How to Win Patients by NOT Giving Them What They Expect

Examples of good marketing are all around you.

As a physical therapy business private practice owner, you are always looking for low cost and zero cost ways to grow your practice, and one of the best ways to learn is to look around you in your community and see what other local businesses are doing.

Here are examples of outstanding in-the-trenches marketing that I have personally observed, and how you can apply this in your practice.


1.  The Hand Drawn Sign – Whiteboard at LA Fitness

I took this picture at the local LA fitness.

What makes this effective:

The timing – this was displayed right after the new year. The presentation – A hand drawn font seems a lot more personal and a lot less corporate, contrary to the perception of ‘chains’ like LA Fitness, the impression they are trying to change with a sign like this. The objective – we are your friendly, local neighborhood gym. The word FREE – Everybody loves something free.

How you can apply this in your practice:

Get a whiteboard from staples and write a hand drawn message like “Test your fitness level” or “Three tips to help prevent injuries” and give away a book / DVD / Audio CD on fitness / injury prevention for individuals who schedule a screening or consultation. Be creative with your message and identify what appeals to the type of patients you treat. Display this in a prominent location in your clinic to get maximum visibility.

2.  The Revenue Maximizer – Diamonds at Costco

This picture was taken during our recent grocery shopping trip to Costco.

What makes this effective:

Who would have thought that Costco sells diamonds, of all things? The location of this display at my local Costco is ‘prime’, within 100 yards of walking in.

This suggest that this is a high-margin product for this warehousing giant. Costco has proved that once you have a captive audience, you can branch out into multiple, unrelated products as long as a section of the audience has an interest in what you have to offer. Some businesses use the phrase ‘slack adjuster’, which refers to that ONE product (or multiple products) that BOOST your revenue significantly.

Let’s assume that Costco makes $1-$2 each time you buy a bag of chips, but the profits with a diamond ring purchase is $300-$400. Even if one in every 250 people at Costco buy a diamond ring, it makes them more revenue than their ‘standard items’. This item substantially increases profits, because it’s meant for ‘that special occasion’ (with valentine’s day round the corner) and the margins are higher.

How you can apply this in your practice:

The service that you are licensed in, and the service you market (physical therapy, for example), is your ‘standard offering’.

Don’t restrict yourself to the services you are credentialed and licensed for. This is the biggest mistake you can make, when you are trying to diversify your income. You wouldn’t invest your entire IRA in one stock, would you?

Offer more services – if that means hiring other professionals part-time while you build up your volume, so be it. So, what’s your ‘diamond’? Is it personal training? Group exercise? Massage? Injury prevention? pre-/post natal cases? All of them?

What is the revenue maximizer for your practice? What is the service that will only appeal to a minority of your patients, but will result in a big increase in your revenue when you offer (and provide it) to an ‘elite patient population’? Think in terms of that patient who walks in, and wants ALL your services and brings in his ENTIRE family and friends to your practice. It’s that ‘big client’ who wants ‘premium services’. If you are not offering such premium services, you are leaving money on the table every single day in your practice.

3.  The Over delivery Method – Assistance at Whole Foods

It’s so  rare that you see a sign like this at a grocery store.

What makes this effective:

There are three components to over delivery – appreciation, personalization and an element of unexpectedness. This sign has all three. When you tell someone “you’re worth it”, you are showing appreciation. When you offer to carry an individuals groceries to THEIR car and LOAD THEM, you are going above and beyond and doing something totally unexpected.

I didn’t take them up on this sign, but it’s hard to ignore. This raises the perception of Whole Foods to a whole new level and separates them from other local chains.

How you can apply this in your practice:

Giving patients what they expect is not the best way to grow your practice.

Your patient is expecting a sign that says “Pay your co pays”. Your patient expects an appointment cancellation policy. Your patient expects to get physical therapy, and they expect to get better.

If you give the patients exactly what they expect, you won’t get their interest and respect, contrary to what you might think.

You’ll have a fraction of their attention (and a fraction of the patient volume you can possible have).

This means less money in your pocket.

On the other hand, there are things your patient DOES NOT expect, things that are out of the ordinary.

Here’s an example.

Your patient does not expect a sign that says:

“Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. If you are in pain, we’ll help you and walk you to your car, because we care. We want you to live a happy, healthy and pain free life. We’ll even give you a book / DVD on pain relief. You deserve it. After all, we are here because of you.”

This was just an example. Use your imagination.

Give them what they don’t expect.

By the way, don’t get lost in the details. Don’t worry about which book / DVD you will give them and how you can acquire it (I recommend you create your own, as I explain in my Referral Ignition Elite program), just make sure you exceed their expectations.

Again, don’t get lost in the details. As clinicians of physical therapy business, we are highly intelligent, analytical individuals. We tend to over analyze things. Sometimes, we also tend to think that we are always right (when we are not), because of inflated egos.

That works against us in business.

The millions are made in the high level, big picture decisions. Delegate the details to someone in your office.

None of your competitors bother to think like this. Set yourself apart with the three components of a) over delivery – appreciation, b) personalized service, and c) an element of “surprise.”

I hope you liked this blog post, and if you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments box below.

In fact, post a comment with a marketing tip that has worked for your practice.

I’ll mail a SURPRISE gift to the person with the best idea.

Have a great week!

Nitin Chhoda PT, DPT

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