This week’s article is a guest post by Allison Gamble of

The field of Physical Therapy is overflowing with big-hearted, educated individuals who live to help their patients. There were over 185,000 Physical Therapy jobs as of a 2008 survey, which is a higher number than the amount of PTs out there. One reason for this is that many therapists must hold down more than one position to make ends meet. For those interested in Private Practice, the question always remains: “How can a person build a thriving Physical Therapy practice?” The answer to that question has many factors, and engendering word of mouth referrals is a key one. Though growing your Physician referral sources is also vital, this article is focused on Non-Physician referrals and word of mouth advertising.

Why Does Word-Of-Mouth Advertising Work Better Than Other Forms Of Advertising?

While many practitioners are tempted to purchase expensive print ads, or even radio or TV advertising, these types of advertisements do not have the same impact as word of mouth referrals. Unlike other forms of promotion, referral business has a distinct advantage: built-in credibility. People feel most comfortable spending money when they feel they have a connection to the proprietor, and thus, the basis for trust. When your patients refer their friends, family, and acquaintances to you, these prospective new clients feel those things by extension of their relationship to the referring party. Therefore, while other forms of marketing may reach more people, word-of-mouth advertising reaches fewer prospects, but yields a higher rate of success in recruiting paying customers.

How Can I Get My Patients To Refer Their Friends?

The fact is that when you do your job well, some patients may assume that you don’t need their referrals. Some may even assume that you don’t have room within your practice since you’re so good at what you do. Still others are simply not motivated to recommend you to anyone they know. In order to thwart these obstacles to creating word of mouth referrals you will need to specifically tailor your marketing approach.

Many people assume that if they are capable, courteous, and effective in the service they offer, their clients will automatically begin referring business to them. Unfortunately, things are not so easy. In order to nurture a successful referral-based business plan, one must attend to two vital requirements:

1) Community

2) Requesting What You Want

Community Building

People like to do business with people they know and trust. While you are already reaching a certain number of people directly through your work, you can maximize your opportunities for contact by participating in a community. For example, should you be an avid runner, you are meeting prospective clients every time you sign up for a 5k race. While those you meet at your next runners’ club meeting may not have need for Physical Therapy today, you can bet that, should they suddenly have a nasty case of plantar fasciitis, they’ll opt to call someone they’ve met before. Not only that, but if a friend needs help recovering from knee surgery, they’ll likely mention the “really knowledgeable Physical Therapist from my running club.” This principle of becoming part of a community can be applied whether you run, play golf, or meet with a book club once a month. Put it to use, and you will be the “go-to” figure for a whole network of people.

Ask For What You Want

A common human trait that wise Physical Therapists utilize is the desire of most patients to win their approval. In a Physical Therapy practice, this principle is used to get patients to do their daily exercises and show up for their appointments on time. So why not utilize the cooperative mindset of your patients to encourage them to promote you? In other words, you must ask your clients to send you referrals.

Some therapists fear that doing so will make them look desperate, but in fact you are conveying to your client that you enjoy having them as part of your operation and would like to have more people from their circle become part of your network. Additionally, you are empowering them to graduate from the status of patient, to that of advocate and aide to people who might need your services. If you don’t ask them to tell others about their experience with you, many will not think to do it at all. You must explain that you are always open to take on more clients and that referrals are the best ‘thank you’ that you could receive.

Successful businesses in any industry sustain their good fortune by becoming pillars of their communities. They establish themselves as both contributors and beneficiaries of their communities’ prosperity. Generating word of mouth business is easy when you adopt this mindset, establish your position as such, and ask your patients to solidify it. This type of business building strategy creates a steady flow of income that leaves you free to do what you do best – help people.

Thanks for the contribution Allison! In my cash physical therapy practice in Austin, the majority of new patients come from word of mouth referrals, so this is an extremely important topic. For more info on how I compel patients to refer their friends and family, see this post.

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