Marketing in Physical Therapy Needs to Be Redefined


When you think of marketing your physical therapy practice, what comes to mind?  If you are like most people, you’re probably thinking about making calls & visits to doctors, volunteering at a community event, purchasing advertising space in the local paper, or sending out a newsletter.  While all of these strategies will hopefully have a positive effect on the amount of patients that seek your services, they only serve to communicate a simple message: “We practice physical therapy, we are close geographically, and we can help get people better”.

While these traditional marketing channels have their value, the fact is, if you look to most other business sectors, there is much more to marketing than what is being done in Physical Therapy.

Marketing is a Process

We see marketing as a single step, with a distinct beginning and end point:  we attract customers, and then ‘have’ them.  Once we have a patient, we treat them for their course of care, and then send them on their way.  We should instead be looking at marketing as a cyclical process, where we obtain prospective customers, treat them, and then retain them.  Let’s take Apple as perhaps the clearest example.  Apple is incredibly successful, evidenced by the 155.97B they generated in revenue in 2012.  They’ve reached this large scale success largely because they’ve optimized their customers’ experience, and have become masters at making their customers uncompromisingly loyal.  A 2010 study found that among iPad purchasers, 74% also owned a Mac, while 66% owned an iPhone.  A whopping 91% of iPhone users report that when they need another smartphone, they intend to buy an iPhone.  Apple knows a very valuable secret: it is far more cost effective to retain your current customers than it is to attract new ones.

Apple puts a premium on ensuring a top-notch customer experience throughout the buying process, and beyond.  Apple knows that every time a customer comes into contact with their brand, they have an opportunity to satisfy, to oblige, to delight.  They are systematic, calculating, and precise in their approach.  They’ve figured out exactly what they need to do to keep their customers happy, and they’re executing.  Apple attracts customers, obtains them, and then keeps them.

Apple has done an incredible job getting existing customers to feel obligated to purchase their next product through Apple.  To put it into context: Samsung, Sony, and Microsoft make products that are very similar to Apple’s in terms of quality.  And yet, the data largely suggests that they have less product evangelists- they have not been able to establish the same amount of brand loyalty among their current customers as Apple.

Application to PT

In Physical therapy, your product is your treatment.  Its delivery is immensely important; it is the foundation for patient satisfaction.  But, an individual’s care experience, the entirety of their injury recovery from initial evaluation through the post discharge management, is what turns a patient into an evangelist for your company.

How many of your patients feel obligated to return to your clinic the next time they are injured?

It all Comes Back to Marketing

We as PTs typically stop marketing our services once we have obtained our customer.  There is much more to be done after the customer walks in the door.  Marketing, as defined by the American Marketing Association, is:

“The processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Marketing is communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value to customers. We need to treat each of our current patients as if they were prospective patients.  We need to focus on how to satisfy, oblige, and delight.  We need to retain our patients.  Because, just like Apple has shown, there is massive value in retaining those already in your system.  A customer that stays in your system believes in what you do, is satisfied, and will buy from you again.

The average person has a doctor they go to see when they’re sick, they have a dentist that they call when they have a toothache, and they have a mechanic they call when their car is making weird noises. Most people don’t have a physical therapist.  It’s directly within your control to change this fact.

In the end, we should continue to pursue the traditional marketing channels to ensure adequate referrals.  But, I challenge you to look at each patient in your clinic as a potential referral source. Each patient should be returning the next time they are hurt (self-referral), and should be sending their family and friends to you when they sustain an injury (patient generated referral).  The most influential element driving purchase decisions today is word of mouth.  Each clinic is marketing to a distinct geographical area, where word of mouth can have a profound impact on buying decisions.  Begin creating a systemized process to delight your patients, keep them in your system, and ultimately turn them into vocal supporters of your brand.

TheraVid is a Patient Management Tool for Physical Therapists that helps clinics turn new referrals into retained patients.  We built TheraVid based on evidence-based principles that improve patient engagement and satisfaction with care.  We’re working every day to optimize your patient’s care experience.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about how we can help provide your patients with customized and engaging care.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to let us know in the comments!

Ryan Klepps PT, DPT 

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