27 Marketing Strategies

Pathway up a mountain

Get more new patients without paying for expensive ads or asking for physician referrals

By Aaron LeBauer, PT, DPT*

Marketing: a word that holds a lot of power for physical therapy practice owners. It’s something everyone wants to do more of, and do better.

They want to do marketing right, because that’s how we get new patients in our door, but might struggle with effective tactics that produce results. This article makes a case for marketing, along with 27 of my top marketing strategies to drive traffic to your clinic without having to rely on expensive ads or physician referrals.

The Basis of Marketing

When I started my 100% cash practice in 2009, traditional marketing didn’t work. I tried and tried to do what everyone said was the best way to market my new clinic, but I just couldn’t get the referrals I expected and that others told me would come. In the end, even though we got great results, because we “didn’t take” the patient’s insurance, doctors wouldn’t send their patients to our clinic. So, I had to figure out another way.

Over the years, I’ve realized that the best way to get patients to buy in, want to be patients, and see us despite insurance issues is to market directly to them. Patients are our consumer and when they make the decision to come see us and become our patient, we no longer have problems with them not being compliant with their home exercise program (HEP) or even showing up for their appointments.

Cash-based physical therapy is a high-friction business. The top—and really only—objection we get is “you don’t take my insurance” and it’s “too expensive, I want to use my insurance.” Over the years of talking with hundreds of physical therapy clinics, both in-network, out-of-network, and cash-based, the most common problem cited is that patients and people in their community who need physical therapy don’t know what physical therapy actually is or, if they are looking for a physical therapist, they don’t even know that the practice actually exists.

Most clinic owners are still generating referrals from physicians, which is great. However, it is now 2020; vision 2020 has come and gone. We are clearly primary care providers for people with musculoskeletal issues and these marketing strategies will position you as the expert in your community and the person or practice patients should call first when they are hurt or injured. There are so many more people out there who need physical therapy who don’t know what you can do for them because they’ve had a bad experience with it in the past, or they think they need something else.

So, the next easy option is to just throw money at print ads or even Facebook ads and hope people respond to your message. This doesn’t always work like we want, and it’s an expensive way to test your marketing message. Instead, there are some very specific and high-value strategies that you can implement, or have someone on your team implement, that will give you a huge return on investment (ROI) on your time.

Remember, these are the strategies we’ve used to fill our cash practice when traditional marketing didn’t work. Just imagine how you can grow your practice if you use even just a few of the same strategies that have been successful in our clinic and hundreds of other clinics.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that marketing will not solve all your problems. It will not fix a customer service or sales retention issue, nor will it fix a message disconnect. Marketing without getting to the root of your problem is simply a money suck.

So let’s get into some of the marketing strategies I’ve put together over the years. Many of them I have adapted from outside our industry; others I created myself. Enjoy!

Fast Implementation Strategies

These strategies all involve social media and how to make the biggest splash without taking too much of your time. These eight small things will make a difference, I promise!

  1. 1. Complete as much information as possible in your Google Business listing and update it with images and new offers regularly.
  2. 2. Your personal Facebook profile is your professional profile as well. It should include your personal mission statement.
  3. 3. Your business Facebook page should include as much info as you can. Use the “Learn More” button to send people to a free gift.
  4. 4. Your Instagram bio should include your location, USP (Unique Service Proposition), and a fun fact about you.
  5. 5. Use LinkTree for your Instagram link so people can have the option to get your current free offers or learn more about you.
  6. 6. Create daily Instagram stories delivering value with a call to action (CTA) at the end. This CTA can be for people to contact you or go to the link in your profile to get their free gift.
  7. 7. Regularly post on your Instagram feed as well. Start with 2-3x a week and work up to at least one post per day.
  8. 8. If you make YouTube videos, make sure the link to your free offer is in the first or second line. (Be sure to include the https:// beforehand so that it is clickable!)

Strategies that Generate the Most New Patients

These strategies take a little longer to implement but are guaranteed to get new patients in your door right away!

  1. 9. Write articles for local newspapers and magazines.
  2. 10. Create a private Facebook group for your perfect customer.
  3. 11. Plan in-person workshops at your clinic or at another business. Be sure to collect everyone’s name, phone number, and email address so you can follow up with them!
  4. 12. Schedule one-on-one meetings with healthcare and fitness professionals. Lead with value.
  5. 13. Facebook ads—when done right and at the right time—are amazingly effective and efficient. (Just be sure to do your research and don’t jump into this right away.)

Strategies that yield Longer-Term Payouts

These are the ones that may take more time and money but provide longer-term benefits.

  1. 14. Create a walk-by traffic board to share your free offer.
  2. 15. Use window signage on your building or in a prominent location.
  3. 16. Cultivate word-of-mouth referrals by asking for them in person or in automated emails.
  4. 17. Optimize your website for Google search.
  5. 18. Have a grand re-opening. Host a live party with “sponsors” (local businesses) and have a raffle that benefits a charity.
  6. 19. The more links across the web that direct back to your website, the better. This will ensure it ranks higher in Google search.
  7. 20. Get as many free directory listings as you can!

Strategies that Build Authority

Building authority in your community is one of the most important things you can do as a business owner. These are some powerful ways you can do so!

  1. 21. Create a podcast or be a guest on a popular one.
  2. 22. Get interviewed in a magazine, newspaper, or podcast
  3. 23. Submit articles to multiple media outlets.
  4. 24. Write five follow-up emails for your free gift.

Bonus Strategies

Finally, these bonus strategies will give your clinic traffic the kick it needs.

  1. 25. Write hand-written thank you cards for every new patient asking them to spread the word to help you generate referrals.
  2. 26. Create a free gift/eBook/video training to give value and get potential patients’ contact info.
  3. 27. Reach out to 10 healthcare and fitness professionals a day!

If you’re itching to get started, good news: most of these you can begin to implement right now. I’d start with the quick social media strategies, then move on down the list.

However, be aware that lackluster results might indicate another issue altogether. For instance, if you’re getting 10 free discovery visits or total body diagnostics a week but only converting two of them to patients, you don’t have a marketing problem. If you have 40 patients a week and no time to do anything for yourself, you don’t have a marketing problem. You may need to improve your sales, tweak your rates, or better your efficiency before diving into marketing at all. 

Dr. Aaron LeBauer

Dr. Aaron LeBauer is the owner of LeBauer Physical Therapy a 100% cash practice in Greensboro, NC and a business coach. He is available on Instagram @AaronLeBauer.

*The author has a professional affiliation with this subject.

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