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Episode 31: Marketing 101

60 minutes, 29 seconds
Remote Media URL
Name
Marketing 101
Authored on
Fri, 10/21/2022 - 08:02

Richard Leaver, PT
Richard Leaver
Chief Executive Officer

Samantha Lewakowski
Samantha Lewakowski
Director of Marketing

In this podcast we have the great pleasure speaking again with Samantha Lewakowski, Director of Marketing for Alliance Physical Therapy Partners.

In this episode I discuss with Sam all things marketing, including:

  • What is Marketing and how it differs to sales
  • What  the goal / goals of marketing for OP PT clinics are
  • What has been the traditional marketing done by outpatient PT clinics
  • What E-marketing is
  • What types of activities would fall under the e-marketing umbrella
  • What e-marketing activities do you believe are most important for a single practice or small group of clinics
  • What e-marketing activities are low cost to clinic owners
  • What practice owners can start doing right now to help market their business
Podcast Transcript

Richard: Welcome back to Agile&Me a physical therapy leadership podcast series. Today. I have the pleasure of speaking with Samantha. Who is director of marketing at Alliance physical therapy partners and this podcast is the first of a series that investigates marketing. The first one today is titled marketing 101 for complete novices like myself. So excited to have you here Sam, and really interested to learn some of the basics about marketing, definitely something in school we know nothing about. So please do treat me like an idiot and we'll probably get on well here today. So welcome. As always with guests, love for you to give a little bit of background of yourself and then we can kind of dive into some questions if that's okay.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on. So let's see, I have professional expertise is within journalism, which is something that is, you know, related to marketing. But a lot of my more tactical knowledge has been of hands-on experience. So, my professional career started off in higher education, communications and advertising. I worked in residential and hospitality services with Michigan state and did all kinds of branding and advertising for college age students, which was super fun. From there, I stayed the course and was in education communications still in Kalamazoo, essentially at what we would refer to and understand as an intermediate school. I was supporting their workforce development programs there. And when I made the move to Grand Rapids in February of last year, I knew that the healthcare industry was one that you know, has its wraps around in the area. And found Alliance. And now I'm well into the healthcare marketing sphere.

Richard: That's great and you did all that for the tender age of 21. So congratulations.

Sam: Well, 25. It's been a very interesting and exciting few years here.

Richard: So, Sam, as I mentioned, therapists really have no understanding, knowledge of anything marketing. It's an alien word. And for some therapists I would say it's probably a dirty word, or they perceive it as something dirty when it's talked about in connection with healthcare. When we talk about marketing, what actually is marketing. What does it involve? What does it mean specific to physical therapy in healthcare?

Sam: Yeah. So marketing is really the process of driving awareness and demand for a product or a service marketer. As you know, professionals, we are tasked with knowing products and services and brands inside and out. So that, you know, through our own research and analyzation, we can determine how to explain what we're selling, what the company is selling and define exactly who is going to be the most interested in it. More concisely it's about creating value, building awareness, knowing how to reach a target audience, how to attract that audience, and all with the end goal of clearly dictating the value within the market, strengthening the brand, and ultimately increasing.

Richard: So it's really to compliment then, correct me if I'm wrong, it's really to compliment the clinicians, to provide to, in this instance, probably primarily patient information about the services and what they can offer then instead of really creating a story. It's really a support function. Is that right? Or am I probably looking at it slightly wrong.

Sam: I definitely view it as a support function. I mean, I think we can all understand that without the actual healthcare service itself, you know, marketing doesn't exist. And so. Yeah, I see it as a compliment and a support to what you know, physicians or what physical therapists are doing, which is delivering excellent healthcare. Marketers are the ones who know how to reach the right patients that physical therapists should be treating.

Richard: Perhaps one looks at is the ability utilizing marketing skills may even increase the sphere of influence or the ability for a clinician or clinicians to actually get their word out.

Sam: Absolutely.

Richard: I think in outpatient therapy, the term marketing and sales have been used incorrectly. And in part that's I think again, because in healthcare, the word sales are perceived as a dirty word. I think it's a benign term myself, but as a perception of that sales is a dirty word. But in the past, I think people weren't doing marketing. They were doing sales. So very basic question, which I'd like to clear up is, is what's the difference? Do you believe between sales and marketing? Is there an easy way of kind of differentiating?

Sam: So, kind of similarly to what we talked about, about marketing, being a support service for, you know, excellent healthcare. Marketing is what, in my opinion, the support for sales to even take place marketing lays the groundwork of you. Reputation within the community, communicating value, communicating, you know, what services are even offered at a physical therapy clinic. And all of those are with the goal of a sale to take place. So, like I said, marketing's about creating and promoting value. Sales is about turning those who do have awareness of the brand into customers, into patients in this case, to earn profit.

Richard: It's not easy. Is it to, to go to truly understand the difference? There is such a, there's overlap isn't there. And I don't think necessarily you can be successful if you have one, but not the other. I think they must be together. Don't they? I don't think that's necessarily the case either. Cuz a lot of times people do segment the two and even larger organizations, even larger organizations like Alliance, you know, we have a sales team and a marketing team. We try and try and get the two to, to work together. But it is the case that, that they're kind of being siloed to a certain extent. Haven't they?

Sam: Yes, they have. And frankly, one. one can't happen without the other marketing serves really no purpose without, you know, the goal of a sale taking place and sales very rarely if ever happen without proper marketing in place.

Richard: Makes sense. And I, if you look at it from a historical perspective as well, I. You know, since the, the advent of the internet and, and e-marketing, which you'll talk about a little bit later, I think the marketing component has become increasingly important. And I wouldn't be surprised if down the road, the, the marketing component even has a greater role than perhaps sales. Would you agree?

Sam: I'm in agreement with that, I think, you know, the shape of the industry, the trajectory of the industry is getting more competitive. And it, there is an increase in from the consumer's perspective for a brand to have to be transparent, to be credible, to have a digital, a digital presence that is you know, positive that they would want to, you know, spend their money on, frankly. And yeah, I, I see for, for sure with the growth of e-marketing/digital marketing there's a lot of pressure on companies to have really robust marketing strategies out there.

Richard: If you have an outpatient therapy, You, you either a clinic director leading one, or you own private practice. What are the goals of marketing for clinics? What should they be trying to achieve? When we talk about marketing in our patient therapy?

Sam: So, marketing has both objective and subjective goals and measurements. So more objectively when we think about marketing healthcare and marketing outpatient, physical therapy clinics the primary goal, that key performance indicator we're going to look to when measuring effectiveness is new patient appointments generated by your website or your phone calls. The reason we say new patient appointments speaks back to what I said when I said the primary goal of marketing, which is driving new awareness and demand. So more subjectively when you're measuring the goal of marketing outpatient, physical therapy, it's growing your brand, capturing a community and turning them into brand advocates, increasing trust and volume from referral sources. All these things are more of that subjective analysis and subjective goal that you should be striving for when. Investing in marketing for your physical therapy clinic?

Richard: I think this raises a good point because traditionally, and I think a lot of therapists still think this, which is flawed thinking is the patient goes to a physician, the physician race, the referral, and then basically the, the physician will direct the care to a particular establishment or therapist. But that is not the case by any means. Now, is it? I think there's so many more interacting factors that influence where the patient attends for their care. So, it definitely need the marketing. To be able to compliment that traditional relationship between the physician and, and patient. Yes.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, not to, you know, discredit the impact that that relationship with a referral source has on a clinic's patient volume, but it's just not the whole picture anymore. I mean, you're leaving the entire direct access population out there without, you know, a, a marketing strategy that's going to capture. That audience.

Richard: And, you know, when I think back to when I started in the kind of outpatient world in the states over 20 years ago now, and I, when I thought of marketing, it was really, you know, what signs would I put up in the clinic and what, what pamphlets would I have at the front desk? And you know what the design of the script pad that I took to the physician really? Whilst I'm not saying that's completely obsolete, it's certainly moved along on a lot since then. So can you tell me the kind of the spectrum, as it pertains to marketing, what, what we. You know, what I would say is traditional marketing activities, which I still think are relevant. And then, you know, what should organizations really be thinking about when with modern day marketing? What are we talking about with modern marketing techniques and, and tools

Sam: So, when I hear you talk about those, you know, script pads and clinic directories, you know, having the proper print collateral in place for. Physic or, you know, patients in the door or physicians that you're going out to, to visit.  When I hear that I hear direct marketing which is like you said, still has a place within the market. We saw actually an uptick of those approaches with the pandemic where the digital. Sphere was completely saturated with all these people having to go digital and, and, you know, there's so much noise within the market. And so, people, a lot of marketers ended up kind of going back a little bit and investing in those more traditional, direct marketing approaches. So don’t want to discredit their impact or importance that they still have within the spectrum that is marketing. But the way that I see it is, you know, marketing can kind of. Divided into two different, very broad categories. There's that direct marketing, which is print signage, talking directly with referral sources. And then there's more of that digital marketing, which well, I guess that's not really very relevant. And then there's that digital marketing part of it. And you know, there's space for both of those, but. when they're working together, is it that's the best-case scenario.

Richard: Yeah. And it's interesting you say that the more traditional direct marketing became perhaps a little more effective or prominent during COVID because of the digital overload. It's interesting that different times. Different per populations, different geographies can impact the effectiveness of a specific marketing tool or strategy Cantonese. It's interesting that if you just employ one marketing strategy over time, that will usually lose its ability to influence. So, you must con almost continually change your strategy. Based on local factors based on what you've done already and based on what you want to achieve. So, it's like whack-a-mole in marketing and what a brochure might have worked once, but if you continue to publish the same brochure, it's unlikely to have an effect or a mail drop, you know, traditional mail drops. I've had complete disasters with them. But sometimes they can be incredibly effective as well. And it's just understanding that not only if you got different types of marketing, but when you apply them can have different impact.

Sam: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And you know, you're much more versed in marketing than you give yourself credit for. That's what my, our job is. Every day as marketers, we're analyzing different geographies, we're analyzing different patient demographic. Even looking at referral sources that is, you know, calculated and, and reported on an intake paperwork. So, one at one size fit all, you know, a marketing approach could have maybe worked back in the sixties. When, you know, there was only one option, which was magazine ads. But now, I mean, the, the amount of patient touch-points that we have is probably in the hundreds. And so, you'll never get a, you'll never get a good return from a one size fits all.

Richard: No, but the days of just doing an ad in the local newspaper have gone as well though, whilst it might still be a relevance occasionally it's it doesn't it, it really doesn't match the, the impact of say Google does it. So yeah. So, you mentioned the word digital marketing. I, I, I use e-marketing, but there's probably a, that's a difference between the two terms. But that's my ignorance. So, when we talk about digital marketing what types of things are we talking about now? When I went to school, we didn't even have computers. So, the, the concept of e-marketing or digital marketing, Is very new to me. And I have little understanding of what it involves but it really includes a whole plethora of things. Doesn't it? So, what types of things come under that banner?

Sam: Sure. So, like you said, marketing E digital marketing is just taking what some of those best practices that we learned in direct and traditional marketing and taking them online. So, things like content marketing search engine, optimized blog, Content creation. And that also speaks to social media posts as well. So having a robust social media presence and, and doing so strategically, other types of activities would be page search. So, pay per click advertising on your major search engines, email marketing, which is a huge one for us. Other activities that I also consider e-marketing or is reputation management going back to you know, building awareness and building brand. So, monitoring user feedback and engagement online to get a pulse on what your customers are thinking of your brand, or your patients are thinking of your brand. And then even, you know, your website of course, website development and management. So, mapping out consumer behavior patterns that can lead to different designs and different opportunities for website visitors to become new patients in.

Richard: So, I want to step back a little bit because a lot of these terms I don't necessarily fully understand, and I think it's worth the listeners, just, you know, understanding them a little bit better. So, when we talk about content marketing, what exactly do we mean by content marketing? Is it essentially writing generating specific? Information relevant to the, the PT patients or what exactly do we mean by it?

Sam: So, there's multiple audiences that you can capture when your content marketing and, and specifically what we focus on the most is search engine optimized blogs, and without getting too far in the weeds any kind of patient facing blog content should be created with the lens of. So, creating content that is condition specific, perhaps your clinic has a unique offering of services or specialties that you can market. So, creating content around there around those conditions and services, and then using the tools that are available to marketers to understand what keywords Google really likes or what string of words Google really likes and doing so in a way that. Increases your competitiveness and your ability to be seen essentially on Google.

Richard: Again, I'm going to show my lack of understanding. When growing up, I was basically writing essentially scientific papers or best articles. So, the, the concept of a post or a blog is, is one horrifying and two you know, little limited understanding. So, when we talk about social media and content. And, and blogs and posts. What, what is considered say a post and what's considered a blog? Are they the same thing, but just different words act.

Sam: Yeah, I mean, they're interchangeable. I think the word blog probably has that negative connotation that your rogue physical therapist is getting online and, and, you know, venting about his, his recent patient that he saw. But you know, it's just, it's kind of a catchy way to market patient education information. We oftentimes refer them, refer to our blogs as our help blog section. Just a way to get more traffic, you know, interested in the content that you're pushing out there. So

Richard: Essentially, it's just written content placed within somewhere within the internet, be it social media, or be it on websites or whatever that includes key terms, keywords that will help with search. And hopefully. Provide value to readers.

Sam: Absolutely. It's getting harder and harder to compete within the search engine nowadays. Any random Google search that you do will yield millions of results within, I mean, it's less than a second now. And so, search engine optimized content is developed and designed in a way that. Directly competes with some of your lo your competitors that have been defined. And if you, do it well, then you'll rank higher than them in a Google search. So, you won't be 8000000th. Maybe you'll be 1000000th.

Richard: Well, the other thing that I find frustrating is you, they, you know, lack of Google keeps changing the goal post as well. Don't they? So, what works for a period, you, once you've. The secret source with regards to, to content, then they change the goal posts that then change your ranking. Don't they?

Sam: That's absolutely correct. Yeah, they don’t make it easy on us. And you know, it, I think it just speaks to what I said earlier about the. Digitally that entire scope is getting very saturated. And so, Google has to continue to change up what they're, how they're ranking, how they're judging the amount, you know, the quality of, of things that you're putting out on the internet. So that with all, with the, you know, end goal of a positive.

