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07/1/2015

Inbound Marketing for Physical Therapists: Part 2

How is Marketing Changing?
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HOW IS MARKETING CHANGING?

When most of us think of marketing, we think of things like direct mail, television ads, print ads, billboards, telemarketing, and door-to-door salesmen. Read through that list again and take note of your visceral reactions to those items.

I bet most of them, if not all, connote something negative to you. Who wants to pick up the phone at dinner only to find a roofing salesman on the other end of the line? Who wants a pile of junk mail clogging up their mailbox? Who longs for a commercial to interrupt the season finale?

These tactics are what’s known as outbound marketing. In some circles, they’re known as “disruptive” or “interruptive” marketing, for obvious reasons: each of these methods are disruptive. You didn’t ask to be subjected to that ad or that billboard. You didn’t ask the salesman to call you right between the salad and the main course. They were forcibly put in front of you.

Now let’s spare a kind word for the purveyors of outbound marketing. Sure, there’s not much that we, the consumer, like about outbound marketing. Outside of the Super Bowl, few of us are ever enthusiastic about the commercial break. But the thing is, marketing is a necessary part of business. It connects us with the products on which we rely. Sure, it would be great to live in a Utopian society were everything succeeded or failed based on merits alone, but we don’t.

Marketing is hard. Sales is even harder. And, sure, you might have only negative thoughts about these tactics, but the truth is that, without them, you would not have the majority of commercial products and services you rely on today. Would your life be better or worse without Google? Would you be happier if you’d never tasted Coca Cola? Do you wish it was harder to find a doctor in your area?

Now that you have your own business, you can see that marketing is not only a benefit to your business, it’s a requirement. Reportedly, McDonald’s famous golden arches are more recognizable than the Christian cross, and the company’s revenues make it an economy unto itself that is larger than most countries.1 Yet, despite those facts, McDonald’s marketing is ubiquitous. Why? Because, without it, even the mightiest business would lose ground on its competitors.

So if a corporate and cultural juggernaut still leans so heavily on marketing, do you really think your new business can succeed without it? Of course not. So does that mean it’s time to buy a list and start cold-calling every number in town? Should you consider buying the marketing real estate on every bus stop bench within a 10-mile radius?

Good news: the answer is no. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Didn't he just say marketing is the lifeblood of our business, and now he’s saying it isn’t?”

Not exactly.

Yes, marketing is a vital cog in determining the life or death of your business. But, so far, we’ve only talked about one type of marketing. It just so happens that outbound marketing is the only type of marketing that most of us think about. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only route to success. This is where inbound marketing comes in.

The truth is that the latest conventional wisdom, not to mention the latest research, has some startling things to say about traditional outbound marketing: it’s just not working like it used to. Check out these numbers2:

  • 44% of direct mail is never opened (think about the amount of postage, let alone the printing and design, that gets thrown in the trash).
  • How many people still watch commercials? About 86% of us skip them.
  • 200 million Americans are on the national “Do Not Call” registry.

People don’t even have the patience to stick with a website with intrusive advertising. Attention spans have never been shorter, and the prevalence of the means to circumvent interruptive marketing—from caller ID to online ad blockers to the fast forward button on your DVR—makes it easier than ever to simply block those tactics from ever seeping through. Now, if you're an international mega-corporation, this is no big deal. Just oversaturate the marketplace with advertising and some of it will get through.

But what about you? Can you afford that? Not likely and, even if you could, is your new physical therapy practice the kind of business with the widespread appeal of a fast food chain?

This is where inbound marketing comes in. The Wikipedia definition of inbound marketing reads, in part, like this3:

"Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects' attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content. Inbound marketing methodologies are used to reach potential customers at various levels of brand awareness. These tactics require a commitment in order to steer marketing efforts into increased opportunities, as it provides the prospect to both learn about potential customers and have potential customers learn about the business."

You read that correctly: the foundational principle of inbound marketing is that customers come to you, rather than the other way around. Why do they come to you? Because you're giving them something that will attract their attention. Play your cards right, and it will attract their business as well.

What attracts attention? Content. Information. Expertise.

This is the strength of an inbound marketing strategy for a small, niche business: you don't need to be an expert in marketing or sales to succeed with inbound marketing. You have to be an expert in your field—which, presumably, you already are—and then you have to share that expertise effectively.

There are some foundational pieces that need to be in place first, and these might require some investment. An inbound marketing strategy relies first and foremost on your website as the magnet that pulls in prospective clients. The website needs to be flexible, too: you need to be able to add new content, create specific landing pages for that content, and have the mechanisms in place to capture information about those who want to read your content (more on all of that later).

Most importantly, an inbound marketing strategy is an investment in time and patience. You need to take the time to create relevant content, you need to establish a blog and commit to a regular posting schedule, and you need to reach out to other Internet-based sources that will share your content with their audiences. You also need to establish a social media presence and meticulously promote your content in those circles as well.

We'll get into the specifics of all of that later. For now, let's end this introduction with the final requirement for pulling off an inbound marketing strategy: patience. Even the most wildly successful inbound strategies take months to develop and bear fruit. You have to maintain your faith in the process, even when it seems like nothing is changing.

Think of your investment in an inbound marketing strategy like an investment in the stock market. One day after your first stock purchase, it probably won't seem like much has happened (you may have even lost ground). Check in a month later, and perhaps your investment is still spinning its wheels. But check six months down the road and you'll start to see what all of the fuss is about. Check in after a year and the "miracle of compound interest" starts to sink in. You've reinvested your dividends, and your investment is not only growing, that growth seems exponential.








1 Gus Lubin and Mamta Badkar, “15 Facts About McDonald’s That Will Blow Your Mind, “ http://www.businessinsider.com (December 17, 2010).
2 Lauren Drell, “Inbound Marketing Rising,” http://www.mashable.com, (October 30, 2011).
3 “Inbound marketing,” Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.com.

[Photo courtesy of Diego Torres Silvestre]

Inbound Marketing for Physical Therapists
Inbound Marketing for Physical Therapists
A primer on marketing techniques anyone can use to build a physical therapy practice


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