All in the Family


Marketing through building the Monchu.

By Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT

Private practice owners know that marketing is a vital component of their practice. Successful owners know that the best marketing comes from building relationships. While we can communicate a great deal of information to potential clients, we run the risk of developing transactional, commodity-based relationships if we don’t truly connect. My friend Chris Brogan explains it like this: The difference between an audience and a community is which way the chairs are facing.

Chris has a way of hitting you between the eyes with statements like this one. As someone whose mission is to help build owners, Chris knows that business is about belonging. In fact, he describes his business community as the monchu.

If you have seen the documentary “Happy,” you may remember the community in Okinawa where a group of ladies described taking care of each other. They explained this by saying they were each other’s chosen family or monchu. We take care of those in our monchu, not because we want something in return, but because we want to see them thrive.

In a marketing model where we stand on a box and yell through a bullhorn, we are trying to win clients by speaking to an audience. All of the chairs are facing toward us, and the audience listens to us describe all the wonderful things we can do. Conversely, when we build a monchu, we arrange the chairs in a circle, where we listen to what potential clients need and build a relationship built on trust to enable us to deliver value.

Before people will listen to what we have to say, we need to connect and build a relationship. These days, the Internet (and social media in particular), make it easier than ever to reach people with your message. The key to success is in how you do it. People are bombarded with messages and advertisements all day, every day. To survive, we have learned to tune out the majority of the noise.

When marketing a profession, business, or product, we need to command the attention of the audience we want to reach. The best way to do this is by building relationships with our target audience. The most successful campaigns are launched through conversations. Social media is a very effective way to connect and build relationships; yet, many people forget this step and go right to direct marketing. If you only use social media to push your products or services, the majority of people will tune you out.

In the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek, the author makes the important point that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” When we focus on building relationships first, it is easy to share with people the beliefs and purpose (our why), which drives what we do. Our product serves as tangible proof of what we believe. Sinek makes the point that “when an organization defines itself by what it does, that’s all it will ever be able to do [commoditization].”

If we have connected and built a relationship, then potential clients know why we are physical therapists (desire to help others, love for patient education, mission to teach people how to live more independent lives, desire to ease pain and restore mobility through hands-on work). If we make our interactions about the client, so that they understand why they need us, then we do not have to do the “hard sell.”

Building your monchu creates a culture around your brand. It allows those people in your chosen community to feel that they belong (everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something). It can be as simple as hosting free educational events in your clinic or having T-shirts that clients earn after reaching a special milestone. It can encompass hosting a barbeque for the community or sending birthday cards to clients. It can even be that every staff member sets a goal to know the name of every patient who comes in for treatment. You get to choose how you want to build your monchu. When you do it intentionally, people really feel like they are part of something bigger. Then you have built a lasting relationship and have drawn clients to your practice who will become your brand ambassadors, happy to tell others about their chosen family. 

Ann Wendel, PT, ATC, CMTPT, is an Impact editorial board member and owner of Prana Physical Therapy, PLLC, in Alexandria, Virginia. She can be reached at

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