I asked this same question in a recent survey of more than 300 physical therapy private practice owners in the US and Canada. Here are some of the 37+ unique responses I got regarding marketing ideas that don’t work:
T-shirts or other types of branded swag
Are you surprised by their responses? Perhaps you’ve tried a few of these yourself (or all of them, it’s okay to admit it), or maybe you’ve considered some of these in your own marketing. Our survey respondents say they tried the above methods, plus others, and they didn’t work.
When we reviewed their responses, we realized that every single one of them was somehow media-related. Granted, media is an important component in marketing, but it’s just one leg of a three-legged tripod that isn’t going to support the full initiative on its own.
Being a fan of Dan Kennedy and his “No BS approach” to direct response marketing, I fully believe this is what we as private practice physical therapy owners should be doing when going direct to the patient. Dan teaches the three key components that every effective marketing strategy should include, called the Market Message Media Triangle.
Interestingly, when we were talking with our survey group about the mistakes they’ve made in their marketing, no one came back and said that they didn’t do a great job in targeting their market. No one said they didn’t take the time to craft a strong message that resonated in the minds of their audience.
But anytime you have a campaign or marketing piece that works, it’s because these three things align. Let’s explore.
When it comes to marketing, how specific are you about whom you want to reach? How specific do you really need to be?
There are lots of different types of people who could benefit from PT. Too often, private practice owners take this concept to the extreme and start trying to market to all of them. This, of course, doesn’t usually work well because there’s nothing unique about their message. You end up with a very generic marketing campaign that tries to be something for everyone but ends up connecting with no one.
You don’t market to a 53-year old grandmother with back pain in the same way you market to a 15-year old gymnast with back pain. There’s a different conversation going on in their head, different concerns, and ultimately—different options for care.
We need to be clear about who we’re targeting and use that audience to create our next point: the message.
I remember early in the days of Physical Therapy marketing I would play a sort of marketing roulette, where a sales rep from a local media company would come by and ask if I wanted to advertise with them. I’m busy treating patients, so I would usually sign up for a low-priced ad to test and see how it works. Not surprisingly, I’d forget about it until the deadline for the copy was due.
Guess who ends up writing the copy for the ad?
That’s right—not me.
I usually ask them to do it simply because I’m too busy. Naturally, when the ad goes live, we don’t get any results from it. And then, as I’m trying to decide whether to do this again, it’s hard for me to honestly say that ads don’t work. What if I’d written my own copy, designed a better graphic, or even taken the time to know which publication I was investing in to see if it fit my target market?
If I was too busy to handle the ad appropriately, then arguably, I was too busy to handle any results that came from the ad. Lesson learned.
Learning how to write a compelling message takes time. One of the biggest mistakes I see in private practice is that PTs want to speak to their patients and prospective patients like PTs. There’s a huge gap in translation here that is preventing many practice owners from connecting with their targets.
What is significantly better is speaking with patients on a fifth-grade reading level so that we’re not using words like rotator cuff tendinopathy that will go over their heads. PT talk doesn’t resonate with what’s going on in the minds of our patients. What is going on is the idea of getting back to normal, stopping the pain, and living life like they used to.
Therefore, a good definition to know here is that the message is what you’re saying in your marketing and how it sounds to your target audience.
Putting market and message together, we now have a better idea of how to choose the right media that our prospective patients are consuming. The 53-year old grandmother will probably be on Facebook and interested in direct mail, while the 15-year old gymnast may be more responsive through other social media or at her local gym.
Media is often one of the first priorities in a marketing campaign for PTs, so it’s not surprising that we had so many respondents say that media has failed them. Your Market and Message should guide your media selection if you want to see the best results.
If you’ve tried everything you can think of to market your private practice physical therapy, that could very well be your problem. You’re trying to come up with all these ideas, the most obvious of which are media-related, and nothing is working because you aren’t combining your media with your target market and tailored message.
The truth is that direct mail, SEO, and Facebook ads CAN work, but only if your target market is using these forms of media to learn and make decisions AND you’re communicating a message that speaks directly to them.
To learn more about how to forge market, message, and media alignment, I invite you to join me on for free PT Marketing training that you can use to start noticeably improving your direct access marketing.