Healthcare providers often have mixed feelings about promoting their services, but the reality is that the general public has little notion of what physical therapists do. At our practice, we use marketing to connect physical therapy services with need-driven consumers, otherwise known as our referral base, and the general public.
Our philosophy adheres to the notion that marketing is the process of communicating the value of our services to our referral base and prospective patients. We use a number of communication methods including direct, internal, electronic, and passive processes.
At our clinic, we recognize the process of direct communication as relationship marketing. Relationship marketing is the most rewarding, interactive and time-consuming aspect of our marketing strategies.
Building and maintaining relationships with our existing patients, physicians, health and wellness organizations, and the general public takes a team effort. It begins before they receive treatment and continues after they have completed their episode of care. Most of our referrals are generated by our expanding new relationships and our current relationships in the community.
We stay highly visible by participating in all types of charity and community events, such as sponsoring or having a team at a 5K road race, raising money for charity, having staff dress down for a donation, or having a vending presence at senior centers, golf tournaments, and community events.
Embedded in our corporate culture is the drive to go the extra mile to assure our relationships are nurtured. Getting that last-minute patient on the schedule, calling the physician's office when the patient no-shows, and informing the physician of a change in status all contribute to strengthening relationships.
Effective direct communication is important both internally and externally. Internal communication between all levels of a physical therapy practice is paramount for success. For example, when a physician requests that a specific modality be used for her patient, and that has not been internally communicated from marketing to the physical therapist, the result is an unhappy patient and physician, and it marks the end of that referral source.
Similarly, when a therapist creates a new program such as one on diabetes, but does not effectively communicate the program to the community of physicians that are most concerned with diabetic outcomes, again you will not see those referrals.
We take the communication function of marketing one step further in that we use the silent art of communication called listening. Quite simply, from a marketing standpoint, we do not communicate the menu of our services to those we have relationships with, whether that's with our referral base or the public. Instead, we take the consultative approach of asking questions about what's important to them, and then directly communicate our solution.
Using this communication process excludes the boring act of listing off our entire service menu and lets us get down to the conversation that meets the particular need.
Our internal marketing strategy has two distinct elements. One element is that our staff members, our greatest resource, act as company ambassadors and dutifully promote our services. The second part of their role as providers is to advocate and educate people on what we do, and then help them. We can only help them if we are given the opportunity to treat them in the clinic.
People are busy, stressed, and many times confused by their diagnoses. Our role is to advocate and educate to make it as easy as possible for people to come to our clinic.
Telling a story that helps people understand why and how we can help, then providing the service of reaching out to them, limits the indecision that many people have. We strive to consistently deliver the message that physical therapy is a safe, cost-effective and efficient treatment option for many issues.
Direct communication including internal marketing is powerful, effective and dynamic, and requires a tremendous amount of manpower. The world of electronic devices and the internet helps us stay visible to audiences that just ten years ago would have been hard to reach. Through our website, blog, social media, and newsletter, we have the opportunity to be seen by a high percentage of the population of Rhode Island.
Through our website, we are able to introduce our staff, including their credentials, specialties, and unique personalities. The full extent of our services and treatments can also be found on our website. The site is user friendly, up to date and optimized for high search engine rankings.
Additionally, our website serves as the nucleus to connect users to any electronic means of communication they prefer. Simply clicking on a therapist's profile will redirect you to his LinkedIn profile. If you click on "directions," you'll be redirected to our blog, where our locations and according directions are housed. Through our website, visitors can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our newsletter.
Each team member has a LinkedIn profile to assist in search engine optimization, showcase unique work experience, and network with other professionals. Additionally, our staff stays current on profile websites such as the APTA, Healthgrades and Vitals. Through our blog, we launch information and publish articles that encompass physical therapy and health and wellness material that our readers search for. We also submit our blog postings to other blog media in the communities we are targeting.
Social media has changed the way we all consume, so it's important to have an up-to-date knowledge base on the uses of social media. We stay active on our Facebook page by engaging our followers. In addition to updates about achievements and our latest community involvement, we interact with our followers by posting short videos with health and wellness tips on our Facebook page. Our connections enjoy our quick and to-the-point clips that promote helpful advice while staying on top of their mind.
We use the same philosophy with our Twitter followers, just at a much higher frequency. Typically we post to Twitter 10 times for every Facebook post. We also assure that we are on less-known social media so everyone can experience our message.
Our newsletter brings much of what's happening directly to the e-mail box of our readers. Through our newsletter, our readers are informed of the latest treatments, activities in the community, and the most current information circulating around the health and wellness community. Along with our website and blog, our newsletter is experiencing a makeover as well.
Assuring our messaging is precise, consistent and easy to follow is the goal when trying to appeal to the masses. However, we make it convenient to gain more information on any topic just by clicking and redirecting the user to a medium that houses more detailed information. Keeping up with the latest electronic communication is a task, but being proactive and seeking to please your readers can be both fun and rewarding.
Care at its Best
Lastly, we have our subtle, passive communication process. This includes extensions of our logo, through signage, strategic placement in the community, T-shirts and promotional material. Our magazine, "Care at its Best," is going into its 6th edition and is a colorful, robust, content-rich update on all things relating to our clinicians, clinics, communities, and partners. Each edition contains relevant information on what flavor of health and wellness we enjoy promoting.
As a group, we value our patients and referral base to the point where we customize and tailor our services to best meet their needs. Staying relevant, consistent and at top of mind is the goal of our marketing strategy. Through our marketing efforts, we feel we are adding value to those we treat by building helpful relationships.
Marketing is a marathon-not a sprint. Rather than creating a marketing plan that can deliver your long message to everyone simultaneously, pace yourself and be proactive. But if you can't seem to find the right mix of messaging, simply ask questions. You'll never know what's needed if you don't ask.
Michelle E. Collie is owner and director, and Christopher W. Hughes is director of marketing, at Performance Physical Therapy, with eight locations throughout Rhode Island. Visit www.performanceptri.com.