Vineland Physiotherapy is an outpatient orthopedic clinic located in Vineland, Ontario. Gail Harris purchased the business five years ago and has been running it ever since. She specializes in delivering effective, customized, and evidence-based treatments designed to support patients returning to a healthy and active life, post-injury.
Like so many other busy entrepreneurs, Harris wears many hats. “I’m the CEO, the marketing person, the accounting department, HR, I’m everything,” she says. While each role Harris fills comes with its own unique challenges, she was struggling most with the ever-changing world of digital marketing. “When I first started, you had print ads; there was no Facebook [or] Instagram. Having to learn how to navigate those things is difficult and time-consuming,” says Harris.
The College of Physiotherapists of Ontario also places standards on how physiotherapists like Harris can market their businesses. Members are not permitted to run promotions or issue gift certifiicates; they cannot claim that their services are superior to any other physiotherapist’s services; and they are limited in their ability to offer package deals or bundles to patients. Harris says these limitations present an added layer of challenge for Vineland Physiotherapy when it comes to marketing.
Despite the hurdles she was facing, Harris recognized the importance of building her business’s presence online. “Years ago […] probably 80% of my clients did not have computers or email. [I’ve] definitely seen that [number] dwindle [and] I see more of my seniors walking in now with smartphones,” she explains. In order to remain competitive and recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris was eager to develop a social media strategy that would set Vineland Physiotherapy apart.
While looking for ways to level up her social media presence, Harris heard about Digital Main Street’s Digital Transformation Grant (DTG) program through the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA). The initiative provides brick-and-mortar small businesses with a digital assessment, online training, and a $2,500 grant to implement their Digital Transformation Plan.
With the grant funds received, Harris hired a social media manager to assist with the clinic’s digital marketing efforts. Together, they began creating and deploying social media content more regularly on Vineland Physiotherapy’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. The social media strategy focused heavily on reels, a video style that has become increasingly popular on the apps, and content centred on educational topics such as how to improve your squats, helpful tips to prevent running injuries, and easy exercises to support good posture.
- Applied for and received a Digital Main Street DTG grant in October 2022
- Researched social media managers in the Niagara/Burlington region
- Hired and onboarded freelance social media manager
- Created and deployed educational social media content on Instagram and Facebook
“What Digital Main Street has done for [Vineland Physiotherapy] has been phenomenal,” remarked Harris, who noticed a number of positive changes in her business since becoming more consistent on social media.
- Follower growth. When Harris first connected with Dixon, the social media manager she hired through Digital Main Street, Vineland Physiotherapy had about 50 Instagram followers. “Now I think I’m up around 270. So I could see it steadily growing,” she says
- Increased website traffic. Harris also noticed an increase in traffic to her website as a result of the consistent posting of educational content on the clinic’s Instagram and Facebook pages.
- Supported business post-pandemic. As Vineland Physiotherapy’s follower count grew, Harris notes that it seemed to help her maintain a better patient caseload and referral base in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After investing in her social media strategy, Harris acknowledges there is great potential in digital marketing. Working with a social media expert “ just really educated me, as a business owner, [on] the power of Facebook and Instagram.” She is now looking for a digital marketer with physiotherapy knowledge to take over the brand’s social media accounts and continue to deploy educational content.
More than anything else, Harris says admits she is most proud that her business survived the pandemic when so many other clinics did not. “I’m happy that I got my business through COVID and I think a lot of it had to do with Digital Main Street.”