There are a lot of people who want your money
There are a lot of marketers on the Internet who want to take your money. They promise you how to effortlessly get a steady stream of patients–in exchange for your hard earned cash. Their pitch goes something like this…
How Bob Got 22 New Patients In One Hour
By Doing Just “One Thing” Really Well
It sounds too good to be true (probably is) but the headline still grabs you. You’re vulnerable, you’ve tried marketing but have nagging doubts you’re doing it right. You’re passionate and good at what you do but this marketing thing is frustrating.
You say to yourself, “It can’t be that hard, I’m intelligent, after all, I made it through graduate school, didn’t I?” Somehow if people knew you and understood how you could help them, your schedule would be packed.
None-the-less, new referrals trickle in and you still have open slots in your schedule. Growing your practice sure seems a lot harder than it should be and it takes forever to see any results.
In a weak moment, when patient visits are down you buy the guru’s book or sign up for a training program. You might even fly to a conference in another city. You jump head first into the hottest marketing program, put in the work and see some initial progress.
But then you hit the wall.
You find things not adding up like you had hoped. The marketing tactics don’t feel right. They feel way too pushy and unprofessional. They take too much time away from patient care and your personal life. Trust me I’ve been down that road a couple of times.
Those of us who have lived most of our careers in the healthcare ecosystem have a limited perspective on attracting people who need our services. We have lived so long under the physician referral system it’s hard to see getting patients any other way.
What we need is a fresh perspective on attracting and keeping new patients. Let’s take a new look on how to attract, connect and delight new patients through a process called lifecycle marketing.
What is lifecycle marketing?
Lifecycle marketing refers to a communication program that is firmly anchored to your clients’ needs, wants and dreams. It’s about sending the right message to the right person at the right time. Communicating to specific people based on where they are in a normal patient lifespan will transform your client communications into meaningful and engaging conversations. Click here to get lifecycle marketing planner
Lifecycle marketing is an approach to client communication that recognizes the different stages in the journey to becoming an engaged, and lifelong client.
There is a lot written in books and on the Internet about marketing and selling. Many of the therapy marketing gurus have borrowed sales tactics from the likes of Dan Kennedy, Michael Hyatt, and Tim Ferris who claims you can get it all done in a 4-Hour Work Week. Most of it is good and useful and can be applied to physical therapy.
Unfortunately, a lot of it is too complicated and time-consuming to do it well. There are charismatic therapists that naturally gravitate towards selling and there are people who absolutely hate selling. Most therapists are the latter.
Fortunately, by nature and training therapists are good listeners. More than likely you are a great listener. Lifecycle marketing takes full advantage of your ability to have intentional conversations with your clients.
Lifecycle marketing through meaningful conversations
I’d like you to think of marketing your practice as having purposeful conversations with people. Instead of broadcasting how great we are, let’s try two-way conversations where we get to know and trust each other. During these conversations is where we find out if we are a good fit for each other and if you want to do business together.
Lifecycle Marketing is the conversation with your clients – from their first point of contact all the way through their lifespan as a paying customer.
The challenge is that people aren’t the same so the conversations are different depending on where they are at the client lifecycle. People come to us with different needs, wants and expectations. Some people are ready to make an appointment. Others really don’t know what they want and are browsing around.
There are different types of patients as well, and I don’t mean diagnoses. You have active patients and passive patients, previous patients, and brand new ones. Lifecycle marketing is your framework to send the right message to the right person at the right time.There are different types of patients as well, and I don’t mean diagnoses. You have active patients and passive patients, previous patients, and brand new ones.
Lifecycle marketing is your best opportunity to understand your clients’ perspective and send the most effective communication. Whereas with traditional referrals you’ve probably never have gotten to know the person until they walk into your clinic.
Tradition referral worldview
Here’s a diagram of the traditional referral worldview that therapists have depended on for decades. Typically conversations or patient relationships don’t begin until there is a referral. If the patient acts on the referral, finds you, trusts you enough to make an appointment, the relationship begins at the initial evaluation.
