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Physical Therapy Clinic Marketing 101

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

EuMotus co-founder and Harvard Business School graduate Boris examines physical therapy clinic marketing through a business lens.

In our last blog post we established the significance of direct access to physical therapy in the US, the current state of physician referrals, and also examined potential differences between direct access patients and physician referred patients.

Physical therapy referrals from physicians.
Only 1 out of 10 patients who visit a physician who could use PT receive a referral [1].

So now that we have introduced context surrounding the importance of direct access, let’s start by thinking about how we can make it easy for prospective patients to find your clinic, as a prospective customer may find any other product or service!

Marketing Basics

Before we jump into details and concrete steps you can take to market your physical therapy business, let’s introduce a marketing framework that will help the clinic owner and marketing manager as they consider marketing decisions. A recommended and concise reading on the subject is Harvard Business School’s Note on Marketing Strategy. This note introduces marketing strategy as selecting a target market and customer, and devising and executing a marketing approach to reach said customer.

There are two sets of practical groups of questions, known as “the 5 C’s”, and “the 4 P’s” that will help establish describe our businesses marketing approach. Keep this in mind as you evaluate marketing decisions from individual to group actions.

The 5 C’s are:

Customer: Who is the customer and what are their needs? (e.g. the orthopedic patient, the post-op total joint replacement patient, the geriatric patient etc..).

physical therapy patient or customer
Physical Therapy Patient or Customer? [6]

Company: What are are capabilities & skills that can help meet the customer’s needs? (e.g. we are experts at women’s health, and sports physical therapy etc.).

Competition: Who/what else are we competing with to meet our customer’s needs? (e.g. doing nothing, going to a primary care doctor for prescription medication, chiropractor’s clinic etc.).

Collaborators: Who else can we work or partner with to help our customers with their problem(s) and how can we enlist their help? (e.g. the local sports team coaches and athletic trainers, physicians / family doctors, patient family members etc.).

Climate/Context: What are other pertinent factors that affect who we can help and if they can seek help from our clinic? (e.g. state direct access regulation & limitations, complexity of payment/insurance schema, technology as a tool to increase patient reach etc.).

Download Your Free Physical Therapy Marketing 101 Ebook Below!

Next, McCarthy’s 4 P’s framework, tailored to consumer facing products, adds to our decision-making marketing toolkit.

Product: What are we selling? A product? A service? (e.g. preventative injury screen and analysis, post-op rehabilitation package etc.).

Price: What is the price the customer has to pay to receive this service? In terms of dollars? In terms of their time, and changes to their lifestyle?

Place: How does the customer get access to this product or service? How convenient is it for the customer to access? (e.g. do they have to go the clinic? Do you travel to the patient? Can they use other means of receiving this service (e.g. through technology)?)

Promotion: How are you reaching your customer? What channels are you using to communicate with your customer about your business services and products? (e.g. online search engine, advertisement online, direct mail, radio, TV, local events etc.).

Now that we've established a marketing framework, let's dig into concrete actions a modern physical therapy clinic seeking to take advantage of direct access would take.

Marketing your Physical Therapy Clinic: Website

A strong online presence starts with a professional looking website. Why?

Healthcare research indicates that for the modern US adult, information gathering building up to making decisions, are increasingly made online. About six out of every ten US adults [2], and about eight of ten internet users go online for health information [3]. 82% of survey US adult respondents admit to using online provider reviewers to evaluate their providers [4].

online reviews physical therapy clinics
6 in 10 adults go online for healthcare provider information and reviews. This includes your physical therapy clinic.

Download Your Free Physical Therapy Marketing 101 Ebook Below!

Barriers to professional looking websites have drastically fallen in recent years. From hiring web design freelancers or businesses catering to physical therapy clinics, to doing it yourself using a drag-and-drop (no coding required) visual interface in services like Wix and Squarespace, there is no reason to not have a presence online. Rather, not having an online storefront will cost you business!

Here is an example of a modern, clean design of a US cash-based physical therapy clinic.

