It was sometime in 2004 when I met an entrepreneur/physical therapist named Jeff Hathaway in Liverpool, NY. Jeff was my first PT client, and he told me he wanted to market something called neuropathy care for a clinic in Cortland, NY, a town of about 20,000 people. I didn’t know what neuropathy was, so Jeff explained, and I immediately grew very skeptical.
No way will this work, I thought. Why? As a marketer, one of the first things I do is think about the potential audience size. So who in Cortland would care about diagnosis and treatment of neuropathy? We are talking about mostly seniors, with diabetes and neuropathy symptoms, (a slice-of-a-slice-of-a-slice target market). In a small town of 20,000 with 13% seniors 65 years or older, and 19% of those with diabetes, and maybe 25% of those symptomatic, we were talking about a potential audience of 125 people.
“Jeff, are you crazy?”
We didn’t have those numbers at the time, but we had a pretty good idea that the target audience was pretty small. We produced a radio ad and a basic 24 spot test schedule that cost $850, and to our surprise we had 11 people call.
Think about that.
If you are one of those PTs who say they don’t like neuropathy patients, so who cares, you miss the point entirely. The point is what we learned – 11 patient calls out of a total market potential of an estimated 125, from one burst of radio on a single station! Is that luck or real strategic marketing success?
Here’s the case for strategic success, not luck.
- People with neuropathy suffer greatly. They describe the symptoms as almost torturous. This creates a high level of motivation to chase down and learn more about any solution option presented.
- Treatment options are limited and physicians usually prescribe expensive drug therapy that isn’t effective and has negative side effects.
- No one is offering (marketing) a specific solution option for neuropathy care that uses a low risk offer for more educational information about treatment options for relieving the symptoms.
The underlined phrases in the points above are the essential ingredients for strategic marketing of any PT treatment program that can dominate. If you can identify similar opportunities and execute the marketing efficiently, you can literally dominate your competition and create a patient-generating machine. Some examples of “ailment” strategies include post-surgical rehab, sports injuries, balance and dizziness, fall risk assessment and prevention planning, chronic pain, back pain, and pretty much any ailment you can think of. You just need to understand how to create and execute the strategy.
Sign up for a free 60 minute PT Marketing Strategy Session.
If this is possible in such a small community like Cortland, imagine the potential in most markets. Any “ailment” or physical problem can be powerfully marketed with the right strategic system. It does require experience and expertise to pull this off on your own, and your chances for success will be greatly increased if you engage a marketing services provider who understands PT marketing and how to implement a complete strategic system, quickly and affordably.
Read the 3 Critical Requirements To Actually Execute Good Marketing
PT Referral Machine is a complete resource for planning and executing Fortune 500-Style marketing systems on a small business budget.
See our programs and pricing here.
Looking for a complete turnkey marketing solution for neuropathy care or other special ailment treatment program? Call David directly at 774-255-1125 to learn more about a special opportunity for an exclusive in your market.
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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for physical therapy and rehabilitation services is growing annually at double-digit rates. While total employment for the 10-year period 2010-2020 is projected to grow at 14%, physical therapy jobs will grow at 39%.
Some providers are keeping pace with the growing demand while others are not. If your numbers are down, the good news is that this can probably be fixed; and if your numbers are trending up, the time is ripe for using strategic marketing strategies to fuel expansion.
Even if your concerned about the impact of uncertainty in the industry such as the impact of emerging Accountable Care Organizations, a competitive marketing strategy for today will position your business well for whatever the future may bring. Well-run marketing operations provide your company with the most efficient tool to systematically educate consumers and referral sources about your special expertise. That’s the thing about professionally managed marketing operations – since the purpose is to produce customers, the business value is fortified regardless of future trends.
