When was the last time someone you worked with gave you a surprise gift? Chances are, you were impressed and told some friends about it.

The same thing happens when you give a gift your patients, that is totally unexpected.

Patients love getting souvenirs from clinics, particularly if the souvenir has a high perceived value. The key is to keep your budget to a minimum, but over-deliver to your patients by providing a perception of value. A few dollars spent on gifts can become a great way to brand your clinic and stimulate patient referrals for your growing physical therapy business.

1.    Interview some of the top physicians in your area, in an effort to provide patients with an information audio CD

If you don’t have a monthly patient newsletter or an audio CD that you provide patients, now is the time! You probably have a network of physicians and healthcare professionals who refer to you. You can tap them as an information resource for the audio cd, at the same time using the opportunity to improve your relationship with them. You have hit two birds with one stone at no additional cost.

Providing your patients with an informational interview format audio CD, is pretty easy to do. Communicate with a referral physician you wish to interview and tell them that you’re setting up an interview program and you’d like to have 20-30 minutes of their time. Inform them that you plan on recording the interview and making it available to your patients as a free informational audio CD. You will rarely get an objection. All the physician has to do is to send you a bio of themselves and answer the phone at a particular time and talk to you. All you do is talk to the practitioner about the subject that they specialize in. You can interview an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee injuries, a bariatric surgeon specializing in liposuction or a general physician. Ask several questions that are relevant to patients and empower the patients with valuable information. Then at the end thank your practitioner profusely for their time and mention their clinic location. Do this once a month with a different practitioner and your patients will really benefit and perceive you as the expert, even though you’re just asking the questions!

So how do you conduct a phone interview and record it at the same time without investing in expensive equipment? Its simple, you can download free programs on the internet that record your voice, when you make an outbound call from your computer to the physician’s office. You will need a headset and a microphone that connects to your computer. The software automatically allows you to record the conversations automatically to your computer as an MP3 file. At the end of the phone call, just copy your conversations to a regular CD and provide it your patients! Your patients can now listen to the interview on their computer or on their CD players!

2.    Health and Wellness Magazine Subscriptions

Some of your patients like to read magazines on health, fitness and physical therapy. As long as the magazine is health-related, consider getting a magazine subscription as a gift for some of your patients. This is an unusual strategy that has worked wonders for my clinic. Some patients want to eat healthier and want great recipes, get them a healthy recipe magazine, or Gourmet. The unique thing about a magazine subscription is that it allows you to remain in the patient’s mind. Add a magazine subscription to a personalized bi-monthly e-mail newsletter and you have a winning physical therapy marketing combination. Patients are hungry for information, specifically the right information. Over a period of time, they will consider you to be the primary source for physical therapy in their community.

The key to building patient value over a period of time is to be in constant contact with patients, without being physically present in front of them. This is the challenge we struggle with as therapists on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, the solutions, such as magazine subscriptions,  are easily applicable, available and inexpensive.

3.    New exercise tools and therapeutic exercise handouts.

Every three to four visits allied to introduce a little variation in the exercise routine of the patient. I can introduce an exercise ball, some dumbbells, a medicine ball, balance disk, etc.—anything that will enable them to get results faster and promote functional independence. The key is to teach the patient how to use this new tool and use it independently at home. Most patients enjoy learning new exercises with new tools. In such cases, I surprise some patients by allowing them to take the new tool home! Most of these tools cost less than $10.

4.    Field trips, picnics and barbecue parties. ($5)

Everyone loves a get-together, especially if it’s organized by someone they like and respect. Most patients enjoy social events like field trips.  Such events foster relationships with patients, plus they are fun! There are several types of field trips. This can be a picnic or an outing at a park, a trip to a baseball game for your baseball clients, a local hockey game for your hockey kids, etc. Try to get a group rate for tickets and offer your patients a discount, so your cost is less than five dollars per patient. Your patients can meet you at the venue, and you don’t have to be concerned with the logistics and transportation. What matters is the thought, and the social component behind the event.

5.    Birthdays. (Free, under $15)

Two pieces of information that every physical therapist should start to gather from patients is e-mails and birthdays. As I mentioned before, the e-mail is a critical component of e-mail marketing. Birthdays are self-explanatory, and almost always ignored by physical therapists. Everyone loves getting presents, particularly your patients!

During the treatment process, try and determine what would be a good gift for the patient, and make a note of it in your diary. As a general rule, spend less than $15 on the gift. Even if you or a member of your staff doesn’t have the time to buy a gift, a simple phone call works wonders. On the big day, call them and wish them a happy birthday. This is an absolute winner. Most of their family members might forget, but not you!

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