Richard: Well, but also the cynic in say they're changing it to, to improve their revenues as well. Correct?

Sam: Perhaps. I mean, we do pay some agencies, some, you know, some dollars to give us answers and to what exactly Google is changing up. So, I could see that too.

Richard: The other thing corrects me if I'm wrong is not only what one writes. But also, there is a quantity component to it as well. I assume mm-hmm so if I just wrote one great article or blog yes, it might get some traction for a short period of time, but you must generate content over an extended period at a certain cadence. Is that fair and reasonable

Sam: To say it is? You’re looking at about. With your launching an SEO strategy right off the ground. You're looking anywhere from four to six months to really start to see Google, just to recognize you as a valid source of information. So about four to six months to even start getting genuine traffic and and ranking within Google.

Richard: Yeah, I think it took me 22 years to get my image as the number one, one to one number one, image search under Richard Leaver. So, so., I'm not sure what I've got to do to keep it there, but we'll see. You bring up an interesting point as it pertains to the amount of information on the internet and saturation occurring. So how do you, and this is a tough question. I think, as an organization or as a private practice, how do you stop from getting drowned out? Or is it, is it that you just got to accept that, that, that there's going to be a lot of noise and, and competition, and then come up with, is there kind of alternatives that we've got to explore

Sam: So specific to, you know, you’re ranking versus competitors and being able to compete with them? You know, Google is going to, and any search engine is going to. Grade you so to speak on multiple different factors. What's your use? You know, what's the user inter what is the user experience when it comes to your website? How are your Google reviews? What kind of SEO content are you putting out? How educational is it? How many, you know, your click through your bounce rate, all these different factors, Google is going to rank you on. So, agency clinics and brands who are just paying attention to one, or just investing time and energy and resources into one element that Google is, is grading you on. Aren't going to they're not going to compete with, you know, other more robust marketing, you know, people who have more understanding of what exactly how to get ranked.

Richard: so. again, correct me if I'm wrong, but it, it seems to be one of these situations where you must have as an organization or as a practice, but as an organization to be seen, you've got to have. Quite a level of sophistication and resource. So, for the mom-and-pop shop, yes, you can be visible if somebody types in a specific location or perhaps your brand name or the clinician's name, but if in general search terms, it's probably becoming increasingly difficult for smaller entities to be seen because they just don't have the sophistication resource to be able to really rank highly. Was that fair,

Sam: right? It is. That's why, you know, for those smaller clinic groups, things like reputation, manage. You know, those low-cost marketing endeavors are important so that people within your local community do recognize your name and are able to find you directly as opposed to finding, you know, going a more general route like physical therapy near me, or my knee hurts as a search term where there's just, there's no chance of your local clinic and, and practice being.

Richard: okay. And then can we talk a little bit about paid search and specific for small practices? Because I've never quite understood paid search? I, I think at very simplistic level, isn't it essentially you give Google how much money you want to give them, and then somehow, they, they prioritize you or they put you to the near the front or at the front for a period of. Until your money runs out and, and if you don't have much money, then you don't really get to the front of the queue that much. I'm sure there's a lot more to it. Can you talk to me about paid search and, and whether it's even an option or an effective option for the small practice?

Sam: I don't want to I'm not a hundred percent expert in this field. You know, we do partner with individuals who have spent years and years understanding how exactly Google functions, which is, I think a question we probably ask ourselves all the time. But E essentially what pay per click campaigning. Is submitting a, a list of keywords that you are within your budget. And Google has identified as very competitive search terms that just your standard person is searching for when, when seeking out your service. And again, very high level. There is bidding process that takes place. So, each specific term is, has a dollar amount assigned to it based on how competitive it is. And so, our experts spend literally all day in the back end of Google bidding with each other. It's like the stock. It's like the stock exchange back there and they're bidding against one, one another so that they can kind of own, you know, a portion of that keyword for a certain amount of. so to answer your question about, you know, the reality of that being a, a worthwhile marketing approach for a smaller clinic, a one off or a smaller clinic group, it it's probably too time labor-intensive to invest in and frankly you're going up against some people with some really big pockets. And we at Alliance even struggle with being able to compete against them.

Richard: Yeah. I, I think you as yourself, the other day that told me how much to bid on the term for virtual physical therapy.

Sam: Yeah. It's $500.

Richard: A click, basically.

Sam: a click. Yep. So, it cost per action is how they measure it. A click through to your website has cost you $500.

Richard: Yes. And given our, probably our profit margin for an entire episode of care, it's probably let's say on the, on the, you know, high side, $200 a $500 click to the website. It just is just crazy. Isn't it? It sure is. Yeah. So, so bottom line, if you're a small practice, really, it's probably. To spend your dollars elsewhere than paper click, because you're not really going to be able to compete. Mm-hmm okay. Well, if you, if small practices can't compete in that arena what can they do on a practical basis? That's low cost to help them from that from an e-marketing perspective,

Sam: honestly, there's a lot of things that are low-cost marketing activities, digital marketing. So, the first that comes to mind of course, is social media. There's, it's it's very, very present today. It's a very, it's a low-cost tool. Anybody can have a Facebook page and it's based on based on market research. It's the number one tool that clinicians can use to attract and sustain current and perspective patients and staff, frankly in a social media, when you're going to a new restaurant. For instance, you're going to their Facebook page or their Google page. And you're checking out the reviews or maybe some of the pictures that people posted at their experience. I mean, if you're doing that within your own personal life, you can guarantee that prospective patients are doing the same for your physical therapy practice. So, it's building brand recognition. Most importantly, in my opinion, it's building credibility for your patients within that local community. Offering an opportunity for those direct access patients to find your page organically and already, their own understanding of who you are as a clinic and a, a clinician, a, a physical therapy practice on their own

Richard: amazes me that this concept of social. You know, the influences, you know, on social media and the number of millions of followers or hundreds of thousands of followers that people have, and it truly does impact consumer behavior. Doesn't it? So, it. if you post appropriately or use utilize social media in an effective manner, it can transform your, your business.

Sam: certainly can. Yeah. And we're going to cover that in the second episode of this series, all, all things, social media. And I think a lot of people will be surprised about the percentage of, of perspective employees who draw their initial understanding of, you know, this employer based on their social media.

Richard: Yeah. So, what else can they do? So obviously having, having a social media page they're tweeting or Snapchatting or you know, posting video on Facebook Which probably people would pay for me not to not to do that, but what else can they do? Cause not everyone wants to be an influencer, shall we say? So, what, what can clinicians do in addition to social

Sam: media? Another big one for me in, in takes, you know, the cake for as far as patient relationship management and, and marketing 101 is email marketing. It. Oftentimes incredibly low cost. Your patient email addresses your way to contact them are easily collectible at time of intake. So that right there, there's your, your patient database. And it offers multiple opportunities for different touch-points throughout, you know, before, during and after a patient's course of care. So, you can design communications that are, you know, you can design communications that are aim that aim to decrease. Wait times they can give you directions to your clinic, offer what to expect, tell you what documents, insurance, all these things that are already building a positive experience for a patient. You know, during care, you, you can communicate condition, education, their home exercise program. You there's multiple opportunities to receive feedback. You can do. Via surveys, directing them to your Google page to build up those stars. Everyone loves to see a, a clinic with five stars and then even your Facebook reviews, which just goes back, you know, full circle to the importance of social media after they're discharged from their course of care, there's also, you know, you still have their patient email address on file. And so that offers an opportunity to reactivate them within the clinic.

Richard: Yeah, that really, we're talking about what we call patient relationship management. Isn't it, but it blows me away? That the, a lot of clinics, clinicians don't even get email addresses in this modern day and age. And even as a large organization, we don't collect all email addresses by any means. And, and I just don't understand the reluctance of asking for email address. You know, when, when I go to Home Depot now, they’ll ask me for my email address, wherever I seem to go nowadays, that they always want your email address. And, and I always give it, but for, for healthcare, they it's, they struggle with the asking for it a lot of the time. And but without that email address, your ha you've, you've lost that complete ability to engage the patient during their care and aftercare, and really developing a strong Relationship.

Sam: Absolutely. And if that wasn't, you know, reason enough, we see on average, the weeks that we send out, our email communications are more curated email communications that our new patient appointments increased by 16%.

Richard: That is crazy. So, if we only collect half of the emails, then we are losing. New patients. No doubt about it. Yeah. You heard it here, everyone that get those email addresses and the, with regards to ongoing communication with patients, you know, via email. It's not as if you, you must send out a lot of information, isn't it? It it's. Regular small touch points. Is that what works

Sam: well? Yes. And you know, and we're getting better within our own process about this, but email marketing systems now have advanced technology to be able to curate messaging toward a, a patient and based on how they've engaged with previous communications.  So, you can tailor lists and content based on, you know, what you think the patient is going to be the most interested in. And. like you said, low effort. High return. Yeah.

Richard: So, we've talked about social media, which I'm sure will dive into further next time and talked about patient relationship management, really leveraging or using email. There's lots of other ways of engaging patients over time, but, but email, and then there is a third way, isn't it? That that clinic owners can really utilize and leverage e-marketing and that's through content generation. Isn't it? And I know for instance, this blog is one example of content generation.  I know we have a lot of content that's developed within Alliance. Various social platforms or web uses. So, can you talk to us a little bit about content gen content generation, what can be done by private practices to help with their, their e-marketing strategy?

Sam: Certainly. So, you know, when you, when you hear search engine optimized content, there's a degree of knowledge and expertise that has to be implemented when developing that something that's way more accessible and managed in house internally is to identify internal content generations who are experts within their field. And this is something we do at Alliance all the time. So, seeking out clinicians who are experts within treating a specific condition, maybe it's a tenured for an office staff who knows your patients and your brand, like the back of their hand. Or even just, you know, the clinic owner who can speak to different trials and tribulations of operating a small business, having them find a couple of minutes in their day to generate blog content articles really that are informational educational and just fun. You know, once that content is generated, you can use it in a multiple different medium. So, posting it to your website, cross posting it to your social media platform, plugging it into your email marketing. Suddenly, you know, you've had, you've taken one piece of content and you've just created a multi-channel marketing its campaign for $0.

Richard: Wow. Yes. It's yeah, the. the budget for marketing for most PT practices is close to zero or zero, but I think it's important that private practices do due Cove out some dollars. I think the days have just. Trying to market to one's practice through visiting physicians and turning up the local chamber of gone. I don't think that's whilst, whilst it's still, I think valuable. It's certainly not going to get your business where it needs to be. So, I think, I think one must spend money on marketing and sales. How much obviously depends on how much you have available. what do private practices, you know, where do they need to spend their dollars to have the, have the, an impact essentially, you know, what, what large organizations spend the amount and how they spend it obviously is very different than for a smaller entity. So, if I had a private practice or a small number of clinics how would I direct my dollars?

Sam: I think the place that you must start before spending marketing dollars is to review any kind of patient referral source that you have. So, one of the most insightful marketing tactics is to analyze where actual patients are hearing about your brand and services. From there you can make a strategic plan, as far as which mediums and outlets you're going to invest in to focus time, energy, and dollars. But you know, going back to where I think a return would be the most effective, if you have marketing dollars to spend the first and foremost is going to be optimized website, a modern website that is going to not only be, you know, referred to by Google as, as something worthwhile, but also for your patient experience as well. Something that offer. That answers all the questions that a patient might have prior to you know, getting in touch. And I can't take credit for this one, but Kelly Burgess, she's the founder of bur co marketing. She describes a, a healthcare website as a clinician's digital bedside manner. And I couldn't agree more. I mean, it's. all current future patient staff you know, whatever audience it is that you're looking to capture, that's where they're going to draw their initial their initial understanding of who you are as a brand, who you are as a clinic, and you know who you are as people. So I, I think if I had, you know, marketing dollars to spend at a smaller clinic, that's where I would, I would look to first.

Richard: It's funny, you know, years ago it was if the facade of the building looked junky, Jan junky people. Wouldn't kind of come in now, if your website looks junky, people won't visit you. So, and it, it amazes me the, even with people who have physician referrals, they will still search online and look at the website before choosing their eventual. Then. Practice, won't they?

Sam: Right. And like I said, I mean, we do the same thing in our personal lives. So, you can guarantee that any, any kind of relationships you have professionally there, they're doing the same.

Richard: So, let's say that the private practice owners feeling flush and spent their money on their website and got that up to, to kind of snuff, which isn't cheap. But let's say that they've, they've done that. And they've got a few dollars that they want to. Invest further, where could they put their do their additional dollars that might give a return?

Sam: I would invest in content marketing. So working with a, a vendor or perhaps even bringing someone in house with expertise that knows how to create content that will drive traffic and impressions to your website. , you know, I definitely wouldn't recommend doing that if your website is not anything to be proud of, but you know, once you once you're driving traffic and impressions, you know, the, the natural next step is so long as you've created a, an experience that's positive and easily nav navigate navigable easily, navigable SEO content will, will give you the platform to, to get more eyes on your brand  

Richard: So, time is, is running out as it always does plenty of questions, but limited time from a practical perspective, if I'm a practice owner and. understand that I'm not doing enough marketing. And, but I really don't know what to do. I'm a little bit overwhelmed. Obviously, I can throw some money at the website and, and if I have some over search engine content, but what can I do tomorrow as a clinic owner to help from a, a marketing perspective?

Sam: I. You know, if you're, if you're interested and you recognize that there are multifaceted approaches when it comes to marketing, I think that's, you're already far ahead than, then most physical therapists and clinicians who, you know, historically just aren't, they, aren't doing a great job of marketing their services and professions.  So that's a great starting point. If you're cognizant that there's more that you can be doing. I, I think it's just. Create, like I have spoken to a couple of times taking some of those different, low-cost avenues to build and maintain brand credibility within the space. So, getting your business on Google, getting your business on Facebook starting to show off who you are as a brand, some of the staff that you have some amazing patients that have had, you know, success within. because of the healthcare that you're providing. And I think starting with those low-cost initiatives are, are the best

Richard: approach. And from a very simplistic perspective, I would imagine it's probably, you know, asking for Google reviews mm-hmm or taking some fun photographs and putting them onto social media. Yes, it's. It's. It's the simple stuff that can oftentimes have the most impact here.

