Marketing Common Mistakes New Physical Therapy Owners Make - Part 2

Most Common Mistakes PT Private Practice Owners Make with Their Marketing – Part Two

Test, Test, Test, for what works and what doesn’t

The world of marketing can, at times, seem like a battlefield. Everyone is competing for the same patients, same referral sources, and same insurance reimbursement rates. Barriers to success shoot up around every corner. How can anyone be expected to navigate these ever-changing obstacles without crashing and burning? The secret is, guys – you can’t avoid it; at least not if you want to make it to the other side.

In business there will ALWAYS be new challenges, new obstacles to surmount, and constant change. The key to success is not avoiding these obstacles, but meeting them head-on.

Retired Marine helicopter pilot and author, Robert Kiyosaki, illustrates this idea perfectly in his recollection of Marine training in his book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Below is a scenario based on his idea.

Imagine a helicopter you’re piloting gets hit. In a moment of human panic, your first instinct is to pull up on the throttle to avoid crashing (Now for those of you who are not helicopter aficionados, pulling up in this circumstance will cause you to lose all control, leading to certain fatality.) You must fight the urge to pull back and, instead, push forward, increasing your speed rapidly as the ground approaches. At the last second, just before you meet the Earth, you pull up to slow your momentum and control the speed of the crash.

Does this seem counterintuitive? Absolutely! But you cannot avoid the crash, so you MUST take control of it to survive the landing.

The same applies to marketing. You will inevitably crash into obstacles, but you must keep pushing forward to control the growth of your business. Pull up too soon, and you are setting yourself up for failure.

Remember the transition curve we discussed in our last article? We learned that things are going to get a little rough before we’re equipped with the right tools for steady growth. This is when you need to seek out obstacles, hang on tight, and push forward.

So how do we take these failed experiences and turn them into marketing successes?


Each obstacle is a chance to try something new with your marketing and observe the results.

Every failed opportunity should lead to a new process in your clinic to make sure that only positive outcomes are repeated.

I’ve done this countless times over in my own business, and it has helped me learn a lot along the way. Here are examples of things I’ve tried:

  • Running ads in the paper.

The image below shows two ads that ran in the paper for a workshop I hosted.

Test Your PT Marketing Ads

The image on the right is the classic ad I would run for the workshop. The image on the left was a mistake (that I absolutely hated the design for). Can you guess which performed better?

The “mistake” on the left brought in 14 people, whereas our classic workshop ad only brought in 2! That is a HUGE difference!

Moving forward, this mistake ad has become our new classic, which we continue to make small changes to periodically to try to increase the turn out even more.

Don’t be afraid to try something new and out of your comfort zone; it may be just what you need to get those first direct access patients in the door!

  • Madden and Gilbert PT Workshops: Market-Message-Media

The same promotion was run for a low back pain and sciatica workshop being held at both Madden and Gilbert PT clinics, located 18 minutes from one another.

Each clinic had great success with the promotion increasing direct access referrals, but not from the same sources despite the close proximity of the clinics.

Gilbert PT was very successful with a listing in a local newspaper called The Guide, whereas Madden PT was very successful with a listing in The Paxton Herald.

This taught me that it’s SO important to think through and test how the market around you works. Which media outlet is most utilized in your area? Are you marketing to the right one? The only way to find out is to test multiples sources and then focus on the ones you get the best outcomes from.

Essentially, as practice owners, we need to start thinking of running our businesses like we treat our patients. When treating the general population, we use the best research methods to choose appropriate treatment. However, when treating a specific patient, there’s a bit more trial and error to determining what works and what doesn’t work for that particular person.

The same holds true for private practice clinics. There are generalized guiding principles for how to market your business, but a little experimentation is necessary to determine what will work best for the market you’re operating in.

Everybody’s Doing it!

Now if you’re thinking this is just a strategy for PT marketing, think again. All the million dollar companies go through the same process of trial and error before they land the big win.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with a little company named Apple. When you first think of them, your mind is flooded with images of success and innovation: the iPhone, MacBook, iPad, etc. Just look at this inspiring ‘think different’ ad. It makes you want to run out, join the Apple family, and change the world (sorry android lovers).

Think Different Ad by Apple

Yet, they too have had a few pretty big marketing flops. Who remembers the “What’s a Computer” ad they came out with earlier this year? Not a great moment for Apple. People were borderline offended by their blatant belittling of the original product that made them so successful. You can see some of the pushback from the ad at the link below.

Reactions to “What’s a Computer” Ad

Despite minor hiccups, the reason they have remained such a successful company is because they learn from their mistakes and use the information they gain to do better next time. The best part is, the more things you try, the more likely you are to find out what works. People generally tend to forget the failed attempts and remember the successes that affected them most.

This is the true secret to successful marketing: Do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t! The only way to determine what falls into each category is to test it out.

Do you want some new ideas to test for your marketing? If so, check out our masterclass for more information.

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