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  • Stop Losing New Patients and Start Personalizing Your Practice in Two Simple Steps

Stop Losing New Patients and Start Personalizing Your Practice in Two Simple Steps


Customized communication is key to marketing.

By Susannah Bailin

So, you want more patients at your physical therapy practice, but you’re not sure what else you can try?

Consider implementing a marketing plan that converts the patients you already have into salespeople and eliminates the need for a giant advertising budget.


With the power of personalization.


Consider the following:

  • 66% of customers actively avoid purchasing services or goods from companies that fail to personalize their experience.1
  • Physical therapy practices offering customized patient experiences will (on average) earn back $20 for every dollar spent on personalization efforts2 and potentially quintuple their new patient referrals.3

A 1,000+ consumer survey recently found that a whopping 67% of respondents said that they think it’s important that the brands and companies they interact with to “adjust content based on their current context.”1 (For this survey, context basically meant that people wanted companies to present their offerings in a way that addressed their personal needs, not just a simple, “Yes, we do that!” listing or generic handouts.)

In fact, 66% of respondents said they would stop purchasing a good or service altogether if they encountered an “annoyance” such as lack of personalization.1

That’s right. According to this cross-industry survey, if you’re not personalizing your patient experience, then you’re actively discouraging new patients from onboarding with your clinic.


The advantages of personalization are more than just hypothetical. Take patient loyalty—the quality that determines whether a previous patient stays committed to your practice or considers a competitor. Personalized communication and experience tends to increase a millennial’s brand loyalty by 28%, compared to brands and companies that offer no personalization.4

Yet, most companies aren’t bothering to try. One survey found that 66% of customers expect the companies and organizations they buy from to understand their unique needs. But, only 34% of respondents said that companies treat their customers as “unique individuals,” not numbers!5 What a way to make your practice stand out, right?


Personalization helps form relationships with your patients in a way that standard, one-size-fits-all practices can’t compete with. In truly showing your patients that you understand them and their needs—not just saying so on paper or in a glossy brochure—you can form a powerful emotional connection between your practice and your patients. And, that emotional bond is a powerful one. Underestimate it at your own risk. An industry study found that customers with a “very good” experience were 3.5 times more likely to repurchase a good or service and 5 times more likely to recommend that same company to someone else.3

So, what did a “very good” customer experience look like? The study found that three major qualities—success, effort, and emotion—all added to the customer’s overall experience.

Of those three, however, it was the emotional impact that most influenced the customer’s experience.3 Whenever you make a patient feel like they’ve truly established a relationship between your practice and themselves—when you make them feel understood, appreciated, and valued—your business reaps the rewards that come from that loyalty and personal experience.


Maybe you think you can’t afford to personalize your patient experience more than you already do. Or, perhaps you believe that there’s just not enough time to add this new tactic on top of everything else you have to do. I hear that a lot from physical therapists and other healthcare providers, crunched for time and resources while balancing careers and families.

Companies that make personalization a major part of their overall marketing and retention strategy can cut their costs by up to 50% to get new clients.6 And, previously noted, organizations that use “advanced personalization techniques” report earning back more than $20 for every $1 they spend on personalization campaigns.3 If you were on the fence about incorporating personalization into your marketing, these stats just might change your mind.


Start using personalization in your marketing and customer retention programs with two simple techniques that won’t cost you any extra time, money, or effort, but will fundamentally change the way you care for patients and market your practice. All it takes is a little awareness and thoughtful application.

Personalization Tip #1: Say My Name!

Have you ever heard of the Cocktail Party Problem?

Basically, it asks how people can hear and understand conversations when there’s multiple people talking at once. There are many solutions to this theoretical problem, but one of them involves simply saying someone’s name. As it turns out, our brains are hardwired from a very young age to alert whenever someone says our name. Our ears prick up, in a sense, and we’re more likely to pay attention to whatever comes next.7

Furthermore, other studies and observations in classrooms show that when teachers make an effort to learn and use their students’ names, those students become more engaged, optimistic, and trusting of the authority figure.8 Those qualities make using your patient’s name one of the easiest ways to leverage personalized marketing tactics in your everyday practice.

Here are some quick ways in which you can use someone’s name to make your practice more personalized:

  • If you have a physical location, add a board or television screen to welcome all of that day’s patients by first name and last initial.
  • Try out different name memorization techniques, such as deliberately memorizing the patient’s name before meeting with them9 or focusing on the patient’s eyes10 to make using a patient’s name more natural during intake and every appointment.
  • When putting together your home exercise programs, make a point of using a patient’s name wherever possible to keep their attention and demonstrate personalized instruction. (That means within the exercise instruction itself, too, not just in an email subject line or at the top of a handout!)
  • For an added bonus, consider adding a photo or video to your program to further customize and grab their attention.