Sam: Absolutely. And the same way that marketing doesn't exist without sales doesn't exist without marketing any kind of additional investment in marketing doesn't really hold a doesn't really have a point unless you have those initial foundational blocks set first.

Richard: Perfect. Well, thank you, Sam. certainly helped me understand some of marketing nuances, idiosyncrasies, looking forward to the, the, the next podcast with you as pertains to, to e-marketing. Appreciate your insight and your knowledge. I know it's not an easy topic for clinicians, but, but certainly it's very helpful. So, thank you.


Richard: Welcome back to Agile&Me a physical therapy leadership podcast series. Today. I have the pleasure of speaking with Samantha. Who is director of marketing at Alliance physical therapy partners and this podcast is the first of a series that investigates marketing. The first one today is titled marketing 101 for complete novices like me. So excited to have you here Sam, and really interested to learn some of the basics about marketing. Something in school. We, we know nothing about. So please do treat me like an idiot and we'll probably get on well here today. So welcome. As always with guests, love for you to give a little bit of background of yourself and then we can kind of dive into some questions if that's okay.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on, so let's see. I have Professional expertise is within journalism, which is something that is, you know, related to marketing. But a lot of my more tactical knowledge has been of hands-on experience. So, my professional career started off in higher education, communications and advertising. I work. In residential and hospitality services with Michigan state and did all kinds of branding and advertising for college age students, which was super fun. From there, I, I stayed the course and was in education communications still down in Kalamazoo, essentially at what we would refer to and understand as an intermediate school. And I was supporting their workforce development programs there. And when I made the move to grand rapids in February of last year, I knew that the healthcare industry was one that you know, has its wraps around in, in the area. And You know, found Alliance and now I'm well into the healthcare marketing sphere.

Richard: That's great and you did all that for the tender age of 21. So uh, congratulations. Well, 25.

Sam: But almost, yeah, it's been a, it's been a very interesting and exciting few years here.

Richard: So, Sam, as I said, mentioned, therapists really have. Understanding knowledge of, of anything marketing it's an alien word. And for some therapists, I would say it's probably a dirty word, or they perceive it as something dirty when the, in, when it's talked about in connection with healthcare. When we, when we talk about marketing, what is marketing, you know, what does it involve? What, what does it mean? specific to physical therapy in healthcare.

Sam: Yeah. So marketing is really the process of driving awareness and demand for a product or a service marketer. As you know, professionals, we are tasked with knowing products and services and brands inside. So that, you know, through our own research and analyzation, we can determine how to explain what we're selling, what the company is selling and define exactly who is going to be the most interested in it. More concisely it's about creating value building awareness, knowing how to reach a target audience, how to attract that audience and all with the end goal of clearly dictating the value within the market, strengthening the brand and ultimately increasing.

Richard: so, it's, it's really to compliment then, correct me if I'm wrong, it's really to compliment the clinicians to provide to, in this instance, probably primarily patients information about the services and what they can offer then instead of really creating a story, it's, it's really. A support functions. Is that right? Or am I, I'm probably looking at slightly wrong, but

Sam: I view it as a support function. I mean, I think we can all understand that without the actual healthcare service itself, you know, marketing doesn't exist. And so. Yeah, I, I see it as a compliment and a support to what you know, physicians or what physical therapists are, are doing, which is delivering excellent healthcare. Marketers are the ones who are. who know how to reach the right patients, that physical therapists should be treating? So

Richard: perhaps one looks at is the ability utilizing marketing skills may even increase the sphere of influence or the ability for a clinician or clinicians to get their word out.
Absolutely.

Sam: Yeah.

Richard: I think in outpatient therapy, the term marketing and sales have been used incorrectly. And in part that's I think again, because in healthcare, the word sales are perceived as a dirty word. I don't, I don't, I think it's a benign term myself, but as a perception of that sales is a dirty word. And, but in the past, I think. People weren't doing marketing. They were doing sales. So very basic question, which I'd like to clear up is, is what's the difference? Do you believe between sales and marketing, is there an easy way of kind of differentiating?

Sam: So, kind of similarly to what we talked about, about marketing, being a support service for, you know, excellent healthcare marketing is what, in my opinion, the support for sales to even take place marketing lays the groundwork of you. Reputation within the community, communicating value, communicating, you know, what services are even offered at a physical therapy clinic. And all of those are with the goal of a sale to take place. So, like I said, marketing's about creating and promoting value. Sales is about turning those who do have awareness of the brand into customers, into patients in this case to earn profit.

Richard: yeah. It's not easy. Is it to, to go to truly understand the difference? There is such a, there's overlap isn't there. Absolutely. Yeah. And I don't think necessarily you can be successful if you have one, but not the other. I think they must be together. Don't they? Yes. and, but that's, I don't think that's necessarily the case either. Cuz a lot of times people do segment the two and even larger organizations, even larger organizations like Alliance, you know, we have a sales team and a marketing team. Mm-hmm we try and try and get the two to, to work together. But it is the case that, that they're kind of being siloed to a certain extent. Haven't they?

Sam: Yes, they have. And frankly, one. one can't happen without the other marketing serves really no purpose without, you know, the goal of a sale taking place and sales very rarely if ever happen without proper marketing in place.

Richard: Makes sense. And I, if you look at it from a historical perspective as well, I. You know, since the, the advent of the internet and, and e-marketing, which you'll talk about a little bit later, I think Mar the marketing component has become increasingly important. And I wouldn't be surprised if down the road, the, the marketing component even has a greater role than perhaps sales. Would you agree?

Sam: I, I I'm in agreement with that, I think, you know, the shape of the industry, the trajectory of the industry is, you know, getting a. Getting more competitive. And it, there is an increase in from the consumer's perspective for a brand to have to be transparent, to be credible, to have, you know, A, a digital, a digital presence that is you know, positive that they would want to, you know, spend their money on, frankly. And yeah, I, I see for, for sure with the growth of e-marketing digital marketing there's a lot of pressure on companies to have really robust marketing strategies out there.

Richard: So, you know, if you have an outpatient therapy, You, you either a clinic director leading one, or you own private practice. What are the goals of marketing for clinics? What, what are they, what are they, what should they be trying to achieve? When we talk about marketing in our patient therapy?

Sam: So, marketing has both objective and subjective goals and measurements. So more objectively when we think about marketing healthcare and marketing outpatient, physical therapy clinics the primary goal, the, that key performance indicator we're going to look to when measuring effectiveness is new patient appointments generated by your website or your phone calls. The reason we say new patient appointments speaks, you know, back to what I said when I said Speaks back to the primary goal of marketing, which is driving new awareness and demand. So more subjectively when you're measuring the goal of marketing outpatient, physical therapy, it's growing your brand, capturing a community and turning them into brand advocates, increasing trust and volume from referral sources. All these things are more of that subjective analysis and subjective goal that you should be striving for when. Investing in marketing for your physical therapy clinic?

Richard: I think this raises a good point because traditionally, and I think a lot of therapists still think this, which is flawed thinking is the patient goes to a physician, the physician race, the referral, and then basically the, the physician will direct the care to a particular establishment or therapist. But that is not the case by any means. Now, is it? I think there's so many more interacting factors that influence where the patient attends for their care. So, it definitely need the marketing. To be able to compliment that traditional relationship between the physician and, and patient. Yes.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, not to, you know, discredit the impact that that relationship with a referral source has on a clinic's patient volume, but it's just not the whole picture anymore. I mean, you're leaving the entire direct access population out there without, you know, a, a marketing strategy that's going to capture. That audience.

Richard: And, you know, when I think back to when I started in the kind of outpatient world in the states over 20 years ago now, and I, when I thought of marketing, it was really, you know, what signs would I put up in the clinic and what, what pamphlets would I have at the front desk? And you know what the design of the script pad that I took to the physician really? Whilst I'm not saying that's completely obsolete, it's certainly moved along on a lot since then. So can you tell me the kind of the spectrum, as it pertains to marketing, what, what we. You know, what I would say is traditional marketing activities, which I still think are relevant. And then, you know, what should organizations really be thinking about when with modern day marketing? What are we talking about with modern marketing techniques and, and tools

Sam: So, when I hear you talk about those, you know, script pads and clinic directories, you know, having the proper print collateral in place for. Physic or, you know, patients in the door or physicians that you're going out to, to visit.  When I hear that I hear direct marketing which is like you said, still has a place within the market. We saw actually an uptick of those approaches with the pandemic where the digital. Sphere was completely saturated with all these people having to go digital and, and, you know, there's so much noise within the market. And so, people, a lot of marketers ended up kind of going back a little bit and investing in those more traditional, direct marketing approaches. So don’t want to discredit their impact or importance that they still have within the spectrum that is marketing. But the way that I see it is, you know, marketing can kind of. Divided into two different, very broad categories. There's that direct marketing, which is print signage, talking directly with referral sources. And then there's more of that digital marketing, which well, I guess that's not really very relevant. And then there's that digital marketing part of it. And you know, there's space for both of those, but. when they're working together, is it that's the best-case scenario.

Richard: Yeah. And it's interesting you say that the more traditional direct marketing became perhaps a little more effective or prominent during COVID because of the digital overload. It's interesting that different times. Different per populations, different geographies can impact the effectiveness of a specific marketing tool or strategy Cantonese. It's interesting that if you just employ one marketing strategy over time, that will usually lose its ability to influence. So, you must con almost continually change your strategy. Based on local factors based on what you've done already and based on what you want to achieve. So, it's like whack amole in marketing and what, you know, a brochure might have worked once, but if you continue to, to publish the same brochure, it's unlikely to, to have an effect or a mail drop, you know, traditionally mail drops. I've had complete disasters with them. But. Sometimes they can be incredibly effective as well. And it's just understanding that not only if you got different types of marketing, but when you apply them can have different impact.

Sam: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And you know, you're much more versed in marketing than you give yourself credit for. That's what my, our job is. Every day as marketers, we're analysing different geographies, we're analysing different patient demographic. Even looking at referral sources that is, you know, calculated and, and reported on an intake paperwork. So, one at one size fit all, you know, a marketing approach could have maybe worked back in the sixties. When, you know, there was only one option, which was magazine ads. But now, I mean, the, the amount of patient touchpoints that we have is probably in the hundreds. And so, you'll never get a, you'll never get a good return from a one size fits all.

Richard: no, but the days of just doing an ad in the local newspaper have gone as well though, whilst it might still be a relevance occasionally it's it doesn't it, it really doesn't match the, the impact of say Google does it. So yeah. So, you mentioned the word digital marketing. I, I, I use e-marketing, but there's probably a, that's a difference between the two terms. But that's my ignorance. So, when we talk about digital marketing what types of things are we talking about now? When I went to school, we didn't even have computers. So, the, the concept of e-marketing or digital marketing, Is very new to me. And I have little understanding of what it involves but it really includes a whole plethora of things. Doesn't it? So, what types of things come under that banner?

Sam: Sure. So, like you said, marketing E digital marketing is just taking what some of those best practices that we learned in direct and traditional marketing and taking them online. So, things like content marketing search engine, optimized blog, Content creation. And that also speaks to social media posts as well. So having a robust social media presence and, and doing so strategically, other types of activities would be page search. So, pay per click advertising on your major search engines, email marketing, which is a huge one for us. Other activities that I also consider e-marketing or is reputation management going back to you know, building awareness and building brand. So, monitoring user feedback and engagement online to get a pulse on what your customers are thinking of your brand, or your patients are thinking of your brand. And then even, you know, your website of course, website development and management. So, mapping out consumer behaviour patterns that can lead to different designs and different opportunities for website visitors to become new patients in.

Richard: so, I want to step back a little bit because a lot of these terms I don't necessarily fully understand, and I think it's worth the listeners, just, you know, understanding them a little bit better. So, when we talk about content marketing, what exactly do we mean by content marketing? Is it essentially writing generating specific? Information relevant to the, the PT patients or what exactly do we mean by it?

Sam: So, there's multiple audiences that you can capture when your content marketing and, and specifically what we focus on the most is search engine optimized blogs, and without getting too far in the weeds any kind of patient facing blog content should be created with the lens of. So, creating content that is condition specific, perhaps your clinic has a unique offering of services or specialties that you can market. So, creating content around there around those conditions and services, and then using the tools that are available to marketers to understand what keywords Google really likes or what string of words Google really likes and doing so in a way that. Increases your competitiveness and your ability to be seen essentially on Google.

Richard: Again, I'm going to show my lack of understanding. When growing up, I was basically writing essentially scientific papers or best articles. So, the, the concept of a post or a blog is, is one horrifying and two you know, little limited understanding. So, when we talk about social media and content. And, and blogs and posts. What, what is considered say a post and what's considered a blog? Are they the same thing, but just different words act.

Sam: Yeah, I mean, they're interchangeable. I think the word blog probably has that negative connotation that your rogue physical therapist is getting online and, and, you know, venting about his, his recent patient that he saw. But you know, it's just, it's kind of a catchy way to market patient education information. We oftentimes refer them, refer to our blogs as our help blog section. Just a way to get more traffic, you know, interested in the content that you're pushing out there. So

Richard: essentially, it's just written content placed within somewhere within the internet, be it social media, or be it on websites or whatever that includes key terms, keywords that will help with search. And hopefully. Provide value to readers.

Sam: Absolutely. It's getting harder and harder to compete within the search engine nowadays. Any random Google search that you do will yield millions of results within, I mean, it's less than a second now. And so, search engine optimized content is developed and designed in a way that. Directly competes with some of your lo your competitors that have been defined. And if you, do it well, then you'll rank higher than them in a Google search. So, you won't be 8000000th. Maybe you'll be 1000000th.

Richard: Well, the other thing that I find frustrating is you, they, you know, lack of Google keeps changing the goal post as well. Don't they? So, what works for a period, you, once you've. The secret source with regards to, to content, then they change the goal posts that then change your ranking. Don't they?

Sam: That's absolutely correct. Yeah, they don’t make it easy on us. And you know, it, I think it just speaks to what I said earlier about the. Digitally that entire scope is getting very saturated. And so, Google has to continue to change up what they're, how they're ranking, how they're judging the amount, you know, the quality of, of things that you're putting out on the internet. So that with all, with the, you know, end goal of a positive.

Richard: well, but also the cynic in say they're changing it to, to improve their revenues as well. Correct?

