Know Thy Audience


Connecting with the 2020 health care consumer.

By Ben Montgomery, Marketing Manager,*

Know thy audience: the first rule of marketing.

Knowledge is power, and to know your audience—to have a firm grasp of exactly who you wish to market your services to in order to grow your base of prospective customers—will truly empower any physical therapy marketing strategy.

But defining your audience takes some work. The process boils down to answering four main questions:

1. Who is my ideal client?
2. What are his or her most pressing health care problems?
3. How can my services as a physical therapist solve these problems?
4. How does my audience consume information and from where?

Most private practice physical therapists have a good understanding of their target market, what the pressing health care problems in their demographic area are, and how their services can assist their clients. But the fourth question is often overlooked by physical therapists who have otherwise done their due diligence when considering their target consumer.

Considering the fourth question is exceptionally difficult given that information consumption changes at the speed of light. Where and how people consume information covers a much larger space than it once did, and it is always evolving and growing. Use of smartphones, social media, apps, and crowdsourcing are just a few examples of how access to marketing strategies has changed in just the past 10 years. In order to create an effective marketing strategy, the savvy physical therapist needs to stay abreast of current trends to access the health care consumer.

Who Is the 2020 Health Care Consumer?

The term “2020 health care consumer” is more than just a cleverly marketed reference toward “patients of the future.” This type of consumer already dominates today’s market. The 2020 health care consumers at this very moment may be pecking away on their smartphones checking local Yelp reviews, sharing an experience on Facebook, or contemplating the difficulty level of the latest Tasty video. In order to better understand how to access these consumers, it is essential to understand their behavioral characteristics.

The 2020 health care consumer . . .

Has a Short Attention Span
Eight seconds.1 The 2020 health care consumers, your future physical therapy (PT) clients, are as busy as you are, can get as distracted as you do, and often want information only in snippets. To get their attention, think less about providing an encyclopedia of knowledge about physical therapy and more about attracting attention with images, infoboxes, memes, videos, and copy that can be read in seconds, not minutes. So whether you are building a website landing page, posting to social media, or writing ad copy, keep in mind that you have literally seconds to pique the interest of your audience.

Is On the Move
Today, mobile is king. Beginning in 2014, the year when the number of mobile (smartphone) users worldwide surpassed desktop users, consumers became more likely to search for services online using a smartphone than a desktop computer. To ensure you attract the mobile user, ensure your PT clinic website is mobile responsive, meaning that it automatically adjusts to any size screen, from desktop to tablet to smartphone. Also, as you reach out to present, past, and future customers through the use of electronic communication, such as e-newsletters and social media, make sure any images and messaging are as attractive and readable on a smartphone as on the desktop at work.

Prefers Social Media to Websites
Although you may have invested in a modern and responsive website for your practice, the new reality is that the 2020 health care consumers spend more of their time using social media and apps than surfing the web. However, the average consumer will find and use your website if it is accessible from other social media outlets. Consider your website as a less-is-more web “hub” with tentacles (communication channels) that reach into the various digital worlds of the 2020 health care consumer. Also consider establishing a dynamic presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media app.


Sees 5,000 Brands Each Day
For your brand to stand out, you have to position yourself in the sight line of the 2020 health care consumer. Take time to meet and connect with people in your community who can most benefit from your services. Host a workshop at the local senior center, volunteer with a cycling or running group, provide injury prevention tips to local student athletes. Although the 2020 health care consumer is well connected digitally, nothing beats old-fashioned networking and fostering human connections.

Know thy audience, indeed. Developing an understanding of the 2020 health care consumer will empower you to posture your marketing efforts for success. With numerous outlets available to reach your clients, your approach can vary depending on the target demographic you wish to attract while still creating a unique user experience that promotes the individuality of your brand.


1. Accessed May 2017.

Ben Montgomery is the marketing manager for BuildPT. He can be reached at

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

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