Connecting with Your Community

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By Peter Decoteau

Connecting with the community is an essential part of marketing for any physical therapy practice — it means meeting your community where their needs are, building relationships, and bringing value to people beyond the walls of your clinic. Brian Hay, PT, DPT, Marketing Committee member and communications officer at Performance Physical Therapy, recently presented a webinar, “How to Get the Most Out of Your Community Events,” aimed at helping PPS members engage with potential clients and patients by making an impression in the community. In the presentation, Brian gave an insightful and comprehensive overview of how to select, market, organize, execute, and follow up on events to raise awareness of your services to those who are most likely to access them.

Below, we’ve collected some key insights that can help guide the way you approach and select your next community event. We’ll also be including a link to the webinar in the digital version of this piece, as well as links to other relevant materials.

1) IDENTIFY YOUR “WHY”

Anyone who’s been to vendor fairs, local races, or other events can likely recall seeing a participating business that made them stop and think, “Now, why would they participate in this event?” It’s one thing to want to sponsor or participate in an event to build relationships with other local businesses, or as a show of good faith for local membership groups, but just as often, businesses participate in community events simply because it’s something to do or “something we’ve always done,” even if they see little or no benefit from it.

Identifying your why and setting goals (more on that below) can help clarify the events that deserve your participation versus those that are perhaps more worthy of your personal attendance and not your professional support. These whys may include:

  • Highlighting your business to a key audience as the provider of choice in the area
  • Promoting a new location
  • Introducing a new program to a relevant audience
  • Building a niche following
  • Showing mission alignment with an activity, culture, or audience
  • Simply showing support for your community

2) MATCH YOUR PRIORITIES TO THE EVENT

It’s easy to loosely apply any one of the bullets above to an event, so it’s important to be honest with yourself about how much value your why brings to your practice. To that end, make sure to keep in mind some key considerations for whether an event is worth your while:

  • What type of event it is? Not all fairs, races, and community presentations are equal, and factors like the format, timing, and location can be the difference between a valuable event and a waste of time and resources. For example, if you’re looking to connect with and show support for your community, sponsoring and attending a large town festival is much different, and potentially more valuable, than sponsoring a business chamber’s online vendor fair. While both events can be said to show support for the community and local businesses, only the former reaches a large, public-facing audience with an opportunity to connect interpersonally.
  • Quality versus quantity: On the other hand, quantity — of people you’re reaching, promotional space you’re given, time you have — is not always the mark of a worthwhile event. Consider the value of an hour-long presentation to a group of 30 engaged senior citizens at a local senior center versus a tent and table at a day-long local car show with 2,000 attendees. In most instances, anyone might be inclined to take the opportunity to market to 2,000 people for six hours over 30 people for one hour, yet in this situation, the quality of the opportunity at the senior center — the audience relevance and potential message impact — far outweighs that of the car show.
  • Your target audience: As in the example above, it’s essential to consider whether the event’s main demographic aligns with a patient persona you’ve created. If it does, then specify in what way it’s a match and determine how your messages and materials for the event can be formatted to speak directly to that audience. For something like a presentation to seniors, these questions may be easy to answer, but when approaching bigger, broader events, such as local fairs and races, identify whether one or two of your personae are likely to be in attendance, then bring materials that speak directly to that audience.

3) DEFINE SUCCESS BY SETTING SMART GOALS

SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting goals based on this framework is a great way to make sure your marketing efforts are focused on positive returns-on-investment (ROI) — yes, even community events, which are notoriously difficult to measure for ROI. On the flip side, if an event underperforms based on the SMART goals you’ve set, they can at least provide quantifiable evidence for why an activity may not be worth your while in the future. No marketing effort is a total loss if you can learn from it!

The challenge in setting SMART goals for events typically comes when establishing the “Measurable” metrics that define success, which may look different depending on the event; ultimately, physical therapists tend to market for new patients, so your measurables may well be simply the number of new patients converted through a given event. That number, multiplied by the average return per patient as compared to the total investment cost of the event, will tell you your ROI.

(New Patients × Average Value Per Patient) − Investment Cost = ROI

Still, you may end up measuring an event’s success instead on leads generated through emails you can follow up with, or through connections you made with other local groups that have the potential to open up opportunities to reach new target audiences. The key, then, is to set goals you can measure with concrete numbers that represent the generation, nurturing, or conversion of leads into new patients. 

These three insights cover only the first portion of Brian’s webinar presentation. For more information on how to get the most out of community events, including logistics, organization, execution, and follow-up, visit the PPS Marketing Resources page “Marketing Webinars, White Papers, and Impact Articles By Topic” section, where the full webinar, PowerPoint, and downloadable assets such as events prep forms are available for all PPS members. These resources can be found under the “Lead Generation and Follow-Through” topic.


Peter Decoteau

Peter Decoteau is the Director of Marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at peter.decoteau@ptsmc.com.

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