8 Marketing Essentials For Physical Therapists
Today’s PT practice (or any healthcare provider) needs to consider 8 essentials to produce measurable ROI with their marketing budget:
- Competitive Intelligence
- Strategic and Tactical Marketing Plan
- Website with strategic content managed and optimized for local search
- Physican marketing materials
- Advertising Plan
- Graphic design and copywriting
- Referral Marketing System
- Professionally trained marketing support or staff
Most businesses use many different vendors for these services, and usually without a coordinated plan. In today’s world this old-school approach is way to expensive and too hard for most providers to manage. For a single location, using the old-school approach, just the marketing staff alone will be a budget-breaker. But what if you could get all 8 essentials for less than $1,000 a month, manage it in less than 2 hours a month, with a guaranteed ROI?
If that sounds impossible, schedule a live 60-minute webinar and see the strategies and systems that bring you Fortune 500-style marketing on a small business budget.
We say all the time that good healthcare marketing requires more educational content, and less of the brag-and-boast “we have great experience, get good results, and care about you” brand-building. Our subscribers seem to understand the difference, but understanding it and executing it as a marketing strategy are two entirely different things.
The big institutions and most marketing consultants have a tough time looking past their logo and cute tag line long enough to provide consumers with anything of substance, and it is the small independent practitioner who can take full advantage of this.
Today Dr. Yoav Suprun shares another strategic marketing success story from the trenches built from good educational content. We hope you enjoy it, and for more ideas you can use immediately to market your practice, we invite you to share 60 minutes with one of our senior consultants on a webinar where you will see live concepts and the results they have produced. See the webinar schedule here.
Thanks for reading, and thank you Dr Suprun.
David C Steinberg
The PT Referral Machine
Simple Strategy Helps Change Referral Patterns
By Dr. Yoav Suprun, DPT, Dip. MDT,CSCS
Tired of chasing doctors in your area for business? Four years ago, I decided something needed to change. Doctors must learn about MDT from their patients via word of mouth. Since opening my clinic in Miami Beach (www.sobespine.com), I chose to focus on marketing to patients and teach them about MDT. Can you do this without spending money? Sure you can!
How do you get your patients to tell their doctor “ I want to see that McKenzie practitioner because I think my problem is mechanical”, well, it starts with “Educational marketing”. Teach the possibilities of where aches and pains may come from and they will often want to know more. The language of MDT makes sense to people. They can relate to it because the majority of aches and pains have a mechanical component.
Coffee shops, a local gym, church sponsored events, farmers markets, bonus affairs for company employees are a great start. In my case, I chose a coffee shop 2 blocks from my office inside “Whole foods”. I posted a sign on their free corkboard titled: “The truth about lower back pain and Sciatica”. “You are invited to join a physical therapist for a free educational breakfast lecture. Learn about common causes and a method that teaches you SELF treatment for back pain and Sciatica”.
On a Friday morning, three people came to my first talk. We each had breakfast while sitting around my laptop. We were discussing mechanical LBP and sciatica. I had with me a PowerPoint presentation, 3 different spine models, a lumbar roll, Robin McKenzie’s “Treat your own back” book and Dr. Donelson’s book “Rapidly reversible lower back pain”.
The coffee shop is located just in front of the registers so people looked at us sitting around my laptop and 4 more joined the conversation. I handed my business cards to prospects and got office bookings and one home care. The following week I had 8 people waiting including the sister of a guy that came to my first talk. She came to see me for neck pain (“I have good and bad days. I saw a chiropractor which helped but it keeps coming back..”).
After resolving her problem in a couple of visits, she was so thankful that she called her physician who is also a friend as well as connected me to a local gym where she is a member. I treated her physician and as a result, I have now 2 doctors (his partner is on board as well) who refer to me although I never marketed directly to his office. Also, I gave a talk to the trainers who started referring clients to me and see me as the “go to” person. I became the Gym’s “mechanic” as I am helping the trainers keep their clients from taking time off due to injury. Exercise program that is built on Mechanically determined directional preference (MDDP) has been proven in the literature to be appropriate (Long et al “Spine” 2004 Dec 1;29(23):2593-602.)