Sam: Perhaps. I mean, we do pay some agencies, some, you know, some dollars to give us answers and to what exactly Google is changing up. So, I could see that too.

Richard: The other thing corrects me if I'm wrong is not only what one writes. But also, there is a quantity component to it as well. I assume mm-hmm so if I just wrote one great article or blog yes, it might get some traction for a short period of time, but you must generate content over an extended period at a certain cadence. Is that fair and reasonable

Sam: to say it is? You’re looking at about. With your launching an SEO strategy right off the ground. You're looking anywhere from four to six months to really start to see Google, just to recognize you as a valid source of information. So about four to six months to even start getting genuine traffic and and ranking within Google.

Richard: Yeah, I think it took me 22 years to get my image as the number one, one to one number one, image search under Richard Leaver. So, so., I'm not sure what I've got to do to keep it there, but we'll see. You bring up an interesting point as it pertains to the amount of information on the internet and saturation occurring. So how do you, and this is a tough question. I think, as an organization or as a private practice, how do you stop from getting drowned out? Or is it, is it that you just got to accept that, that, that there's going to be a lot of noise and, and competition, and then come up with, is there kind of alternatives that we've got to explore

Sam: so specific to, you know, you’re ranking versus competitors and being able to compete with them? You know, Google is going to, and any search engine is going to. Grade you so to speak on multiple different factors. What's your use? You know, what's the user inter what is the user experience when it comes to your website? How are your Google reviews? What kind of SEO content are you putting out? How educational is it? How many, you know, your click through your bounce rate, all these different factors, Google is going to rank you on. So, agency clinics and brands who are just paying attention to one, or just investing time and energy and resources into one element that Google is, is grading you on. Aren't going to they're not going to compete with, you know, other more robust marketing, you know, people who have more understanding of what exactly how to get ranked.

Richard: so. again, correct me if I'm wrong, but it, it seems to be one of these situations where you must have as an organization or as a practice, but as an organization to be seen, you've got to have. Quite a level of sophistication and resource. So, for the mom-and-pop shop, yes, you can be visible if somebody types in a specific location or perhaps your brand name or the clinician's name, but if in general search terms, it's probably becoming increasingly difficult for smaller entities to be seen because they just don't have the sophistication resource to be able to really rank highly. Was that fair,

Sam: right? It is. That's why, you know, for those smaller clinic groups, things like reputation, manage. You know, those low-cost marketing endeavours are important so that people within your local community do recognize your name and are able to find you directly as opposed to finding, you know, going a more general route like physical therapy near me, or my knee hurts as a search term where there's just, there's no chance of your local clinic and, and practice being.

Richard: okay. And then can we talk a little bit about paid search and specific for small practices? Because I've never quite understood paid search? I, I think at very simplistic level, isn't it essentially you give Google how much money you want to give them, and then somehow, they, they prioritize you or they put you to the near the front or at the front for a period of. Until your money runs out and, and if you don't have much money, then you don't really get to the front of the queue that much. I'm sure there's a lot more to it. Can you talk to me about paid search and, and whether it's even an option or an effective option for the small practice?

Sam: I don't want to I'm not a hundred percent expert in this field. You know, we do partner with individuals who have spent years and years understanding how exactly Google functions, which is, I think a question we probably ask ourselves all the time. But E essentially what pay per click campaigning. Is submitting a, a list of keywords that you are within your budget. And Google has identified as very competitive search terms that just your standard person is searching for when, when seeking out your service. And again, very high level. There is bidding process that takes place. So, each specific term is, has a dollar amount assigned to it based on how competitive it is. And so, our experts spend literally all day in the back end of Google bidding with each other. It's like the stock. It's like the stock exchange back there and they're bidding against one, one another so that they can kind of own, you know, a portion of that keyword for a certain amount of. so to answer your question about, you know, the reality of that being a, a worthwhile marketing approach for a smaller clinic, a one off or a smaller clinic group, it it's probably too time labour extensive to invest in and frankly you're going up against some people with some, some really big pockets. And so, you know, we at Alliance even struggle with being able to, to compete against them.

Richard: Yeah. I, I think you as yourself, the other day that told me how much to bid on the term for virtual physical therapy.

Sam: Yeah. It's $500.

Richard: A click, basically.

Sam: A click. Yep. So, it's cost per action is how they measure it. A click through to your website has cost you $500.

Richard: Yes. And given  our profit margin for an entire episode of care, it's probably let's say on the, on the, you know, high side, $200 a $500 click to the website. It just is just crazy. Isn't it?

Sam: It sure is. Yeah.

Richard: So, so bottom line, if you're a small practice, really, it's probably. To spend your dollars elsewhere than paper click, because you're not really going to be able to compete. Mm-hmm okay. Well, if you, if small practices can't compete in that arena what can they do on a practical basis? That's low cost to help them from that from an e-marketing perspective.

Sam: Honestly, there's a lot of things that are low-cost marketing activities, digital marketing. So, the first that comes to mind of course, is social media. There's, it's it's very, very present today. It's a very, it's a low-cost tool. Anybody can have a Facebook page and it's based on based on market research. It's the number one tool that clinicians can use to attract and sustain current and perspective patients and staff, frankly in a social media, when you're going to a new restaurant. For instance, you're going to their Facebook page or their Google page. And you're checking out the reviews or maybe some of the pictures that people posted at their experience. I mean, if you're doing that within your own personal life, you can guarantee that prospective patients are doing the same for your physical therapy practice. So, it's building brand recognition. Most importantly, in my opinion, it's building credibility for your patients within that local community. Offering an opportunity for those direct access patients to find your page organically and already, their own understanding of who you are as a clinic and a, a clinician, a, a physical therapy practice on their own

Richard: amazes me that this concept of social. You know, the influences, you know, on social media and the number of millions of followers or hundreds of thousands of followers that people have, and it truly does impact consumer behavior. Doesn't it? So, it. if you post appropriately or use utilize social media in an effective manner, it can transform your, your business.

Sam: certainly can. Yeah. And we're going to cover that in the second episode of this series, all, all things, social media. And I think a lot of people will be surprised about the percentage of, of perspective employees who draw their initial understanding of, you know, this employer based on their social media.

Richard: Yeah. So, what else can they do? So obviously having, having a social media page they're tweeting or Snapchatting or you know, posting video on Facebook Which probably people would pay for me not to not to do that, but what else can they do? Cause not everyone wants to be an influencer, shall we say? So, what, what can clinicians do in addition to social

Sam: media? Another big one for me in, in takes, you know, the cake for as far as patient relationship management and, and marketing 101 is email marketing. It. Oftentimes incredibly low cost. Your patient email addresses your way to contact them are easily collectible at time of intake. So that right there, there's your, your patient database. And it offers multiple opportunities for different touchpoints throughout, you know, before, during and after a patient's course of care. So, you can design communications that are, you know, you can design communications that are aim that aim to decrease. Wait times they can give you directions to your clinic, offer what to expect, tell you what documents, insurance, all these things that are already building a positive experience for a patient. You know, during care, you, you can communicate condition, education, their home exercise program. You there's multiple opportunities to receive feedback. You can do. Via surveys, directing them to your Google page to build up those stars. Everyone loves to see a, a clinic with five stars and then even your Facebook reviews, which just goes back, you know, full circle to the importance of social media after they're discharged from their course of care, there's also, you know, you still have their patient email address on file. And so that offers an opportunity to reactivate them within the clinic.

Richard: Yeah, that really, we're talking about what we call patient relationship management. Isn't it, but it blows me away? That the, a lot of clinics, clinicians don't even get email addresses in this modern day and age. And even as a large organization, we don't collect all email addresses by any means. And, and I just don't understand the reluctance of asking for email address. You know, when, when I go to Home Depot now, they’ll ask me for my email address, wherever I seem to go nowadays, that they always want your email address. And, and I always give it, but for, for healthcare, they it's, they struggle with the asking for it a lot of the time. And but without that email address, your ha you've, you've lost that complete ability to engage the patient during their care and aftercare, and really developing a strong Relationship.

Sam: Absolutely. And if that wasn't, you know, reason enough, we see on average, the weeks that we send out, our email communications are more curated email communications that our new patient appointments increased by 16%.

Richard: That is crazy. So, if we only collect half of the emails, then we are losing. New patients. No doubt about it. Yeah. You heard it here, everyone that get those email addresses and the, with regards to ongoing communication with patients, you know, via email. It's not as if you, you must send out a lot of information, isn't it? It it's. Regular small touch points. Is that what works

Sam: well? Yes. And you know, and we're getting better within our own process about this, but email marketing systems now have advanced technology to be able to curate messaging toward a, a patient and based on how they've engaged with previous communications.  So, you can tailor lists and content based on, you know, what you think the patient is going to be the most interested in. And. like you said, low effort. High return. Yeah.

Richard: So, we've talked about social media, which I'm sure will dive into further next time and talked about patient relationship management, really leveraging or using email. There's lots of other ways of engaging patients over time, but, but email, and then there is a third way, isn't it? That that clinic owners can really utilize and leverage e-marketing and that's through content generation. Isn't it? And I know for instance, this blog is one example of content generation.  I know we have a lot of content that's developed within Alliance. Various social platforms or web uses. So, can you talk to us a little bit about content gen content generation, what can be done by private practices to help with their, their e-marketing strategy?

Sam: Certainly. So, you know, when you, when you hear search engine optimized content, there's a degree of knowledge and expertise that has to be implemented when developing that something that's way more accessible and managed in house internally is to identify internal content generations who are experts within their field. And this is something we do at Alliance all the time. So, seeking out clinicians who are experts within treating a specific conditions maybe it's a tenured for an office staff who knows your patients and your brand, like the back of their hand. Or even just, you know, the clinic owner who can speak to different trials and tribulations of operating a small business, having them find a couple of minutes in their day to generate blog content articles really that are informational educational and just fun. You know, once that content is generated, you can use it in a multiple different medium. So, posting it to your website, cross posting it to your social media platform, plugging it into your email marketing. Suddenly, you know, you've had, you've taken one piece of content and you've just created a multi-channel marketing its campaign for $0.

Richard: Wow. Yes. It's yeah, the. the budget for marketing for most PT practices is close to zero or zero, but I think it's important that private practices do due Cove out some dollars. I think the days have just. Trying to market to one's practice through visiting physicians and turning up the local chamber of gone. I don't think that's whilst, whilst it's still, I think valuable. It's certainly not going to get your business where it needs to be. So, I think, I think one must spend money on marketing and sales. How much obviously depends on how much you have available. what do private practices, you know, where do they need to spend their dollars to have the, have the, an impact essentially, you know, what, what large organizations spend the amount and how they spend it obviously is very different than for a smaller entity. So, if I had a private practice or a small number of clinics how would I direct my dollars?

Sam: I think the place that you must start before spending marketing dollars is to review any kind of patient referral source that you have. So, one of the most insightful marketing tactics is to analyze where actual patients are hearing about your brand and services. From there you can make a strategic plan, as far as which mediums and outlets you're going to invest in to focus time, energy, and dollars. But you know, going back to where I think a return would be the most effective, if you have marketing dollars to spend the first and foremost is going to be optimized website, a modern website that is going to not only be, you know, referred to by Google as, as something worthwhile, but also for your patient experience as well. Something that offer. That answers all the questions that a patient might have prior to you know, getting in touch. And I can't take credit for this one, but Kelly Burgess, she's the founder of bur co marketing. She describes a, a healthcare website as a clinician's digital bedside manner. And I couldn't agree more. I mean, it's. all current future patient staff you know, whatever audience it is that you're looking to capture, that's where they're going to draw their initial their initial understanding of who you are as a brand, who you are as a clinic, and you know who you are as people. So I, I think if I had, you know, marketing dollars to spend at a smaller clinic, that's where I would, I would look to first.

Richard: It's funny, you know, years ago it was, if you, if. Facade of the building looked junky, Jan junky people. Wouldn't kind of come in now, if your website looks junky, people won't visit you. So, and it, it amazes me the, even with people who have physician referrals, they will still search online and look at the website before choosing their eventual. Then. Practice, won't they?

Sam: Right. And like I said, I mean, we do the same thing in our personal lives. So, you can guarantee that any, any kind of relationships you have professionally there, they're doing the same.

Richard: So, let's say that the private practice owners feeling flush and spent their money on their website and got that up to, to kind of snuff, which isn't cheap. But let's say that they've, they've done that. And they've got a few dollars that they want to. Invest further, where could they put their do their additional dollars that might give a return?

Sam: I would invest in content marketing. So working with a, a vendor or perhaps even bringing someone in house with expertise that knows how to create content that will drive traffic and impressions to your website. , you know, I definitely wouldn't recommend doing that if your website is not anything to be proud of, but you know, once you once you're driving traffic and impressions, you know, the, the natural next step is so long as you've created a, an experience that's positive and easily nav navigate navigable easily, navigable SEO content will, will give you the platform to, to get more eyes on your brand  

Richard: So, time is, is running out as it always does plenty of questions, but limited time from a practical perspective, if I'm a practice owner and. understand that I'm not doing enough marketing. And, but I really don't know what to do. I'm a little bit overwhelmed. Obviously, I can throw some money at the website and, and if I have some over search engine content, but what can I do tomorrow as a clinic owner to help from a, a marketing perspective?

Sam: I. You know, if you're, if you're interested and you recognize that there are multifaceted approaches when it comes to marketing, I think that's, you're already far ahead than, then most physical therapists and clinicians who, you know, historically just aren't, they, aren't doing a great job of marketing their services and professions.  So that's a great starting point. If you're cognizant that there's more that you can be doing. I, I think it's just. Create, like I have spoken to a couple of times taking some of those different, low-cost avenues to build and maintain brand credibility within the space. So, getting your business on Google, getting your business on Facebook starting to show off who you are as a brand, some of the staff that you have some amazing patients that have had, you know, success within. because of the healthcare that you're providing. And I think starting with those low-cost initiatives are, are the best

Richard: approach. And from a very simplistic perspective, I would imagine it's probably, you know, asking for Google reviews mm-hmm or taking some fun photographs and putting them onto social media. Yes, it's. It's. It's the simple stuff that can oftentimes have the most impact here.

