User experience – Making sure the patients experience is fantastic from start to finish and finish with an ultimate “wow”. Because you are such an important part of the patients/clients life as a health professional it’s important to develop and maintain a great relationship with them. This starts with the human element and building rapport at a personal level. Things like birthday reminders and gifts/vouchers, important dates, follow ups after discharge go a long way to establishing the relationship. Then you can look at the non-human or experiential level. Building an environment that is comfortable and pleasant that patients will enjoy. Everything from the towels to the equipment should make the patients/clients feel comfortable and secure. Consulting companies even goes as far to match scents with certain companies in an attempt to evoke particular emotional responses to the environment the customer is in. They recommend the use of green and blue to build a sense of security, safety and empathy with a customer.
Saving on expenses – seems obvious but often overlooked. One of the best examples is clinic materials and consumables being purchased from one supplier. This is almost never the cheapest option. Start by making a list of all your consumable items and take the time to review prices of each item of every provider. It might take you 10 hrs but you only need to do it once a year. Let the providers know if they drop a price on X,Y or Z then you’ll buy it. And ALWAYS ask for a discount. Other great areas to save money are phone services, electricity and clinic space (although there are plenty more).
For a practice that spends 10k per year on these items you will probably save around 4K. Just because your busy doesn’t mean you should sacrifice such large amounts of money.
Website and online – get good advice from experts. You can be pretty sure that if your website is laid out as – ‘about us, our team, services, contact us’ the general public won’t be able to differentiate you from the others. Speak the language of your customers. It starts with the customer understanding what kind of service you provide in their terms and developing a sense of trust early on from when they find you online.
Be found – Google places, Facebook, Instagram, google ads. Good place to start online so people know where you are and can easily search for you. Google ads will cost you money but can be worth it if your value per customer is reasonable. Start with the obvious stuff and review regularly your clinics presence online. People being able to find you is half the battle.
Word of mouth – by far the most important marketing tool at your disposal. Per the research of Reichheld as stated in the Harvard business review 2003, there’s really only one question that across all industries had a strong correlation to the future success of a company. That being “how likely is it that you would recommend (company x) to a friend or colleague”. What’s important here is that, if we aren’t asking this question then we aren’t asking the right questions. We don’t need to be asking our patient 30 questions on a paper survey. We only need one. Then tally the results and figure out what we can be doing Better to improve this number. Improving word of mouth referral is our best chance at growth in a clinical practice.
You need to be driving the train not sitting in the carriage
You are a start up and you need to make as much money as possible to keep the doors open. Don’t hire someone to see patients so you can “manage”. You need to do that stuff between patients or after hours when you first start out. Nobody said this was going to be easy. Remember one thing – you want your assets and cash in the bank to be greater than your debt. Regularly review this position. It is called your liquidity ratio and won’t be above 1 at the start but getting to 1.0 liquidity ratio should be on your priorities list. This is one of the best measures of risk in a business.
Carefully execute recruitment
One of the biggest killers of small business is consistently hiring staff with values that aren’t aligned with the direction of the business. Interview them with more than yourself (hopefully you have either a mentor or another staff member that can help you), this will help give another perspective. Make them work for the job and ask questions around their behaviour in certain situations. The time spent, although painful, during the interview process could be the difference between 100k per year billings and 500k.
Get employee buy in
Employee buy in is important. You won’t have huge internal marketing budgets (money to spend on marketing your business to your own employees) so how do you accomplish this? Being transparent with goals of the business, accurate figures in performance, social catch-ups and rewarding great team work and individual efforts are all pretty low in cost.
Look at data regularly
You need lots of different performance metrics! You need to be able to drill down in a number of ways. Most importantly, individual performance, clinic performance, best times of the year, worst times of the year and who are your best customers. Invest in smart allied health management software.#
Get growth out of you existing customers
You are ten times more likely to get more business out of an existing customer than a new customer. This means if you are out and about looking for referrals from doctors you should be spending most of your time converting existing referring doctors from part time referrers to full time advocates of your business. In a nut shell, a doctor sending you 2 patients a week is far more likely to start referring 5 patients a week consistently than a new doctor sending you 3 patients a week consistently. Same goes for other referrers and for your existing patients. If you have a new service, you want to cross promote these to your existing patient/client base.