Then patient relationship often starts with an intensive, often-sensitive, interchange between strangers. Wouldn’t it be better if we got to know each other before hand?
Once we’ve built trust and communication to a high level more than not the relationship abruptly stops at discharge. Patients never hear from us again and we’re off to the next referral. Usually, there is minimal contact and conversations before and after treatment.
The lifecycle marketing framework acknowledges that this is not how people normally relate with one another. It emphasizes strengthening the client relationship as people move through a predictable client lifespan.
Lifecycle referral worldview
The lifecycle referral worldview encourages two-way conversation between clients and your practice. Relationships begin long before the first visit and continue long after the last visit. The client communication system promotes personable, consistent and professional interchanges.
A lifecycle worldview looks at referrals through a different set of lenses. It begins with attracting and facilitating conversations with potential patients who are a good fit for your practice. You intentionally engage with clients from the first point of contact all the way through their plan of care. Then you maintain healthy relationships through follow-up communications, mostly by email.
The beauty of lifecycle marketing is, regardless of practice size, you can improve your communication without getting too complicated or taking time away from patient care. A client may begin their journey as a website browser but by addressing their questions and concerns they become patient prospects.
Prospects may eventually become patients when the time is right. Your outstanding onboarding process creates positive first impressions that are reinforced through remarkable patient experiences. Some patients will be so transformed by the experience they will return for more and become enthusiastic promoters of your practice. Click here to get lifecycle marketing planner
3 Stages of lifecycle marketing- Attract– Connect– Delight
There are three main stages to lifecycle marketing. You can categorize the majority of your clients into one of these stages. Doing so enables you to help clients take the next step in the journey to becoming lifelong clients.
Attract is the first phase of the lifecycle. Here you focus on attracting interest and building trust with potential patients. People are constantly bombarded with commercial messages. We have learned to tune out most of them. Clearly communicating your value to people who are a good fit is the key to being seen and heard. Being able to describe your ideal patient is very important to learn where they hang out and what messages will hold their attention.
Connect is the second phase in lifecycle marketing. Here you begin to have two-way conversations with people to learn about them and educate them on your services. There are key touch points when you have the opportunity to create positive first impressions.
Call to actions and offering something of value, like patient guides or a free phone call in exchange for their contact information is one way of turning browsers into prospects. Deeper connections lead to fewer no-shows and higher patient satisfaction.
Delight is the third phase in the lifecycle marketing framework. This phase is when you create remarkable patient experiences that cause your patients to return for more and talk about you. You ensure that your patients are enjoying your service through surveys, emails, phone calls etc. If a patient isn’t delighted with their care, you reach out to make the experience better.
Relationships don’t end at the completion of the plan of care. You will keep in touch via email with tips and resources related to their experience. By listening to your clients you’ll better understand their needs and be able to offer additional services and products to enhance their wellness.
Lifecycle marketing- People are not all the same
We’ve all lived through quite a lot of changes in healthcare in the last few years. Patient-provider communication has been a part of that change. Consumers want more access, transparency, and personalization from their healthcare providers.
We can communicate with our clients through a variety of channels like email, phone calls, face to face etc. But when you’re communicating with a lot of people you’ll want to create a scalable system that is sustainable and affordable.
Lifecycle marketing recognizes that all people are not the same. People whom we’re trying to connect with are not all at the same stage in the patient lifecycle. Therefore, segmenting clients into groups guides your communication so it’s relevant to the people you want to reach. Carefully crafted messages to help clients take the next step in the patient journey to becoming highly satisfied, lifelong clients.
When talking about patient communication therapists often confuse business or client communication with medical health records. The type of messaging we are referring to is not a part of the medical record. It pertains to the information related to the business relationships you have with your clients, not their health record.
For this type of communication, email is still one of the most effective ways to nurture business relationships with your clients. Click here to get free email marketing guide
Lifecycle marketing- The importance of email
Most therapists have not adapted well to how patients now make decisions about health care providers and connect with them. Patients now have unlimited access to health related information at their fingertips. 81% of smartphone users say they use their phone primarily for reading emails.