Sam: Absolutely. And the same way that marketing doesn't exist without sales doesn't exist without marketing any kind of additional investment in marketing doesn't really hold a doesn't really have a point unless you have those initial foundational blocks set first.

Richard: Perfect. Well, thank you, Sam. certainly helped me understand some of marketing nuances, idiosyncrasies, looking forward to the, the, the next podcast with you as pertains to, to e-marketing. Appreciate your insight and your knowledge. I know it's not an easy topic for clinicians, but, but certainly it's very helpful. So, thank you.

 

 

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Podcast Transcript

Podcast Transcript

Richard: Welcome back to Agile&Me a physical therapy leadership podcast series. Today. I have the pleasure of speaking with Samantha. Who is director of marketing at Alliance physical therapy partners and this podcast is the first of a series that investigates marketing. The first one today is titled marketing 101 for complete novices like myself. So excited to have you here Sam, and really interested to learn some of the basics about marketing, definitely something in school we know nothing about. So please do treat me like an idiot and we'll probably get on well here today. So welcome. As always with guests, love for you to give a little bit of background of yourself and then we can kind of dive into some questions if that's okay.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on. So let's see, I have professional expertise is within journalism, which is something that is, you know, related to marketing. But a lot of my more tactical knowledge has been of hands-on experience. So, my professional career started off in higher education, communications and advertising. I worked in residential and hospitality services with Michigan state and did all kinds of branding and advertising for college age students, which was super fun. From there, I stayed the course and was in education communications still in Kalamazoo, essentially at what we would refer to and understand as an intermediate school. I was supporting their workforce development programs there. And when I made the move to Grand Rapids in February of last year, I knew that the healthcare industry was one that you know, has its wraps around in the area. And found Alliance. And now I'm well into the healthcare marketing sphere.

Richard: That's great and you did all that for the tender age of 21. So congratulations.

Sam: Well, 25. It's been a very interesting and exciting few years here.

Richard: So, Sam, as I mentioned, therapists really have no understanding, knowledge of anything marketing. It's an alien word. And for some therapists I would say it's probably a dirty word, or they perceive it as something dirty when it's talked about in connection with healthcare. When we talk about marketing, what actually is marketing. What does it involve? What does it mean specific to physical therapy in healthcare?

Sam: Yeah. So marketing is really the process of driving awareness and demand for a product or a service marketer. As you know, professionals, we are tasked with knowing products and services and brands inside and out. So that, you know, through our own research and analyzation, we can determine how to explain what we're selling, what the company is selling and define exactly who is going to be the most interested in it. More concisely it's about creating value, building awareness, knowing how to reach a target audience, how to attract that audience, and all with the end goal of clearly dictating the value within the market, strengthening the brand, and ultimately increasing.

Richard: So it's really to compliment then, correct me if I'm wrong, it's really to compliment the clinicians, to provide to, in this instance, probably primarily patient information about the services and what they can offer then instead of really creating a story. It's really a support function. Is that right? Or am I probably looking at it slightly wrong.

Sam: I definitely view it as a support function. I mean, I think we can all understand that without the actual healthcare service itself, you know, marketing doesn't exist. And so. Yeah, I see it as a compliment and a support to what you know, physicians or what physical therapists are doing, which is delivering excellent healthcare. Marketers are the ones who know how to reach the right patients that physical therapists should be treating.

Richard: Perhaps one looks at is the ability utilizing marketing skills may even increase the sphere of influence or the ability for a clinician or clinicians to actually get their word out.

Sam: Absolutely.

Richard: I think in outpatient therapy, the term marketing and sales have been used incorrectly. And in part that's I think again, because in healthcare, the word sales are perceived as a dirty word. I think it's a benign term myself, but as a perception of that sales is a dirty word. But in the past, I think people weren't doing marketing. They were doing sales. So very basic question, which I'd like to clear up is, is what's the difference? Do you believe between sales and marketing? Is there an easy way of kind of differentiating?

Sam: So, kind of similarly to what we talked about, about marketing, being a support service for, you know, excellent healthcare. Marketing is what, in my opinion, the support for sales to even take place marketing lays the groundwork of you. Reputation within the community, communicating value, communicating, you know, what services are even offered at a physical therapy clinic. And all of those are with the goal of a sale to take place. So, like I said, marketing's about creating and promoting value. Sales is about turning those who do have awareness of the brand into customers, into patients in this case, to earn profit.

Richard: It's not easy. Is it to, to go to truly understand the difference? There is such a, there's overlap isn't there. And I don't think necessarily you can be successful if you have one, but not the other. I think they must be together. Don't they? I don't think that's necessarily the case either. Cuz a lot of times people do segment the two and even larger organizations, even larger organizations like Alliance, you know, we have a sales team and a marketing team. We try and try and get the two to, to work together. But it is the case that, that they're kind of being siloed to a certain extent. Haven't they?

Sam: Yes, they have. And frankly, one. one can't happen without the other marketing serves really no purpose without, you know, the goal of a sale taking place and sales very rarely if ever happen without proper marketing in place.

Richard: Makes sense. And I, if you look at it from a historical perspective as well, I. You know, since the, the advent of the internet and, and e-marketing, which you'll talk about a little bit later, I think the marketing component has become increasingly important. And I wouldn't be surprised if down the road, the, the marketing component even has a greater role than perhaps sales. Would you agree?

Sam: I'm in agreement with that, I think, you know, the shape of the industry, the trajectory of the industry is getting more competitive. And it, there is an increase in from the consumer's perspective for a brand to have to be transparent, to be credible, to have a digital, a digital presence that is you know, positive that they would want to, you know, spend their money on, frankly. And yeah, I, I see for, for sure with the growth of e-marketing/digital marketing there's a lot of pressure on companies to have really robust marketing strategies out there.

Richard: If you have an outpatient therapy, You, you either a clinic director leading one, or you own private practice. What are the goals of marketing for clinics? What should they be trying to achieve? When we talk about marketing in our patient therapy?

Sam: So, marketing has both objective and subjective goals and measurements. So more objectively when we think about marketing healthcare and marketing outpatient, physical therapy clinics the primary goal, that key performance indicator we're going to look to when measuring effectiveness is new patient appointments generated by your website or your phone calls. The reason we say new patient appointments speaks back to what I said when I said the primary goal of marketing, which is driving new awareness and demand. So more subjectively when you're measuring the goal of marketing outpatient, physical therapy, it's growing your brand, capturing a community and turning them into brand advocates, increasing trust and volume from referral sources. All these things are more of that subjective analysis and subjective goal that you should be striving for when. Investing in marketing for your physical therapy clinic?

Richard: I think this raises a good point because traditionally, and I think a lot of therapists still think this, which is flawed thinking is the patient goes to a physician, the physician race, the referral, and then basically the, the physician will direct the care to a particular establishment or therapist. But that is not the case by any means. Now, is it? I think there's so many more interacting factors that influence where the patient attends for their care. So, it definitely need the marketing. To be able to compliment that traditional relationship between the physician and, and patient. Yes.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, not to, you know, discredit the impact that that relationship with a referral source has on a clinic's patient volume, but it's just not the whole picture anymore. I mean, you're leaving the entire direct access population out there without, you know, a, a marketing strategy that's going to capture. That audience.

Richard: And, you know, when I think back to when I started in the kind of outpatient world in the states over 20 years ago now, and I, when I thought of marketing, it was really, you know, what signs would I put up in the clinic and what, what pamphlets would I have at the front desk? And you know what the design of the script pad that I took to the physician really? Whilst I'm not saying that's completely obsolete, it's certainly moved along on a lot since then. So can you tell me the kind of the spectrum, as it pertains to marketing, what, what we. You know, what I would say is traditional marketing activities, which I still think are relevant. And then, you know, what should organizations really be thinking about when with modern day marketing? What are we talking about with modern marketing techniques and, and tools

Sam: So, when I hear you talk about those, you know, script pads and clinic directories, you know, having the proper print collateral in place for. Physic or, you know, patients in the door or physicians that you're going out to, to visit.  When I hear that I hear direct marketing which is like you said, still has a place within the market. We saw actually an uptick of those approaches with the pandemic where the digital. Sphere was completely saturated with all these people having to go digital and, and, you know, there's so much noise within the market. And so, people, a lot of marketers ended up kind of going back a little bit and investing in those more traditional, direct marketing approaches. So don’t want to discredit their impact or importance that they still have within the spectrum that is marketing. But the way that I see it is, you know, marketing can kind of. Divided into two different, very broad categories. There's that direct marketing, which is print signage, talking directly with referral sources. And then there's more of that digital marketing, which well, I guess that's not really very relevant. And then there's that digital marketing part of it. And you know, there's space for both of those, but. when they're working together, is it that's the best-case scenario.

Richard: Yeah. And it's interesting you say that the more traditional direct marketing became perhaps a little more effective or prominent during COVID because of the digital overload. It's interesting that different times. Different per populations, different geographies can impact the effectiveness of a specific marketing tool or strategy Cantonese. It's interesting that if you just employ one marketing strategy over time, that will usually lose its ability to influence. So, you must con almost continually change your strategy. Based on local factors based on what you've done already and based on what you want to achieve. So, it's like whack-a-mole in marketing and what a brochure might have worked once, but if you continue to publish the same brochure, it's unlikely to have an effect or a mail drop, you know, traditional mail drops. I've had complete disasters with them. But sometimes they can be incredibly effective as well. And it's just understanding that not only if you got different types of marketing, but when you apply them can have different impact.

Sam: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And you know, you're much more versed in marketing than you give yourself credit for. That's what my, our job is. Every day as marketers, we're analyzing different geographies, we're analyzing different patient demographic. Even looking at referral sources that is, you know, calculated and, and reported on an intake paperwork. So, one at one size fit all, you know, a marketing approach could have maybe worked back in the sixties. When, you know, there was only one option, which was magazine ads. But now, I mean, the, the amount of patient touch-points that we have is probably in the hundreds. And so, you'll never get a, you'll never get a good return from a one size fits all.

Richard: No, but the days of just doing an ad in the local newspaper have gone as well though, whilst it might still be a relevance occasionally it's it doesn't it, it really doesn't match the, the impact of say Google does it. So yeah. So, you mentioned the word digital marketing. I, I, I use e-marketing, but there's probably a, that's a difference between the two terms. But that's my ignorance. So, when we talk about digital marketing what types of things are we talking about now? When I went to school, we didn't even have computers. So, the, the concept of e-marketing or digital marketing, Is very new to me. And I have little understanding of what it involves but it really includes a whole plethora of things. Doesn't it? So, what types of things come under that banner?

Sam: Sure. So, like you said, marketing E digital marketing is just taking what some of those best practices that we learned in direct and traditional marketing and taking them online. So, things like content marketing search engine, optimized blog, Content creation. And that also speaks to social media posts as well. So having a robust social media presence and, and doing so strategically, other types of activities would be page search. So, pay per click advertising on your major search engines, email marketing, which is a huge one for us. Other activities that I also consider e-marketing or is reputation management going back to you know, building awareness and building brand. So, monitoring user feedback and engagement online to get a pulse on what your customers are thinking of your brand, or your patients are thinking of your brand. And then even, you know, your website of course, website development and management. So, mapping out consumer behavior patterns that can lead to different designs and different opportunities for website visitors to become new patients in.

Richard: So, I want to step back a little bit because a lot of these terms I don't necessarily fully understand, and I think it's worth the listeners, just, you know, understanding them a little bit better. So, when we talk about content marketing, what exactly do we mean by content marketing? Is it essentially writing generating specific? Information relevant to the, the PT patients or what exactly do we mean by it?

Sam: So, there's multiple audiences that you can capture when your content marketing and, and specifically what we focus on the most is search engine optimized blogs, and without getting too far in the weeds any kind of patient facing blog content should be created with the lens of. So, creating content that is condition specific, perhaps your clinic has a unique offering of services or specialties that you can market. So, creating content around there around those conditions and services, and then using the tools that are available to marketers to understand what keywords Google really likes or what string of words Google really likes and doing so in a way that. Increases your competitiveness and your ability to be seen essentially on Google.

Richard: Again, I'm going to show my lack of understanding. When growing up, I was basically writing essentially scientific papers or best articles. So, the, the concept of a post or a blog is, is one horrifying and two you know, little limited understanding. So, when we talk about social media and content. And, and blogs and posts. What, what is considered say a post and what's considered a blog? Are they the same thing, but just different words act.

Sam: Yeah, I mean, they're interchangeable. I think the word blog probably has that negative connotation that your rogue physical therapist is getting online and, and, you know, venting about his, his recent patient that he saw. But you know, it's just, it's kind of a catchy way to market patient education information. We oftentimes refer them, refer to our blogs as our help blog section. Just a way to get more traffic, you know, interested in the content that you're pushing out there. So

Richard: Essentially, it's just written content placed within somewhere within the internet, be it social media, or be it on websites or whatever that includes key terms, keywords that will help with search. And hopefully. Provide value to readers.

Sam: Absolutely. It's getting harder and harder to compete within the search engine nowadays. Any random Google search that you do will yield millions of results within, I mean, it's less than a second now. And so, search engine optimized content is developed and designed in a way that. Directly competes with some of your lo your competitors that have been defined. And if you, do it well, then you'll rank higher than them in a Google search. So, you won't be 8000000th. Maybe you'll be 1000000th.

Richard: Well, the other thing that I find frustrating is you, they, you know, lack of Google keeps changing the goal post as well. Don't they? So, what works for a period, you, once you've. The secret source with regards to, to content, then they change the goal posts that then change your ranking. Don't they?

Sam: That's absolutely correct. Yeah, they don’t make it easy on us. And you know, it, I think it just speaks to what I said earlier about the. Digitally that entire scope is getting very saturated. And so, Google has to continue to change up what they're, how they're ranking, how they're judging the amount, you know, the quality of, of things that you're putting out on the internet. So that with all, with the, you know, end goal of a positive.

Richard: Well, but also the cynic in say they're changing it to, to improve their revenues as well. Correct?

Sam: Perhaps. I mean, we do pay some agencies, some, you know, some dollars to give us answers and to what exactly Google is changing up. So, I could see that too.

