Most Common Mistakes Private Practice Owners Make with Their Marketing – (Part Four)

In our last post, we discussed the general pitfalls PT owners make with marketing, but are there certain problems you can anticipate at each level of ownership? Certainly, a new minor league business owner will have different marketing pitfalls than a seasoned hall of famer? Let’s expand on the first two levels of ownership, the unique pitfalls you can expect to run into at each, and ultimately, how to overcome them!

Minor League Pitfalls

Ah, welcome to optimist alley. Business owners just starting out are still riding the high of the transition curve we discussed previously (Link to transition curve post here). Full of ideas, high hopes, and not a lot of know-how, this group of owners is still unaware of everything that goes into running a successful business. It’s this naivety that most often leads to pitfalls for this group. Some of the major mistakes made by minor leaguers include:

Operating from a zero-sum new patients mindset

The zero-sum new patients mindset is a theory of scarcity. This is the mindset that there’s a fixed number of referrals available and that all PT clinics within the same area are competing for these patients. This means it’s every man for himself and there’s no help or communication between the PT community in a given area.

Conversely, another (more beneficial) mindset is the theory of abundance. This is the mindset that if the PT community works together to better market our profession, we can increase referrals across the board, creating plenty of patients for everyone, and helping more individuals in the long run.

Do yourself a favor and don’t get stuck in the zero-sum mindset. If you help can increase referrals throughout the community, you will not only help build your business but also improve the number of people we can help as a profession.

Working harder, not smarter

If you’ve decided to start your own business, chances are you’re not afraid of a little hard work. However, new owners often poorly manage their time leading to a lack of efficiency and long hours.

In my own experience starting out, I poured my time into way too many outlets, hoping to grab one or two referrals from each source. One of these sources were physician letters I was writing. I made it a point to write five letters a week and was actually seeing a pretty steady increase in referrals as a result.

A good friend of mine pointed out that instead of spreading myself thin trying to pick up a referral here and there, my time would be better spent increasing the number of physician letters I wrote each week since that source was producing real results.

I took her advice to heart, pulled away from the less lucrative sources, and started writing 25 physician letters a week instead. Guess what happened? IT WORKED! My patient referrals skyrocketed because I put my time and effort into the right area and stopped wasting time on dead ends.  

It takes A LOT of effort to grow your business, but you will make your life easier by cutting out time-wasting tasks and spending valuable minutes working on what works.

Doing everything you’re told to do

What works for ONE company, doesn’t work for EVERY company. You could implement every step we’ve discussed, create the perfect newsletter, reach out to every potential referral source in your area, and still not see a single new patient from it. Why, you ask? Because every company is unique.

You decided to open your own business to be able to do things your way, so why would marketing be any different? Yes, the tools we give you are great guidelines to create a marketing system that works for you – but that is just it, it needs to work for YOU.

If you’ve tried doing exactly what someone else did, and it didn’t work, it’s time to problem solve what the difference between their company and yours may be. Do you have a different target demographic? Did they allocate a larger amount of money for marketing? Do your patients respond better to paper letters or email?

Utilize the specific details of your patient population to create a marketing tool best suited to the needs of the people around you.

Roller Coaster Syndrome

Often, minor leaguers fall into the trap of marketing like crazy to boost referrals until their schedule is filled up. Once there’s no space on the schedule, they pull back on marketing until these patients are discharged and the schedule is full of holes again. This leads to huge peaks and valleys in patient volume and is exhausting for business owners who are out there marketing.

A way to remedy this is by getting a marketing system in place that is ALWAYS working even if you aren’t there physically. This will prevent the drastic dip in patients because there will always be a steady stream of people waiting for a spot to open up.

Resent Marketing

This is the mindset that just by offering high-quality care, word of mouth will be enough to bring in ample numbers of patient referrals. When we learn that this isn’t the case, it often leads to feelings of resentment toward marketing because it is a skill most of us did not learn in PT school. We learned to become clinicians, and now having to learn an entirely different set of skills for success can be a bit daunting.

Unfortunately, this pitfall doesn’t have a quick fix like some of the others. The key to beating it is digging in and learning what you don’t know how to do yet. This obviously takes time, patience, and lots of mistakes along the way; but in the end, getting over those resentful feelings and getting into what needs to be done will make or break your success.

Losing your top referral source

Imagine this scenario; you’ve put in countless hours, built a great relationship with the top orthopedic physician in your area and he has become your most reliable, consistent source of referrals. Now he moves away or retires. What will you do?!

