Nuts and bolts

The Nuts and Bolts of Marketing Strategies

Aug 10, 2015

Cassy Ruffolo


Over the past 10 years that I’ve been marketing Physical and Occupational Therapy services, I have been able to conclude what works and what doesn’t in getting new patient referrals. In the recent years, we really focused our efforts more on getting workers’ compensation referrals specifically. Below I have listed 7 of the top marketing strategies that I have used and how they’ve worked. Keep in mind that for any marketing and advertising you want to make sure to always keep your brand consistent. 

#7. Broadcast media (Television and Radio)

In today’s day and age, there aren’t many people who actually watch or listen to commercials any more. You can fast forward through your favorite shows and listen to music with little or no ads, so spending the time and money on this medium can be a gamble. Advertising on T.V. or radio can get pretty expensive because you not only have to pay for the ad spot but the production as well. I once did a T.V. commercial to try increase our work comp patient population that showed a glimpse of the treatment our WC patients receive and included a patient testimonial. We did get a few new patients from it but not a ton. I wouldn’t recommend this as a great strategy for getting WC patients.

#6. Print ads

Print advertising is one of the most commonly used forms of advertising and can be as expensive or in expensive as you want it to be. Because print ads are geared more towards the consumer, it’s pretty hard to increase your referrals this way. You won’t find many doctors or case managers looking in the newspaper or magazines for ads on where to send their patients for PT, OT or Work Comp services. Now as we know patients do have the right to choose where they would like to go for treatment, but I’d say the majority are going to go where their doctor refers them to. I have run a local newspaper campaign before with the message “You have a choice!” geared towards patients and letting them know they can choose where they go and highlighting the reasons they’d like to come to us. It did get some calls but again, not the best strategy to use.

#5. Social media

While social media is rapidly growing, it’s still not the best avenue to get referrals to your practice. That’s not to say you won’t get any this way. In my opinion, the best network for business relationship building and communication is LinkedIn. Many healthcare professionals use LinkedIn and trust it as a valid source of information. When making social media posts for the purpose of getting referrals, highlight your services and more importantly promote your results. For example, if you perform functional capacity evaluations and you think your testing and reporting is the best there is, talk about that. Have the stats to prove it and promote that. I will get in to more detail on this later. 

#4. Direct mail

Direct mail is a great form of marketing as long as you do it right. First, make sure you have a solid database on who your mailer is going to (Doctors, Nurse Practitioners, Case Mangers, Adjustors, etc.). Make the recipient want to open it. Whether you use a big bright colored envelope, a funky shaped package, or an eye catching postcard, make it stand out. I did a mail campaign once with the theme “The nuts & bolts behind Industrial Rehab.” I had a box filled with real nuts and bolts so it rattled when picked up, and attached to each of them was one of our services. It definitely got a lot of attention and phone calls and we did see a good increase in referrals. Include a good mix of the services you offer, statistics/outcome data to back up your work, pictures, and a call to action. One great way to both get feedback and have another opportunity to reach these recipients again is to include a pre-post marked card that they can fill out and return for some sort of free gift. Make it worth their time. 

#3. Word of mouth marketing

This is one of the most important forms of marketing, and this comes more from your patients. If your patients are not only getting great results but having a great experience, they will tell people about it. Whether it be their referring MD, co-workers, friends or family, they all could be potential future referrals. If you are treating a workers’ comp patient, make them feel valued, and that you have the same goals as they do. They want to get back to work and you want to help them get there. If you have multiple WC patients at one time, schedule them together for their work hardening/conditioning visits so they get to know each other and it becomes a work like atmosphere. If their goals are met and the experience is pleasant, they will promote it for you. 

#2. Relationship marketing

Direct relationships with physicians, nurses, case managers, etc. is more important than almost any of the prior points. Set up luncheons, go with your patients to follow up appointments, send personal letters, all to develop a personal relationship with the referral source and get them to know you. If the referral source knows you personally, especially on a first name basis, you’re already ahead of your competition. What really sets you apart is being able to communicate your workers’ compensation patient’s return-to-work ability. Whenever you have the ability to communicate with a physician, case manager or employer you need to focus on your specialty of returning the injured worker back to gainful employment.

#1. Functional Progress Notes/Functional Discharge Summaries

In previous strategies I mentioned promoting your testing, reports and results. This is truly a case of “the proof is in the pudding.” All of the above is just talk if you don’t document a patient’s return-to-work ability during outpatient rehab and communicate this to physician, case manager and employer through quality reporting tools. You have to be different than the therapy practice down the street. Everyone performs FCE’s and does Work Conditioning. What makes your program different? In my 10 years of promoting Physical/Occupational Therapy clinics the number one way to increase workers’ compensation referrals is to provide documentation every six visits during outpatient therapy that tells the referral source how far or how close to return-to-work function the patient is. Objective outcome data and stats are also an amazing way to show just how great you are and it’s proven, not just words. How long are your patients in work hardening/conditioning? What is the rate of re-injury? What is the average percentage of MMI your patients return at? All great things to point out, if of course, you have good results. A good return-to-work/FCE software is highly beneficial in achieving and tracking all these things.

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