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Teach a PT to Fish

Fishing and reeling in a dollar sign

How Adding Marketing to Your Onboarding Process Can Empower Employees to Play an Active Role in Your Clinic’s Success

By Peter Decoteau

Young clinicians rarely mention marketing as something covered in their coursework.

This won’t come as much of a revelation to anyone in the industry, but perhaps it should. Physical therapists (PTs) seldom enter positions with a full schedule, so a base level of knowledge about things like relationship development, self-promotion, and reputation management can be invaluable as they begin their career. Still, the topic falls by the wayside when educating DPT students, and then again when onboarding new employees into the clinic.

The process of onboarding a new hire is a whirlwind for both parties, and it’s no surprise that matters related to payroll, human resources, operations, and training get top billing while others get short shrift. Onboarding doesn’t have to be a one-and-done process, though, and once the paperwork has been filled out and the employee has settled into their role, there’s still an excellent opportunity to instill some valuable lessons about the role a PT can and should play in marketing themselves and the clinic.

Here are three things you can do to onboard new employees to better understand and support your marketing initiatives so they can build out their schedule and help your business grow.

1. Catch Them Early

Taking the time and effort to make marketing and relationship development a concerted part of an extended onboarding period can yield exponential benefits. By capturing new PTs within the first three to six months of employment, you can guide them into good habits regarding patient and doctor communication, as well as ways they can support the company’s marketing initiatives. It also provides an opportunity to address any questions and concerns they may have from their first few months in the clinic, including reticence around communication with doctors and patient follow-up. This, in turn, can help them feel comfortable about being active participants in the development of their patient base, the cultivation of doctor relationships, and general marketing activities. Holding biannual group sessions with new clinicians is a great way to get out in front of the issue and is often a valuable opportunity for young PTs to develop their “soft skills” inside and outside the clinic.

2. Give Them the 30,000-Foot View

Context and perspective are crucial to getting people to understand what marketing actually is and why it’s so important to participate in it. Marketing isn’t just creating flyers and posting on social media, after all! The first and most important step is to let your clinicians in on your overall marketing strategy; even if they don’t understand everything you or your marketing department does, it will at least provide some insight into how they might interact with the marketing team and where there might be opportunities to jump in.

This type of open communication also allows you to be specific about the types of things employees can help with. For example, if part of your strategy is to cultivate a collection of patient testimonials to use for ads, social media, and your website, it’s much easier to have employees in the clinics keeping an eye out for opportunities as they arise, instead of you having to chase them down. While onboarding, you have the chance to talk to new clinicians about why these testimonials are an important part of your marketing strategy and give them instructions on how they can help collect them, including what media to use, how to forward the materials, and when a media release form is necessary. The same principle applies for any marketing initiative that could be bolstered by support from employees in the clinics.

3. Have the Language and Materials Ready to go

In conversations with new PTs, one recurring message we hear is that they’re simply not comfortable “selling” themselves or the clinic, either because it feels too pushy or because they don’t have the right language to do so. Providing your employees with messaging and support materials can bridge that gap and help them feel confident in their communication with current or prospective patients.

It’s important that PTs understand they’re not “selling” anything, but instead educating people and bringing value to them—and potentially to their friends and family members—by helping them live a more active, pain-free life. As fish in the proverbial waters of physical therapy, we often forget that the general public doesn’t know much about physical therapy. By giving new clinicians clear talking points, you’re preparing them to be comfortable having conversations with patients about things like the broad range of issues PT can help treat, the benefits of direct access, and even additional clinic locations that may be close to their friends and relatives who are in need of treatment.

In addition, encourage your PTs to finish sessions by handing out business cards and other informational materials so patients can let others know about the exceptional experience they’ve had with their PT. This way, your PTs are giving referral materials to their patients at the “point of customer delight”—the moment when the satisfied patient is most eager and willing to promote the PT’s business to their family and friends.

Need some marketing ideas to share with your new staff? Check out the 99 Marketing Ideas page on the PPS website at ppsapta.org/practice-management/marketing-resources.cfm


Peter Decoteau

Peter Decoteau is the Director of Marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at peter.decoteau@ptsmc.com.