Developing a Strategic Marketing Plan to Drive New Patient Growth

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Are you throwing darts or targeting the bullseye?

By Steve Stalzer, PT, MBA

The difference between marketing and strategic marketing is like the difference between throwing darts at a wall versus intentionally targeting an identified bullseye.

Both types of marketing involve resources and effort. From afar, they will look very similar. Where strategic marketing differs is the ability to assess results and know whether your activities hit the mark so you can adjust and improve your marketing results. This article will outline steps needed to be more intentional in achieving sustainable growth and increasing practice value through strategic marketing.

Review recent trends

The first step is to understand past trends in your new patient metrics. Looking at three-year trends that reflect the results from past marketing efforts is a good starting place. If you don’t have three-year trends, looking at the past year or month can still be effective. Modify and complete the grid below (in Excel, if possible) to reflect your key referral sources and new patient volume associated with each. Breaking physicians into categories can help as well. If you don’t have this data, track it for a month to get a better idea of where your patients are coming from.

Compare your trends with recent initiatives to assess the effectiveness of your efforts. Note any changes (positive or negative) that correlate with your recent marketing efforts. For example, have digital marketing initiatives resulted in an increase in patients who find your practice by searching online? Have social media efforts resulted in patients who find your practice through social media connections? Has adding a physician liaison improved physician referrals? Take note of what has been most effective and what has not produced measurable results in new patient volume.

Assess your trajectory and capacity

Compare your current new patient volume to your therapist and facility capacity. Identify any unfilled capacity within existing therapist schedules and facilities. Are your trends leading you where you want to be in the next one to three years? Is new patient volume your biggest challenge or is hiring a bigger obstacle? What barriers are preventing you from doubling the size of your business in the next five years? Start formulating thoughts on whether you need to stay the course or change tactics and increase efforts to achieve future goals.

Maximize current capacity before adding new capacity

Opening new clinics is relatively expensive in comparison to the cost of adding a therapist in an existing clinic location. Consider which competitive advantages have potential to generate the greatest volume at the lowest cost. You are likely to see better results when you leverage competitive advantages (things you are good at doing) rather than attempting to focus on new and unproven marketing methods. It can also help to assess recruiting results if hiring staff has been a past barrier to growth. If this is the case, you may consider a plan to improve hiring efforts.

Assess expansion opportunities

Once your existing clinics are operating near ideal capacity, identify ideal markets that are nearby but not currently served by your existing locations. A good commercial realtor can help with mapping the locations of top referral sources and competitors. They can also provide insight on market demographics and traffic volumes. Consider working with physicians and other providers to identify areas where therapist needs are higher. Know your competitive advantages and leverage those to compete in new locations.

Align your budget

Regardless of whether you operate with a thorough budget or not, compare your past marketing spending with your new patient goals. Effective marketing should generate a positive and often significant return on your investment. Don’t be afraid to try new initiatives but be sure to measure the results of those efforts. Make small changes each quarter and assess results before expanding successful programs. Measure your results by assessing new patient volume and be cautious of efforts designed to “build brand awareness” rather than new patient volume. There is no better way to build brand awareness, after all, than having more patients who become advocates for your company!


No plan is successful without execution. Once you have identified strategies for the upcoming year, identify key initiatives and weekly action plans in writing. Share initiatives with staff and align staff and company goals to optimize your results. Leverage staff strengths to help achieve your goals and create incentives that build win-win scenarios with your team. If you find the team struggling in the area of execution, consider picking up a copy of The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney and having your clinic directors review the key points on successful execution of top strategic goals.

Assess results

Keeping score will help you assess the results of your efforts and let you know if you are now hitting the mark. Get in the habit of taking a time to review your past quarterly results and assess progress with new marketing initiatives. If you are off track, consider if it is due to poor execution, the wrong strategy, or an external change that requires adjustment of your strategy. Update your action plans for the next 90 days and work with your team to establish priorities for the next quarter.

Steve Stalzer

Steve Stalzer, PT, MBA, is a PPS member and practice consultant with 8150 advisors. Steve can be reached at steve@8150advisors.com.