Personalization Tip #2: Tell Them “Why,” Not “What”

Tailored help—that is, creating customized content and experiences that help a potential or current customer for their specific situation—has been trending in marketing personalization circles lately, and it’s not hard to see why.

Recent studies show that when companies offer tailored help as part of their marketing and customer retention strategies, the overall economic value of that client (their “commercial benefit index”) increases by staggering 20%, compared to that of other clients.11 Luckily, as a physical therapist, you already create tailored help content for each patient that enters your practice!

There is, however, one very simple way in which you can boost that exercise and in-person content to make it that much more personalized for each patient, all without adding a lot of extra time or effort to your day.

Tell them why, not what.

As it happens, the human mind specifically looks for context when deciding whether information is important enough to keep in long-term memory. That is, we automatically want to remember things that directly impact us or relate to a personal situation.12 When our subconscious hears and identifies that context, it primes the memory to retain that information as relevant, instead of letting it go in one ear and out the other.12

In other words, people only care about the what, if they understand the why the information matters to them.

Therefore, to create a truly tailored, personalized experience for your patients, you need to:

  1. Find out what matters to your patient, and
  2. Connect every exercise and request back to that intrinsic goal.

Whether frozen shoulder, incontinence, or pain, discover what that hidden why your patient is seeking therapy at intake, and then explicitly link everything you do as their provider back to that fundamental reason for continuing to work with you.

You’ll be amazed at how this tiny, simple connection can transform a generic patient experience into something incredibly personal and powerful.

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1 Adobe. 2018 Adobe Consumer Content Survey. CMO by Adobe. https://www.slideshare.net/adobe/2018-adobe-consumer-content-survey. Published 2018.

2 Daniels D, Einstein N. The Value Of Personalization Optimization For Retailers. The Relevancy Group. http://cdn.liveclicker.net.s3.amazonaws.com/custom/7924/liveclickersite/Value-of-Personalization-Optimization-for-Retailers.pdf. Published 2019.

3Temkin B. ROI Of Customer Experience. Qualtrics XM Institute. https://www.qualtrics.com/m/www.xminstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/XMI_ROIofCustomerExperience-2018.pdf. Published 2018.

4 smarterHQ. Millenials: Where They Shop. How They Shop. Why It Matters. https://c.smarterhq.com/resources/Millennials_Report.pdf. Published 2017.

5Salesforce Research. State Of The Connected Customer: 4th Edition. Salesforce. https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/documents/research/salesforce-state-of-the-connected-customer-4th-ed.pdf. Published 2014.

6Ariker M, Heller J, Alejandro D, et al. How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2015/11/how-marketers-can-personalize-at-scale. Published November 23, 2015.

7Carmody D, Lewis M. Brain Activation When Hearing One’s Own and Others’ Names. Brain Res. 2006;1116(1):153-158. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.07.121

8 Jepson K. Commentary: Learning Students’ Given Names Benefits EMI Classes. Front Psychol. 2020;52:225. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01625

9 Gordon I, Tanaka J. Putting a Name to a Face: The Role of Name Labels in the Formation of Face Memories. J Cogn Neurosci. 2011;23(11):3280-3293. doi:https://doi.org/10.1162/jocn_a_00036

10 Sekiguchi T. Individual differences in face memory and eye fixation patterns during face learning. Acta Psychol (Amst). 2011;137(1):1-9. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.01.014

11 Gartner Research. 2018 State Of Personalization Report. Gartner; 2018. https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3892113/2018-state-of-personalization-report

12 Adelbert B. The cocktail-party problem revisited: early processing and selection of multi-talker speech. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2015;77:1465-1487. doi:10.3758/s13414-015-0882-9

Susannah Bailin

Susannah Bailin is a current physical therapy patient and the founder of AC Health, an app that helps therapists provide fully customized and HIPAA-compliant HEPs for their patient-centered practices. She is also a member of the New York Angels investment group, helping startups find the money and market expertise they need to succeed in a wide variety of industry sectors, including healthcare. She may be contacted at susannah.bailin@ac-health.com; on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/susannahrabbbailin; on Twitter @AC_Health_; or on Instagram @ACHealthPTOT.

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

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