Scheduling appointments and getting reminders via text or email is how today’s consumers manage their lives. Adopting a mobile-driven email communication strategy is one of the most effective ways to stay in touch with patients and ahead of your competition.
Email is a versatile communication tool for staying in touch with clients and doesn’t contain HIPPA protected patient information. One email can be sent to many recipients, making email a very cost effective way to stay top of mind with previous patients. Email can be used to provide light touch patient support and make offers for other services and products.
Lifecycle Marketing Worldview
We’ve come full circle of trying to look at referrals from a new perspective or worldview. Instead of seeing patient referrals as a linear process from new referral, initial evaluation to discharge, patients are viewed in more of a circular pattern or lifecycle.
Outreach conversations in person and online to help browsers to know and like you. Two-way conversations with prospects that help determine if you’re a good fit for each other. Building trust is a key component is helping a prospect decide to become a patient at your clinic. A well-designed onboarding process starts the provider-patient relationship in a positive direction.
Remarkable patient experiences continue to build emotional connections to you and your practice. Ongoing conversations through automated, mobile-friendly email to encourage reactivation and word of mouth referrals to bring in new prospects to your practice.
Instead of focusing your efforts in marketing AT people, lifecycle marketing allows you to market WITH people who are your biggest fans.
How to get started with lifecycle marketing
No amount of wishful thinking or information can take you beyond the current reality of your practice. Start where you are at, not where you hope to be. Be honest with yourself. Identify the next step you can reasonably take while still seeing patients and managing your practice.
There are three main stages of building a practice:
Some of you are in the pre-launch phase where your practice or new service is mostly an idea or dream. You might be working at another therapy job while you’re trying to get ready to launch your own practice. You might be wanting to add a cash service to diversify your income. Most people don’t know you exist or have a clue that you’re starting something new. You haven’t seen your first paid client or you’ve maybe seen a few but not enough to quit your full time/part time job.
The lifecycle marketing framework can help you identify the people who are a good fit for your new practice or service. You are in the attraction stage. This phase is like you’re in a dating relationship. By interacting with people, you begin to figure out who you are and learn more about the type of person you want to get into a serious relationship. You’ll learn where they like to hang out, what they are like and what type of communication works best.
Similiar to dating, you learn a lot about who you are and about the type of person you want to get into a serious relationship.
You’ll learn where they like to hang out, what they are like and what type of communication best resonates with them. On the ‘dates’ that seem to be a good match you want an unobtrusive way to get their contact information. Two-way conversations in business will help you learn what people need and how to provide it in such a way they will pay you for it.
In the early stage of practice growth, to attract and keep your ideal clients, you need to be clear on the following questions.
Who are my ideal patients?
How will I make their lives better?
What will you do to make their lives better?
Where do they hang out?
How will I get their contact information?
At the attraction stage, you’re trying to get the interest of browsers, learn more about them in order to turn them into prospective patients. To help browsers find and learn more about what you do, an online presence is a must. If you don’t have a website, create a LinkedIn profile where prospects can learn more about you and what you do.
Browsers will be able to find out who you are and what you do via a simple Google search. Squarespace cover pages have the ability to create simple landing pages for less than $10/month. This is a very convenient and affordable option to make your brand or new service public to get some interaction with prospects.
If you want to create a professional brand website, BuildPT.com is an affordable option for therapists just starting out.
If you are trying to get a new practice or service off the ground you’ll want to make a good impression from day one. The best way to do this is to create a flowchart of a remarkable client journey. Start from the very first step someone comes to your website to the first and last treatment to when they are receiving follow-up emails from you. A remarkable patient experience involves much more than excellent therapy. It takes into account effortless scheduling, minimal paperwork, consistent communication and frictionless payment processing.
In this phase of practice growth, you’ll want to optimize your resources by automating as much of the patient intake process as you can. It reduces overhead and allows you to spend your limited time with clients that will become your ideal patients and promoters. Using a client relationship management (CRM) system will help categorize clients based upon their actions and responses.
