The Art & Science of a Strategic Marketing Plan for Your Physical Therapy Practice
How strategy can increase referrals and save private practice owners’ time
By Julie Wingen, PT, DPT
There is never a dull moment in the life of a practice owner, often alternating between patient care and a very diverse, never-ending list of administrative tasks. Marketing may not always be our favorite task to tackle and can make its way down to the bottom of the to-do list. That is, until the crisis of increased openings in our appointment schedules hits. While many practitioners are well-versed in the science of healthcare, they often lack formal education in the art of sales and marketing.
In the ever-evolving world of healthcare and private practice, effective marketing is essential for success. It’s not enough to simply provide excellent care. Many consumers do not understand the broad value a physical therapist can provide, so practice owners must be able to effectively communicate their services to potential patients. This article delves into the intricate interplay between the art and science of creating a strategic marketing plan for physical therapy practices.
NAVIGATING THE MARKETING ROLLER COASTER
The journey of private practice owners in the marketing realm can resemble a roller coaster ride, where they oscillate between periods of intense marketing efforts and simply coasting along. This roller coaster pattern often emerges in response to fluctuations in patient referrals. When referrals decline, practice owners scramble to apply their marketing artistry, fearing a business downturn. However, as referrals increase and the practice becomes busier, the art of marketing often takes a back seat, consumed by the science of patient care.
In this reactive approach, practice owners become prisoners of the immediate, dealing with whatever opportunity or challenge emerges. It’s a wild ride of marketing activity which, while thrilling, is not a sustainable or strategic method to build and grow a practice.
CREATING YOUR MARKETING MASTERPIECE
To break free from the marketing roller coaster, one must develop a strategic marketing plan that is both an artful creation and a meticulously executed scientific endeavor. This process may seem daunting, but one can start by recognizing and listing the marketing activities that are already in use. Once activities are listed, categorize each item into different buckets, such as patient experience, referral partners, community outreach, etc., to better understand where efforts and resources are being expended.
Furthermore, the plan should be organized by months or quarters. This structure paints a clear picture for executing marketing strategies consistently and evaluating their results over time. It enables practice owners to set realistic, achievable goals, allocate resources efficiently, and make necessary adjustments, blending the art of creativity with the science of data-driven decision-making.
CUSTOMIZE FOR YOUR COMPANY’S NEEDS
Understand that there is no one-size-fits-all marketing solution for physical therapy practices. Your marketing strategies should be tailored to your unique practice, patient demographics, and community needs. Be flexible and adapt your plan as necessary to address specific challenges and opportunities.
Current and past patient referral strategies can be some of our most cost-effective marketing strategies for private practices, offering a steady source of new business. Satisfied patients can become the most significant source of referrals. However, a faster growth strategy may be desired during other times in our businesses, and resources may be directed more toward community outreach or referral partner relationship building.
Achieving success with any marketing strategy demands a blend of consistency and delegation.
Delegating tasks within a diverse marketing strategy can sometimes be challenging but is essential for a well-executed plan. Delegation spreads the workload and ensures that tasks are handled efficiently.
Accountability is the frame that accentuates each team member’s role and responsibilities in executing the marketing plan. With regard to the patient experience example, each team member must know the individual tasks that they are responsible for in delivering consistent, high-quality care that fosters patient satisfaction. By repeatedly exceeding patient expectations, one creates a strong foundation for building a reputation that encourages word-of-mouth referrals. The team must also be trained in the art of sharing the value of physical therapy with current patients and offering complimentary consults for friends and family.
Tracking progress within a structured marketing plan is not just helpful; it’s vital. Tools like Excel sheets can be used to outline the marketing plan and help practice owners stay consistent, measure progress, and reassess the effectiveness of their efforts.
Moreover, practice owners should closely monitor key metrics such as new patient numbers and how those new patients discovered your practice. Front office patient care coordinators can be trained to collect data on precisely how the patient learned about the practice. This information serves as reliable indicators of marketing success and the practice’s growth. A drop in new patients can indicate a need for marketing adjustments, while a consistent or increasing flow of new patients can be a sign of effective strategies.
Recognize that marketing is an ever-evolving process. It’s important to be open to feedback, analyze what works and what doesn’t, and be willing to adjust your marketing strategies as needed. A data-driven approach will help you refine your efforts and make informed decisions.
PERSIST AND REFINE
While no marketing strategy is a perfect work of art from the start, practice owners should persist and continuously refine their creations.
Crafting a strategic marketing plan that balances the art of creativity with the science of data-driven decision-making is the key to breaking free from the marketing roller coaster. It’s essential to recognize that marketing should be a proactive, ongoing effort that aligns with your long-term goals and growth strategies to be successful. By following these principles, practice owners can stabilize the practice’s marketing efforts which will allow creative juices to flow to achieve beautiful and sustainable growth.
Julie Wingen, PT, DPT, is an active APTA member and owner of Pain & Movement Solutions, a three-clinic practice in South Dakota. Julie can be reached at email@example.com.