Eliminate Your Slow Season and Create Consistent Patient Flow Year-Round
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably wondering how to get more physical therapy visits scheduled.
In an ideal world, your physical therapy practice would have a steady flow of clients coming in the door all year long. Yet the reality is that most practices have slow seasons, usually around the winter holidays or in the summer months, when they experience a steep decline in visits. During your slow season, you may start looking for ways to get more physical therapy visits — and fast.
Many practice owners I’ve talked to feel like they’re on a roller coaster throughout the year. There are times when they can’t seem to keep up with the high number of visits, and there are times when visits slow down substantially.
I’ve experienced personally how a slow season can result in as much as a 20% loss in annual revenue. This is far too common in our industry.
The revenue loss that practices experience during these slow seasons can make it challenging to predict hours and pay staff. It can also have a significant impact on the practice’s long-term profitability and ability to stay afloat.
During these slower times, it’s critical that practice owners change their approach to marketing. Yet what we often see are two common scenarios:
- Accept slow seasons as inevitable and do nothing to change it.
- Continue with status quo marketing. Essentially, they continue with the same marketing they’ve been doing or they even cut back on marketing, which makes the lack of patients a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How to Get More Physical Therapy Visits: 6 Proven Strategies
In this section, we explore how to get more physical therapy visits and prevent drops in patient flow during historically slow periods. You will learn 6 proven strategies for creating predictable, consistent growth all year long.
Identify Your Slow Season and Target Past Patients
The first step to getting more physical therapy visits is to determine when your slow seasons are. For most practices, it’s between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and during the summer months when kids are out of school and people are away on vacation.
By identifying when visits slow down, you can avoid working nine months out of the year only to lose profitability within a few months.
The next step is to look for ways to reconnect with past clients and encourage them to come in again.
Your past patient list is the lowest-hanging fruit for your marketing activities. This is true not only in private practice; but in about any business in just about any industry.
Why? Because the people who have done business with you in the past, if they are satisfied and if they are happy, are much more likely to buy from you in the future.
Over time, your past patients will be more likely to respond and return for additional care and services, than any other group you could market to.
This is especially true during the holiday season when the price of advertising to cold traffic goes up and physician referrals often slow down.While various marketing channels can be effective, it’s important to first identify your audience personas and use channels that target those specific populations to achieve the best ROI.
Plan Your “Greatest Promotion Ever” To Increase Plans of Care
One of the best ways to get more physical therapy visits throughout the year is to plan a large, “greatest promotion ever” campaign, such as a day of free assessments or exams.
This approach is an effective way to net you a backlog of patients and plans of care to treat during your typical slow season.
By doing this, I have turned the slow season at my practice into the busiest time of year. And through my work with Breakthrough, I’ve helped hundreds of other practice owners do the same.
Below are a few keys to success for your promotion:
- Before launching the campaign, double-check you are staying compliant with your local practice act. You can tweak the name of the service as needed, e.g. ‘assessment’ or ‘exam’ to remain compliant. I checked with Paul Welk, a health law attorney who focuses on PT, to ensure compliance.
- Announce it to your past patients as a celebration of something. That could be a celebration of a milestone in your practice such as an anniversary of a certain number of years in practice. Or it could be a celebration of a staff member’s life event, such as a wedding. Keep it authentic and genuine. Past patients will be more likely to attend to celebrate and congratulate you.
- Launch the campaign in the weeks leading up to your slow season and be sure to target past patients in the right channel (see #1).
- Run these campaigns only twice a year. This ensures consistent patient flow without overwhelming patients with the same promotion over and over again.
Prioritize Email Marketing
Scheduling automated emails at least once a week, every week, is a good rule of thumb. It becomes especially important before and during your slow season to promote reactivations and word-of-mouth referrals.
Emails can include promotions for events and workshops, as well as educational content with a blog post, new report, or video. Be sure to balance promotional content with goodwill that purely delivers value through education.
One of the most effective types of emails is the single-question email. It’s a short email that poses an easy question to reply to, such as “Have you experienced back pain in the last week? Let me know.”
The goal is to start a conversation with past patients. If a majority of people say yes, for example, it’s important to think about how to respond to them in a way that delivers value and ultimately converts them to patients.
One of our clients who sent 500 emails with a single-question email received more than 60 responses and generated 11 plans of care.
Once you discover an email is effective, put it into a regular, annual rotation.
For new practices who don’t have established lists, compiling a list of 150 or so friends and family in the local area and promoting a grand opening, a one-year anniversary celebration, or a new location can be a great way to get patients in the door.
Deploy Direct Mail
A marketing misnomer is that direct mail is dead, but nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, a recent report by The Association of National Advertisers found direct mail has a 112% ROI, higher than SMS (102%) and email (93%).
When you plan your “greatest promotion ever” campaign, also use direct mail to your past patient list.
Once a month, you may also consider sending a simple print newsletter to your patients with a mix of personal stories, education, and promotions.
Invest In Online Advertising
If you would like to expand your reach beyond your past patient list, market your “greatest promotion ever” to cold traffic via online advertising channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
We recommend running ads a few weeks before the slow season.
For one of our clients, investing in online advertising for a free event netted 67% of all attendees and resulted in 70 plans of care.
Create a Marketing Calendar
For any marketing campaign to be effective, you need a plan. Creating a marketing calendar for each month can ensure your team is organized and accountable.
Be sure to include all marketing campaigns and tasks for every target market, including past patients, the general public, partners (for instance, large employers in your area, or a local gym or yoga studio), physicians, and other referral sources.
For your big promotion events, schedule direct mail and email campaigns 6 weeks prior to the launch and include a series of social posts in the weeks leading up to the event.
It’s also important to carve out time in your schedule and / or your staff’s schedule every week to devote to marketing to ensure results.
With a consistent plan in place and a multi-channel marketing strategy, you’ll get a clear understanding of which tactics net the best ROI, and where you’ll need to focus your efforts to have a consistent flow of patients every month.
As you continue to reactivate past patients and attract new ones, you’ll be able to hire more team members or increase staff hours.You’ll be able to invest in growing your practice and gaining more market share.
How to Get More Physical Therapy Visits with Breakthrough
Breakthrough offers a complete, all-in-one patient demand platform that provides a simple, repeatable way to consistently grow your practice by attracting leads, converting leads into patients, and measuring success.
Our team of marketing experts has years of experience working with hundreds of private physical therapy practices and delivering guaranteed revenue growth.