When my private-pay PT practice in Austin was just a couple weeks old, the few patients I was seeing each week were not enough to pay the bills. I did not take a loan nor did I have much savings to cover a long-term lack of profitability. I had to act fast to fill my schedule and I did so through a variety of marketing techniques.
I’m in full support of those who want to add non-PT services like personal training, yoga and pilates to their practice, but this was not something I wanted to do early on. So if I wasn’t going to hire these professionals as employees/contractors, I should at least get them to send me patients, right?
Getting physical therapy referrals from fitness professionals
This takes a bit more finesse than just walking into a gym or studio and saying, “Hi, I’m Jarod and I just started a PT practice in town. I spend a lot of time with every patient and get good results, so you should send me some business!” I am a big fan of both Yoga and Pilates and suggest these services to patients quite often, so I used an interesting tactic to start building relationships and referral sources within these professions.
I reached out and connected with Yoga and Pilates instructors in Austin by joining online groups/communities and email mailing lists for local instructors. Yahoo Groups and Google Groups are also a good place to look, or you can simply do regular internet searches for these types of groups/email lists in your area. Since I’m not an instructor of either of these things, I contacted the Group Owners/Moderators with a message along the lines of:
I’m a Physical Therapist in the Austin Area and I just recently started my own practice. I’m a big believer in Yoga and I recommend it to many of my patients. Though I have some instructors to whom I already refer clients, I often have patients who do not live close enough to those locations. I would like to make some connections with other instructors/studios around the city and find good resources for my patients. Could I join your group to do so or at least have you post a message that I’d like to visit some of the studios around town and see what they have to offer (so I can get an idea of who would be best for the different types of patients I have) … then they can email me directly if they’re interested in having me come by. I really appreciate your time and look forward to your response.
Though my desire to make these new connections was not solely to find studios and instructors where I can refer patients, nothing I wrote was a lie. I was carrying out a plan to create mutually beneficial relationships, but doing so in a way that minimizes the knee-jerk “we’re not interested” response that is so common in marketing.
The results for my PT clinic
I of course had a number of instructors who were very interested in meeting me. Where it seemed possible and appropriate, I would suggest that the best way for me to get an idea of their services and approach to Yoga/Pilates was to go through a private or group session with them. In return for their time, I could of course give them a treatment. In these sessions, I would get a good idea of how safe and skilled they really are as instructors, and if I felt okay about sending them my patients. And of course, they would get a very good idea of what I’m capable of with Manual Therapy and how different my practice is from the standard PT clinic.
In the end, I found some fantastic Yoga and Pilates instructors where I could refer patients, and I ended up with some good referral sources as well. Win-Win!
Other networking sources
If there aren’t any of these online groups or email lists in your city, you can always search for meetup.com gatherings or business networking groups for these professions. Attend a meeting and let them know what you’re looking for. You’ll quickly gather plenty of new connections and potential referral sources.
The above marketing tactic is obviously applicable to more than just Yoga and Pilates instructors. What other professionals and referral sources do you think you could market to in this way?