An Easy and Effective Way to Promote your Practice
Carol A. Wilcox
PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc.
Have you ever thought about hosting a patient appreciation event in your clinic? Are you wondering what the real benefit would be? Are you concerned about the time and resources it will take? Do you know where to start? If you’ve considered hosting a patient appreciation event but need a little guidance, this article can help.
Patient appreciation events are an important part of your overall clinic marketing strategy and a natural extension of your clinic’s patient engagement. These events help reinforce existing patient relationships while developing referrals and new revenue opportunities. Think about it this way: perhaps you patronize a local coffee shop and the staff there knows you by your name and they even have your favorite latte started when they see you coming through the door (think customer engagement). It feels good to be acknowledged and appreciated for your business, doesn’t it? And because you’re a “regular” and you really like the coffee and the service, you recommend the shop to your friends, your colleagues and your patients (think customer referrals). The coffee shop owner appreciates the referrals you’ve sent her way (think new revenue opportunities), and the next time you come in, she gives you a free coffee “on the house” (think customer appreciation). It’s really that simple!
DETERMINE THE OVERALL OBJECTIVES AND BE OPEN-MINDED
Before you plan the details of your event, take a step back and ask yourself specifically what key objectives you want to achieve. Understand that the days are long gone when you could hang out your “shingle” and patients would flock to your door. And relying solely on physician referrals is a thing of the past. There’s more competition now. Patients research online before they even make a call. Healthcare practices have to be more flexible to accommodate the market and they have to find ways to get the word out about their businesses. So, when thinking about the overall objectives, be open-minded.
The first objective is the obvious one; you want to show your patients your appreciation for their business. But what about other objectives? If you have a new piece of equipment you recently purchased for your clinic, this may the time to demonstrate its capabilities. If you’re a newer practice in the community; or competition recently moved down the street; this may be the opportunity to introduce yourself to more members of the community. If you’ve recently expanded the clinic and need new patients, this may be the appropriate time to attract new business. Perhaps you have a list of past patients and want to re-engage with them. Whatever the objectives, know them first and then begin to plan.
WHAT TO EXPECT AND WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
If you’re thinking that hosting just one patient appreciation event will open the patient floodgates, think again. It probably won’t. That’s not to say you won’t get new patients, but you’re going to have to build on this event if you want consistently more. If you’re serious about building your business, it takes a lot of little marketing steps, well thought out and planned, before you gain traction. And once you gain traction, you can’t stop.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to success. It’s a building process. Think of the coffee shop owner. Her business took time to build. She built relationships, served top quality products, paid attention to her customers and eventually reaped the benefits of a steady clientele who are only happy to recommend her store to others. A physical therapy practice isn’t much different in principle.
DEVELOP THE PLAN AND THE BUDGET
The most important first step in planning a patient appreciation event is to determine the budget. How much are you willing to spend? If you haven’t already allocated funds for a monthly marketing budget, this may be tricky. This resource provides some budget guidance. When determining budget, keep in mind that if you acquire even 1-2 new patients at the event, you will most likely recoup your expenses.
When developing the budget, make sure you include the following expenses:
- Food & Beverage
Hint: Since you most likely won’t be sure about the number of people who will attend, consider serving food and beverages that can easily be replenished such as bottled water, punch or juice, fruit, cheese and crackers, cookies, popcorn, etc. Whatever is left over can be used at the clinic the next day for staff or given away to a homeless shelter or community food bank.
- Paper goods (plates, cutlery, napkins, cups)
- Special activities or games
- Invitations and advertising
- Promotional giveaways
- Extra tables, chairs
When planning your budget, it’s perfectly okay to have some do-it-yourself items to save money. But remember to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. What would they be impressed with and what would they think is “cheap”? Budget and plan accordingly.
Set the theme. If you specialize in a particular type of therapy, (pediatric, sports, geriatric, women’s health, etc.) plan an event that aligns with your core market. Brainstorm with your staff and come up with some clever ideas for a theme.
Next, set the location for the event. Most likely it will be your clinic since you’ll want to promote your business. Determine the space you’ll need and the number of people you can comfortably accommodate.
Hint: An “open-house” event style will be the most flexible.
Then, set the date and time for the event. Be sure to plan the event at a time that’s appropriate for your target audience. Avoid dates close to a holiday and during months when people might be most likely to take vacation.
And finally, create a guest list. Include patients (and their spouses and families), past patients and referral sources. Encourage them all to bring a friend or colleague (think referrals).
You may also want to consider inviting local businesses that compliment yours. This could include massage therapists, fitness and athletic trainers, nutritionists, acupuncturists and Pilates instructors. If you want to get into high school or college sports teams, invite sports department faculty. If you want to work with more geriatric patients, invite retirement community representatives. Be open-minded and think of all of the potential referral sources for your clinic.
HOW TO ADVERTISE YOUR PATIENT APPRECIATION EVENT
Here are some suggestions:
- Invitations to your patients and past patients
- In your local community newspaper
- On social media (such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)
- On your website
- In your newsletter
- Emails (if you have permission to send emails to patients)
- Press release
- Personal phone calls
- Community events calendars
IDEAS FROM OTHER PHYSICAL THERAPISTS
Here are some event ideas from physical therapy clinics who have hosted a patient appreciation. You can adopt some of these ideas for your own event.
- Offer a limited number of complimentary consultations with a physical therapist
- One-on-one discussions on home exercise programs
- If you have a gym, offer complimentary use of the equipment at the event
- Invite parents to bring their children in for story hour or face painting
- Complimentary BMI readings
- Tie-in what your practice specializes in. Give free demonstrations
- Promotional product giveaways with your clinic name
- Live music
- Games with prizes for the winners
- Take pictures that can be used on social media – or hire a photographer to capture the event. Make sure you have the permission of those you photograph before you post pictures on social media, marketing collateral or website. This resource provides information on HIPAA and social media photos.
Patient appreciation events are not selling opportunities. You’re building goodwill at these events which in turn will provide you with multiple revenue opportunities down the road.
Don’t make this event about you. No long speeches or technical jargon.
Encourage your staff to interact with your guests. Listen to the questions your guests ask. Have a recap meeting after the event to gather information and suggestions.
Remember to follow up. Send a thank you email (or note) to the people that took the time to attend. Express your gratitude and appreciation. And don’t forget to keep in touch throughout the year.
Plan your next patient appreciation event and keep the momentum going.
About the Author:
Carol A. Wilcox is the staff writer and head of marketing communications at PREFERRED Therapy Providers, Inc. You can reach Carol here.
This article is brought to you by PREFERRED Therapy Providers Inc. PREFERRED is the nation’s leading payor management services network. Our expertise is working with physical, occupational and speech therapy practices – from single clinics to multiple clinic locations.