What Does The Irene Experience Teach You About Marketing Your Clinic?

If you live on the east coast, I hope all is well in the aftermath of Irene. Although the storm weakened from an initial Category 4 hurricane into a ‘tropical storm’ as it approached the NY-NJ-CT area, the damage from this event is expected to be in the billions of dollars. Millions of people were stranded without power (including myself) and widespread flooding was reported throughout the east coast.

Even if you were not directly impacted by Irene, the entire event revealed how people react in response to stress and impending calamity (bear with me, I’ll tell you how this ties in with the marketing of your clinic). These are some of the things I observed as thousands of residents were scrambling to prepare themselves hours before Irene was expected to impact our community in New Jersey:

  • People were stockpiling food, water, candles, torches, and batteries not knowing how long they would be ‘stuck indoors’
  • Local officials sent emergency broadcasts by phone, cable TV and text messages advising people to be prepared for a power outage that could last several days
  • Everyone with a patio was advised to move furniture indoors because 50+ mph winds could turn small objects into ‘missiles’
  • Mass evacuations were ordered in NJ and NY (the NJ governor said: “Get the Hell out of the beach, you’ve had your tan, now get out”).
On a related note, my wife showed me a message on Facebook that was ironic and funny at the same time:
As hurricane Irene arrives, federal disaster officials have warned that internet outages could force people to interact with other people for the first time in years. Residents are bracing themselves for the horror of awkward silences and unwanted eye contact. FEMA has advised: “Be prepared. Write down possible topics to talk about in advance. Remember, a conversation is basically a series of Facebook updates strung together.”
Now that the ordeal is finally over, people are getting back to normal life.

Despite the return to routine, people are still shaken up, and they will be for a while.

People need comfort and reassurance (although it’s not obvious). Any event that affects the lives of people (especially one of this magnitude) is a unique opportunity for your clinic to comfort people on a mass scale, and market your services as a secondary benefit.

This brings me to marketing lesson 101, which is…

For Marketing To Work, Always Enter The Conversation That’s Already Going on in the Consumer’s Mind

It doesn’t matter if you and your community have been impacted by a natural calamity or not, the big takeaway is:

“Ask yourself  – What is the consumer thinking about at this point in time?”
Answer this question - What can I do to enter that (pre-existing) conversation?

Case in point.

A couple of hours ago this morning, I received an email from Chase Bank (intended for customers in the NY-NJ area) that was brilliant in its intent and execution. I’ve included a copy of the email below, and a few key things they accomplished.

  • They addressed exactly what was going on in the consumer’s mind.
  • They explained what they were going to do immediately to make things easier for the consumer (waiving ATM fees, overdraft fees, late fees on credit cards, loans from today till September 4th)
  • They showed they care for their customers with the statement “We also plan to call many of our customers in the hardest hit areas to see if there are other ways we can help“. This really caught my eye. Whether they actually call me or not, I know their intent and I appreciate it.
  • They reiterated their commitment to their customers and reinforced their status as a trusted provider of financial services.

This made me feel I am a VIP, You can do the same to your business, Make an impact! Give your patients the VIP treatment and make them feel they are valuable to your physical therapy business. Chase was the only bank that sent me this email, and I got no such email, phone call, or text message from Bank of America or Citibank; the other major financial institutions in the Northeast. In all fairness, I may get a letter from the other banks in a couple of weeks, but Chase acted immediately and came across as the ‘knight in shining armor’ in a way. The competing banks missed a key opportunity to connect with the consumer on an emotional level, something that no amount of money spent on marketing and brand building can ever achieve. This is more than communication, this is caring and when you care, it is more than physical therapy marketing. When your patients see that your business is actually more than just a business but it has a heart, your patients will eventually tell other about you and your practice.

You can do the exact same things to position yourself as the trusted private practice in your area. Choose from different modes of contact – email, phone calls, text messages or even letters. The key in this lesson is the intent, which will be noticed (and commended) by every single patient and referral source.

The big lesson from Irene is this:

“Communicate with your patients and referral sources as quickly as possible after an ‘event’ that affects everyone’s life.”
Be the first to show strength, dependence and courage. Position yourself as the 'rock' of your community.

You will be doing a whole lot more than just ‘strategic marketing’. You’ll be doing the right thing.

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