Emotional Ties

heart-shaped knot with blue bg

Relationship-based marketing—and the mindset that fuels it.

By Jamey T. Shrier, PT*

Emotion matters in marketing. We often talk about emotion’s role in terms of connecting with audiences: being authentic, telling stories, creating experiences. But let’s rewind a bit further, to focus on your emotions—and your mindset—as you approach the work of marketing itself. Are you stressed out and anxious about this important part of your work? Do you approach it with dread? A lot of physical therapists I know and work with do exactly that. I used to be just like them.

Mindset is critical to everything we do. And that includes how we approach marketing.


A mindset is a system of beliefs and attitudes. Your mindset encompasses your view of yourself and of the world around you: your abilities and the abilities of others, your experiences, and your relationships. Your mindset deeply influences your perception, as well as your decisions and your emotional outlook.

I often think about mindset in terms of abundance versus scarcity.

It won’t shock you to learn that a scarcity mindset focuses on what’s lacking. In terms of marketing and referrals, that often boils down to: There aren’t enough patients to go around. Hospital takeovers are buying up all the doctors. Big health care rehab chains work at a scale independent practices can’t compete with.

A mindset of abundance enables you to recognize that, in fact, there are more people who need what you offer than you could ever hope to treat. When you get beyond the fear wrapped up in a focus on scarcity, you can more effectively zero in on the real challenge: How do I connect with those people?

The scarcity mindset worries chronically about big competitors. The abundance mindset recognizes that even with consolidation, there is no lack of patients.

The scarcity mindset tends to be pretty reactive—another sign of the fear that lurks beneath this mental outlook. One of those reactions is what I call STS, for Shiny Toy Syndrome. That’s the constant chase for the next new thing. You learn about a flashy, cool way to market your practice, and you dive in. When it doesn’t work as you’d hoped, you retreat, frustrated. But only until the next shiny toy comes along. When we make marketing decisions in a scarcity mindset, it can send us down a series of very expensive rabbit holes. The single best way to improve your marketing results is to not make decisions in this state of mind.

When we shift our mindset to one of abundance, we’re better positioned to make thoughtful decisions and take informed, deliberate action. Think about the last time you felt really good, full of energy and confidence. What caliber of decision making can you execute in this mindset? What deeper level of creativity could you apply to marketing your services?


The remedy for shifting from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance? Developing your self-awareness by paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. Research shows even bringing your awareness to the idea of mindset (like you’re doing right now, reading this article) can create a change. Other habits can help too, including exercise, meditation, reading, and surrounding yourself with other positive, like-minded people.


There’s another mindset that makes all the difference in marketing, and it’s one that as clinicians, we already have: the service mindset. We entered this profession to serve others. We pay attention to serving our patients, and to being service leaders in our communities. Our training and our clinical work have long put us in the mindset of connecting with others, with their needs in mind.

Yet so often, this orientation toward service dissipates when we set our minds to marketing what we offer. We think purely in terms of “get,” when starting from a mindset of “give” can deliver much deeper, more durable, more abundant returns.


The abundant, service-oriented mindset is important for all types of marketing. It’s absolutely essential for what I know to be the most effective marketing tool. It’s simple. Everyone can do it. It costs nothing. You can start immediately. You don’t need to delegate a thing.

The most successful strategy I’ve ever used is marketing through relationships. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles to this approach. In fact, it’s profoundly, radically simple. It involves developing genuine, long-term relationships with friendly, like-minded people who serve your target audience.

knot on white bg

A mindset of abundance enables you to see who these people are, in your community and your network. A mindset of service gives you the road map for your relationship building. Your focus in developing these relationships is on how you can help them. Your mindset in a nutshell? I like helping people who help other people.

Remember, you’re building a relationship, not executing a transaction. The difference? Whether you care about the other person and their needs, or are just there to get something for yourself, and get out. You can’t fake your way through this. Go genuinely into this process, or don’t go in at all.


Creating a list of referral partners means thinking about people you’d like to work with, who also provide a service to people who comprise your target audience. Notice I said partners, not sources. A source suggests a one-way street: You want something from them. You’re setting out to develop relationships, and relationships work in two directions, not one.

Great referral partners:

  • Are friendly, and open to working together.
  • Share a target audience.
  • Are not competitors.
  • Have some expertise your clients might find beneficial.

Long-term relationships aren’t measured like social media followers. You don’t need a thousand of them. You need a few high-quality ones that can become genuine partnerships.


Ready to put some attention to relationship-building as a way to market your services? Here’s how you get rolling:

  1. Create a list of at least 60 people you identify as current or potential referral partners.
  2. Over the next month, reach out to three of those partners a day. Start a conversation about how you can be of service to them. If you’re not sure what help they need—ask them. Start with an email, and ask to get on a call. Better yet, get face to face. Talking person-to-person is a bit of a lost art in our busy, overscheduled world, but there’s no substitute for the connection it establishes. The only rule for this conversation? It focuses solely on how you can help them.

We’re natural communicators. We’re also hard-wired to be in relationship with one another. We’re fundamentally pack animals—we do better within a herd. As physical therapists, we’re in the helping business. For all these reasons, we already possess within us the skills to use this system to great effect.

Related Reading

Bradberry T, and Greaves J. Emotional Intelligence 2.0. San Diego: Talentsmart; 2009.

Crum AJ et al. The role of stress mindset in shaping cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses to challenging and threatening stress. Anxiety, Stress & Coping. 2017: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2016.1275585.

Dweck CS. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Ballantine Books; 2007.

Dr. Jamey T. Schrier is the founder of The Practice Freedom Method, helping busy physical therapists get more referrals and make more money while reducing the overwhelm. He can be reached at jamey@jameyschrier.com.

*The author has a vested interest in the subject of this article.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

Are you a PPS Member?
Please sign in to access site.
Enter Site!