Overlooked Threats: Practice Encroachment or Powerful Allies
Create partnerships with attempted market disruptors
By Darrin Yee
In a city of less than 50,000 people, there are five physical therapy clinics all within a mile of each other.
Distinguishing yourself from the other general outpatient orthopedic clinics is a challenge. Not only do we have to compete for physician referrals, but we also have to compete with the local personal trainer that claims he can fix movement patterns, the new alternative health and wellness facilities, and many other individuals that don’t have a graduate degree in physical therapy or medicine. In 2019, I found myself asking how I could increase our referral base. Was there a way to create a new marketing funnel that would drive new patients into our clinic? Could we take advantage of Direct Access? Could we leverage Direct Access to build stronger relationships with our physicians?
One night, I was scrolling through my Instagram and was targeted with a sponsored ad for StretchLab. The ad read: “Reduce your pain! Discounted intro stretch!” I wondered, what is this, what are their credentials? Are they a new competitor? I had to know more. I claimed my offer and a few days later was scheduled for my intro stretch at my local StretchLab. After my 50-minute stretch, I felt great. With the use of techniques like proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), and encouragement of regular stretching, I could see how this service could potentially help our physical therapy patients with their rehabilitation and after care. The next day, I met with the general manager and shared I was a physical therapy clinic operator. It was during this meeting, we discussed setting up a partnership that would be mutually beneficial for both businesses.
Through this partnership, his team of Flexologists, certified stretching professionals, would come into the clinic and provide free 15-minute stretches to our patients. In return, we hosted a workshop at their StretchLab studio and presented the mechanics of a back injury and how stretching can help them, but also how a physical therapist can help with their rehabilitation.
After both events, we surveyed our patients and asked if they felt the service was beneficial and if they would pay for the services. Shockingly, almost 50% of the patients said they enjoyed the service and would pay for it. The workshop at StretchLab was a success in our eyes as well. We increased our brand recognition to the 10 individuals that attended and all the members of that StretchLab via email and social media communications about the event. Beyond the brand recognition, 2 of the 10 attendees participated in physical therapy for low back pain. Based on this event, I began strategizing how to use partnerships long-term to create a new funnel of referrals.
Partnerships need to be mutually beneficial. The first way to accomplish this was by leveraging our database of patients as well as the other business’ database. For example, StretchLab would send out marketing on our physical therapy business and vice versa. Secondly, the services and products for both businesses need to be reciprocal, accessible, and affordable. Can both businesses showcase or host a workshop about their products and services at the other’s studio? I found that most businesses have the ability to do some booth-like setup. Thirdly, the partnership should be long-term and sustainable. The partnership should allow both businesses to be featured at least once a month but give them the flexibility to cancel if needed. Lastly, I needed to measure the success of the partnership. How many referrals or leads did each business get from the event? For each partnership, I evaluated their business and opportunities and had full transparency in what I wanted to gain from the partnership and what the other business wanted out of the partnership.
With my marketing team, we built a list of potential local partnerships. The list included boutique fitness studios (Pilates studios, yoga studios, barre studios, cycling studios, HIIT studios, etc.), personal trainers, massage therapy offices, and even nutrition shops. We captured the address, phone number, email, and a contact person if possible. The initial list was almost 25 different businesses for one of our locations. We cold-called each business and asked to speak with a manager to see if they would be interested in a partnership. Some businesses answered their phones, some offices responded to our emails, and other businesses we dropped by and did an in-person introduction. After about a month of our initial reach out, we had four businesses that we created a partnership with; a Pilates studio, a yoga studio, a golf shop, and an athletic clothing shop.
After almost a year of marketing and building, almost every week or weekend we had an event and would generate 2-5 new patients from each event. These partnerships became 10%-15% every month of our new patient population. These partnerships helped grow our new patient totals from 8-20 a month and generated an additional $5,000 to $15,000 in monthly revenue. We even started to build new physician relationships by sending these Direct Access patients to physicians that were not currently referring to our practice. Instead of thinking about how to compete with the local fitness expert, think about how to become a partner. You will be surprised how many of these businesses are also looking at how to leverage your marketing efforts and would be willing to be your partner. Not all events will create new patients, but you are establishing yourself within the community, offering expertise, and will be the company people will remember when they need your services.
Darrin Yee was a practice operator in the state of California for over 18 years. His business partner and Darrin sold the two-location practice in 2022, and Darrin transitioned into buying a company and helped oversee front office operations for over 43 clinics in the state.