You can use tools such as Google Analytics to determine which web pages carry the most interest from prospective customers, and which keywords get you found on search engines.

So having a clean, and professional looking website is a must for promoting your company and displaying your expertise.


Next, make it clear that you are an expert by showcasing your services. By reviewing who your direct access customers are, and what services they seek, you can tailor specific services, which are sought out by direct access patients. These PT services could be, but are not necessarily the same services sought out by physician referred patients. For direct access PT patients, this could be preventative movement screens (did we mention we make a motion analysis product that helps attract new customers), which physician referred patients are unlikely to seek. Yet it could be help with lingering issues, similar to a physician referred patient. Understanding your clinic’s patient mix, and needs, are critical to offering tailored services to each group.

The Physical Therapist Patient Chasm

More recent physical therapy grads have been through 5-8 years of schooling in subjects ranging from biomechanics, kinesiology, physiology etc. and have had tutelage and experience in treating patients of all demographics and conditions. As a patient looking for an expert clinician, this is a great background and training in healthcare! Some patients will do their homework and determine if they need a GCS, OCS, SCS, or other PT expert ahead of time. However, as a healthcare professional, there is a fine line [5] to balance with the non-expert language most patients would understand. As you create your website and related communications content, always ask yourself if the content is tailored to your target patient(s), and is communicated in an easy-to-understand way (e.g. cervicogenic dizziness, or dizziness caused by the neck etc). A key question to also keep in mind is how clear and/or in-depth does your clinic communicate its' pricing policy, and explain whether you are a in our out-of-network PT clinic and what that means.

While you are building up your website, and your services, and expertise offered, understand what direct access patients are searching for, and tailor your website accordingly. Improving your rankings in search engines in parts involves a combination of the right keywords and titles, e.g. shoulder physical therapy in city X, producing useful high quality content that will draw patients to your site, and getting referenced to by credible websites - e.g. the local newspaper, athletic center, or college etc. You want to rank high, ideally near the top of the first page when a prospective patient in your area searches for e.g. “physical therapy near me”, “lower back pain”, “knee pain” etc..

Patient Testimonials

While some prospective customers may recognize your clinic, others may just be discovering your clinic for the first time. Now that you have added your credentials and services on your website, the prospective customer understands that you are a professional physical therapist. Next, patient testimonials serve as a great next step for increasing the trustworthiness of your business. While testimonials can be full-feature experiences, starting with adding simple text patient quotes is a great way to increase credibility. Striving for patient satisfaction, and asking for testimonials from each and every patient can be a powerful tool to showcase your clinic’s work!

Physical Therapy Clinic Aggregators

Ensuring an up-to-date profile on physical therapy clinic listing services such as My Rehab Expert, Zocdoc, Expertise, Opencare, Google, generalists in APTA, or specialists (e.g. orthopaedic, pediatric, women’s health etc.) in ABPTS is important to keep your physical therapy clinic, and expert clinicians on the map!

Content: Blog/Vlog

A health, physical therapy, and wellness blog on your website gives you a platform to position yourself as an expert and showcase your knowledge and skills to prospective customers with issues that physical therapy can help address. By writing high-quality content that is useful to and valued by readers, you will work towards increasing your website’s credibility, thus moving up the search engine’s rankings. Physical therapy provides multiple opportunities to market via engaging and practical video content - e.g. stretch, strength videos etc (here is a link to one of our favorite video collections). With each piece of content, it is important to have at least one clear, call-to-action to help make it easy for patients to book an appointment with your clinicians. Modern video hosting services such as Wistia allow you to provide valuable content in exchange for a lead in contact information.

Generally, public awareness of problems physical therapy helps solve through the services offered is low, but growing - recent campaigns prove that taking concrete actionable steps in improving your clinic’s presence can increase awareness for PT services. With more consumers heading first online on their healthcare decision-making journey, it helps to have a credible web presence. An annual PT check-up is a great way to get patients thinking about PT first when it comes to movement.

