If you had a choice as a physical therapy business owner, would you rather have a visit or a patient?
Traditional physical therapy marketing has always been about getting as many patients or referral sources as possible.
Physical therapy business owners copy their previous employer or local competitors and tend to broadcast, not target a message. The ‘me too’ syndrome is more evident than ever. For most physical therapy business owners, the goal is to spread the marketing net far and wide as opposed to narrow and deep.
No thought is given to the quality of the prospect or patient that such ‘marketing’ attracts.
When I ask most private practice owners “What do you want to be known for?” the answer is generally “I want to be the best physical therapist in my area”.
Not quite the answer I was hoping for.
The response is a classical example of the ‘drone like’ approach that plagues most private practice owners.
How about “I want to be the town’s #1 expert on low back pain treatment” or “I want to be the premier source of injury prevention programs for local athletes”.
The consumer now associates you with SOMETHING. This ‘something’ is specific, it is the result of strategic marketing. Branding on the other hand, is very general and it means different thing to different people. This dilutes your identity, instead of ‘defining’ it.
It’s going to help your clinic a lot more if you are known in your community as the “shoulder injury specialist” instead of the “expert in exercise”.
Most private practice owners settle for exposure and hope while ‘building a brand’. Brand building in a service oriented profession is a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME because there are THREE DANGEROUS FACTS that the big organizations and their highly paid ‘brand consultants’ sitting behind their oak desks completely overlook:
- The consumer will only think of physical therapy when he / she has a need for it (this eliminates a majority of the population immediately, which makes brand building a BIG waste of time and money. Why brand yourself when a majority of individuals have no immediate need for your services?)
- The so-called experts assume that the consumer will remember THAT ONE CLINIC as opposed to the one ‘my doctor told me to go to” as a result of watered down branding efforts(The experts who sit behind the desks and have never EVER worked in a private practice in their lives are, in all fairness to them, inadvertently ignorant of the ground realities we face as private practice owners. In the real world, BRANDING is not the way you get a patient to ‘come to you’ instead of the person next door. It takes strategic marketing.)
- The patient will consider physical therapy to be a better choice compared to medication, rest or other professionals like chiropractors, massage therapists and personal trainers (let’s be realistic – this sounds good on paper but it may take years before consumers truly understand what physical therapy can do for them – if you have several years on your side, then by all means, wait it out. The ‘experts’ over at the big organizations who live in their theoretical vacuum isolated from the challenges of real world private practice owners have been trying to get this done for years and have failed. As a private practice owner, you need to focus on your offer and deadlines, which are marketing components)
Brand marketing makes sense for companies like Coca Cola and Good Year (remember the blimp you see at the football stadiums?) because they can afford to spend millions of dollars of advertising in the hope that you remember their product.
For a local business in a skill based profession like physical therapy, branding is naive hopefulness, a dangerous trend fed into our minds by archaic organizations that are meant to protect us and safeguard our interests, but are instead misled themselves by ‘experts who understand consumer behavior’. Such ancient minds are blissfully ignorant of the ground realities, the competition and the financial pressures faced by private practice owners like you and me.
Here’s an example of ‘traditional branding’ from most physical therapy management. You’ll see an advertisement that basically does the following:
- Shows the picture of the therapist and the location of the clinic (branding)
- Tells consumers, doctors how nice you are (branding)
- Asks them to call you for a free consultation (standard ‘pitch’ they are already expecting. In fact, most consumers are desensitized to this type of advertising. They are immune to since everyone else does it)
Would you like to guess what what consumers think when they see this?
In marketing, zero response is like the kiss of death since it shows you made no impact.
Instead, if this clinic was to ‘market’ instead of ‘brand’, their ad would contain the following elements:
- Come in this week for a therapeutic consultation or ‘tuneup’ (different, interesting offer and a well defined call to action)
- Bring a friend or family member who might be interested (makes the patient feel you are giving them an opportunity)
- Informs them the offer is valid THIS WEEK ONLY and the first 20 patients who respond get a free book or massage (scarcity, urgency)
- List the benefits of the first visit (less pain, increased energy, analysis of the cause of the problem etc)
Physical therapy management must sharply narrow the focus of the clinic and identify the prospects / patients that are predisposed to physical therapy and help them make a decision with a call to action combined with scarcity and urgency.
Stop branding (it will do nothing for you. In fact, it will hurt your practice).
Start physical therapy marketing instead.