We’re not claiming to be experts on the economy here (who would these days!?), but it does seem increasingly likely that people are going to be tightening their belts somewhat over the next six months. Whether that means we’re in for a full-blown, 90’s style recession or not, only time will tell, but in the spirit of being prepared we thought we’d put together a blog on how you as a physical therapist can best protect your business should the worst occur.
From our experience working with hundreds of physical therapists over the last fifteen years, there are three main factors that make a difference when it comes to getting through the tough times:
- Building and nurturing relationships
- Assessing and adapting current products and services
- Upping and focussing marketing activities
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail:
Engaging Current Clients
Your current customers are your most valuable asset list at any time, no matter when things are a little tight. Don’t fall into the trap of putting all your energies into finding new clients, as retaining current ones is likely going to be the difference between sinking or swimming through any recession. So how can you keep them coming back?
When times are tough, everyone is looking to get that little bit more for their money, and your customers are no different. So make it easy for them to see that extra value you provide, and over-deliver wherever you can. This doesn’t necessarily have to come at a cost for you; there are some simple strategies that can help you offer something more:
- Free educational workshops are often popular – pick a topic that seems pertinent to your current client base and/or local community and you’ve every chance of filling a room.
- Devise a programme that rewards their loyalty – a clinic membership that offers 10% off treatments, or a Starbucks-style ‘loyalty card’ system with every tenth treatment free.
- Upping your email communications and sending out more non-promotional, value adding content like patient information leaflets can also be a good way to make customers recognise your expertise. These could be targeted, based on your knowledge of patient needs, or more general and based around particular events, themes or times of year.
Nurturing relationships via email in the way this last point describes has the dual benefit of keeping regular customers engaged, and reminding past customers that you are there. As we’ve said many times, your customer email list is so important, and this is never truer than during difficult periods for your business. Now is its time to shine!
Don’t have a comprehensive email list? Don’t despair! Old-fashioned snail mail still works wonders too, especially if customers are getting something for free. Try posting a newsletter that ties in with a current event like the London Marathon, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, etc. You could even add a personalised message and give them a way to sign up for digital editions in future.
Attracting New Customers
All this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t continue your efforts to win new customers as well. Here again is where your content marketing can come into play. Think of ways you can add prospective clients to your email list. Those free workshops are one great example, but you could also try dropping leaflets in more local businesses or surgeries, writing in local publications, engaging in online forums or just upping your social media presence. Anything that paints you as the physical therapist in your area with the most expertise.
Once prospects are on your email list, send them your regular ‘nurture’ emails to build trust and demonstrate authority. Don’t worry if it takes a bit longer than usual for new prospects to ‘bite’; everyone is watching their money that little bit more carefully during a recession. Keep at it, and trust the process will reap rewards.
Build Local Partnerships
Of course, there are relationships you could look to build beyond the ones you have with your customers. You won’t be the only business feeling the strain of the recission, so why not look to members of your local business community to see how you could support each other?
Forging mutually beneficial partnerships can be a great way to increase awareness of your business and bring more clients in through your doors. How this looks is up to you (and of course, the other businesses involved!). But offering a discounted physical therapy session to members of a Pilates centre; giving your clients a voucher for a cheap drink at a local smoothie bar; delivering your Lower Back Pain workshop in a favourite café – all these activities have the potential to benefit both businesses in a way that doesn’t cost either too much. Reach out to your local network and see who might be up for a collaboration.
Assessing Your Products and Services
Difficult times are often a catalyst to get on with tasks that we should have tackled a long time ago. In bumper years, it’s all too easy to keep going with products and services that aren’t really working, because there’s no immediate need to get rid of them. But during a recession, you need to be sure that all your energy is going into activities that will offer a return on investment.
So take a good long look at the last year, and conduct a thorough audit of all the various services you offer. Which ones are most profitable? Which ones aren’t working as well as you’d hoped? Now could be a good time to start doing more of what your books tell you works well. Success leaves clues, as they say.
