Experts encourage adaptive marketing techniques in an ever-changing world.
By Brian W. Ferrie
Posted on: March 28, 2016
Vol. 27 • Issue 2 • Page 18
In a dynamic physical therapy industry brimming with private practices and abundant specializations, the concepts of marketing and branding have become hot-button issues. How does a practice best identify and reach its core audience? What about distinguishing itself from nearby competitors? How much do website and social media presence matter? For these answers and others, ADVANCE spoke to therapists on the East and West Coast with significant experience in practice marketing.
Davis Koh, DPT, MBA, GCS, CSCS, is the owner of Koh Physical Therapy Lab, with two California locations in Irvine and Tustin. Because Koh earned his MBA after founding his practice, he can offer a unique perspective on how business school revolutionized his approach to branding.
“When I started my practice in Laguna Hills in 2003, it was just called Koh Physical Therapy,” he told ADVANCE. “For the first couple years, my marketing consisted of just the usual business cards, fliers, and a basic template website. But the MBA program really taught me the importance of branding, how understanding the business side would help the clinical side, and vice versa.”
Envisioning an Identity
The classes also helped clarify what Koh wanted his identity to be.
“It gave me the impetus to reflect on who I am as a PT,” he continued. “How do I treat? How do I present myself? What kind of PT am I hoping to be, and how can I best display that in every aspect of my practice? I concluded that my objective was to be cutting-edge, in terms of techniques, modalities and equipment. I also wanted to provide a very modern, professional and warm environment for my patients, conveying that through my branding efforts.”
In reaching this conclusion, Koh realized his prior marketing efforts fell far short of the mark.
“I found that the theme really didn’t correlate through every aspect of my business at that time,” he related. “I asked myself, ‘If I’m cutting-edge, modern and moving forward, then why do I only have a basic template website? Why do I just have a boring business card with a traditional font?'”
It marked an epiphany for Koh and led to widespread changes in his organization. The timing proved fortunate too, since he was also looking to buy a commercial building where he could move the practice. This confluence of circumstances provided a golden opportunity for Koh to re-launch his brand with a new facility, equipment, website, location, promotional plan, and even name.
“We purchased the new building in Irvine while I was in business school and opened as Koh Physical Therapy Lab right after I graduated,” he explained. “The name ‘lab’ was very important to me because I didn’t want to be seen as a traditional clinic. So our facility has metal and wood fixtures, with raised, exposed ceilings, and sliding-glass doors for the patient rooms. I didn’t want standard rubber mats in the gym or anything like that.”
The emphasis on a lab environment extends to staff attire as well.
“We wear navy-colored scrubs with our logo branded on the chest, rather than the typical khaki shorts with a polo shirt, or khaki pants with a button-down shirt and tie,” shared Koh. “So just as a surgeon gets into his scrubs to conduct surgical techniques, we put on our scrubs to perform manual techniques. While the surgeon’s tool is a scalpel, our tools are our hands. We don’t just put you on a modality and leave the room. It’s a medical facility, but not just for research with lab coats. Patients understand the idea that we’re here to conduct active therapy with them.”
Onward and Upward
Meanwhile in New England, ProEx Physical Therapy has enjoyed impressive expansion due in part to its own successful marketing techniques.
“We’re a growth organization, and over the past three years we’ve gone from nine to 14 locations in the tri-state area of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut,” related Ben Barron, MSPT, director of business development. “By the end of 2016, we plan to have 20 clinic sites. My responsibility is to grow the top line revenues through increasing same-store growth, identifying start-up locations and acquisitions, and developing new business lines.”
ProEx emphasizes a variety of marketing and branding efforts, starting with a digital focus.
“I think that’s the first priority these days, from making sure the website is positioned as highly as possible on search engines to developing a social media presence, which is important for brand awareness,” Barron said. “We also do a lot in the local communities we serve, from advertising sponsorships to participating in events. And we actively conduct e-mail marketing to current and past patients, particularly with the idea of mobilizing our ‘evangelists,’ those people who really love us, so we can help them help us grow.”
That mobilization is key to spreading the word about ProEx.
“Let’s say you provide great care and have great customers,” shared Barron. “That’s why you’ve been successful and are able to stay in business. But it’s the execution of the next step that’s pivotal. How do you identify your most loyal customers who would do anything to help you? Then how can you provide avenues enabling them to do that? Because it has to be a systematic process you’re continually engaged in, not just something you do one time, set it and forget it.”
Taking a Testimonial
Although these can be difficult questions, Barron emphasized the answers aren’t always expensive or complicated.
“We live in a world of testimonials, not just for PT consumers but consumers in general. Everybody is seeking people like ourselves who have credibility as objective third-parties when recommending a service. So at the clinic level, that can be as simple and affordable as taking a video testimonial of a patient with your smartphone. Then posting the video on your website and leveraging it through your social media channels. Something like that stands out much more than a typical written testimonial that sits on your website for the next decade.”
Furthermore, the demographics of testimonials are also important.
“You want more than one testimonial, so for example a young person can identify with a certain patient, and a senior citizen can identify with somebody else,” said Barron. “That way you reach all your target markets through mobilizing different types of patients who already come to your clinic. Then focus on getting that word out in different ways, making sure it’s fresh so you’re not just posting one video testimonial for the year and thinking you’re done. You need to frequently generate new content that will get people engaged and make them want to come back to your website or social media channels.”
These types of marketing and branding efforts can certainly make a significant impact, but there’s no escaping one fundamental point.
“Frankly, I think the most important aspect is the care that you provide,” Barron concluded. “You can’t market and sell a bad product, so it all has to start there. You’ve got to get people better, and they need to have a phenomenal experience while they do it. That enables everything else to flow.”
Brian W. Ferrie is on staff at ADVANCE.