Why Most Physiotherapy Marketing Strategies Don’t Work
Intoday’s accelerating technological landscape, it’s hard to stay on top as a physiotherapy clinic owner. Almost every day, there’s new treatments coming out… new regulations being added or updated… or new technology emerging.
Frankly, it makes your job a nightmare. It was hard enough keeping track of years worth of physiotherapy knowledge in your head — now you have to compete with everything else, too.
The last thing you want is a bunch of vague, overly general marketing strategies that don’t speak to your specific needs as a physiotherapist.
I work with physiotherapists every day. In fact, I market for them. And one thing that I know they absolutely hate is when they’re forced to spend more time on administration than on doing what they love to do — helping people improve their physical health.
I’ll keep this quick, so you can get back to helping people. Here’s a short guide on how to grow your physiotherapy clinic, improve your revenue, and increase patient satisfaction all at the same time.
The Secret: Retention, Not Acquisition
Here’s the secret. Except in fringe cases, most of you don’t actually need to acquire any more new patients.
You need to focus on retaining the ones you already have.
An often-ignored marketing strategy that works well for almost any service-based business (and incredibly well for physiotherapists) is to focus on patient retention over patient acquisition. It’s nearly always better for your clinic if a preexisting client comes back again rather than getting a brand-new client to show up at your doorstep.
Most of you are wondering why. Let me explain.
A brand new client will almost always cost you substantially more money to acquire, and he will provide substantially less potential revenue. He’s less likely to refer you, less likely to come back, and more likely to have a bad experience — making him the less ideal choice in nearly every way.
In business, we often mention cost of goods sold (COGS). COGS is generally referred to as the cost required by the business to produce a good or service. For example, if you’re in the cardboard box manufacturing business, your COGS might be the cost of materials and labor required to produce a store-ready cardboard box.
In marketing, we have a similar principle: cost per acquisition (CPA). CPA is referred to as the hypothetical cost required by a business to acquire one new customer.
For example, as a physiotherapist marketing their own clinic, your CPA might be the combined cost of both the advertising that a new patient saw, and the receptionist who first handled their call.
After working with several physiotherapists in North America, we’ve found the average CPA to be in the neighborhood of $60 (plus or minus $30 depending on region). Meaning that it might take, on average, $60 in marketing costs to acquire a new physiotherapy patient for your clinic.
(note: this can seem like a big number until you remember that a single physiotherapy patient might come back ten or fifteen times)
Meanwhile, the cost of a returning patient is orders of magnitude lower. Instead of them costing you $60, a second visit might cost you just $2 or $3 to acquire that same person.
So clearly, while we should never outright neglect acquisition, we should focus a substantial portion of our marketing efforts on increasing patient retention instead. And that’s most of what I’m going to talk about: rock-solid customer service, a strong follow-up system, and consistent value adds.
The vast majority of physiotherapy inquiries will happen over the phone. Most physiotherapists don’t realize this, but your practice is only as strong as your weakest link. You could provide the best physiotherapy in the world — but if your clinic’s phone skills were lacking, that’s as good as your clinic will ever be. For this reason, make sure your phone customer service is top-notch.
To do so, train all service staff to open every phone call with a warm demeanor and a complete introduction. Make sure that, within four seconds, the prospective patient knows who they’re speaking with, what clinic they just called, and what to do next.
You should have a basic call script ready for your staff to follow and maximize leads. It doesn’t have to be amazing — it just has to be consistent, and you have to remember to always ask for the appointment before the call is over.
I can’t tell you the number of physiotherapists I’ve called that have picked up the phone and simply said hello or some variation of a poor greeting. Once, I even heard a receptionist say “yo” and then wait for my response. Needless to say, I hung up pretty quickly.
Instead, you should instruct your staff to cram as much information as you can into the first few seconds, and keep the tone as light and friendly as possible.
A strong example: “Hi! You’re talking to Jessica at [Physiotherapy Clinic Name]. How can I help you this morning?”
Additionally, make sure that whichever administrative system you’re using saves the patient phone number, name, and caller ID, so the next time that patient calls, the receptionist can personally greet them. No word is sweeter to a person than their own name — take advantage of this to build quick rapport and segway into a strong relationship.
The vast majority of your revenue is in the follow up. Not the initial session.
This is as true in sales as it is in physiotherapy, but most clinic owners will never realize this.
Before the new millenium, follow up systems were expensive, complicated, and inconvenient to use. Today, CRM software tools easily take care of the lions share of follow-up responsibility. And they’re cheap, too.
What do they include? Follow-up emails. Follow-up calls. Consistent, scheduled reminders. Email collection. And (most of the time) an in-depth customer relationship management system that tracks appointment dates and interactions.
There are several on the market at the time of this writing — I recommend you take as much as a full day off to deeply understand each solution before making a decision. It’s more than worth the productivity hit, considering this system will more than pay for itself the second month you have it.
After you’ve signed up for and familiarized yourself with a software system, your job is 80% complete. But to really maximize the potential of your follow up sequence, there’s one more thing you need to do.
At the end of every appointment, regardless of how it went, make sure you always try and book a follow-up appointment. It doesn’t matter if you book it for next week, or you’re forced to book it for three months away. Book it anyways. Put it in the system, and the system will reward you.
The patient dropoff rate for physiotherapists that don’t book follow-ups right then and there is abysmally high compared to physios that do. It’s an order of magnitude difference. So there’s no reason not to do it.
At every step of the physiotherapy process, be constantly providing value to your patients.
What do I mean by value?
Here are some amazing examples I’ve seen from a few successful clinics:
- Create videos answering common questions you get from patients. Email them out on a monthly basis as part of a Fun FAQ series.
- Write blog posts explaining, in simple English, simple treatments and how they help. Put them on your website (bonus: this helps with SEO).
- Mail hand-written follow-up reminders to patients you haven’t seen in a while with cute or quirky jokes. Just 15 minutes every morning of writing is more than enough.
- Have toys, video games, or picture books for kids. Children will have more fun during their appointments, and parents can get a much-needed moment of silence during theirs.
- Diligently track patient progress — weights, stretches, angles, times, etc. Have your staff create a simple visual graph showing their improvement over time. Email it to your patients once per month, or show it to them on an iPad next time they’re in.
- Give your patients a small mobility-related gift at the end of a session. Branded stress balls, workout bands, or water bottles are all great ideas.
There are countless other ways to add value, but this should get your creativity flowing. The important part is to be constantly enriching the lives of your patients — even a single value-packed email once per month will put you ahead of 90% of the competition.
Great work! If you followed this guide, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful physiotherapy practice that provides premium service to your clients.
The advice I’ve offered in this article has helped physiotherapists see better retention rates, a greater number of patient referrals, and (best of all) higher client satisfaction, and I hope does the same for you!
If you need more targeted advice, my Vancouver marketing company focuses specifically on getting local health-related businesses like dentists and physiotherapists more revenue and better clientele. Don’t be shy if you’ve got a question — feel free to send me a message!