The Whys & Hows of Customer Personas in PT

Right now, I’m writing this blog post for Andy, Bill, and Sandy… and it’s pretty likely that you are one of those people. The above 3 examples are some of our company’s actual customer personas; they are the fictional representations of our ideal customers (and blog readers).

We created our personas based on actual data about our customer demographics, behaviors, and beliefs, and then added in educated guesses about personal histories, motivations, and concerns.

Our customer personas determine absolutely everything we do: what products we create, what blog posts we write, and what our website looks like. They guide our decision-making, and ensure that we are sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

In other words, customer personas are the key to providing relevant, meaningful, and resonant messaging regarding your products and services. They are the norm outside of the healthcare sector, but relatively unheard of within. I personally believe that in the age of growing consumer choice, the healthcare companies that create highly resonant messaging are the ones that will succeed– which is why I am a huge proponent of physical therapy companies creating their own customer personas.

If I’m putting all my cards on the table, creating good customer personas isn’t particularly easy.  But the good news is that you have 100% of the data and information needed to create highly detailed personas at your fingertips. And there are important steps to creating customer personas that I’ll highlight to get you started.

Be Crystal Clear About What You Sell

Before you can start with persona generation, you first need to understand the various places where your company converts leads into customers. The most obvious example for a physical therapy clinic is reimbursable, skilled PT. However, many clinics also market post-discharge classes, educational seminars, running clubs, bike fittings, orthotic prescription (you get the idea). These types of offerings tend to greatly increase customer retention, and in other cases serve as an entry point so that it’s much more likely that the customer will come to you if/when he does need PT.

Essentially, all of these things increase value for your clinic in one way or another.

What you should do is simple:

List out every offering that your company provides.

  • For each offering, also include the ideal customer (i.e. the type of person that is already taking advantage of this type of offering).

To determine your ideal customer for each offering, start diving into some data. Check out class rosters, study the schedule book, and (if you have an EMR that allows it) run some analysis on your customer demographics. You may be a bit surprised at demographic consistencies that you come across.

Schedule Some Interviews

The next step is to get to know your customers a bit better.  Schedule interviews with (or create surveys for):

Current customers

  • Potential prospects (people who may need PT one day)
  • Your sales team (in this case, your clinicians and front desk staff)

Through the course of these interviews, it’s your job to find out as much about your customers as possible, including:

Demographic Information: Their age, sex, marital status, annual household income.

  • Their Typical Day: Where do they work? How much do they work? What do they do for fun? What music do they listen to?
  • Their pain points: Your business should be solving a very specific problem that this individual has. In your customer’s case, it’s likely that their pain point is literally pain. Where is it? Is it chronic or acute? What is their issue stopping them from doing? How are you going to solve their issue?
  • Informational Sources:  Is it social media, Google, magazines, WebMD, their MD, co-workers, friends? If you know where they’re going to learn about health-related issues, you know where you should spend your time trying to reach them. Simple as that.
  • How do they go about choosing a health care provider: Are they more passive or active? Do they do a lot of searching on Google? If they have a referral, do they do additional research? Ask their friends?
  • Their values, goals: Is their pain stopping them from running in a half marathon or keeping them from being able to reach their top shelf? This is a very important distinction to make, as the messaging to these two individuals should be different.
  • Their view of Physical Therapy: Is physical therapy their primary choice if they get injured? If not, what is? Do they know what PT does? If not… what do they think you do?

(To kickstart this process, you can always download our free Customer Persona Template at the bottom.)

Refine, Refine, Refine

In the end, you’ll want to have 3-5 well-developed customer personas. Congrats! But once you’ve created your personas, your work isn’t done yet. Now, it’s your job to go validate whether or not you’ve done enough work! Start creating highly targeted messaging and measure whether or not it leads to sales.

For instance, let’s say I created a persona and named him Wally the Weekend Warrior. I know through my research that Wally is a 35-50 year old male who is still highly active (but certainly more of an amateur than a pro in terms of knowledge). Wally works for a medium-to-large sized company and sits all day long. His favorite activities are running, basketball, and cycling. If I wanted to test out whether I knew Wally well enough, I’d create an offering that I thought he would convert on, and I would do my best to get him to hear about that offering.

If my offering was a running assessment to determine flaws in biomechanics and offer some advice on improving form, I would send an email to the 35-50 year old males who were past patients, and check to see if there was a local running club or adult basketball league that I could direct some advertising toward.

If I was aiming to re-activate past patients (bring in some past patients who were in pain for another bout of PT), I might create a quick tutorial called The Office Worker’s Guide to Stretching and Ergonomics with a call to action at the bottom for a 1-on-1 consultation. I would then send this off to all of my past 35-50 year old male patients in an email.

From there, I’d measure conversion (how many people took advantage of my offer).  If I met my goal, I could count that as proof that I had a good handle on Wally’s wants/needs. If it turned out to be a dud, I’d schedule some more interviews with 35-50 year old men.

In the end, creating customer personas is more of a cyclical process than a linear one. But, it’s a worthwhile endeavor that will help to guide nearly every decision you make, and (most importantly) ensure that you are providing as much value as possible to your customers.

Again, click below to download our free customer persona template!


Download Free Template & Get Started!

Ryan Klepps



Physical Therapist, Membership Chair of APTA of MA, COO & Co-Founder of Strive Labs, Inc.

Somerville, MA http://strivehub.com