The breakfast talks continue to generate business. Last month I gave a talk to a forum of business women at a local bank that also wanted to know more about the true causes and self treatment options for lower back pains. Other enticing titles are “Pain in the neck?”, “Is your workout making you worse?”, and “Tips and tricks for healthy living”. When the curiosity of the listeners turns on and they start asking questions pertaining to their own problem, I always say, “I owe you a good and solid evaluation which we can’t obviously do here…”
Word of mouth works BEST. However, you must do what is right by the patient and not sell them the old and tired story of “You need to see me 3x a week for 4-6 weeks”.
Important tip – even if one person shows up, you never know how that person can boost your business. Keep pursuing education of the public and they will come. Search in your area for a good opportunity to give even once a month free talk and see what will happen to your business. I am sure you will be surprised.
Dr. Yoav Suprun is the owner of “SoBe Spine, PA” in Miami Beach (www.sobespine.com), He is the producer of Robin McKenzie’s new DVD “Treat your own back © 2012” (www.optp.com), a probationary faculty with the McKenzie Institute International (US branch), a McKenzie physical therapist at Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa in Miami Beach (www.canyonranch.com), and an adjunct faculty in Florida International University (FIU) DPT program.
Questions or comments on the article above? Post them on our blog here: PTRMblog.com “From The Trenches”. We’d love to hear from you directly- email us at email@example.com or call 774-255-1125 in the US or 403-510-7051 in Canada.
It’s been six years since we launched PTreferralMachine.com, and we still have the same quote at the bottom of our homepage:
“Physical therapy services may offer the best value in healthcare, and this seems to be the best kept industry secret. Unless the physical therapy industry finds ways to communicate its value to the marketplace efficiently, it’s likely to remain that way. That would be a shame, because everybody loses – therapist, patient, and doctor alike.”
So for 6 years Trent and I have been writing about communication programs and strategies for physical therapists that we use with our clients to fight this battle, but today we get a day off as our old friend and industry insider Jeff Hathaway, PT, DPT shares his thoughts on this critical subject.
Jeff’s thoughts are of special significance in this new year of 2012 where changes with the rules for access to care and payor regulations loom larger than ever.
Thank you, Jeff, for adding to the conversation.
We hope you enjoy Jeff’s article, and thank you for reading.
Physical Therapy – Commodity or Value Driven Profession?
Part 1 of 2
By Jeffrey W. Hathaway, PT, DPT
When you hear the word commodity your mind goes to “gold”, “coffee”, “corn” and other commodities bought and sold in the various stock exchanges. What is the definition of commodity then and how does that relate to Physical Therapy?
A commodity is defined as a good or service for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. How does this definition and concept apply to the profession of Physical Therapy?
The good news is that we certainly offer a service that is in demand, however the real question is whether the second half of that definition applies – “without qualitative differentiation”. Remember that the important thing is not necessarily how WE define ourselves but how the consumer (MD, Insurance Payer, Case Manager, Public, Media, etc.…) defines and perceives our profession.
Unfortunately, we are seen by insurance payers, many MD’s and the general public as a commodity, similar to “gold”, “corn” etc. One ounce of gold has the same exchangeable value, determined by supply and demand regardless of where you buy it.
In our consumer minds “PT is PT”, “gold is gold”, “corn is corn”; much like an MRI tech is an MRI tech – that is because the MRI machine is the important thing not so much the tech who performs it. Physical therapy is many times seen as “things” that techs (PT’s) do to patients.
How else do you explain common phrases like “they have had PT” or “PT has been tried”? Like it is “an event” or a “thing” that a person gets in the course of their care. Think about that phrase – I am sure we are all guilty of using it. We need to abolish that phrase from our language. Have you ever said to a patient – “have you had doctoring?” That sounds completely silly – because MDs are professionals and if you have seen one MD and are not better, you seek out a more highly trained or specialized MD. Medical Doctor is not a thing – it is a highly trained professional. In our profession, if you went to any Physical Therapist then it can be determined if “it” worked according to our consumers.
