Three Steps to Data-Driven Marketing

Steps for data driven marketing

A data-driven approach to marketing provides results in your practice and optimizes your performance and outcomes.

By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS

Access to information and the tools available to analyze and make meaningful use of that data are increasing all around us.

A combination of research and the growing sophistication of methods available to measure our clinical outcomes means the practice of physical therapy continues to evolve in a more evidence-based, data-driven direction. In any business, the objectives, goals, and decisions made with respect to operations, accounting, and human resources are all correlated to various metrics. Yet for many physical therapy practices, the number of new patients in a given period of time is the only data considered when establishing the proper objectives and goals that measure the effectiveness of marketing. The number of new patients seen is an extremely important number; however, it is a rudimentary measure when we consider the information, data, and analytics that are at our fingertips.

Data-driven marketing is about collecting data to better understand consumers and how their actions will predict future behaviors.1 Data collection can provide information such as who to market to, what kind of content is most relevant to send or provide, the most effective forms of communication to potential patients or referral sources, and when and how to provide this content.

Don’t know how to move past the total number of new patients as the only data point that drives your marketing? Follow these three steps, and you will be well on your way to data-driven marketing.

1. Where are your new patients coming from?

New patients are essential for any physical therapy practice’s success but knowing where these patients are coming from is vital information. The quality of any business decision is only as good as the quality of the data, so it is essential to have a classification system with meaningful, well-defined operational definitions of how new patients came to seek services at your practice. Classification systems may be broad, such as a referral from a health care provider, online search, or word of mouth. However, to measure the value of a specific marketing effort, the classification may need to be more specific. For example, if a patient found your practice online, was it through America Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) “Find a PT,” Google, Yelp, or a social media platform? After establishing a classification, a reliable system must be put in place to ensure every new patient is classified correctly. Questionnaires during the intake or registration process or asking appropriate questions to patients are all great options. This data can then be used to measure what marketing efforts are bringing in new patients to your practice.

2. Are these the patients that you want in your practice?

Determining whether these patients are the type you want to see in your practice is a key consideration in marketing tactics. Depending on your practice’s objectives and goals, a patient’s diagnosis, payer, and demographics are all considerations when measuring the value of a new patient. Ultimately, the new patient who is active and compliant in their treatment, writes a stunning Google review, and refers three friends is much more valuable than the new patient who states on their first visit, “I am only here because the doctor will only give me more medication if I come to physical therapy.”

With the proper classification and systems in place to analyze deeper than just the number of new patients, marketing efforts can now focus on the areas that bring in the type of patient that you want to see. Even learning how one preferred or desired patient ended up in your clinic can be valuable information and help you focus your attention on the proper marketing tactics.

3. Learn the journey—how does the person become a real patient?

As you identify how preferred patients find you, you can continue to collect data at different points of treatment to better understand how this person’s actions predict their behavior—that being, attending physical therapy. Consider the following examples for preferred patients and the data that drives these marketing efforts.

Patients referred from an orthopedic group

If your desirable patients are coming from an orthopedic group, the data collected can include any of the interactions with the orthopedic group from the clinical to administration staff, including face to face, phone calls, emails, or newsletters, patient and non-patient related. Next, compare this data with the actual new patients and let the data tell you the most effective way to market to this group.

Returning patients

Why do past patients return to see you? If your company e-newsletter acts as a reminder and results in the return of new patients, then maximize this opportunity by paying attention to the analytics. Time of day, day of week, subject line, and content are all variables that will increase readers’ likelihood to open, engage, and take action. A past patient opening your company’s e-newsletter is the behavior that will result in a person returning to physical therapy, so efforts need to be placed based on the data, to ensure the maximum number of people open and engage with your e-newsletter.

Patients with a pelvic pain diagnosis

Upon review of your patients with a pelvic pain diagnosis, you learn that the majority came once they found your practice’s information from a Google search. The data from website analytics can then be monitored and assessed. This can be categorized into acquisition (how did the person get to your website), behavior (what do they do upon reaching your website) and conversion rate (how many become real patients). In addition, there are several tools available for social media monitoring that help track relevant interactions, mentions, and shares. Based on the data, efficient and effective marketing efforts can be placed on advertising, website content and design, the use of keywords, and links from social media and blogs.

A data-driven approach to marketing provides the opportunity to truly measure return on investment. By learning and understanding the data points that drive the preferred behaviors of potential patients, practices can spend their time and money wisely. It takes skill and tenacity to collect, organize, and interpret data and trust the numbers, rather than one’s experience and knowledge. But over time, this data can allow a practice to become more strategic and proactive in their marketing efforts, optimizing the performance and outcomes.


1 Karnik A. The rise of the data-driven marketer: why it’s beneficial and how to hire one. Forbes, March 4, 2018.

Michelle Collie

Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at

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