Here at WebPT, we’ve got a fair bit of marketing experience under our proverbial belts. You might even say we’re experts in the field. Well, we’ve compiled all that expertise into one lengthy blog post to give you our top nine occupational therapy and physical therapy marketing ideas that you can put into practice immediately to reach more prospective patients—and convert them into actual ones. Without further ado:
Create a plan and a marketing budget. According to the APTA, marketing efforts are the “most effective if they are highly targeted—from age and gender to income bracket and the type(s) of publications your potential patients read.” In other words, before you start actually marketing, you need to know who to market to (and the best way to reach them)—and that requires a marketing plan. Along the same lines, you’ll also need to know how much money to spend on your marketing efforts—and that requires a budget.
Establish your brand identity and value proposition. As WebPT’s Kylie Mckee explains here, successful marketing requires not only a deep understanding of ideal customers, but also a “strong identity” and an ability to “present [the] brand in a way that appeals to [the] target audience.” To start, McKee recommends performing a self audit and exploring your competitors to determine what does—and does not—resonate. You’ll also want to ensure you know exactly what you offer to your patients that makes you unique (in other words, your value proposition). That way, you can focus your messaging to play up your strengths (i.e., the reason why patients should seek out your services).
Connect with through community engagement. As WebPT’s Melissa Hughes explained here, “Community events are a great way to draw potential patients to your clinic—especially if your practice is in a small town or a tight-knit community.” But, regardless of the size of your town or community, “you can use events to showcase what your practice is all about, or even just to interact with patients in a relaxed setting, when your mind isn’t buzzing around productivity requirements or Medicare’s latest data-reporting program.” In other words, hosting community events is an exceptional way to provide value to prospective patients and improve brand awareness for your practice—and rehab therapy in general.
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- Polish your online presence. Today, most prospective patients go searching for potential healthcare providers online, which means it’s imperative that you have an online presence that is both professional and findable. That means you’ll need:
- A mobile-friendly and search-optimized website with clear information about your credentials and practice philosophy—as well as how to reach you;
- Active social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram);
- Plenty of positive (and real) online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, and Zocdoc; and
- Content (e.g., a blog and contributed articles) that establishes you as an expert and drives relevant search traffic to your website.
You’ll also want to ensure you have consistent and accurate online listing information on every possible platform. To achieve that, you can leverage WebPT Local’s online presence and listing management tool to create—and publish—a robust profile for your practice that will be consistent on hundreds of online directories and social media platforms. That way, when patients search for your speciality in their area, you’ll come up first.
- Perform keyword research. According to WebPT’s Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, “Keywords are the phrases (or standalone words) that people type into a search engine (e.g., Google) to find the information they’re looking for.” For example, if a patient is looking for an OT in Williamsburg, he or she might type something like “occupational therapy in Williamsburg” or “Williamsburg occupational therapy.” Either way, if you’re an OT in Williamsburg, “you want to ensure that your website displays in that patient’s Google results,” so “weave those keywords into the text on your website—in page titles, headers, body copy, URLs, and meta descriptions.” But do so subtly; not only will keyword-stuffed copy turn off prospective patients (it’s not fun to read), but “Google dings you if you haphazardly pack [keywords] into your website copy.”
- Collect and use emails. As McKee explained here, “The vast majority of adults worldwide use email (about 3.7 billion as of 2017), and targeted email messaging can help you connect with those who aren’t on social media.” With a robust email list—and explicit permission from patients—“you can send relevant content directly to current and past patients, which can prevent patient attrition and spark patient reactivation.” You can even “curate that content to be even more specific to a patient’s condition and speak to him or her directly.” For a complete guide to email marketing for rehab therapists, click here.
WebPT Reach’s robust patient relationship management [PRM] platform can help you craft targeted email marketing campaigns and automate content delivery to reach both prospective and current patients at optimal intervals.
- Consider paid ads. While paid ads may seem daunting at first, they’re actually pretty easy to manage—not to mention effective, especially because most physical and occupational therapists aren’t yet taking advantage of them. As McKee wrote here, you’ll want to make sure to use keywords that directly relate to “your location, service, and discipline,” and point those ads at landing pages or messaging that “aligns with the advertisement.” That way, you’ll be more likely to convert prospective patients who click on your ads into actual ones.
- Link to landing pages. Speaking of landing pages, as McKee wrote here (based on this resource), “a landing page is ‘a keyword optimized, stand-alone page on your website’ that prospects land on when clicking links from:
- search engines (e.g., Google and Bing),
- social media posts,
- website banner ads,
- marketing emails or newsletters,
- blog articles, and
- website or social media pages.”
In other words, you can use these targeted pages to provide tailored information that converts.
Referral Marketing and Word-of-Mouth
- Tap pleased patients to be brand ambassadors. Social proof is an incredibly effective marketing tool for prospective patients and referral partners alike, and who better to establish that social proof than your already-pleased patients? They have firsthand experience with you and your practice, which means they’re well equipped to provide honest (and glowing) reviews of your services to their personal networks, online networks (via those online review sites mentioned above), and provider networks.
In most cases, all you need to do to develop a team of superstar brand ambassadors is identify your loyal patients using a tool like Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) tracking. Then, ask them to write you a testimonial or review—or to share their story directly with their physician or friends.
NPS surveys and email requests for reviews are fully automated in WebPT Reach, making the entire process completely seamless. You can also use WebPT Local to monitor all of your online reviews and provide timely responses—all from one integrated platform.
- Prioritize relationships—not gift baskets. As Hughes writes here, “Not too long ago, [therapists] were expected to turn out their pockets and buy catered lunches, gift baskets, and the like to ‘butter up’ potential referral sources. But, these delicious reminders aren’t as effective as you might think—especially in this day and age.” After all, “if everyone is buying goodies, then no one stands out”—not to mention the fact that goodies don’t actually provide any concrete information about your practice or your ability to best serve patients. Instead of goodies and gift baskets, build mutually beneficial collaborative relationships that prioritize patient care.
- Give referrals. As Jannenga wrote here, you don’t have to wait for another “healthcare provider to refer patients to you”; instead, “pick up the referral gauntlet and refer your patients to them (when it’s medically appropriate).” Then, “follow up with those providers and form mutually beneficial referral relationships.” After all, “referring out patients is a great way to bump your (and your practice’s) name to the tip-top of other providers’ mental list—which makes them much more likely to think of you when they encounter a patient who could benefit from physical therapy.” As a bonus, initiating referrals also helps establish rehab therapists as first-line care providers who are capable of directing a patient’s healthcare journey.
- Leverage outcomes and loyalty data. According to Hughes, “Collecting patient data (and improving your treatment methods until that data is wholly positive) is the best way for you to demonstrate your value to patients and physicians alike.” And that should include both outcomes and loyalty data. Referral partners—and prospective patients—want to know you’re “the go-to provider” for their condition or their patients.
- Create a workplace that your staff wants to talk about. Creating a great company culture benefits your staff and your patients in so many ways. And employees who work in a great company environment are not only more productive, engaged, fulfilled, and joyful—which, quite frankly, are wins on their own—but also more likely to spread the word about their great company to their social networks. In other words, provide excellent patient care and a great place to work, and your staff will automatically become your very best marketers. On the other hand, if your work culture is lacking and your staff is burned out, they probably won’t be drumming up any new business on your behalf.
Have too much on your plate to even consider these occupational and physical therapy marketing ideas? Then it might be time to hire a freelance marketing person—or two. Check out this article to learn how to hire—and manage—the very best freelancers. Have your own marketing ideas for PTs and OTs? Leave them in the comment section below. We’d love to hear them.