Many times accountants are more valued by consumers as individual professionals. You never hear from people: “did you have accounting for your taxes”, but you definitely hear “do you have a good accountant who can save me some money in my taxes?”
We need to create a huge paradigm shift in the minds of the consumers. A shift that can change consumer perception about our profession and ultimately lead to the full meaning of an “autonomous practice”.
First let’s examine how we may have gotten to this place.
Much of this appears to be self-inflicted. For years we focused on new machines or equipment that we were using in our clinics. We marketed the “things” that we use. The “new laser unit” or the “new electrical stimulator” or “kinesiotaping” become fads that we rely on them to appeal to our consumers.
Secondly we tend to market programs (back program, knee program, aquatic program, or the new pilates program etc.…), which are again “things”.
At the same time we seem to be fixated as a profession as to what is “skilled” activities (things) versus “non-skilled”. MD’s never have such discussions. PT’s for some reason want to breakdown our patient visits into things – falling right into the commodity trap. It is no wonder that consumers associate “things” when they think of PT. If most PT clinics have the same specialty equipment, a back program, and provide the same codes or skilled services – then which one you go to doesn’t matter in their mind; “an ounce of gold is an ounce of gold”.
Hence we are seen as a commodity. Instead our value should be related to the expertise of the physical therapist – their ability to assess and direct a treatment plan to reach the goals determined. And if one PT is unsuccessful then another more experienced and specialized PT may get better results.
An environment that does not perceive physical therapy as a commodity; consumers who value physical therapists as the first choice in the primary care of neuromusculoskeletal disorders would lead the profession to unimaginable high levels of value in the marketplace.
What to do about it?
Part 2 of 2
Physical Therapy – Commodity or Value Driven Profession?
In Part I, we discussed how physical therapy has become viewed and treated as a commodity. We defined a commodity as a good or service for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. If we are seen as a commodity then we will be treated as a commodity by the marketplace. In short that means we will be seen as a uniform service and there will be constant forces to pay the least for the service given the supply and demand levels. A car is a commodity. Wouldn’t you shop around for the car dealer who can give you the best possible price for the same car? I bet that sometimes you bargain for the best price. Same thing happens when viewing PT as a commodity.
The results of being a commodity are painfully clear in todays PT marketplace – especially in NY.
How does one fight this commodity trap? It is simple but not easy. The key to getting out of the commodity trap for any business or profession is to move the business model from a demand fulfillment model to a value creation model. Most clinics today work in the demand fulfillment model. This model is the classic “find a need and fill it” approach. However, as the supply reaches the demand level the price becomes the primary differentiator and begins to drop to what the market will bear. In a third party payer system this downward pressure is more dramatic and is not driven down in the classic manner of competition price wars but rather of seeing how much can be squeezed by a third party.
In order to operate in a value creation model the business needs to create a level of value that creates the willingness of the market to pay a premium for the service. Once a business has created that value then the market will seek out that product or service and willingly pay more for it. There are two classic examples of companies that are in the business of selling a commodity who have successfully done this. First is Apple selling technology that has seen the price drop dramatically over the years and the second is Starbucks which sells the commodity of coffee. They both demand premium prices for a product that is in most circles a commodity. How did they do it? They applied the de-commoditization formula. That formula is a three-part formula:
- Understand your customer’s problem better than they do.
- Develop solutions to their problems that they do not see.
- Exceed expectations.
In the case of Apple they took portable music industry and created the i-pod. The i-pod was far and away beyond what any consumer could have possibly imagined to be possible. It solved the problems with portable music that we had (bulkiness, skipping of CD’s, limited content, etc…) but it also solved those at a level that the average customer could not imagine. Starbucks took coffee and built an environment and attachment that was far beyond what coffee drinkers could have imagined. Starbucks created a culture around coffee. In both cases they followed the formula and created such demand that they are not only very profitable but get consumers to pay considerably more for their commodity than their competitors. They now reside in the value creation model.
