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Dynamic Chiropractic – January 29, 2010, Vol. 28, Issue 03

Secrets to Success in Today's Market

Five principles that can lead to lasting practice growth.

By Drew Stevens, PhD

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." These immortal words, written by Charles Dickens more than 200 years ago, apply to the chiropractic profession today.

Numerous practices are struggling with profits and productivity, and yet while the current recession weighs heavily on most, some find themselves doing well despite the storm. How can your practice rise from the economic quagmire? What can be done to ensure success, both now and in the future?

It is imperative to understand that 90 percent of the economic wealth in this country stems from small business. Small businesses are the economic backbone of our society. With that said, some small businesses fail and some succeed. What is the differentiating factor that determines success versus failure? Simply put, successful businesses/practices follow five very practical principles that lead to lasting growth.

1. Remember Why You Practice

Many years ago, management guru Peter Drucker stated that there is only one reason organizations are in business: the customer (in your case, the patient). The patient is the focus for everything: sales, marketing, research and development, and even finances. Successful organizations know who their most important assets are: their clients. Likewise, the best practices focus on what provides the best overall satisfaction to their patients.

2. Cultivate Relationships

It costs 10 times more to develop a new patient than to "sell" an existing one on your services. Current patients are the lifeblood of every successful practice. The issue with many practices is that they focus on patient acquisition rather than patient retention. Cultivation of patient relationships assists in leveraging brand and equally extending marketing. When patients discuss your practice with friends, family and peers, viral marketing helps proliferate the image and extend your brand.

Cultivating relationships is not difficult. First obtain testimonials and referrals. Patients love to gloat, and allowing existing patients to share success stories is wonderful for building relationships. Second, ensure instant success by expressing your gratitude for their patronage. Thank-you cards are a great way to do this, especially when they are handwritten. Refrain from bromide tactics of competitors; electronic media illustrates laziness, but a handwritten note will remain on a desk for months. If you are too busy, there are services that can send a printed card for you.

Get to know your patients. Understanding their personal and professional issues, as well as family history, assists in establishing rapport and building relationships. Patients simply enjoy getting adjusted by those they know and trust. Build that trust and they will stay with your practice long-term.

Patient relationships must be harvested over time. However, once the fruit of the relationship blossoms, patients enjoy your company. When they are at the emotional precipice, that is the time to request and nurture referrals. There is no better remedy to selling gaps than the receipt of a referral from a satisfied and exuberant patient.

3. Develop a Strategy (Driving Force)

Strategy is the framework that guides the choices that determine the nature and direction of any practice. These choices relate to the scope of a practice's services, markets, key capabilities, growth, ROI, and allocation of resources. These are vital concepts simply because too many practices focus on the improper goal of short-term profits. There is a pressing need for practices to become more strategic and less tactical. This rationale provides the basis to force the business into the "what" mode rather than worrying about the "how."

To encourage useful thought and to build a clear and concise strategy, you should be seeking answers to the following questions which will help create your "driving force" - the vision and direction to make your practice thrive:

  • What is the thrust or focus for future business development?
  • What is the scope of services and markets that will and will not be considered?
  • What is the future emphasis or priority and mix for services and markets that fall within that scope?
  • What key capabilities are required to make my strategic vision a reality?
  • What does this vision imply for growth and return expectations?

In addition, the driving force is the primary indicator of your practice's future strategic vision as determined by one or more of nine key variables. These include:

Services and Markets
Services Offered
Market Needs
Production Capability
Method of Sale
Method of Distribution
Natural Resources

4. Amplify Your Marketing

History proves that recessions are the best times to increase the market's awareness and perception of your services. One the gravest myths about recessions (and one of the most unfortunate business practices) is that retreating is the best thing to do. During a recession, many practices decrease spending, tightly control budgets and count the number of used pencils. This only wastes time and decreases access to markets and patients.

Recessionary times call for aggressive measures; one of the best strategies when others are retreating is to increase marketing. As competitors tightly control advertising to balance profit streams, a recession is a great time to overtake ridiculous budget habits. Fortune, The New York Times and Kraft all built recognized names by advertising and amplifying marketing during turbulent times. Assuming that your practice has worked long and hard at building name and brand, now is not the time to forsake all that you've worked so hard to build. It's time to make it last forever.

Also remember that nothing happens without a sale. Too many chiropractors become complacent after opening a practice or begin a practice believing the notion, "If you build it, they will come." Not true. There is a huge difference in energy and revenue when you have 30 patients per week versus 100 or more. All practices require a complete focus on selling. Nothing in the practice exists unless someone is adjusted. Utilities and salaries do not get paid and little if any revenue becomes available for developing new market opportunities.

You need to develop a strategy for achieving selling excellence. The ideas include self-development and more importantly the realization that everyone in the practice must be involved in the process. Selling requires the communication and coordination of the entire practice.

5. One for All and All for One

The final principle of success in every practice is the ability of all involved working to fulfill the needs of the practice's most important asset: the patient. Forty-five percent of every patient interaction involves customer service and support. It is imperative for all practices to follow the rule of the three P's - people, processes and physical evidence. Make certain you hire the right talent and that employees are focused holistically on patients. Develop processes that are easy and allow employees to expediently resolve patient issues. Finally, ensure the physical evidence - collateral materials, parking spaces and even e-mail signatures - encapsulate and articulate your brand and your devotion to high-level customer service.

The road to excellence is not difficult. Yet many twists and hurdles can disable your intentions and produce impediments to success. The best practices understand the need for a clear vision, have created strategies to circumnavigate the issues and remain focused on the patient. If your practice is moving astray, review the five principles, make a 30-day plan, create some action and watch your margins and success soar while decreasing labor and stress.

Drew Stevens, PhD, is known as "The Revenue Doctor." He helps chiropractors develop strategies that exponentially grow revenue and returns personal time. He is the author of eight books including the widely acclaimed "Practice Acceleration" by Greenbranch publishing. He can be reached through his website at

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