We consider as a Special Program anything that falls in some way outside the usual offerings in Outpatient Physical Therapy. Special Programs can be cash-based, 3rd party paid or a hybrid model. They can consist of usual PT services marketed to a special population or they can be entirely non-PT services.
I think almost every outpatient PT has at one time had a great idea for a Special Program. Unfortunately most Special Programs don’t reach their potential. Many never see the light of day because their development is so time consuming. Most that are launched are abandoned too soon. Those that do remain on the clinic website often don’t get the traction they deserve, are largely forgotten by the team and their impact ends.
Here are the main reasons that Special Programs fail:
- The Target Client is not defined.
You can have the coolest program, but if you haven’t identified the specific type of client that can benefit from it, you will have a difficult time focusing your marketing.
- Market Research is not performed.
Once you have defined your Target Client, you should make sure this program is something they want AND that it is superior in some way to what is already available. This involved asking in-depth questions to the type of patients that you are targeting. It may also be beneficial to interview referral sources to gain their insights and buy-in.
- The Special Program is not validated.
The Validation process can involve marketing it to a small group and seeing how much interest is garnered. It can also allow you to make small tweaks to your program that will help it to be more effective and serve their needs better. You want to know that people will actually sign up for your program and that it will be effective for them.
- The Marketing Strategy is not effective.
In order to successfully bring a new Program to market, you will have to invest time, money and effort to get the word out to your target market. Your marketing message and content will need to resonate with the individual and convince them to take some action. A lot of things have to go right for that to happen. Ads need to convey that you care, that the consumer can trust you and that this will be an effective solution for them. In addition, your ads need to be creative and capture their attention in an extremely saturated marketing space.
Usually when marketing a Special Program, traditional marketing and online measures are not sufficient. You will probably want to connect personally with the target market. Find out where they meet and what they do in the community so that you can establish trust and expertise.
Word of mouth advertising is extremely effective with Special Programs, so take the time to become part of their community and share your passion.
- The Marketing is not sustained and varied.
Your new client will have to see your Special Program ad / content numerous times before they decide to take the next step. Many marketing experts find that someone needs to see an ad 7 – 8 times before they take action.
Most PTs give up on their marketing too early. Someone may have noticed the Special Program advertised 6 times and then the PT gave up on the whole thing. If they had just persevered for another month, they may have had enough responses to keep the motivation to continue to push that program.
But persevering with the same ads are often not enough. Many consumers need to see variety, creativity and experience a personal connection in order to take notice.
- Lack of Focus
Because we as PTs are all busy, and because the 5 elements above are very demanding, it is important to allow enough resources and focus for their success. One of the great things about Outpatient PT is that we can treat so many things effectively. But if we don’t stay focused on the one thing that we are trying to grow, our efforts will probably be too scattered.
Special Programs are important for our clinics to thrive but they are also important for the patients we serve. When I think of the impact that some of our programs have had in our communities, I know that these programs can be life changing for those that we are targeting. Take the time to do it right, and then watch the impact that you make in your community.