Keeping track of where clients are located in the patient lifespan will help ensure you’re sending the right message to the right person. Plus you’ll be able to identify which people are most likely to use your services again or refer friends and family.
Here’s a couple of key questions in this stage you should have answers for:
What are prospects concerns and questions before they commit to becoming a patient?
How and where might I address those concerns and questions? (FAQ web page, email series, patient guides, videos)
What does my patient’s journey look like?
How will know when an ideal patient is ready to make the first appointment?
What are the most common obstacles to becoming a patient?
How might you address those obstacles?
Take out a sheet of paper or use a storyboard app to diagram what your patient journey looks like. How are people getting from point A, “I have a pain and I’m looking for a solution” to point B, “That experience was remarkable, I need to tell my friends.” At each step brainstorm ideas on how you can make it remarkable. Pick one or two steps and develop a plan to wow your patients.
To optimize your onboarding process for new patients, IntakeQ.com or is a simple and effective software program. IntakeQ provides online scheduling, online forms, appointment reminders to decrease cancellations and no shows. It includes a way to collect payments and a simple email system to communicate with individuals.
If you owned your practice for a few years you might be interested in adding staff or improving your patient mix. Or you might be starting a second half career where you want to focus on a particular specialty or patient type. The challenge in this phase is to get distracted and spread too thin. The temptation is to focus on getting new referrals and more patient visits to generate more revenue.
This can lead to patient churn and a leaky bucket scenarios. Patient churn is when a patient ceases to have a relationship with your clinic. You might have an abundance of new referrals but a lot of them are exiting through the back door never to be heard from again.
The challenge of a growing practice is to get distracted and spread too thin. The temptation is to focus on getting new referrals and more patient visits to generate more revenue. This can lead to patient churn. Patient churn is when a patient ceases to have a relationship with your clinic. You might have an abundance of new referrals but a lot of them are exiting through the back door never to be heard from again.
Patients may drop out of therapy prematurely or be a no show for their next appointment. High cancellation and no-show rates are a symptom of leaky systems. Subtly the marketing focus shifts away from delivering remarkable care to keep filling the bucket with more and more referrals.
For those of you who already have your own practice, examine your onboarding process or your system for keeping in touch with previous patients. It’s important to choose a step you can easily implement and get feedback on. Avoid complexity for right now. Remember this course is a fantastic place to experiment with the support of like-minded entrepreneurs who are more than willing to help you. Tell us your what stage you’ve chosen to work on and what action step you’re going to take in the comment section of this lesson. Now go do your homework.
It’s important to choose a step you can easily implement and get feedback on. Avoid complexity for right now. Remember this course is a fantastic place to experiment with the support of like-minded entrepreneurs who are more than willing to help you. Tell us your what stage you’ve chosen to work on and what action step you’re going to take in the comment section of this lesson. Now go do your homework.
Don’t be one of “those guys”
Every therapist is a marketer. But most of us don’t like to admit it.
Daily we try to influence or “sell” to our patients. To buy into their plan of care, do their home program or pay for treatment. Somehow that’s different and it should be. It comes from a heart to serve.
Selfish marketers are pretty sleazy. They employ mind tricks to grab our attention, they use fear and greed to get us to buy something we don’t want or really need. No wonder we don’t want to be like them.
That’s not you, of course.
You’re trying to grow your practice so you can help more people and make a decent living. You want to make a difference in your community. It’s tempting to put your nose to the grindstone and hope for the best. Sometimes it’s easier just to sit back and let someone else do it.
But that’s not you either.
Today’s marketer must have empathy, humility, and generosity. Most therapists I know have an abundance of each. The lifecycle marketing framework can show you how to attract, connect and delight with people who are a good fit for your practice. It’s definitely a marketing framework worth exploring.
To get started download Infusionsoft’s Lifecycle Marketing Planner to help you grow your practice and feel good about it.