In this situation you have two options:

  1. Take Action: Go out and find more referrals
  2. Inaction: Lose revenue and blame circumstances outside your control

Unfortunately, most new business owners have a difficult time moving past this unplanned change and take the second option. It can seem easier to be the victim of an unfortunate situation, but the best solution is often not the easy option.

You must replace the lost referrals, and the only way to do it is to go out and forge another great relationship in the community.

No stable point – feeling overwhelmed

When your to-do list seems never-ending, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Recognizing that you can only do one thing at a time and then prioritize the most important tasks can help you stay productive.

It’s much easier to focus on and complete one task than to mentally grasp 15 different things at the same time. If you work through your to-do list one task at a time, it will get done faster, and you’ll feel more in control of the situation. And when all else fails, remember, there’s always tomorrow ;).

Major League Pitfalls


Moving on up! You’ve made it past first and are rounding the bag to second base. You’re in the major leagues now. This means you’re a bit better established, you’ve figured out what it takes to keep your business up and running, and you recognize that you need to get a few systems in place. It looks like you’re doing pretty good! However, this level of ownership doesn’t come without its own bumps in the road. A few of the most common Major league pitfalls are:

You stop doing what works

You’ve held a few workshops, sent out a newsletter, and your business has probably picked up a little. Now what? KEEP DOING WHAT WORKS. If your workshops have had great turnouts, keep holding them! Don’t just stop because things have gotten busy. It’s easy to let marketing fall by the wayside, but if it’s what brings people in the door, you need to keep it a priority!

Zero-sum systems. No processes

This is the mindset that you can’t have more than one marketing system working at the same time. This often happens because the owner feels they must be present in all marketing scenarios to ensure success, stopping them from setting up a process to keep a system running in their absence.

You CAN have multiple systems working to your benefit at once, but you must have the right processes set up to do it successfully.

All systems rely on the owner

This ties in perfectly to the zero-sum systems topic above. Major league owners often have the idea that THEY are what makes the business successful. While this isn’t untrue, it leads to a situation where the owner feels they must always be present, always treating, always marketing, always everything.

This is a self-limiting belief that will ultimately prevent growth because one person cannot do it all. Start hiring people you trust. People who can lighten your load and help you run the business, not drown in it.

Don’t scale with personnel systems

Many major league owners hire on a whim. They would rather side-step the application process to cut down on the time it takes to get a new employee hired and working. Application processes are typically long and drawn out for a reason; it helps weed out less desirable candidates.

By shortening the process you might think you’re saving time and money, but really you’re just setting yourself up for a headache.

Don’t address personnel issues

If there’s an issue with personnel, it must be dealt with. Unfortunately, many major league owners don’t have processes in place that allow them the time they need to deal with these type of issues. This leads to unhappy, undedicated employees, and overall, a poorly functioning business.

Implementing successful marketing systems will allow for improved time and transparency when dealing with personnel issues. Keeping the whole team happy is important for long-term success.

Market – Message – Media Match

Many owners at this level recognize that the message they are trying to get across must be directed at their target market. However, it is often overlooked that the way you’re delivering this message must be via the media that reaches the most people in your market!

For example, if your market is made of young professionals, you will likely want to use email to promote your message. However, if your market is primarily individuals over 65, you may want to consider putting an ad in the local weekly paper!

Ethical Doctor Issues

When every referral source counts, it can be easier to get wrapped up in an unethical situation than you think.

We’ve run into issues with physicians threatening to stop referring patients if anyone is unhappy, or asking us to perform illegal billing procedures. These situations can be very difficult when this person is potentially creating a large source of income for your business.

Despite this, is important to remember that you can always find more referrals. It is never worth it to get yourself wrapped up in an unethical situation.

“I know. I know. I know.”

The common phrase we go to when we think we’ve mastered a topic. It’s a regular occurrence for major league owners to mistake recognition of a topic for true understanding.

Just because you’ve heard of something does not make you an expert. The moment you think you have nothing left to learn is the moment you shut yourself out from opportunities for continued growth and success.

ALWAYS be open to new ideas, new discussions, and continued learning. The world of marketing is constantly changing and as a result, so must you!

Wrapping up!

We hope these tips to avoid common marketing pitfalls at these levels has helped you continue to grow personally and professionally. Next up will be pitfalls specific to our all-star, and hall of fame owners!

  • Chad
  • a couple of weeks ago