DiGITAL MARKETINGDigital Marketing is an essential part of conducting business in any field and clinicians would do well to take a page from the marketing manual of those who sell fast food, DVDs, books and CDs. They’re masters of increasing numbers and the transaction value of each individual. For practitioner, it’s known as Patient Value Optimization (PVO).

A physical therapy business practice is a business and competition in the field and is becoming increasingly fierce. Practitioners seek to increase the number of patients they see each day, but should also developing ways to improve the average purchasing cost associated with each patient and utilize strategies that will have them return more frequently.

While a treatment or rehabilitation plan can’t be hurried, there are many other ways that physical therapists can improve their profitability. Marketing agencies promote the advantages of social media and SEO for ranking highly in search engine results, but those are platforms for implementing a marketing strategy. It’s not the strategy itself.

As noted by master marketer and creator of Nerd Marketing, Drew Sanocki, PVO is a strategy, not a tactic. PVO doesn’t rely on SEO hacks or the best time to send emails, nor is PVO facilitated by platitudes. It’s a universal approach to growth.

Increasing PVO is a multi-faceted strategy that can be accomplished by implementing a seven-step strategy.

  1. Determine the product/market
  2. Select a target/traffic market
  3. Provide a lead magnet
  4. Provide a tripwire
  5. Offer a core product
  6. Provide a profit maximizer
  7. Create a path of return

Determine the market

The most important piece of information for clinicians to remember is that people don’t purchase products or services. They base their buying on the perceived benefits of those products or services. When patients visit a physical therapist, they’re essentially buying better health, pain relief, relaxation or improved mobility. Practitioners must move patients from the “before” state of “need” to the “after” phase of “satisfaction.”

An emotional element is inherent in every purchasing decision. Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, indicates in his book Descartes Error that individuals affix emotional values to the options they consider rather than facts. An emotional appeal is more effective than presenting individuals with a list of dry facts and figures.

Practitioners need to put themselves in the shoes of their target market and ask themselves what the patient’s need in the “before” state and what will the result be in the “after” phase.” In each instance, clinicians should examine how the patient will feel, what an average day is like for them, and what the advantage is to the patient.

An example would be the demand for therapeutic massage that’s seen a dramatic increase across the nation. The patient’s need is relief from pain, improved mobility and lessening of stress Each day they experience reduced activity levels and productivity, pain and an assortment of aches and pains. After therapeutic massage they’ll feel less pain, enjoy better movement, and feel rejuvenated.

It’s easy for clinicians to market their services once they’ve identified the “before” and “after.” For instance, stress can result in migraines, muscle aches, less productivity, sleep disturbances, depression, digestive upsets and high blood pressure, along with reduced immune response, infertility, menstrual disruptions and erectile dysfunction.

The amount that can be charged for services is determined by the “distance” between the before and after state, in other words, the benefits. The greater the perceived benefits, the more value patients assign to the service. Clinicians must be able to demonstrate they know what the patient is feeling or experiencing before telling them how they’ll benefit.

For instance, therapeutic massage reduces anxiety, stress and depression, improves circulation and lowers blood pressure, and aids in better sleep. It’s beneficial for seasonal affective disorder and as part of anger management and smoking cessation programs. It’s effective for TMJ pain and improving sports performance.

Selecting a Source of Traffic

Now that the before, after and distance problem has been identified, practitioners simply need to evaluate what they’re willing to spend to acquire each new patient (traffic) and how to obtain immediate value from that traffic. One of the biggest mistakes therapists make is trying to employ their marketing strategy across every platform at once.

Physical therapists need to select where their primary source of patients will be coming from and focus on that until it becomes second nature before adding the next source. Practitioners can choose from ads on social media platforms ranging from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube, or therapists can choose from email marketing, blogging, AdWords, SEO techniques, and banner ads.

Provide a Lead Magnet

In essence, a lead magnet is a “bribe” that names a specific value to the patient in exchange for their contact (lead) information. It absolutely must provide exceptional value. The lead magnet doesn’t have to be complicated, lengthy or involved, but it must be very focused and specific. It names a problem and provides a solution for the target market.

Lead magnets typically provide the value within five minutes of the potential patient entering their contact information, providing a report, guide, or video that the individual can access that addresses a specific problem. A check-list or assessment of symptoms also provides a good way to convince individuals to part with their contact information in exchange for how their problem can be alleviated by the practice.

A lead magnet is typically offered on what’s known as a landing page or squeeze page. It can be publicized on the clinic’s website in the form of a banner ad or “special online offer.” The page doesn’t have to be elaborate or complex and the very best pages convert approximately 50 percent of visitors to leads.

Provide a Tripwire

Clinicians that have arrived at the tripwire stage of their strategy should be aware that prior to this, the effort has been toward generating leads. No actual conversion from lead to patient has been established yet. That’s where the tripwire, also known as an introductory offer, comes into play. It’s a low-ticket offer, typically ranging from $1 to $20, specifically designed to transition a lead into a patient.

A tripwire is an offer that the patient can’t help but respond to, provided at cost or even at a small loss to the clinician. The technique has been used for decades in all fields of business. It involves providing a low-cost service or a portion of a larger service and then convincing patients to purchase additional or more expensive services.

The tripwire is an effective way of separating leads that will be paying patients from those that simply want free services. Physical therapist and owner of Breakthrough PT Marketing, Chad Madden, grew his practice 600 percent utilizing tripwire techniques and noted that a tripwire is the means to determine if a potential patient actually has the ability to buy.

A good example of tripwire offers is the music or book company that sells 12 DVDs or books for $1. Individuals are typically wary of a free offer. One that only requires a nominal fee is perceived as obtaining a “premium” service at a fraction of the cost. Depending upon the target market, the offer could be a short massage, gait analysis, yoga class or clinical Pilates session.

They key to increasing practice profitability is patient value optimization, a goal that can be attained through a seven-step strategy. Patient Value Optimization – Part 2 will address identifying the clinic’s core service, providing a profit maximizer, and creating a pathway for patients to return to the practice for continued profitability.