FarmerSome of the best and simplest physical therapy marketing advice I’ve ever heard comes from my partner Trent. Trent grew up on a farm, and he has a way of using a “marketing is like farming” analogy to help clients grasp some of the most important keys to getting results and experiencing the thrill of a cash “harvest.”

I didn’t appreciate the power of Trent’s perspective until I found myself reaching for some of his farming analogies myself. Here are a couple I find most helpful:

  1. Know when to plant, and when to harvest.
    A farmer doesn’t put seed down before the soil is properly prepared or too late in the growing season. Everyone knows (farmer or not) that would be a waste of time and money. And once the seed is sewn, it makes no sense to expect a harvest without a complete growing season tending the fields, irrigating, fertilizing, and applying weed and pest control. Marketing is no different. You can’t expect results without the proper preparation and the patience to tend the fields through harvest time. This may seem obvious, but for some reason it can be a tough concept to grasp in a marketing context.
    For example, we were retained to help market outpatient services by a 300 bed rehabilitation center with an inpatient PT department.  The building entrance felt like you were walking into a geriatric hospital – not an appealing experience for most outpatients, young or old. When we suggested they create a separate entrance and treatment area for outpatients,  they liked the idea, so we created a new branding concept along with all the art needed to plan the change (some pictured below). But before implementing the plan, they wanted to see progress with acquiring new outpatients first. The owners were in the commercial construction business. The building had a great location, plenty of extra space, and even another entrance at the end of the building near the physical therapy department. An ideal “farming” opportunity, but the owners expected the fruits before even planting the seeds, never mind seeing it through to harvest time. Like farming, marketing doesn’t work very well if you skip field preparation and think a harvest is even possible. This mindset is not unusual, but when you think of it in farming terms, it’s easier to grasp the importance of the idea, don’t you think?

    If it’s bad for farming, it’s probably bad for marketing.
    Queens_building_side_entranceClick to enlarge. Concept includes pillar signage, awning and building wrap, sidewalk graphics. 
  2. Plant and grow one crop well before planting another.
    If you never farmed before, chances are you’ll naturally pick a place to start, like corn. To get started, you prepare the soil, seed your corn, and it starts to come up. Then you hear on the “Today In Farming” radio show about the boom in wheat. You daydream about how nice and easy that sounds compared to corn, but you don’t go out and plow down your cornfield to seed wheat. You need to let the corn mature and harvest it first. Only then should you prepare your field to seed wheat.
    So how does the “grow one crop well” farming idea relate to physical therapy marketing? A common PT marketing goof is to start marketing for one type of patient or referral source and shift in midstream. Today they want back pain patients, work on that, and before harvesting the fruits of that effort, they decide they also want to market for some other type of patient, like joint replacement rehab. The tendency is to hopscotch around from one marketing segment to another, but that’s not what works best.
    What works best is targeting market segments, like a farmer picking what vegetable to plant. Sure, you can focus your marketing on general physical therapy services, but that’s like a farmer who wants to sell corn marketing “fresh produce.” It’s inefficient communication that yields less per dollar spent. To set yourself up for powerful marketing posture, you need to be very selective about your crops, have patience, and be devoted to learning what makes for the best harvest from one season to the next.

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