Fit for purpose: How online marketing boosted the performance of a physiotherapy business.

Urban Athlete is a physiotherapy practice with a difference. Based in central Auckland, its clientele is drawn from busy professionals and corporate employees who strive for excellence in their physical pursuits as well as their day jobs. They want the best and they’re prepared to pay for it.

Darren North, the founder of Urban Athlete, set out to give it to them. With over 15 years experience as a physiotherapist, he’d seen enough of cramped treatment rooms with harsh lighting and the ambience of a no-frills operation. He also wanted to challenge the standard physio business model, which relies on rapid turnover of appointments. Having worked in upscale London clinics, Darren knew there was potential to offer a better experience to Aucklanders.

“We set out to do things a little differently,” says Darren. “From day one we were never designed to be ‘just another physio clinic.’ We employ experienced staff and give them the time and resources to focus on your injury, so you get the best possible treatment.”

It’s a more expensive business model, requiring spacious rooms in a high-rent part of the city in order to attract the desired customer base. That called for an ambitious marketing plan to deliver the volume of leads required.


Targeting potential customers online.

Referrals, otherwise known as word of mouth, are a tried and tested source of business for physiotherapists. That said, many private healthcare providers have turned to the Internet as a source of new business. Urban Athlete followed this trend, using Yellow – the online incarnation of Yellow Pages – as its marketing channel.

“Yellow were good but we had little interaction with them,” says Darren. “They managed our SEO and Google Adwords campaigns but we got hardly any reporting – just a brief summary every month.

Continuity of service was lacking too. “In three years with Yellow we must have had four or five account managers,” Darren says.

Darren knew his business depended on a cost-effective flow of high-quality leads every month, and this would require a more detailed level of analysis and campaign planning. Like most business owners, he had neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with the evolution of best practice in online marketing. However, simply handing over his budget to an outside specialist, with no ongoing education and feedback, felt like a dereliction of duty.

It was time for a more personalised approach.


Taking web performance to the next level.

“A friend of ours runs a marketing and design company, and he suggested we talk to Chris at Ark Advance,” says Darren.

“We met at their offices and Chris bought up our website. He was keen to get the background on why we set up Urban Athlete, and the different approach we took. In hindsight I can see he was trying to figure out how he could help us do better.”

Ark Advance came up with a plan that addressed the key components of Urban Athlete’s online marketing. These were the content and structure of the website, along with research into search terms such as ‘sports injury’ and ‘back pain.’ Chris says it was a more thorough approach than they had received from Yellow.

Included in the Ark Advance proposal was a plan for prioritising keywords plus budgets for search engine optimisation and Google Adwords. All up, it came to roughly $1,000 per month.

Over a year later, Darren can see his marketing investment is paying dividends.

“We track patient enquiries to see whether they found us through word of mouth or Google. Since working with Ark Advance we’ve seen a 64% increase in patients who come to us via organic search and Adwords.”


The bonus is a much lower cost per customer.

“We’ve looked at the numbers, and there’s a 26% reduction in the cost of acquiring a new client since Ark Advance got involved,” says Darren. “It’s great to have proof that our marketing is getting results.”

Darren is also pleased with the level of feedback and reporting he now receives.

“There’s a monthly phone-in with Ark Advance where they take us through the report and explain the findings. We get the feeling they’re always looking to improve the campaign,” he says.

“One month they realised they’d made a mistake – they accidentally switched off part of our campaign. We might not have noticed but they immediately told us, and rebated part of their bill. It gives you confidence they’re always trying to do the right thing.”

Darren has seen business grow rapidly at Urban Athlete’s clinic in Shortland Street, to the point where he’s set to open a new clinic on a second site. It’s the sort of initiative you can take when your marketing is delivering new business like a well-oiled machine.

“I don’t know how to run the campaign, and I don’t need to,” says Darren. “They’re the professionals. I would much rather leave the marketing to Ark Advance and concentrate on looking after my patients.”

“The trust I have in Ark Advance is fantastic.”