Richard: The other thing corrects me if I'm wrong is not only what one writes. But also, there is a quantity component to it as well. I assume mm-hmm so if I just wrote one great article or blog yes, it might get some traction for a short period of time, but you must generate content over an extended period at a certain cadence. Is that fair and reasonable

Sam: To say it is? You’re looking at about. With your launching an SEO strategy right off the ground. You're looking anywhere from four to six months to really start to see Google, just to recognize you as a valid source of information. So about four to six months to even start getting genuine traffic and and ranking within Google.

Richard: Yeah, I think it took me 22 years to get my image as the number one, one to one number one, image search under Richard Leaver. So, so., I'm not sure what I've got to do to keep it there, but we'll see. You bring up an interesting point as it pertains to the amount of information on the internet and saturation occurring. So how do you, and this is a tough question. I think, as an organization or as a private practice, how do you stop from getting drowned out? Or is it, is it that you just got to accept that, that, that there's going to be a lot of noise and, and competition, and then come up with, is there kind of alternatives that we've got to explore

Sam: So specific to, you know, you’re ranking versus competitors and being able to compete with them? You know, Google is going to, and any search engine is going to. Grade you so to speak on multiple different factors. What's your use? You know, what's the user inter what is the user experience when it comes to your website? How are your Google reviews? What kind of SEO content are you putting out? How educational is it? How many, you know, your click through your bounce rate, all these different factors, Google is going to rank you on. So, agency clinics and brands who are just paying attention to one, or just investing time and energy and resources into one element that Google is, is grading you on. Aren't going to they're not going to compete with, you know, other more robust marketing, you know, people who have more understanding of what exactly how to get ranked.

Richard: so. again, correct me if I'm wrong, but it, it seems to be one of these situations where you must have as an organization or as a practice, but as an organization to be seen, you've got to have. Quite a level of sophistication and resource. So, for the mom-and-pop shop, yes, you can be visible if somebody types in a specific location or perhaps your brand name or the clinician's name, but if in general search terms, it's probably becoming increasingly difficult for smaller entities to be seen because they just don't have the sophistication resource to be able to really rank highly. Was that fair,

Sam: right? It is. That's why, you know, for those smaller clinic groups, things like reputation, manage. You know, those low-cost marketing endeavors are important so that people within your local community do recognize your name and are able to find you directly as opposed to finding, you know, going a more general route like physical therapy near me, or my knee hurts as a search term where there's just, there's no chance of your local clinic and, and practice being.

Richard: okay. And then can we talk a little bit about paid search and specific for small practices? Because I've never quite understood paid search? I, I think at very simplistic level, isn't it essentially you give Google how much money you want to give them, and then somehow, they, they prioritize you or they put you to the near the front or at the front for a period of. Until your money runs out and, and if you don't have much money, then you don't really get to the front of the queue that much. I'm sure there's a lot more to it. Can you talk to me about paid search and, and whether it's even an option or an effective option for the small practice?

Sam: I don't want to I'm not a hundred percent expert in this field. You know, we do partner with individuals who have spent years and years understanding how exactly Google functions, which is, I think a question we probably ask ourselves all the time. But E essentially what pay per click campaigning. Is submitting a, a list of keywords that you are within your budget. And Google has identified as very competitive search terms that just your standard person is searching for when, when seeking out your service. And again, very high level. There is bidding process that takes place. So, each specific term is, has a dollar amount assigned to it based on how competitive it is. And so, our experts spend literally all day in the back end of Google bidding with each other. It's like the stock. It's like the stock exchange back there and they're bidding against one, one another so that they can kind of own, you know, a portion of that keyword for a certain amount of. so to answer your question about, you know, the reality of that being a, a worthwhile marketing approach for a smaller clinic, a one off or a smaller clinic group, it it's probably too time labor-intensive to invest in and frankly you're going up against some people with some really big pockets. And we at Alliance even struggle with being able to compete against them.

Richard: Yeah. I, I think you as yourself, the other day that told me how much to bid on the term for virtual physical therapy.

Sam: Yeah. It's $500.

Richard: A click, basically.

Sam: a click. Yep. So, it cost per action is how they measure it. A click through to your website has cost you $500.

Richard: Yes. And given our, probably our profit margin for an entire episode of care, it's probably let's say on the, on the, you know, high side, $200 a $500 click to the website. It just is just crazy. Isn't it? It sure is. Yeah. So, so bottom line, if you're a small practice, really, it's probably. To spend your dollars elsewhere than paper click, because you're not really going to be able to compete. Mm-hmm okay. Well, if you, if small practices can't compete in that arena what can they do on a practical basis? That's low cost to help them from that from an e-marketing perspective,

Sam: honestly, there's a lot of things that are low-cost marketing activities, digital marketing. So, the first that comes to mind of course, is social media. There's, it's it's very, very present today. It's a very, it's a low-cost tool. Anybody can have a Facebook page and it's based on based on market research. It's the number one tool that clinicians can use to attract and sustain current and perspective patients and staff, frankly in a social media, when you're going to a new restaurant. For instance, you're going to their Facebook page or their Google page. And you're checking out the reviews or maybe some of the pictures that people posted at their experience. I mean, if you're doing that within your own personal life, you can guarantee that prospective patients are doing the same for your physical therapy practice. So, it's building brand recognition. Most importantly, in my opinion, it's building credibility for your patients within that local community. Offering an opportunity for those direct access patients to find your page organically and already, their own understanding of who you are as a clinic and a, a clinician, a, a physical therapy practice on their own

Richard: amazes me that this concept of social. You know, the influences, you know, on social media and the number of millions of followers or hundreds of thousands of followers that people have, and it truly does impact consumer behavior. Doesn't it? So, it. if you post appropriately or use utilize social media in an effective manner, it can transform your, your business.

Sam: certainly can. Yeah. And we're going to cover that in the second episode of this series, all, all things, social media. And I think a lot of people will be surprised about the percentage of, of perspective employees who draw their initial understanding of, you know, this employer based on their social media.

Richard: Yeah. So, what else can they do? So obviously having, having a social media page they're tweeting or Snapchatting or you know, posting video on Facebook Which probably people would pay for me not to not to do that, but what else can they do? Cause not everyone wants to be an influencer, shall we say? So, what, what can clinicians do in addition to social

Sam: media? Another big one for me in, in takes, you know, the cake for as far as patient relationship management and, and marketing 101 is email marketing. It. Oftentimes incredibly low cost. Your patient email addresses your way to contact them are easily collectible at time of intake. So that right there, there's your, your patient database. And it offers multiple opportunities for different touch-points throughout, you know, before, during and after a patient's course of care. So, you can design communications that are, you know, you can design communications that are aim that aim to decrease. Wait times they can give you directions to your clinic, offer what to expect, tell you what documents, insurance, all these things that are already building a positive experience for a patient. You know, during care, you, you can communicate condition, education, their home exercise program. You there's multiple opportunities to receive feedback. You can do. Via surveys, directing them to your Google page to build up those stars. Everyone loves to see a, a clinic with five stars and then even your Facebook reviews, which just goes back, you know, full circle to the importance of social media after they're discharged from their course of care, there's also, you know, you still have their patient email address on file. And so that offers an opportunity to reactivate them within the clinic.

Richard: Yeah, that really, we're talking about what we call patient relationship management. Isn't it, but it blows me away? That the, a lot of clinics, clinicians don't even get email addresses in this modern day and age. And even as a large organization, we don't collect all email addresses by any means. And, and I just don't understand the reluctance of asking for email address. You know, when, when I go to Home Depot now, they’ll ask me for my email address, wherever I seem to go nowadays, that they always want your email address. And, and I always give it, but for, for healthcare, they it's, they struggle with the asking for it a lot of the time. And but without that email address, your ha you've, you've lost that complete ability to engage the patient during their care and aftercare, and really developing a strong Relationship.

Sam: Absolutely. And if that wasn't, you know, reason enough, we see on average, the weeks that we send out, our email communications are more curated email communications that our new patient appointments increased by 16%.

Richard: That is crazy. So, if we only collect half of the emails, then we are losing. New patients. No doubt about it. Yeah. You heard it here, everyone that get those email addresses and the, with regards to ongoing communication with patients, you know, via email. It's not as if you, you must send out a lot of information, isn't it? It it's. Regular small touch points. Is that what works

Sam: well? Yes. And you know, and we're getting better within our own process about this, but email marketing systems now have advanced technology to be able to curate messaging toward a, a patient and based on how they've engaged with previous communications.  So, you can tailor lists and content based on, you know, what you think the patient is going to be the most interested in. And. like you said, low effort. High return. Yeah.

Richard: So, we've talked about social media, which I'm sure will dive into further next time and talked about patient relationship management, really leveraging or using email. There's lots of other ways of engaging patients over time, but, but email, and then there is a third way, isn't it? That that clinic owners can really utilize and leverage e-marketing and that's through content generation. Isn't it? And I know for instance, this blog is one example of content generation.  I know we have a lot of content that's developed within Alliance. Various social platforms or web uses. So, can you talk to us a little bit about content gen content generation, what can be done by private practices to help with their, their e-marketing strategy?

Sam: Certainly. So, you know, when you, when you hear search engine optimized content, there's a degree of knowledge and expertise that has to be implemented when developing that something that's way more accessible and managed in house internally is to identify internal content generations who are experts within their field. And this is something we do at Alliance all the time. So, seeking out clinicians who are experts within treating a specific condition, maybe it's a tenured for an office staff who knows your patients and your brand, like the back of their hand. Or even just, you know, the clinic owner who can speak to different trials and tribulations of operating a small business, having them find a couple of minutes in their day to generate blog content articles really that are informational educational and just fun. You know, once that content is generated, you can use it in a multiple different medium. So, posting it to your website, cross posting it to your social media platform, plugging it into your email marketing. Suddenly, you know, you've had, you've taken one piece of content and you've just created a multi-channel marketing its campaign for $0.

Richard: Wow. Yes. It's yeah, the. the budget for marketing for most PT practices is close to zero or zero, but I think it's important that private practices do due Cove out some dollars. I think the days have just. Trying to market to one's practice through visiting physicians and turning up the local chamber of gone. I don't think that's whilst, whilst it's still, I think valuable. It's certainly not going to get your business where it needs to be. So, I think, I think one must spend money on marketing and sales. How much obviously depends on how much you have available. what do private practices, you know, where do they need to spend their dollars to have the, have the, an impact essentially, you know, what, what large organizations spend the amount and how they spend it obviously is very different than for a smaller entity. So, if I had a private practice or a small number of clinics how would I direct my dollars?

Sam: I think the place that you must start before spending marketing dollars is to review any kind of patient referral source that you have. So, one of the most insightful marketing tactics is to analyze where actual patients are hearing about your brand and services. From there you can make a strategic plan, as far as which mediums and outlets you're going to invest in to focus time, energy, and dollars. But you know, going back to where I think a return would be the most effective, if you have marketing dollars to spend the first and foremost is going to be optimized website, a modern website that is going to not only be, you know, referred to by Google as, as something worthwhile, but also for your patient experience as well. Something that offer. That answers all the questions that a patient might have prior to you know, getting in touch. And I can't take credit for this one, but Kelly Burgess, she's the founder of bur co marketing. She describes a, a healthcare website as a clinician's digital bedside manner. And I couldn't agree more. I mean, it's. all current future patient staff you know, whatever audience it is that you're looking to capture, that's where they're going to draw their initial their initial understanding of who you are as a brand, who you are as a clinic, and you know who you are as people. So I, I think if I had, you know, marketing dollars to spend at a smaller clinic, that's where I would, I would look to first.

Richard: It's funny, you know, years ago it was if the facade of the building looked junky, Jan junky people. Wouldn't kind of come in now, if your website looks junky, people won't visit you. So, and it, it amazes me the, even with people who have physician referrals, they will still search online and look at the website before choosing their eventual. Then. Practice, won't they?

Sam: Right. And like I said, I mean, we do the same thing in our personal lives. So, you can guarantee that any, any kind of relationships you have professionally there, they're doing the same.

Richard: So, let's say that the private practice owners feeling flush and spent their money on their website and got that up to, to kind of snuff, which isn't cheap. But let's say that they've, they've done that. And they've got a few dollars that they want to. Invest further, where could they put their do their additional dollars that might give a return?

Sam: I would invest in content marketing. So working with a, a vendor or perhaps even bringing someone in house with expertise that knows how to create content that will drive traffic and impressions to your website. , you know, I definitely wouldn't recommend doing that if your website is not anything to be proud of, but you know, once you once you're driving traffic and impressions, you know, the, the natural next step is so long as you've created a, an experience that's positive and easily nav navigate navigable easily, navigable SEO content will, will give you the platform to, to get more eyes on your brand  

Richard: So, time is, is running out as it always does plenty of questions, but limited time from a practical perspective, if I'm a practice owner and. understand that I'm not doing enough marketing. And, but I really don't know what to do. I'm a little bit overwhelmed. Obviously, I can throw some money at the website and, and if I have some over search engine content, but what can I do tomorrow as a clinic owner to help from a, a marketing perspective?

Sam: I. You know, if you're, if you're interested and you recognize that there are multifaceted approaches when it comes to marketing, I think that's, you're already far ahead than, then most physical therapists and clinicians who, you know, historically just aren't, they, aren't doing a great job of marketing their services and professions.  So that's a great starting point. If you're cognizant that there's more that you can be doing. I, I think it's just. Create, like I have spoken to a couple of times taking some of those different, low-cost avenues to build and maintain brand credibility within the space. So, getting your business on Google, getting your business on Facebook starting to show off who you are as a brand, some of the staff that you have some amazing patients that have had, you know, success within. because of the healthcare that you're providing. And I think starting with those low-cost initiatives are, are the best

Richard: approach. And from a very simplistic perspective, I would imagine it's probably, you know, asking for Google reviews mm-hmm or taking some fun photographs and putting them onto social media. Yes, it's. It's. It's the simple stuff that can oftentimes have the most impact here.

Sam: Absolutely. And the same way that marketing doesn't exist without sales doesn't exist without marketing any kind of additional investment in marketing doesn't really hold a doesn't really have a point unless you have those initial foundational blocks set first.

Richard: Perfect. Well, thank you, Sam. certainly helped me understand some of marketing nuances, idiosyncrasies, looking forward to the, the, the next podcast with you as pertains to, to e-marketing. Appreciate your insight and your knowledge. I know it's not an easy topic for clinicians, but, but certainly it's very helpful. So, thank you.


Richard: Welcome back to Agile&Me a physical therapy leadership podcast series. Today. I have the pleasure of speaking with Samantha. Who is director of marketing at Alliance physical therapy partners and this podcast is the first of a series that investigates marketing. The first one today is titled marketing 101 for complete novices like me. So excited to have you here Sam, and really interested to learn some of the basics about marketing. Something in school. We, we know nothing about. So please do treat me like an idiot and we'll probably get on well here today. So welcome. As always with guests, love for you to give a little bit of background of yourself and then we can kind of dive into some questions if that's okay.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me on, so let's see. I have Professional expertise is within journalism, which is something that is, you know, related to marketing. But a lot of my more tactical knowledge has been of hands-on experience. So, my professional career started off in higher education, communications and advertising. I work. In residential and hospitality services with Michigan state and did all kinds of branding and advertising for college age students, which was super fun. From there, I, I stayed the course and was in education communications still down in Kalamazoo, essentially at what we would refer to and understand as an intermediate school. And I was supporting their workforce development programs there. And when I made the move to grand rapids in February of last year, I knew that the healthcare industry was one that you know, has its wraps around in, in the area. And You know, found Alliance and now I'm well into the healthcare marketing sphere.

Richard: That's great and you did all that for the tender age of 21. So uh, congratulations. Well, 25.

Sam: But almost, yeah, it's been a, it's been a very interesting and exciting few years here.

Richard: So, Sam, as I said, mentioned, therapists really have. Understanding knowledge of, of anything marketing it's an alien word. And for some therapists, I would say it's probably a dirty word, or they perceive it as something dirty when the, in, when it's talked about in connection with healthcare. When we, when we talk about marketing, what is marketing, you know, what does it involve? What, what does it mean? specific to physical therapy in healthcare.

Sam: Yeah. So marketing is really the process of driving awareness and demand for a product or a service marketer. As you know, professionals, we are tasked with knowing products and services and brands inside. So that, you know, through our own research and analyzation, we can determine how to explain what we're selling, what the company is selling and define exactly who is going to be the most interested in it. More concisely it's about creating value building awareness, knowing how to reach a target audience, how to attract that audience and all with the end goal of clearly dictating the value within the market, strengthening the brand and ultimately increasing.

Richard: so, it's, it's really to compliment then, correct me if I'm wrong, it's really to compliment the clinicians to provide to, in this instance, probably primarily patients information about the services and what they can offer then instead of really creating a story, it's, it's really. A support functions. Is that right? Or am I, I'm probably looking at slightly wrong, but

Sam: I view it as a support function. I mean, I think we can all understand that without the actual healthcare service itself, you know, marketing doesn't exist. And so. Yeah, I, I see it as a compliment and a support to what you know, physicians or what physical therapists are, are doing, which is delivering excellent healthcare. Marketers are the ones who are. who know how to reach the right patients, that physical therapists should be treating? So

Richard: perhaps one looks at is the ability utilizing marketing skills may even increase the sphere of influence or the ability for a clinician or clinicians to get their word out.
Absolutely.

Sam: Yeah.

Richard: I think in outpatient therapy, the term marketing and sales have been used incorrectly. And in part that's I think again, because in healthcare, the word sales are perceived as a dirty word. I don't, I don't, I think it's a benign term myself, but as a perception of that sales is a dirty word. And, but in the past, I think. People weren't doing marketing. They were doing sales. So very basic question, which I'd like to clear up is, is what's the difference? Do you believe between sales and marketing, is there an easy way of kind of differentiating?

Sam: So, kind of similarly to what we talked about, about marketing, being a support service for, you know, excellent healthcare marketing is what, in my opinion, the support for sales to even take place marketing lays the groundwork of you. Reputation within the community, communicating value, communicating, you know, what services are even offered at a physical therapy clinic. And all of those are with the goal of a sale to take place. So, like I said, marketing's about creating and promoting value. Sales is about turning those who do have awareness of the brand into customers, into patients in this case to earn profit.

Richard: yeah. It's not easy. Is it to, to go to truly understand the difference? There is such a, there's overlap isn't there. Absolutely. Yeah. And I don't think necessarily you can be successful if you have one, but not the other. I think they must be together. Don't they? Yes. and, but that's, I don't think that's necessarily the case either. Cuz a lot of times people do segment the two and even larger organizations, even larger organizations like Alliance, you know, we have a sales team and a marketing team. Mm-hmm we try and try and get the two to, to work together. But it is the case that, that they're kind of being siloed to a certain extent. Haven't they?

Sam: Yes, they have. And frankly, one. one can't happen without the other marketing serves really no purpose without, you know, the goal of a sale taking place and sales very rarely if ever happen without proper marketing in place.

Richard: Makes sense. And I, if you look at it from a historical perspective as well, I. You know, since the, the advent of the internet and, and e-marketing, which you'll talk about a little bit later, I think Mar the marketing component has become increasingly important. And I wouldn't be surprised if down the road, the, the marketing component even has a greater role than perhaps sales. Would you agree?

Sam: I, I I'm in agreement with that, I think, you know, the shape of the industry, the trajectory of the industry is, you know, getting a. Getting more competitive. And it, there is an increase in from the consumer's perspective for a brand to have to be transparent, to be credible, to have, you know, A, a digital, a digital presence that is you know, positive that they would want to, you know, spend their money on, frankly. And yeah, I, I see for, for sure with the growth of e-marketing digital marketing there's a lot of pressure on companies to have really robust marketing strategies out there.

Richard: So, you know, if you have an outpatient therapy, You, you either a clinic director leading one, or you own private practice. What are the goals of marketing for clinics? What, what are they, what are they, what should they be trying to achieve? When we talk about marketing in our patient therapy?

Sam: So, marketing has both objective and subjective goals and measurements. So more objectively when we think about marketing healthcare and marketing outpatient, physical therapy clinics the primary goal, the, that key performance indicator we're going to look to when measuring effectiveness is new patient appointments generated by your website or your phone calls. The reason we say new patient appointments speaks, you know, back to what I said when I said Speaks back to the primary goal of marketing, which is driving new awareness and demand. So more subjectively when you're measuring the goal of marketing outpatient, physical therapy, it's growing your brand, capturing a community and turning them into brand advocates, increasing trust and volume from referral sources. All these things are more of that subjective analysis and subjective goal that you should be striving for when. Investing in marketing for your physical therapy clinic?

Richard: I think this raises a good point because traditionally, and I think a lot of therapists still think this, which is flawed thinking is the patient goes to a physician, the physician race, the referral, and then basically the, the physician will direct the care to a particular establishment or therapist. But that is not the case by any means. Now, is it? I think there's so many more interacting factors that influence where the patient attends for their care. So, it definitely need the marketing. To be able to compliment that traditional relationship between the physician and, and patient. Yes.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Like you said, not to, you know, discredit the impact that that relationship with a referral source has on a clinic's patient volume, but it's just not the whole picture anymore. I mean, you're leaving the entire direct access population out there without, you know, a, a marketing strategy that's going to capture. That audience.

Richard: And, you know, when I think back to when I started in the kind of outpatient world in the states over 20 years ago now, and I, when I thought of marketing, it was really, you know, what signs would I put up in the clinic and what, what pamphlets would I have at the front desk? And you know what the design of the script pad that I took to the physician really? Whilst I'm not saying that's completely obsolete, it's certainly moved along on a lot since then. So can you tell me the kind of the spectrum, as it pertains to marketing, what, what we. You know, what I would say is traditional marketing activities, which I still think are relevant. And then, you know, what should organizations really be thinking about when with modern day marketing? What are we talking about with modern marketing techniques and, and tools

Sam: So, when I hear you talk about those, you know, script pads and clinic directories, you know, having the proper print collateral in place for. Physic or, you know, patients in the door or physicians that you're going out to, to visit.  When I hear that I hear direct marketing which is like you said, still has a place within the market. We saw actually an uptick of those approaches with the pandemic where the digital. Sphere was completely saturated with all these people having to go digital and, and, you know, there's so much noise within the market. And so, people, a lot of marketers ended up kind of going back a little bit and investing in those more traditional, direct marketing approaches. So don’t want to discredit their impact or importance that they still have within the spectrum that is marketing. But the way that I see it is, you know, marketing can kind of. Divided into two different, very broad categories. There's that direct marketing, which is print signage, talking directly with referral sources. And then there's more of that digital marketing, which well, I guess that's not really very relevant. And then there's that digital marketing part of it. And you know, there's space for both of those, but. when they're working together, is it that's the best-case scenario.

Richard: Yeah. And it's interesting you say that the more traditional direct marketing became perhaps a little more effective or prominent during COVID because of the digital overload. It's interesting that different times. Different per populations, different geographies can impact the effectiveness of a specific marketing tool or strategy Cantonese. It's interesting that if you just employ one marketing strategy over time, that will usually lose its ability to influence. So, you must con almost continually change your strategy. Based on local factors based on what you've done already and based on what you want to achieve. So, it's like whack amole in marketing and what, you know, a brochure might have worked once, but if you continue to, to publish the same brochure, it's unlikely to, to have an effect or a mail drop, you know, traditionally mail drops. I've had complete disasters with them. But. Sometimes they can be incredibly effective as well. And it's just understanding that not only if you got different types of marketing, but when you apply them can have different impact.

Sam: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And you know, you're much more versed in marketing than you give yourself credit for. That's what my, our job is. Every day as marketers, we're analysing different geographies, we're analysing different patient demographic. Even looking at referral sources that is, you know, calculated and, and reported on an intake paperwork. So, one at one size fit all, you know, a marketing approach could have maybe worked back in the sixties. When, you know, there was only one option, which was magazine ads. But now, I mean, the, the amount of patient touchpoints that we have is probably in the hundreds. And so, you'll never get a, you'll never get a good return from a one size fits all.

Richard: no, but the days of just doing an ad in the local newspaper have gone as well though, whilst it might still be a relevance occasionally it's it doesn't it, it really doesn't match the, the impact of say Google does it. So yeah. So, you mentioned the word digital marketing. I, I, I use e-marketing, but there's probably a, that's a difference between the two terms. But that's my ignorance. So, when we talk about digital marketing what types of things are we talking about now? When I went to school, we didn't even have computers. So, the, the concept of e-marketing or digital marketing, Is very new to me. And I have little understanding of what it involves but it really includes a whole plethora of things. Doesn't it? So, what types of things come under that banner?

Sam: Sure. So, like you said, marketing E digital marketing is just taking what some of those best practices that we learned in direct and traditional marketing and taking them online. So, things like content marketing search engine, optimized blog, Content creation. And that also speaks to social media posts as well. So having a robust social media presence and, and doing so strategically, other types of activities would be page search. So, pay per click advertising on your major search engines, email marketing, which is a huge one for us. Other activities that I also consider e-marketing or is reputation management going back to you know, building awareness and building brand. So, monitoring user feedback and engagement online to get a pulse on what your customers are thinking of your brand, or your patients are thinking of your brand. And then even, you know, your website of course, website development and management. So, mapping out consumer behaviour patterns that can lead to different designs and different opportunities for website visitors to become new patients in.

Richard: so, I want to step back a little bit because a lot of these terms I don't necessarily fully understand, and I think it's worth the listeners, just, you know, understanding them a little bit better. So, when we talk about content marketing, what exactly do we mean by content marketing? Is it essentially writing generating specific? Information relevant to the, the PT patients or what exactly do we mean by it?

Sam: So, there's multiple audiences that you can capture when your content marketing and, and specifically what we focus on the most is search engine optimized blogs, and without getting too far in the weeds any kind of patient facing blog content should be created with the lens of. So, creating content that is condition specific, perhaps your clinic has a unique offering of services or specialties that you can market. So, creating content around there around those conditions and services, and then using the tools that are available to marketers to understand what keywords Google really likes or what string of words Google really likes and doing so in a way that. Increases your competitiveness and your ability to be seen essentially on Google.

Richard: Again, I'm going to show my lack of understanding. When growing up, I was basically writing essentially scientific papers or best articles. So, the, the concept of a post or a blog is, is one horrifying and two you know, little limited understanding. So, when we talk about social media and content. And, and blogs and posts. What, what is considered say a post and what's considered a blog? Are they the same thing, but just different words act.

Sam: Yeah, I mean, they're interchangeable. I think the word blog probably has that negative connotation that your rogue physical therapist is getting online and, and, you know, venting about his, his recent patient that he saw. But you know, it's just, it's kind of a catchy way to market patient education information. We oftentimes refer them, refer to our blogs as our help blog section. Just a way to get more traffic, you know, interested in the content that you're pushing out there. So

Richard: essentially, it's just written content placed within somewhere within the internet, be it social media, or be it on websites or whatever that includes key terms, keywords that will help with search. And hopefully. Provide value to readers.

Sam: Absolutely. It's getting harder and harder to compete within the search engine nowadays. Any random Google search that you do will yield millions of results within, I mean, it's less than a second now. And so, search engine optimized content is developed and designed in a way that. Directly competes with some of your lo your competitors that have been defined. And if you, do it well, then you'll rank higher than them in a Google search. So, you won't be 8000000th. Maybe you'll be 1000000th.

Richard: Well, the other thing that I find frustrating is you, they, you know, lack of Google keeps changing the goal post as well. Don't they? So, what works for a period, you, once you've. The secret source with regards to, to content, then they change the goal posts that then change your ranking. Don't they?

Sam: That's absolutely correct. Yeah, they don’t make it easy on us. And you know, it, I think it just speaks to what I said earlier about the. Digitally that entire scope is getting very saturated. And so, Google has to continue to change up what they're, how they're ranking, how they're judging the amount, you know, the quality of, of things that you're putting out on the internet. So that with all, with the, you know, end goal of a positive.

Richard: well, but also the cynic in say they're changing it to, to improve their revenues as well. Correct?

Sam: Perhaps. I mean, we do pay some agencies, some, you know, some dollars to give us answers and to what exactly Google is changing up. So, I could see that too.

Richard: The other thing corrects me if I'm wrong is not only what one writes. But also, there is a quantity component to it as well. I assume mm-hmm so if I just wrote one great article or blog yes, it might get some traction for a short period of time, but you must generate content over an extended period at a certain cadence. Is that fair and reasonable

Sam: to say it is? You’re looking at about. With your launching an SEO strategy right off the ground. You're looking anywhere from four to six months to really start to see Google, just to recognize you as a valid source of information. So about four to six months to even start getting genuine traffic and and ranking within Google.