It’s also a good time to consider if there is anything you could (or should) be offering that you currently aren’t. Talk to your customers and find out what they are looking for from their physical therapy sessions and if there’s anything more you could do.
One thing working in your favour as a physical therapist is that there will always be a genuine need for your services. Finding out where that need is strongest, and tapping in to that with what you offer can help keep you afloat while everyone is cutting down on their spending.
Time to Specialise?
In a similar vein, it might be worth considering whether ‘going niche’ could work in your favour. Do you have a particular area that you’re especially known for or passionate about? Could you become the go-to person for long-distance runners in your area, for example?
There’s obviously a fine balance with this one: go too niche and you risk losing too many clients. But keeping a range of general services available whilst being known for expertise in one particular area has a number of potential benefits during a recession. Foremost among these is that clients are less likely to be concerned about price when they know they’re going to the best around. This article explores the possible benefits of going niche in a little more detail.
Diversify Your Revenue Streams
One thing we saw many more proactive businesses doing during Covid was finding new and alternative ways to get their product to market, when traditional revenue streams dried up. For physical therapists, this often meant getting key information to clients even when they couldn’t meet face to face. Rather than offer this all for free, some PTs started subscription-based communities, in which members would have access to online workshops, resources and forums for a monthly fee.
Just because we’re ‘back to normal’, there’s no reason why this creative approach has to stop. Indeed, during a recession these little extras can make all the difference when it comes to balancing the books. The Co-Kinetic platform has all the tools you need to start a subscription-based community.
Another way to boost cash flow is through special offer discount vouchers. These can be sent out at key moments throughout they year, when you know people are likely to spend a little bit more (think Christmas, Mother’s and Father’s Days, etc.). Even though you’re selling at a discount rate, these boosts to your monthly takings can make a big difference to whether you’re in the black or the red come the end of your financial year. Again, Co-Kinetic has an easy to use, built-in voucher creation system.
As is hopefully clear from the above, a recession is not the time to cut back on your marketing: if anything you should be doing more. Go that little bit further to keep current clients engaged and to remind past customers you’re there for them. Up your visibility with events, partnerships and regular email communications.
Other ways to stay ‘top of mind’ with your customers could include maintaining a regular social media presence, writing regular blogs (ideally with SEO to help your ‘searchability’), updating your website and demonstrating your worth with testimonials from past clients.
A recession also provides a good opportunity to step back and take a critical eye to your business as a whole. What isn’t working and what could you add? Do you need to consider other revenue streams?
Recessions bring difficult challenges for many businesses, and physical therapy clinics are no different. But with a thorough strategy, a creative approach and a commitment to working hard, the worst of the storm can be weathered. You may even come out the other side with a more profitable business thanks to all the extra marketing and business planning you’ve been doing!
The Co-Kinetic platform has all the resources you need to put a full-blown, joined up content marketing strategy in place, from pre-written nurture emails to ready-to-go educational seminars and pre-built voucher and subscription tools. Find out more about how you could seriously up your marketing game for just a few hours a month, and check out our website here.
And if you’d like to delve into this topic in greater detail, we have a longer version of this blog post at this link.
About the Author
Tor Davies is a former-physio, turned publisher who founded the peer-reviewed translational journal, sportEX medicine in 1999 (which given she still thinks she’s 25, makes her a child-prodigy)! She went on to develop Co-Kinetic – an easy-to-use marketing solution for Physical Therapists which includes automated social media, a huge library of tried and tested marketing resources, email templates, nurture funnels and much, much more. Tor, by her own admission, is obsessed with efficiency, automation and creating user-friendly technology that helps business owners do more, with less. She is constantly looking for ways in which she can apply the 80:20 rule to whatever she’s doing! She loves making new connections – you can find her on Facebook and LinkedIn or if you’d like to book a chat with her to discuss your marketing you can do that here.