You’ve heard this story…
The grasshopper and the ant.
All summer long the grasshopper slacks off while the ant works day and night storing up food.
Before long, winter hits.
The grasshopper has nothing to eat and the ant gets the last laugh.
The moral of the story is that hard work always pays off in the end.
And while that sounds good in theory, I’m going to have to disagree with Aesop.
Because the truth is, focusing on the wrong kind of work is just as bad as doing nothing at all.
Sometimes it’s worse.
And this is especially true for Private Practice PTs.
Many of the PTs I work with are frustrated with their marketing efforts.
They’ve worked hard…they’ve spent money…but none of that effort pays off in the form of new patients.
So, they (justifiably) get burnt out on marketing and their practice struggles to grow.
It’s not their fault…like I mentioned, they’re working hard.
The real problem is that they’re focused on the wrong kind of marketing.
Physician lunches…sponsorship ads…fancy brochures…
Stuff like that.
What’s the right kind of marketing? The kind that has the power to radically change your life and put money back in to your pocket?
It’s called Direct Response Marketing, and I’m going to go in-depth on how you can use direct response marketing to grow your practice in this blog post.
So… what is direct response marketing?
First, which ad would you most likely respond to?
There’s the classic branding ad: Logo with contact information underneath it including telephone number, address, website and a statement of support such as “Madden PT supports the Central View High Flying Squirrels Badminton Team”.
Something like that is the classic sponsorship advertisement that most physical therapy practices and frankly most businesses will run. (I confess, this is typically what we have done for the past 10 years…)
It is one that is focused on branding and the false idea that by putting something out there, magically we are going to attract a lot of business because of brand recognition.
Then there’s a direct response advertisement. No logo. No contact information. No cheery statement of support.
You are already paying for the space and the support and the sponsorship. Why not create a lead generation mechanism where people you want to treat, raise their hand and say, “Yes, I have this and I want to know more”? Then in the future, what you can do is market to them by giving them little bits of information, establish your expertise by giving them value, and ultimately earn their business.
In broad strokes, a direct marketing ad has a specific audience, an enticing offer, and a clear call to action.
So, let’s build a direct response ad since you are already paying for the space.
Step 1 – Focus on a Specific Audience
At one point in time, it was perfectly acceptable (and profitable) for marketers to try and sell to everyone in a single ad.
These days, the average person is bombarded with ads 24/7. The way to make sure your ad gets noticed is to make it hyper-specific.
You want the reader to think you’re talking directly to them.
Here’s how you do it…
Decide what you want to treat. Maybe sciatica, maybe pinched nerves, lower back pain, neck pain or maybe hip pain and osteoarthritis. So pick one of those. For the example here, we will pick “hip pain and stiffness.” That is step number one, pick a diagnosis. So we might write there, “Do you suffer with hip pain and stiffness?” and we will leave it at that for now.
Choose an exacerbating activity…something that aggravates their pain or brings their pain on again. So we add that in: “Do you suffer with hip pain and stiffness when sitting. for long periods on a bleacher?” If you are doing a football sponsorship ad for field hockey, lacrosse, basketball, soccer or baseball, you are dealing with somebody who is sitting on a bleacher. So why not write the ad directly for them?
Add in demographics. Personally, in our clinic, based on studies that we have done and our population base, our ideal demographic is a female who is between the ages of 35-55. At a later time we can discuss exactly why that is. They have the best adherence to PT and compliance to our physical therapy program. They are more likely to keep their appointments. Plus, they are more likely to have a better result in the end and they are more likely to refer their friends and family. There is a national study that shows 70% of all medical appointments or healthcare appointments are made by mothers or wives. That is our ideal demographic. So, if we add that in it might be “Are you a female who suffers with hip pain and stiffness when sitting for long periods on a bleacher?”
Improve our payer mix. If you are a healthcare practitioner in this country, you just got hit with a 20.1% reduction in your Medicare reimbursement for 2014. So is this the time to run a baby boomer ad? Probably not. We are getting to the point now where, especially if you are a small practice, you are probably getting close to the point where you are losing money on a Medicare patient. And by the way, now instead of 3 PQRS items you are going to be completing 9 PQRS items. So triple the paperwork for less money. This is not a game I really want to play a whole lot of. So therefore I want to attract other private insurances such as Blue Cross or Blue Shield. We can add a comment in there about insurance. “Are you a female Blue Cross or Blue Shield subscriber who suffers from hip pain or stiffness when sitting for long periods on a bleacher?
Make sure they are family oriented. Why? Would you rather treat a hermit or a socialite? A happy mother or grandmother is likely to refer or better yet, schedule, her husband, kids, parents, or other family members for your PT services. So we have, “Are you a mother or grandmother Blue Cross or Blue Shield subscriber who suffer from hip pain or stiffness when sitting for long periods on a bleacher?”
So there we have a very good question that is targeted to a highly specific, niched audience and we grab their attention. That whole process of building and grabbing their attention is the first step, creating your headline.
Step 2 – Add the “If… then” Offer
This example will be “If this is you then you may qualify for”…and there is some sort of free offer, some sort of discounted widget that you can offer. This just isn’t for physical therapy, it works in 10,000 different industries.
This is what works in direct response advertising.
“You may qualify for a free or discounted DVD or video, could be a book or a report, or even a free exam.” (If you are able to legally and ethically do those in your area…I recommend running this by Paul Welk, attorney at who frequently works with the PPTA, to be sure).
In physical therapy, it is hard for us to discount something for an insurance paying customer because of insurance fraud or Stark Rules or other red tape…but we certainly can offer something for a value of less than $10. In this example, let’s do a free video and we will talk more about that later.
Step 3 – Include a Clear Call to Action
This is a “Go To”…
Here are 6 possibilities:
1. They could call a toll free number. 1-800-hip-pain is our 1-800 number and there is a prerecorded message on something of value for that reader or for that caller.
2. They could be directed to a squeeze page or a website. If you don’t know what a squeeze page is we will discuss that later on.
3. They could mail your office to request something.
4. They could fax their request. This is probably great with a business to business situation…
5. They could email. Email [email protected] for your free video.
6. They could send a text.
There are a multitude of different ways that you can ask people to communicate with you. The key being, and this is a nugget, you always want to offer two or more pathways for people to raise their hand and communicate with you.
It is scientific and it increases the response rate and return on investment. So, if you are spending $100 for a high school football program ad, why not just have two pathways for people to respond and get a better response rate? Some people like to email, some like to text, some people like to fax, some like to call a phone number. Why not have multiple options for your readership and your viewership?
Putting it All Together
Now you have the building blocks to create ads based on direct response principles…but you also need a system to get people to see your ads…AND a way to follow up with folks who raise their hand but don’t convert right away.
In fact, you need to build an entire direct response marketing system that consistently delivers new patients to your practice.
And the good news is that I just put together a free PT online training that shows you exactly how to do that.
You can get the full details here:
We’ll go in-depth into how to stop wasting money on your marketing and start making marketing work for you.
I’ll also reveal a simple step-by-step blueprint to doubling your practice in less than 3 years using other cutting-edge marketing strategies that are working in the trenches of private practice right now.
(I’ll actually show you examples of Physical Therapy owners who have doubled their practices in less than one year)
So if you are a dedicated practice owner and you want to level up your practice this year, then click the link below for more info:
It’s free for private practice owners. Spots are limited though, so decide right now if you want to stop wasting time, money, and effort on techniques that don’t pay off.