What Does the Difference between Customers and Patients Mean for PT Clinics?
Practice owners know that the best patients are often ones who have already received care at your practice. Why? First, they are familiar with your clinic, team and process. Second, they already have gotten great results from physical therapy and know what to expect during care. Lastly, they came back to you for additional treatment. That is the greatest compliment that a PT can receive! The patient trusts you and believes in your mission to help them be pain free.
The challenge now is to transform your understanding of patients like the one described. You need to view them as customers. Customers are patients who repeatedly seek your services and value your expertise. They are the brand champions of your practice.
Frequently, customers will recommend your PT practice to friends and family via word of mouth referrals. This referral is one of the top marketing programs you can have—and it’s all based on the experience you provide in the clinic. You don’t spend any money on marketing for word of mouth referrals. Instead, they happen organically from patients who have become customers.
How to Turn Patients into Customers in 3 Steps
Step 1: Keep Marketing
One of the biggest mistakes practices make is not actively marketing to past patients. Keeping the communications going after discharge is critical to creating customers who see you again for care. Watch and learn how marketing and reactivating past patients builds a loyal customer base for your PT practice.
Step 2: Develop a Unique Customer Experience
Think about businesses that you frequent often and have a strong affinity with—what do they do to keep your interest? Often, they provide incentives to sustain your patronage. This could be additional promotions or discounts like a free month of facility use following care or 10% off complimentary services like massage therapy. Another program is customer appreciation marketing. Do you send birthday cards to past patients? How about check in emails 3-4 months after completing care? Any personal communication builds a relationship with the patient and connects them to your practice’s mission.
Now these programs can seem intimidating to start and maintain throughout the year. That’s why you should leverage a professional marketing system and service that does the work for you. What if you could send a monthly postcard to patients with birthdays that month? All you would need to do is create a master template for a Happy Birthday postcard and send a monthly mailing list of patients filtered by date of birthday. The marketing team will take care of the rest. For more ideas on marketing to customers, download our free guide for tips on marketing your PT practice and getting more new patients.
Step 3: Offer Tools to Make It Easy
For example, you need a routine oil change on the car. One mechanic shop offers an online appointment making service. And, once you have already visited them and created an account, all your car’s information is saved into the system. You can pick your appointment time and have a calendar reminder sent to your email. Additionally, they may even send you an email every 3-4 months reminding you to get an oil change. The other shop requires you to call and schedule an appointment over the phone. Each time you call they ask the same questions about your car and you need to write down when the oil change is scheduled. Compare to the first shop, this feels like a huge effort and hassle.
Your PT practice needs to be like the first shop—easy, quick and customer-friendly. Start by offering patients with an option to make appointments online via your physical therapy website. This allows them to skip the phone call and connect directly with your practice. Next, send confirmation emails with calendar events so that they can easily add the appointment to their schedule. Then, offer an online bill pay service to eliminate paper billing and get on-time payments. While this might seem like a lot, you should be able to incorporate these services easily through a professional web design and marketing company. A good rule of thumb is that, for online marketing, you should invest in a website that can become your digital hub and that is optimized for PT practices.
To recap, you want to start thinking about patients as customers to build a loyal base of people who patronize your practice and refer others.
- First, you need to actively market your services to past patients to maintain the post-therapy relationship.
- Next, use personal and direct communications to build and nurture that relationship into a long-term connection.
- Then, you need to differentiate your practice with tools and capabilities that make it easier for customers to see you for PT.
For more information about growing your practice through marketing, watch our YouTube videos and contact us today!
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