Richard: Yeah, I think it took me 22 years to get my image as the number one, one to one number one, image search under Richard Leaver. So, so., I'm not sure what I've got to do to keep it there, but we'll see. You bring up an interesting point as it pertains to the amount of information on the internet and saturation occurring. So how do you, and this is a tough question. I think, as an organization or as a private practice, how do you stop from getting drowned out? Or is it, is it that you just got to accept that, that, that there's going to be a lot of noise and, and competition, and then come up with, is there kind of alternatives that we've got to explore

Sam: so specific to, you know, you’re ranking versus competitors and being able to compete with them? You know, Google is going to, and any search engine is going to. Grade you so to speak on multiple different factors. What's your use? You know, what's the user inter what is the user experience when it comes to your website? How are your Google reviews? What kind of SEO content are you putting out? How educational is it? How many, you know, your click through your bounce rate, all these different factors, Google is going to rank you on. So, agency clinics and brands who are just paying attention to one, or just investing time and energy and resources into one element that Google is, is grading you on. Aren't going to they're not going to compete with, you know, other more robust marketing, you know, people who have more understanding of what exactly how to get ranked.

Richard: so. again, correct me if I'm wrong, but it, it seems to be one of these situations where you must have as an organization or as a practice, but as an organization to be seen, you've got to have. Quite a level of sophistication and resource. So, for the mom-and-pop shop, yes, you can be visible if somebody types in a specific location or perhaps your brand name or the clinician's name, but if in general search terms, it's probably becoming increasingly difficult for smaller entities to be seen because they just don't have the sophistication resource to be able to really rank highly. Was that fair,

Sam: right? It is. That's why, you know, for those smaller clinic groups, things like reputation, manage. You know, those low-cost marketing endeavours are important so that people within your local community do recognize your name and are able to find you directly as opposed to finding, you know, going a more general route like physical therapy near me, or my knee hurts as a search term where there's just, there's no chance of your local clinic and, and practice being.

Richard: okay. And then can we talk a little bit about paid search and specific for small practices? Because I've never quite understood paid search? I, I think at very simplistic level, isn't it essentially you give Google how much money you want to give them, and then somehow, they, they prioritize you or they put you to the near the front or at the front for a period of. Until your money runs out and, and if you don't have much money, then you don't really get to the front of the queue that much. I'm sure there's a lot more to it. Can you talk to me about paid search and, and whether it's even an option or an effective option for the small practice?

Sam: I don't want to I'm not a hundred percent expert in this field. You know, we do partner with individuals who have spent years and years understanding how exactly Google functions, which is, I think a question we probably ask ourselves all the time. But E essentially what pay per click campaigning. Is submitting a, a list of keywords that you are within your budget. And Google has identified as very competitive search terms that just your standard person is searching for when, when seeking out your service. And again, very high level. There is bidding process that takes place. So, each specific term is, has a dollar amount assigned to it based on how competitive it is. And so, our experts spend literally all day in the back end of Google bidding with each other. It's like the stock. It's like the stock exchange back there and they're bidding against one, one another so that they can kind of own, you know, a portion of that keyword for a certain amount of. so to answer your question about, you know, the reality of that being a, a worthwhile marketing approach for a smaller clinic, a one off or a smaller clinic group, it it's probably too time labour extensive to invest in and frankly you're going up against some people with some, some really big pockets. And so, you know, we at Alliance even struggle with being able to, to compete against them.

Richard: Yeah. I, I think you as yourself, the other day that told me how much to bid on the term for virtual physical therapy.

Sam: Yeah. It's $500.

Richard: A click, basically.

Sam: A click. Yep. So, it's cost per action is how they measure it. A click through to your website has cost you $500.

Richard: Yes. And given  our profit margin for an entire episode of care, it's probably let's say on the, on the, you know, high side, $200 a $500 click to the website. It just is just crazy. Isn't it?

Sam: It sure is. Yeah.

Richard: So, so bottom line, if you're a small practice, really, it's probably. To spend your dollars elsewhere than paper click, because you're not really going to be able to compete. Mm-hmm okay. Well, if you, if small practices can't compete in that arena what can they do on a practical basis? That's low cost to help them from that from an e-marketing perspective.

Sam: Honestly, there's a lot of things that are low-cost marketing activities, digital marketing. So, the first that comes to mind of course, is social media. There's, it's it's very, very present today. It's a very, it's a low-cost tool. Anybody can have a Facebook page and it's based on based on market research. It's the number one tool that clinicians can use to attract and sustain current and perspective patients and staff, frankly in a social media, when you're going to a new restaurant. For instance, you're going to their Facebook page or their Google page. And you're checking out the reviews or maybe some of the pictures that people posted at their experience. I mean, if you're doing that within your own personal life, you can guarantee that prospective patients are doing the same for your physical therapy practice. So, it's building brand recognition. Most importantly, in my opinion, it's building credibility for your patients within that local community. Offering an opportunity for those direct access patients to find your page organically and already, their own understanding of who you are as a clinic and a, a clinician, a, a physical therapy practice on their own

Richard: amazes me that this concept of social. You know, the influences, you know, on social media and the number of millions of followers or hundreds of thousands of followers that people have, and it truly does impact consumer behavior. Doesn't it? So, it. if you post appropriately or use utilize social media in an effective manner, it can transform your, your business.

Sam: certainly can. Yeah. And we're going to cover that in the second episode of this series, all, all things, social media. And I think a lot of people will be surprised about the percentage of, of perspective employees who draw their initial understanding of, you know, this employer based on their social media.

Richard: Yeah. So, what else can they do? So obviously having, having a social media page they're tweeting or Snapchatting or you know, posting video on Facebook Which probably people would pay for me not to not to do that, but what else can they do? Cause not everyone wants to be an influencer, shall we say? So, what, what can clinicians do in addition to social

Sam: media? Another big one for me in, in takes, you know, the cake for as far as patient relationship management and, and marketing 101 is email marketing. It. Oftentimes incredibly low cost. Your patient email addresses your way to contact them are easily collectible at time of intake. So that right there, there's your, your patient database. And it offers multiple opportunities for different touchpoints throughout, you know, before, during and after a patient's course of care. So, you can design communications that are, you know, you can design communications that are aim that aim to decrease. Wait times they can give you directions to your clinic, offer what to expect, tell you what documents, insurance, all these things that are already building a positive experience for a patient. You know, during care, you, you can communicate condition, education, their home exercise program. You there's multiple opportunities to receive feedback. You can do. Via surveys, directing them to your Google page to build up those stars. Everyone loves to see a, a clinic with five stars and then even your Facebook reviews, which just goes back, you know, full circle to the importance of social media after they're discharged from their course of care, there's also, you know, you still have their patient email address on file. And so that offers an opportunity to reactivate them within the clinic.

Richard: Yeah, that really, we're talking about what we call patient relationship management. Isn't it, but it blows me away? That the, a lot of clinics, clinicians don't even get email addresses in this modern day and age. And even as a large organization, we don't collect all email addresses by any means. And, and I just don't understand the reluctance of asking for email address. You know, when, when I go to Home Depot now, they’ll ask me for my email address, wherever I seem to go nowadays, that they always want your email address. And, and I always give it, but for, for healthcare, they it's, they struggle with the asking for it a lot of the time. And but without that email address, your ha you've, you've lost that complete ability to engage the patient during their care and aftercare, and really developing a strong Relationship.

Sam: Absolutely. And if that wasn't, you know, reason enough, we see on average, the weeks that we send out, our email communications are more curated email communications that our new patient appointments increased by 16%.

Richard: That is crazy. So, if we only collect half of the emails, then we are losing. New patients. No doubt about it. Yeah. You heard it here, everyone that get those email addresses and the, with regards to ongoing communication with patients, you know, via email. It's not as if you, you must send out a lot of information, isn't it? It it's. Regular small touch points. Is that what works

Sam: well? Yes. And you know, and we're getting better within our own process about this, but email marketing systems now have advanced technology to be able to curate messaging toward a, a patient and based on how they've engaged with previous communications.  So, you can tailor lists and content based on, you know, what you think the patient is going to be the most interested in. And. like you said, low effort. High return. Yeah.

Richard: So, we've talked about social media, which I'm sure will dive into further next time and talked about patient relationship management, really leveraging or using email. There's lots of other ways of engaging patients over time, but, but email, and then there is a third way, isn't it? That that clinic owners can really utilize and leverage e-marketing and that's through content generation. Isn't it? And I know for instance, this blog is one example of content generation.  I know we have a lot of content that's developed within Alliance. Various social platforms or web uses. So, can you talk to us a little bit about content gen content generation, what can be done by private practices to help with their, their e-marketing strategy?

Sam: Certainly. So, you know, when you, when you hear search engine optimized content, there's a degree of knowledge and expertise that has to be implemented when developing that something that's way more accessible and managed in house internally is to identify internal content generations who are experts within their field. And this is something we do at Alliance all the time. So, seeking out clinicians who are experts within treating a specific conditions maybe it's a tenured for an office staff who knows your patients and your brand, like the back of their hand. Or even just, you know, the clinic owner who can speak to different trials and tribulations of operating a small business, having them find a couple of minutes in their day to generate blog content articles really that are informational educational and just fun. You know, once that content is generated, you can use it in a multiple different medium. So, posting it to your website, cross posting it to your social media platform, plugging it into your email marketing. Suddenly, you know, you've had, you've taken one piece of content and you've just created a multi-channel marketing its campaign for $0.

Richard: Wow. Yes. It's yeah, the. the budget for marketing for most PT practices is close to zero or zero, but I think it's important that private practices do due Cove out some dollars. I think the days have just. Trying to market to one's practice through visiting physicians and turning up the local chamber of gone. I don't think that's whilst, whilst it's still, I think valuable. It's certainly not going to get your business where it needs to be. So, I think, I think one must spend money on marketing and sales. How much obviously depends on how much you have available. what do private practices, you know, where do they need to spend their dollars to have the, have the, an impact essentially, you know, what, what large organizations spend the amount and how they spend it obviously is very different than for a smaller entity. So, if I had a private practice or a small number of clinics how would I direct my dollars?

Sam: I think the place that you must start before spending marketing dollars is to review any kind of patient referral source that you have. So, one of the most insightful marketing tactics is to analyze where actual patients are hearing about your brand and services. From there you can make a strategic plan, as far as which mediums and outlets you're going to invest in to focus time, energy, and dollars. But you know, going back to where I think a return would be the most effective, if you have marketing dollars to spend the first and foremost is going to be optimized website, a modern website that is going to not only be, you know, referred to by Google as, as something worthwhile, but also for your patient experience as well. Something that offer. That answers all the questions that a patient might have prior to you know, getting in touch. And I can't take credit for this one, but Kelly Burgess, she's the founder of bur co marketing. She describes a, a healthcare website as a clinician's digital bedside manner. And I couldn't agree more. I mean, it's. all current future patient staff you know, whatever audience it is that you're looking to capture, that's where they're going to draw their initial their initial understanding of who you are as a brand, who you are as a clinic, and you know who you are as people. So I, I think if I had, you know, marketing dollars to spend at a smaller clinic, that's where I would, I would look to first.

Richard: It's funny, you know, years ago it was, if you, if. Facade of the building looked junky, Jan junky people. Wouldn't kind of come in now, if your website looks junky, people won't visit you. So, and it, it amazes me the, even with people who have physician referrals, they will still search online and look at the website before choosing their eventual. Then. Practice, won't they?

Sam: Right. And like I said, I mean, we do the same thing in our personal lives. So, you can guarantee that any, any kind of relationships you have professionally there, they're doing the same.

Richard: So, let's say that the private practice owners feeling flush and spent their money on their website and got that up to, to kind of snuff, which isn't cheap. But let's say that they've, they've done that. And they've got a few dollars that they want to. Invest further, where could they put their do their additional dollars that might give a return?

Sam: I would invest in content marketing. So working with a, a vendor or perhaps even bringing someone in house with expertise that knows how to create content that will drive traffic and impressions to your website. , you know, I definitely wouldn't recommend doing that if your website is not anything to be proud of, but you know, once you once you're driving traffic and impressions, you know, the, the natural next step is so long as you've created a, an experience that's positive and easily nav navigate navigable easily, navigable SEO content will, will give you the platform to, to get more eyes on your brand  

Richard: So, time is, is running out as it always does plenty of questions, but limited time from a practical perspective, if I'm a practice owner and. understand that I'm not doing enough marketing. And, but I really don't know what to do. I'm a little bit overwhelmed. Obviously, I can throw some money at the website and, and if I have some over search engine content, but what can I do tomorrow as a clinic owner to help from a, a marketing perspective?

Sam: I. You know, if you're, if you're interested and you recognize that there are multifaceted approaches when it comes to marketing, I think that's, you're already far ahead than, then most physical therapists and clinicians who, you know, historically just aren't, they, aren't doing a great job of marketing their services and professions.  So that's a great starting point. If you're cognizant that there's more that you can be doing. I, I think it's just. Create, like I have spoken to a couple of times taking some of those different, low-cost avenues to build and maintain brand credibility within the space. So, getting your business on Google, getting your business on Facebook starting to show off who you are as a brand, some of the staff that you have some amazing patients that have had, you know, success within. because of the healthcare that you're providing. And I think starting with those low-cost initiatives are, are the best

Richard: approach. And from a very simplistic perspective, I would imagine it's probably, you know, asking for Google reviews mm-hmm or taking some fun photographs and putting them onto social media. Yes, it's. It's. It's the simple stuff that can oftentimes have the most impact here.

Sam: Absolutely. And the same way that marketing doesn't exist without sales doesn't exist without marketing any kind of additional investment in marketing doesn't really hold a doesn't really have a point unless you have those initial foundational blocks set first.

Richard: Perfect. Well, thank you, Sam. certainly helped me understand some of marketing nuances, idiosyncrasies, looking forward to the, the, the next podcast with you as pertains to, to e-marketing. Appreciate your insight and your knowledge. I know it's not an easy topic for clinicians, but, but certainly it's very helpful. So, thank you.