Physical Therapy Marketing: Social Media

Social media can be a good way to increase your presence in your community. Platforms such as Facebook, or Instagram can be used to reach customers directly. Some successful physical therapy clinics make use of the visually centric Instagram platform, which allows physical therapists to show off their technique, and studio, and occasionally put the spotlight on patient success stories (with permission, of course!). A quick search for #physicaltherapy on Instagram showcases recent posts.

A combination of entertainment and education is a great starting point for a physical therapy social media strategy. PTs are uniquely qualified to share their human movement knowledge with patients.

Instagram is one of the more, if not the most visual social media product. One interesting statistic is that about 90% of Instagram users are under 35 years old (2015). Instagram generated interest in your business does not end in a like. To move new fans in the direction of becoming customers for your business, create call-to-actions to get their contact information.

Understanding your patient/customer profiles, and social media product demographics should inform your social media strategy.

Download Your Free Physical Therapy Marketing 101 Ebook Below!

Physical Therapy Marketing: Local Health, Community, and Sporting Events

Making inroads with the local community at health or sporting events can be used to grow your clinic’s brand and presence, and generate demand. Some EuMotus customers host free functional strength workshops, and conduct mini-assessments on site using our portable motion analysis system at local fitness and community centers. By meeting community members, you are increasing awareness for direct access by default, and you can stimulate demand for prospective patients in case of injury, and even better - for prophylactic, and preventative check-ups!

Online ads

Online ads (cost per click/CPC) can be used to send customers your way if they are searching for PT services. A quick google search of “physical therapy NYC” resulted in 3 ads on the front page, two of which are displayed below and redacted to remove company’s identities. Since competitors can also bid for keywords of interest (e.g. “physical therapy in New York”, “low back pain doctor” etc.), these efforts can become pricey. While each click is not a guaranteed customer, CPC can be a worthwhile experiment for your business.

Physical therapy near me.
Physical therapy near me CPC results in Google (NYC area).

Physician-referred patients

Physician-referred patients may be the majority of some clinics patient intake, while a supplement to others. Building and maintaining relationships with physician’s offices is a critical part of patient flow. Charting a systematic process of building relationships with local physicians is key to attracting physician-referred patients.

Converting physician-referred patients to direct access patients & word-of-mouth

So now that we each state has some form of direct access, be sure to find the right time to tell your physician referred patients that they do not need a referral to see you. Of course they will love to come back directly for your PT services, without needing the hassle of going to another doctor for a piece of paper referral. If they loved your services, they would even suggest direct access to friends & family.

Direct access as another path to referrals

For clinics that have established themselves as direct access destinations, the door opens for referrals to other medical providers (for example, primary care doctors). With referrals flowing from your clinic to other health clinics, this is an excellent way to build relationships and a two-way channel for patient referrals.

Where else can PT clinics get ideas about how to market to prospective patients?

Let’s face it: chiropractic businesses know how to market to prospective customers. So why not take a look at chiropractic clinics are doing to make themselves found by prospective clients! An easy start would be to search for ‘chiropractic clinics near me’ in your search engine, and dig into their online presence. New patient specials - free consultation, or perhaps even services (e.g. imaging), may be a strategy to test out for new customer generation.

Download Your Free Physical Therapy Marketing 101 Ebook Below!

Have any tips for direct access to a physical therapy clinic? We’d love to hear them! Send us a note at hello/at/!


[1] Zheng P, Kao MC, Karayannis NV, Smuck M. Stagnant Physical Therapy Referral

Rates Alongside Rising Opioid Prescription Rates in Patients With Low Back Pain

in the United States 1997-2010. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2017 May 1;42(9):670-674.

[2] Pew Research Center.

[3] Pew Research Center.

[4] Patient engagement HIT. How do patients use online provider reviews for care decisions? Accessed September 2018.

[5] Suzie Mudge, Caroline Stretton & Nicola Kayes (2014) Are physiotherapists comfortable with person-centred practice? An autoethnographic insight, Disability and Rehabilitation, 36:6, 457-463.

[6] Coffebeanworks via pixabay. Accessed September 2018.

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