I get nauseous when reading quotes by Dale Carnegie. Even the idea of “How to win friends and influence people” has always struck me the wrong way. How to be fake nice and manipulate? No thanks. What’s the secret to my success?
Success, you say? If by driving >10 year old vehicles and still paying off student loans at the age of 42 is success to you, then yeah, maybe you want to hear from me. If success means making a decent living while doing something you love…then okay, we can talk. It’s mostly about life choices.
If I amassed a fortune doing something else and had traveled the world a little more, then had time to do what I wanted, I would work with the athletes at Full Reps and in and around the back yard at Bonny Lane. I had a dream that I would have courage to give much of that fortune away.
I see an awful lot of ads for physical therapy companies and their services. It’s no surprise that I would take notice and be a bit sensitive about it. Some of the ads are great. They’re interesting, informative, or plain entertaining.
Other physical therapy marketing techniques are either ‘meh’ or plain embarrassing. It looks to me like they are selling pizzas and/or promise they have the answer to your every ache, pain, and existential dilemma. They’re clearly under the influence of Dale Carnegie where I’m far more Wendell Berry than Dale Carnegie. Wendell is my ideal, and I’m not sure why everyone knows Carnegie but not Berry.
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“I believe that the community – in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures – is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays
So without further ado, here are 15 long, drawn-out, backwards and moderately successful techniques to market your physical therapy services.
***My parents and grandparents taught me very little business sense. But they had a huge role in teaching me every one of the principles listed below. Some of them I have miles to improve. Each point above is absolutely true in the sense that I’ve lived it. And yes, “got business” out of it.
- The Land: First and foremost, find a geographical area and commit to it. Love the land. I have a hunch that this is especially rewarding (more than financially) if you settle on a place in the inner city or very rural countryside where nobody else wants to be.
- Need Others: Hire local help where you need it. Take the car to the small garage owned by the guy who lives nearby. Know the folks at the pizza shop by their first names. Not to make them feel important or to make you think that they think that you think that someone made an impression on someone. Do it to be a decent human. And it’s a lot more fun to share a story while you wait. Eventually, they will offer you a glass of wine while you wait for your pizza, and not mess up your order.
- What You Show > What You Say: Go to your primary care physician and “represent.” By this I mean a consistent life of wellness, and NOT how much you know about physical therapy, medicine, or (especially) alternative medicine. They will hear about your abilities as a PT soon enough, and a sense of humility regarding the entire human body (not just the musculoskeletal system) will shine forth like the sun. Annual physicals will be awkward.
- Like-Minded Pilgrims: Don’t pick up golf in order to meet doctors and other big shots. Do what you love and be open to helping and learning from others who pursue similar interests. You’ll make a handful of lifelong friends this way. I formed so many deep, long term and meaningful relationships while just doing what I enjoy (basketball, mountain biking, outdoorsy stuff, fitness culture) that I never had to sink so low as to golf with a doctor.
- Interesting: Don’t try to be an interesting person. Try to be genuinely interested in the world and in others.
- Listening > Speaking: Practice your “elevator speech,” sure. But perfect the art of active listening.
- Do Throw Your Hat in the On-line ring. Have an on-line presence. Talk about your work and business, but not exclusively. Be a friend on line. Don’t be a jerk or get overly involved in divisive subjects.
- Earn Your Right to Open Your Mouth: Serve the community without an agenda. Before five minutes have passed, people will ask where you live and what you do for work. In five months or years, they will be coming to you with medical questions. Some of them you’re unfit to address, but you know that your trusted.
- Open to New Ideas: Spend time learning about that activity or sport that seems to keep popping up in the clinic, whether or not you like it. Pretty soon you will probably learn to like it or at least appreciate it. Who knows, one day you may spend most of your weekends actually glad to be driving your children to it.
- While you could be watching TV: Show up at your clients competition or event. Not with a handful of business cards, Dale Carnegie, but because you’re interested in seeing them in action. Your performance in Netflix Marathons and Fantasy Football will definitely suffer.
- Always a Student: You MUST be a perpetual student and enjoy it. If not, you’re either inexperienced or obsolete. Take the courses because you want to learn, not just to fulfill CEU requirements. Read the books by day and the articles by night, again because you want to. Process what you study and filter it through your unique real life experience. Where and when you can, put that into writing or speaking.
- Know Your People (Target Audience): Know that the customer is not always right. But you do need to learn something from every single criticism received. On the one hand, you need to closely watch for patterns. They are a clear indication for some serious course correction on your end. But on the other hand, do not try to please every person every time. Doing so may be good for business, but you truly cannot connect with and please them all. Trying will leave you with sleepless nights, an ulcer, or worse.
- Go for the assist. When it comes to marketing, getting an assist is even better than scoring the goal. So establish a handful of trusted complimentary services. MDs, pain management specialists, personal trainers, massage therapists, etc. Make those connections, fitting the right person to the right service. Call them. Do tell your clients to mention who sent them. It’s a genuine win-win-win.
- Oh yeah, the actual work: At the end of the day, you must deliver the goods in providing a service that is worth the time and cost involved with peoples lives. You may have an advanced degree in this or that as well as a CNP (Certified Nice Person), but there’s absolutely no substitute for competency. Do not mistake this for “Get everyone better” because that’s not realistic. Sure, most people will achieve drastically improved function and less pain with physical therapy. But even those who do not ultimately fulfill their goals can and should have a great experience. At the very least, they should have learned a lot…about what may be ruled out as the cause of the problem, ways they can help manage the problem (if not successfully address it), or connections to others (#12 above).
15. Sales Funnels Have Their Down Side: Did I mention that this marketing model is not scalable? There are no pathways or sales funnels. This is probably no way to build a corporation. These marketing methods will not provide a huge salary, especially given today’s healthcare environment.
Student loans will suck the life out of you. But you will be part of a community of people you care about and who care about you, and you will lean on each other for help. In the end, you will have years of meaningful work, many interesting stories and laughs to remember, and hopefully joy as well. It will work out. Well, it should. But who knows. My story unfolds…
“The world has room for many people who are content to live as humans, but only for a relative few intent upon living as giants or as gods.”
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture
“The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays