Use client-focused marketing to increase leads.
By Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS, CCC-SLP
Where You Are vs. Where You Want to Be
Inevitably, every December and January there is much talk of New Year’s resolutions. Whether they motivate you or make you cringe, starting each year by analyzing where you are and where you want to be in your private practice is very important. Chances are, no matter how successful your private practice is, you still have goals to increase income, productivity, and overall success.
If your main goals surround increasing income, you are going to have to tap into additional referral sources to grow your caseload. Although finding new clients is not easy, I urge you to dedicate your 2015 marketing efforts to being everywhere. Before we learn how to have a “be everywhere” mentality, we need to make sure that your future clients know why they should hire you.
Why Should a Client Pick You?
It might sound strange and even offensive to minimize your role as a rehabilitation specialist down to a commodity but that is what you are. By providing a service in exchange for money (either private pay or through third party reimbursement), economically speaking, you are a commodity.
If a client hires you and feels that your services are beneficial, they will continue the working relationship by continuing to pay for your services. If not, they will shop around and go elsewhere. It is extremely important to figure out what it is about your services that is so beneficial that they will be thrilled with your services and not want to go anywhere else. Once you identify your unique selling proposition, use it to drive your marketing efforts.
The questions then become: What is your unique selling proposition and why should a client choose you to be their clinician? What is special, different, and exceptional about the services that you provide? Before you list your degrees and advanced training, please remember that it actually is not about you. They are not hiring you for you, but for what you can do for them.
Answer the “What Do You Do?” Question Differently
Nearly everyone knows what a physical therapist does. Even if they have not had physical therapy themselves, they have friends or family members who have worked with a physical therapist due to an injury, illness, or developmental issue. Because of the range of populations, ages, and diagnoses, it is important to always state that you are “a physical therapist that works with X (population) so that they can do X (benefit).” For example: I am a pediatric physical therapist. I help children with developmental delays learn how to walk. As the general population already has assumptions about who physical therapists are and what they do, make sure that you provide clarification and even education by saying specifically what population you work with and how you serve them. Providing information will encourage the conversation to continue without immediately turning to them telling you about their aching back or leg pain. Casual conversations at parties and events can lead to untapped referral sources. If you do not clearly state population and benefit-specific information, they may not think to send their friend, family member, and colleague your way.
Be Where Your Referral Sources Are
Now that you have defined your value and created a unique selling proposition, it is time to bridge the gap between you knowing how fantastic you are and others knowing how fantastic you are and actively referring clients to you.
Remember when we talked about you and your services being a commodity? Your potential clients already have an established network of therapists, doctors, legal professionals, and store clerks who they already know and regularly interact with. Take advantage of the fact that people instinctively like to give their recommendations and do everything you can to gain their recommendation.
As you start brainstorming a list of other professionals who also know your ideal clients, be sure to think outside the box. In addition to obvious sources like current referral sources, fellow physical therapists, and other rehab providers (OT, SLP, orthopedists), cast your net as wide as possible and consider closely related professionals (e.g., athletic coaches and trainers, nutritionists, podiatrists, neurologists, and primary care physicians) as well as more distantly related possibilities like shoe store owners, juice bars, acupuncturists, running club leaders, etc.
Create different mailing lists with different marketing materials that specifically state the benefits of working with you in language and terms that make sense to these different referral sources. Decide whether it makes sense to simply mail marketing materials or stop in to offices and stores to introduce yourself.
Be Where Your Clients Are
Whether you are treating privately full or part-time, in a freestanding brick and mortar practice or in your client’s homes, you need a steady stream of clients to treat. These days, potential clients and referral sources are looking for you in one place: online. Yes, word of mouth recommendations are still extremely important and relevant—but after someone says, “You should really give Jena a call…” What do they do? They Google you.
If you do not have a website with search-optimized terms for your practice name, geographic location, target population, and therapeutic offerings, you are wasting your time. Not only do you need your own website, but you must also be on review sites like Yelp.com and Angie’s List. Today’s consumer does not buy goods or hire service providers without reading reviews. Your clients are searching for you online—are you there?
With 2015 under way, I hope that you take the time to think like your referral sources and ideal clients and create a marketing plan that makes sense to them. Remember, you need to provide information and details about yourself and how you benefit clients in locations where they are looking for you. Spending the time to fully understand what clients are looking for in a physical therapist—and where they are looking for it—will help your practice grow.
Jena H. Castro-Casbon, MS, CCC-SLP, is a private practice consultant and founder of The Independent Clinician. She has written two books, The Guide to Private Patients and The Guide to Creating a Web Presence. To learn more, visit www.IndependentClinician.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.