A courageous PT who just opened a his own Fee-for-Service Physical Therapy Practice recently asked me: “What source of marketing do you find brings in the most local new clients for you other than word of mouth (ie adwords, facebook, local news, etc.)?”

I’d like to say up front that my answer is simply based on my own experience with my cash physical therapy practice in Austin, and what works in other cities or types of practices may vary greatly.

Which marketing efforts are working?

Aside from word of mouth, my biggest sources of new patients are:

  1. Personal Trainer referrals
  2. People I met via networking efforts
  3. Internet (Google search, Review Sites like Yelp.com and Google Places, and Facebook).

Personal Trainer referrals

See this blog and video series at my clinical website to get an idea of how I market to personal trainers.


See this 2-part series on networking for ideas of how to be successful in this arena.


As for review sites, I have developed a love-hate relationship with Yelp.com due to its “Filtering Mechanism.” At the time of this writing, I have 18 reviews but only 2 of them are showing! I’ve contacted Yelp a few times about the issue but they always reply with a generic, unhelpful response. Back when over 50% of my reviews were showing, I was getting at least 1-2 new patients a month from Yelp.com. The pay-per-click ads they offer are quite expensive, so I haven’t tried them yet… but I may experiment with them in the future.

Google Places is certainly growing in popularity, and due to the issues with Yelp mentioned above, I am starting to encourage patients to post reviews there (or in both places, if they’re willing). The problem is that so many people go directly to Yelp when they are looking for a local service (rather than doing a Google search first), so I don’t want to steer people away from using it either.

As most of you know from my other posts, I actively use Facebook as a way to keep myself fresh in people’s minds and I have streamlined the process such that it takes very little of my time to consistently utilize it. For details on how, see: Hootsuite and Google Alerts posts. My Facebook page also performs pretty well in the search engines for certain keywords and phrases. For those reasons, it is worth my time to maintain the use of Facebook but I must admit it does not create loads of patients by any means

The question above also mentions “Adwords.” I have not used Google Adwords yet (pay-per-click advertisements), but I plan to soon. I will create blog posts and website pages with video that will act as landing pages for the Pay-Per-Click Ads. I’ll then target people in the central Texas area searching for information on specific types of injuries/pain. As I go through this process, I’ll be recording the whole thing with screen-capture video and teach the step-by-step process to anyone who is interested, so keep an eye out for that in the future.

Media exposure

If you can get on the local news, do it! I haven’t tried to figure that one out yet, but I expect I will at some point. What I have done is submit articles to local relevant publications. This has been a nice form of free marketing, though I must admit again that it hasn’t produced a ton of patients. The reason I say it is “nice” is that all it took me was a little time, and it has produced a few patients … so far. Even if you don’t immediately see new patients after such articles are published, you are still building your brand awareness, which can pay off far into the future.

So far, I’ve only paid for an advertisement once since starting my practice … it was a quarter page ad in an Austin fitness magazine and it was very well priced ($300). It produced one patient so far, who ended up seeing me ten times and spending $1,200.  So the ad obviously paid for itself many times over, and that patient may send referrals in the future or come back with new injuries himself. However, if the ad did not create that one patient, it would have been a bust.

I’m certainly still in the process of figuring out the answer to this question, and seeing what types of marketing/advertising deserve my time and money. One thing I have seen time and again is that creating personal relationships by getting out in the community and networking has been far more productive than things like advertisements, articles, and Facebook that reach many but really touch few.

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