you at a community event, like a 5K race where your practice has a table. These events give your practice members a chance to mix with the participants and to educate and promote your products and services, and will give your physical therapists the opportunity to practice speaking with people about their running, injuries, performance, and prevention without it feeling like a sales pitch. This is not only a nice environment for a therapist to get their feet wet in but it’s also a great chance to increase awareness of how physical therapy can benefit a person and build credibility through giving good advice. This is the start to building a trusted relationship. And when people are injured, they’re going to go to someone they trust.
4 Make sure PTs are ready to help a patient’s family. Patients often tell their physical therapists about ailments of their partners or children. The empathetic physical therapist will often listen and maybe even give advice, or recommend they see their doctor. You can help give these physical therapists the tools, autonomy, and language to turn these family members into patients. Let your physical therapists know that they can respond with something like this: “Did you know you don’t need to see a physician to see a physical therapist? How about you bring your husband in next time and I will do a quick screen to assess the problem and determine if physical therapy would help.”
5 Ensure PTs end episodes of care the right way. There is nothing worse than hearing a physical therapist on the final visit of an episode of care simply saying, “Goodbye.” Advise your physical therapists that they should always be investing in long-term relationships with patients and keeping the lines of communication open—this benefits both the patient and the physical therapist. For example, a patient’s final visit can end with the physical therapist saying: “Here is my business card; please call or email with questions’’ or “Please remember you don’t need a referral if you need to return,” or “I will follow up with a phone call in three months to see how you are doing.”
6 Have PTs survey their patients. You can introduce physical therapists to the Fit Factor (www.fitfactor.org). This online survey developed for Private Practice Section (PPS) members is an excellent tool for physical therapists to share with patients. The survey educates a person on many of the things physical therapists do that they may not have been aware of. In addition, a completed survey will give the physical therapist information about the person that can lead to educating a patient, providing increased value.
If you keep these tips in mind and help mentor your physical therapists in marketing strategies, you can help ensure that your practice is not only succeeding clinically, but that patients are always coming in the door.
For more information, please visit ppsapta.org. Click Practice Management, then Marketing Resources.
For Further Reading
How to build a first-class marketing team through mentoring. imeetcentral.com/build-first-class-marketing-team-mentoring.
Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.