Business Talk: 5 ways to grow your practice
By Anthony Lombardi
The first step in creating a successful business is to keep in mind your target audience. This will always be the patient. Your systems should ultimately make patient visits turn into experiences. When things happen easily and run smoothly, it creates a positive experience for the patient and indirectly helps your practice.
1. Booking your patients
Making things easy for your patients is essential. Everyone likes options, so give these to them. There are three ways a patient can book an appointment: Online from your website, online from your social media pages, by email, by text message, or the conventional way – by telephone. When you give the patient these various options, it takes the pressure off your front-end staff.
Rebooking patients. It is vital that there is smooth communication between you and your front desk staff. In order to keep the flow moving smoothly, you shouldn’t need to disrupt the process of going from one patient to the next by having to stop at the front desk. Routing slips or electronic messages make this exchange run quick and easy. A routing slip is a piece of paper inserted into the file at the end of each visit informing the front desk what treatment was done, the amount thepatient owes, and when the doctor needs to see the patient again.
If you use a paperless filing system, sending an electronic message works in place of a routing slip. An iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch or similar electronic device makes things even easier.
This area includes billing insurance companies for services rendered and also paying your bills and covering payroll.
A) Direct Billing insurance companies.
Do not direct bill for patients. Read that again. Insist patients pay you for every visit after the treatment is rendered. Give the patients a receipt and have them submit and collect from their own insurance company. Have faith in your product. If you are worth it to them they will pay upfront. If you find you are losing patients because you won’t direct bill then you either have to learn to provide a better product or find patients who value you. Better yet – do both.
B) Paying your bills and payroll.
Maximize what your bank and your bookkeeper have to offer you. Arrange with your bank to pay all of your bills online automatically every month. This includes credit card balances, utilities, and your salary. Your bookkeeper can arrange through your bank to pay your employees through direct deposit.
3. Collecting money
Read number two again. Successful businesses should model themselves around grocery stores. You have to pay for your groceries before you leave the store. Providing services without payment is like taking milk from the shelf and walking out without paying. It wouldn’t be tolerated in a supermarket, and shouldn’t be allowed in your practice. This is short and sweet but it is a bitter pill to swallow if you are unable to successfully collect your fees. Your accounts receivables should be zero with the exception of auto and work insurance cases.
4. Find brand champions
Use every visit as an opportunity to grow and expand your brand. You are building a relationship with the patient, so make it a habit to thank your patient in advance for their kind referrals, even if they haven’t yet referred anyone.
In our own practices, we must search and cultivate those patients who can become our brand champions. Brand champions are advocates who promote and refer your business to others. They are passionate about your brand and are active in your promotion. Over the years, I have developed between 20 and 25 patients who have become champions of my practice. This is part of the reason why I stimulate as many referrals as I do – over 50 new patients per month.
We can build brand champions by providing our patients with reasons to tell others about our product. Not every patient will become champions of our brand because it takes a special individual to become a leader and voluntarily go out of his or her way to spread the good news of your product.
When certain patients begin to refer multiple new patients to me on a regular basis, I offer them the opportunity to tell their story through a written or video testimonial. Personally, I have accumulated over 40 written or picture testimonials and 25 video testimonials.
5. Brand champion marketers
One of the jobs of a word-of-mouth marketer is to take advantage of that new love and enthusiasm from a brand new customer who is eager to share the excitement of working with you. Remember that new patients are the ones most likely to talk about you, so be prepared to “blow their minds” on their initial visit.
You’ll also want to come up with a regular plan to occasionally ask your longtime customers to spread some word-of-mouth about you. They’ll be happy to support you – you just need to remind them and let them know it would mean a lot to you.
Andy Sernovitz who wrote the book, Word of Mouth Marketing, says people champion your brand for two reasons: they like you and your stuff, and they like to feel smart – they want to help friends by sending patients your way.
The single most common reason people don’t talk about a product or business is because it is not worth talking about. Even “good” products aren’t good enough anymore.
To earn word-of-mouth, you have to truly make something great, deliver an incredible service, and take fantastic care of your customers. Even when you offer great products and services, you’re not done. That just gets you a seat at the table. To get people talking, you need to do something special, surprising, amazing, unexpected or thrilling.
The second most common reason people don’t spread word-of-mouth – even after doing all this amazing stuff – is because we forget to ask. We create an incredible product. We deliver amazing service. We absolutely thrill the patient. At this point, ask patients who can refer your brand to others to do a written or video testimonial. It really is that simple. Just ask. Your happy customers would love to help.
Lastly, like I have said in the past: Remember, you are the expert in your profession. This means you should not expect to also be an accountant, a bookkeeper, a magician, and a fabulous writer. Know what you are good at, where your limits are, and when you need to step away. Surround yourself with people who are experts in their own areas. This will naturally make you and your practice look good, while allowing you to work less and be more.
Anthony LOMBARDI, DC, is a private consultant to athletes in the NFL, CFL and NHL, and founder of the Hamilton Back Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic. He teaches his fundamental EXSTORE Assessment System and practice building workshops to various health professionals. For more information, visit