Nitin C: Brad, thanks for joining me on the call today. For listeners, Brad is a well known and highly respected columnist on goal setting and leadership for several magazines including PT magazine. He is a recognized expert in physical therapy marketing. He is the founder of US Corporate Wellness also on the web at uscorporatewellness.com. Brad, tell us a little bit about US corporate wellness. Also, what can we learn from some of the initiatives you are taking?
Brad Cooper: Yes, no problem. The focus of our approach is to provide employees with wellness programs all over the country and while there are organizations doing that right now, in fact, I just got back from New Orleans. There, I spoke at the national conference which is the HR conference. The interest is big out there and the way we do it is we approach the situation with a combination of personalized coaching, huge number of web tools and a lot of the things I learned as a therapist.
Nitin C: If I am a physical therapy private practice owner on a low budget and I am trying to create referrals from physicians, what are some of the things I should do from the very beginning?
Brad Cooper: The first thing, I like the way you said this is based on the budget; there shouldn’t be any physical therapist that is not on a budget. There should not be any company out there that is not on the budget.
How can you maximize advertising and make it work from start to finish? Evaluate your value. If you get 30% value out of a $2,000 investment as a sponsor, you should only be getting $600 value. If you are getting 150% value out of it, then you are getting $2,000- $3,000 to fight that. If you are choosing where to put your money into, don’t just throw it in there. Strategize like you would with any other part of life.
I asked Brad the following questions during our interview, you can play the audio above and listen to the entire interview.
Nitin C: How does a physical therapist track results from advertising? A couple of ideas that come to my mind are having a separate phone number associated with that campaign and have people call in using coupon codes as a way of tracking which method of advertising works and bring patients in through the door. What would you recommend?
Nitin C: If a physical therapist is trying to create a new relationship with a physician that they don’t know and that physician has never heard of them, what is the best way to go about it? Do you have any inside strategies that can help therapists create new relationships with physicians?
Nitin C: You know what I have found Brad, is that everyone approaches physicians a certain way. In fact in life, if you are approaching someone who is at a higher level, when I say higher level, I say that out of utmost respect for us as physical therapists. Let us say, you and I are approaching a CEO of a company. When we approach them with the same old format, I call it the first degree of communication, people, as you said, are sick of it. A pretty effective way of approaching physicians is what I call the 3rd degree of communication. I have a regular newsletter that I do for my patients and it goes out twice a month. I simply call physicians I want to build relationships with and I simply say we have a newsletter that goes out 300-350 patients a month.
We would like to feature you in the newsletter as a preferred physician and we would like to include a little picture of you, your profile and have our patients know about you and what you do. And two things happen, one of them is that doctors don’t respond and doctors who don’t respond to something like this are really the doctors who won’t refer us anyway. So that is okay, I am qualifying them and a lot of them do respond in my experience. The younger doctors, the ones who are hungrier for new business are responding and they are the ones who can and will become good referral sources. So what I would like to do is sort of go into the doctors with an asking hand. I would like to go to them with a giving hand and say “Hey, I would like my patients to know about you”. I am positioning myself as an expert and the ones who respond are the ones who you should and will build a relationship with. That is one strategy I have found that works well. It is what I call the 3rd degree of communication because everybody is sick of the same old stuff.
Nitin C: In your opinion, in the next few years, I am talking about 5 to 7 years, should physical therapists be looking at marketing directly to patients much more than they are doing now, if so, why?
Brad Cooper: It depends on the business model. If you have got something that is applicable to a unique audience then yes, otherwise the majority of the referrals are going to continue to come from the physician. It is very rare that the patient will overrule that and say that it won’t go through I want to go to that PT it doesn’t happen. Personal relationship with the PT – you are not going to do that all the time so if you are not in it then absolutely then the physician it is going to be the key in the next few years.
Nitin C: If a physical therapist feels discouraged by physician owned private practices, indeed a lot of physicians are, especially in this economy looking for additional profit centers and opening up physical therapy private practices; how would a therapist handle that situation? A small private practice just starting off, one or two employees hoping to get patients, surrounded by physician owned private practices, what happens? What do you do?
Brad Cooper: The key area is differentiation. How can you differentiate yourself? When you are the only one who does what you do, you are going to get business. Our example, wellness industry, we go into this presentation industry. I follow Tom Peters’ advice. He talks about the more you differ, the more you are unique. The more you get paid, the more you are drawing those patients to you. If you do something nobody else does, there is no choice but to be sent to you. If you are doing the same thing that they already provide, you deserve to get shut out off the market.
Nitin C: Seth Godin, in his book, “Permission-based marketing” discusses differentiation. He had another book, I think it is called “The Purple Cow”, he says that if you’re like everybody else, ordinary, you will sooner or later become invisible.
In fact, I met him at a convention in New York City and I specifically asked him what a physical therapist should do to market himself or herself. His response, “Don’t think of your patients as a community or your doctors as a community. You approach each person individually. Keep it as individual as possible because physical therapy is a personal business. It is not an internet-based business where you can communicate with masses of people. So keep each person as if they are a powerful and independent referral source and they are because you know frankly, each patient or each doctor, know 20, 30 & 40 people that they could talk to about you”.
Brad Cooper: Yes, absolutely.
Nitin C: It comes back to what I was saying. I was to summarize what you just said, right? It is better to be a big fish in a small pond than to be a small fish in a big pond. Does that make sense?
Nitin C: Most therapists have a database of anywhere from 50 to sometimes as much as 500 present and past patients depending on your practice. Can this list of patients be leveraged to increase referrals, to increase revenue for your practice?
Do you recommend a certain way or manner in which to communicate with old patients? Perhaps email them with a certain offer or would you just email them asking how you are doing? How would you initiate contact with that patient with the intention of servicing them and encouraging them to refer friends and family to you?
Nitin C: With your emphasis on corporate wellness, do you feel that as physical therapist, there is a huge need for a corporate wellness solution that is created and designed by physical therapists? What is your opinion on this specific niche? You are the leader of the niche we all know that.
Nitin C: Essentially this would involve online support and coaching via a specifically designed website and especially trained coaches who would provide the company with the wellness solution that they need with the introduction of the initiating physical therapist, under the supervision of your company and your resources. That is pretty much what it is, right?
Nitin C: If I am a physical therapist surrounded by corporate clinics, I am trying to setup my own corporate not initiate relationships and work with the companies. How would I go about initiating contact or creating relationships with CEO’s? They are probably harder to get in touch with than physicians.
Nitin C: We are going to have those issues so there is market there, as long as you can leverage your existing relationships and focus on the low hanging fruit. Is that what you are saying Brad?
Nitin C: Do you have any closing comments on how physical therapists should essentially leverage existing connections to open up new revenue streams?, or do you think we are pretty much said everything in this call, any closing comments?
Brad Cooper: My closing comment would be watch your budget, don’t play the lottery with marketing and what I mean by that is, don’t pick your entire marketing budget and put it on some things and then pray and hope it ends up working for you. Make sure it is a strategy by finding out, figuring out what you are going to do with your entire team. Follow up everything else and it will work much more effectively.