The Get Physical Therapy Customers series is designed for outpatient therapy business owners and leaders. Over the next several weeks, we will explore strategies focused on your clinic’s most prized asset – its customers.
Before becoming a physical therapist, I remember working for a few PT practices that had “marketing personnel” on staff. I remember thinking, “What a waste. Take care of your patients and people will continue to come to the clinic. Simple as that.”
How funny it is that perceptions change over the years, especially when enlightened by a bit of real-world experience, and in my case, the study of marketing in business school.
Physical therapy, like any business, is not as simple as do a good job, and people will come. The inverse can be true, however, whereby you can NOT do a good job, and people will still come, if the right experience or image is crafted, making the services look desirable (even if they aren’t all that good).
Now, there are problems inherent with bad services that only look good, and I would never suggest that this is a route to take, especially in the practice of healthcare. I only bring it up to illustrate the power of crafting an image. It is the image that precedes, and hence creates, much of the reality of the experience.
Your image is your brand…and your brand is a promise
The practice of physical therapy, whether in your small independent clinic or your burgeoning multi-site practice, needs a good image to attract customers. In marketing, “image” is somewhat synonymous with “brand.” And without getting too technical, it is the “brand image” that is responsible for your customer (i.e., patient) volume or lack thereof.
A brand is nothing more than a promise. A promise of something good, or something desirable.
You don’t have a brand you say? Wrong. You always have a brand. You just might not have created it deliberately. There is nothing that says a brand must cost a dime, that it must be strategically developed, or that you must even know what it is. If you have customers, you have a brand; a promise of the experience that will be received when interacting with you, your practice, and your staff.
Do you typically run 20 minutes behind schedule for patient care? If so, that’s part of your brand. It’s what your patients will expect even after one behind-schedule experience in your practice. Is your practice warm and inviting? If so, you can bet your patients will understand this as well. These elements, while having nothing to do with a logo, brandmark, or marketing plan, have everything to do with the promise you are making to your patients.
When thinking about your physical therapy practice’s brand, take steps to “promise” a deliberate experience; one that you would prefer yourself. In physical therapy branding, your promise may be of rehabilitation or improved function. For the boutique PT practice, it may be a personalized, comfortable medical experience.
These promises are made through actions that speak louder than a crafty logo or brandmark ever could. The promise that the experience will be desirable for those that use your services, and consistent from visit to visit — that’s what fills healthcare practices.
Branding is everything
Intense competition and a changing landscape require that we crystallize our messages to consumers (i.e., our promise) so that they will know how, where, and when to use our services best.
When a patient injures themselves or becomes ill, they make a quick decision about who to see, and when to see them. They make the decision based on the information stored at the top of their mind, not the information they will find in a marketing pamphlet or a private practice website. For this reason, it is important that a professional’s brand be abundantly clear to the consumer, providing guidance for both how and when to use the services in order to get better.
Make your promise known through your actions (in conjunction with your marketing efforts) and stick to it. When your promise matches the real experience, your customers won’t be able to get enough of it.
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