P Is for Patient
The 4 P’s of a strategic marketing plan.
By Mike Connors, PT, DPT, PhD
In our industry, marketing serves as a means of enhancing public and referral source awareness of the benefits of physical therapy.
In order to maximize your marketing effectiveness, you should develop a strategic marketing plan aimed at best communicating your company’s brand to your intended audience. With a little strategic preparation ahead of time, the outcome of your marketing efforts can be enhanced, thus better engaging your potential client base.
A strategic marketing plan can include many different aspects but should focus primarily around the four P’s of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. These variables best illustrate how you describe and promote your business in terms of the wants and needs of the consumer, your patient. Planned in this way, your marketing efforts will effectively engage the customer in a way that positions your service to be the one they choose to seek out for a specific need. In other words, the four P’s help to best position a therapy practice to be the provider of choice for a consumer with a need for therapy services.
Product refers to the goods or services offered by a company to its consumers. In outpatient therapy, our product is simply the care provided by a licensed therapist. While our product does not come in a colorful package, we do sell our clients a tangible service. Commonly, private practice owners market their specific practice by focusing on the high quality of care they provide or on a specific service the clinic offers such as dry needling. While we regularly make statements about quality of care in our practices, it is difficult to quantify and qualify quality of care for therapy services. How do you define quality in therapy? Is quality best defined by outcome? Since quality is difficult to quantify, it is a better marketing strategy to highlight your product as your own unique identity. For example, you could develop a marketing plan aimed at communicating the mission, vision, and values of your organization to potential clients. Your communication to your intended audience could highlight how those variables make you the preferred therapy provider in your area.
Price refers to the amount of money expended by a client for a specific service. While the cost of therapy varies by geography, the actual price of the service is not as significant as the perceived value of the experience by the patient. When a patient sees value with an experience, the price becomes less important as a factor when selecting their provider of choice. There is a common assumption in health care that quality, value, and cost are not linked factors in a patient’s decision to seek out their preferred provider. This assumption is completely inaccurate. When a patient sees value with high-quality care—either during treatment or before treatment as persuaded by marketing and reviews—cost may only be a small factor in their decision whether to continue or begin treatment with your clinic.
So what does this mean for marketing a practice? Instead of focusing on cost of care, emphasize the exceptional care and enhanced outcomes you provide to your patients. With an emphasis on quality, the cost of care will not be a primary factor in the patient’s decision to seek out a particular service or provider. Your marketing strategy should highlight patient testimonials, net promoter scores, and online reviews. These tools can be instrumental in demonstrating the stellar therapy services you provide to your clients.
Place refers to the physical location where therapy services are provided. Many practices like to highlight the various services they provide to their patients without ever illustrating the environment in which that care is provided. The most important variable to a patient when place is a factor in the decision to choose a therapy provider—after the ease and accessibility of reaching the location, parking availability, etc.—is the physical environment at your facility. First, how does it look and sound? For example, is it cheerful and bright? Is it comfortably spacious or cramped? Is there a loud TV in the waiting area or distractingly loud music playing in the treatment areas?
Your marketing should focus on communicating the physical attributes of your facility that help you to stand out from your competitors. For example, you could make a 360-degree video of your facility for your website to illustrate the patient experience to a potential client. In addition to a video for consumers, you could also develop one for referral sources that you could show on a tablet during a marketing visit. You need to be mindful of HIPAA concerns, but the video should attempt to highlight the experience of the facility from the perspective of a patient.
There is also a value in marketing any unique equipment you have in the facility that could appeal to a specific cohort of patients. For example, if you offer aquatic therapy it would be good to demonstrate how that aspect of your facility might be a good option for patients with arthritis. By focusing on the positive attributes of your facility in a marketing plan, you can effectively illustrate the aspects of your physical space that would be appealing to a potential patient/client.
Promotion is the final component of the 4 P’s and refers to the manner in which you promote your therapy services to a potential consumer. The product, price, and place portions of a marketing plan cover aspects of your practice as directed to your patients’ wants and needs. Promotion is the execution of the strategy for promoting your practice. There are a multitude of promotion vehicles to utilize to communicate with potential patients/clients. The two most effective vehicles for promoting your practice are probably your website and social media. In addition to those means, direct-to-consumer marketing such as presentations to patient-specific demographic groups can be an effective mechanism to promote your practice.
The effectiveness of any marketing effort is contingent on the strategic marketing plan you develop to produce the best return on your business development efforts. Take the time needed on the front end to develop an executable strategic marketing plan focused on the 4 P’s. The better and more focused the plan, the likelier it is that you will see a higher return on investment of your marketing efforts. Focusing on the four P’s will also result in turning “P is for Patient” into “P is for Provider”—you as the patient’s provider of choice!