4 Ways to Successfully Market Your Medical SLP Private Practice

You’re a medical SLP and just started your private practice. You’ve sent out postcards to all of the local neurologists in the area, you’ve cold-called, you’ve offered lunch-and-learns, but there have been no referrals. 

Sound familiar? 

How to Market Your  Medical SLP Practice

This was me in 2019 when I first started my adult-based medical SLP private practice. The good news is it didn’t stay like this forever. Instead of getting discouraged, I began to think outside the box to get my phone ringing every week with a new client. The marketing tricks that are boasted about across the internet don’t necessarily apply to medical SLPs. I’ve debunked some myths, and these are the four valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way. 

1. Differentiate yourself from other practices. 
Make sure you have your niche honed in, so you can clearly state what you do, how you do it, and why you do it better than the other practices in your area. For example, I specialize in treating cognitive impairments and aphasia after an acquired brain injury. I do this by using a person-centered and functional approach to make therapy relevant to everyday life. 

I’m different from most clinics because I’m a certified brain injury specialist (CBIS). I make all of my own materials, so they’re tailored to my clients rather than turning to workbook activities. These are valuable selling points in a saturated market. Wouldn’t you rather go to a specialist than a generalist? Make sure you focus on that aspect of your practice to differentiate yourself as a medical SLP.

2. Speak their language.
Are you sending the same marketing materials to doctors, clients, support groups, and the corkboard of your local coffee shop? If you are, you’re not speaking the language of your target audience. For example, when sending marketing materials to physicians, you should use more medical-based terms they will be familiar with, such as aphasia. When marketing directly to the public who don’t have a medical degree, consider using layman’s terms such as “difficulty speaking after a stroke.” 

Another common mistake is putting everything and the kitchen sink on your marketing materials. It’s best to keep marketing materials short, concise, and eye-catching, so you stand out among the crowd. Stick to the critical information, like your name, how they can get in touch with you, and what specific support you can offer your potential clients and their families. 

3. Diversify who you market to. 
I have spoken with many medical SLPs that think the only way to get client referrals is by getting an “in” with a doctor. This is simply not true. It took me an entire year of private practice before I received a direct referral from a doctor. Doctors are typically entrenched in hospital systems and large groups. These practices like to refer internally, and they are busy and challenging to reach. Focusing all of my marketing efforts on physicians in my area led to no results and a lot of time, money, and effort wasted. 

In the end, word of mouth ended up being what worked best for getting physician referrals. As soon as my clients started talking about me to their doctors, I got traction with these larger medical group practices because word of mouth means a lot in the medical field. But word of mouth often takes time. So, in the beginning, I was able to market myself successfully to three different referral sources, and I believe it’s where you should start, too.

  • Physical or occupational therapy practices without speech therapy
    This is a vast and potentially untapped referral source. Find local clinics near you that are treating the same diagnoses that you want to work with, and let them know about your practice. They likely have current clients that may benefit from your services. You can also let them know you would love to refer any potential clients back to them, so you can build a community of other like-minded practitioners at the same time you build your practice. 
  • Support groups
    Find local support groups for your niche and offer to be a guest speaker at their next group meeting. Facilitators are often excited to have quality speakers come in and talk with their group members. This allows you to speak with potential clients directly, inform them about your services, and let them know you’re here to help them if they need it. Don’t forget to bring marketing materials specifically tailored to their diagnosis.
  • Other SLPs
    This one may seem like a given, but I’m surprised by how many SLPs I speak with who don’t reach out to other local SLPs to let them know about their private practice. Start by making connections with home health SLPs, because outpatient speech therapy services are the next step in the continuum of care. Home health SLPs have had the chance to build a strong relationship with potential clients, and these clients may be asking for recommendations on where to continue therapy upon discharge. The next group to target is acute care SLPs. They are a valuable connection as they often have waitlists in their hospital clinic and referrals for individuals that receive instrumental dysphagia evaluations.

4. Don’t forget to follow up.
Simply put, relationships aren’t built in one meeting. Relationships must be nurtured for trust to form between providers. Your recommendations are valuable and a reflection of yourself as a healthcare professional. You wouldn’t want to refer to someone you don’t know, right? What if your patient has a bad experience and you were the one to recommend that practitioner? So you need to connect and follow up with every person you contact to make personal connections. 

If a potential referral source doesn’t respond on the first attempt, then try again! When you’re a private practice owner, it’s essential to be willing to put yourself out there consistently. If marketing makes you feel uncomfortable or like a used-car salesman, reframe your message. Remember, you are providing a valuable and needed service to your community, and the practitioners you are marketing to can benefit from your services as well. When you make it more of a conversation on how you can help your community together, it becomes a collaborative effort rather than a sales pitch.

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