I believe that PT is at a crossroads. If we do not figure out how to apply the formula to our businesses then we will continue down this road we are headed on, which for private practice is unsustainable.
I also believe we can apply the formula to our practices. It will take creativity, changes in our practice models and the willingness to take risks. It is a completely different mindset. Most, if they were in charge of Apple, would reduce their price as it would undoubtedly increase volume and revenue. But Apple understands that it is in the value creation business not the demand fulfillment business. We must re-think our mindsets, our language, our image and what we really bring to the table. We need to start promoting the profession from the neck up, start becoming part of the solution for payers, start thinking outside the box for ideas that leverage our value in ways our customers (MD, payers, the public, etc…) don’t see yet. Then do it in a way that exceeds their expectations. We must let go of the victim mentality and be bold in how we claim our rightful place in the healthcare system. What say you?
Physical Therapists: Why Whining About Not Having Direct Access Is A Waste Of Time –
Innovation Strategies Overcome Restrictive Barriers
According to the APTA, 29 states in the US have restrictions on direct access, and the organization is determined to facilitate unrestricted access in all states by 2020. This is an important objective, especially for those practitioners who point to restrictions as an excuse for lack of control over the growth of their practice. We can all agree that direct access makes sense, but, are the restrictions really an obstacle to growth?
We don’t think so. In fact, the restrictions may be a powerful catalyst for practice innovation. We see it every day; faced with the frustration of being subject to referral patterns controlled by physicians, the entrepreneurial PT finds ways to innovate and set themselves apart from their competition.
Most successful innovations build on existing programs, products, and services incrementally. It may help to think of innovations in categories. You can use a simple tool like our Innovation Table to identify some possible categories for innovation. As a professional health care services provider, those categories could include:
1. Specialized Programs and Facilities
2. Quantifying Expected Results
3. Alliances and Joint Ventures
4. Value Added Services
5. Variety of Services
6. Patient Experience
The experienced practice innovator also knows that a valuable innovation has little impact if no one outside the practice knows about or understands it. As you can see from the case study below, it is important to communicate your innovations to BOTH referral sources and consumers. Today’s consumer is now having more and more influence on physicians and how they refer, regardless of the direct access status of your state.
If you provide a superior experience, and you continually look for ways to innovate your practice to stay ahead of your competition, and you can find ways to market and advertise that experience so the differences become instantly evident, then you will dominate your market – direct access or not.
Case Study – Actual Results – Innovation In The Trenches
Situation: An independently owned physical therapy practice needed more patient traffic to meet fixed overhead (This is an example of a simple innovation. Our next e Tip will explore a more complex one).
Innovation Strategy: Create a Back Pain Survival program including free educational materials and assessments. Setup an alliance with an experienced licensed massage therapist who provides free 30 minute massages in exchange for promoting the massage business.
Execution: Promote the Back Pain Survival program with targeted direct mail to consumers. Results tracked with unique URL, website analytics, and tracking phone number.
Results: An immediate 1233% increase in web traffic. 37 phone inquiries, 8 patient bookings*, and one documented new physician referral source**.
Thank you for reading,
David C. Steinberg
The PT Referral Machine
Questions or comments on the article above? Post them on our blog here: PTRMblog.com “From The Trenches”. We’d love to hear from you directly- email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-444-0056 in the US or 403-510-7051 in Canada.
*This case was in the state of NY, with provisionally restricted access. In restricted states, this type of Innovation Strategy requires a physician alliance.
**A consumer brought the direct mailer to a physician, and the physician’s office called to establish a referral relationship.
On the other hand, people with a benevolent or positive worldview see the world around them as filled with opportunities and possibilities. They believe that everything happens as part of a great process designed to make them successful and happy. They approach their lives, their work, and their relationships with optimism, cheerfulness, and a general attitude of positive expectations. They expect a lot and they are seldom disappointed.”