I am readying “the Lean Start Up” an excellent book about the Lean Start Up Philosophy which has become quite the big thing here in Northern California tech circles. The ideas, although developed for tech companies bringing software and hardware to the market really apply to our businesses as well, running natural health clinics.
When I see doctors starting a new clinic or building up an existing practice it’s so common that we spend money in ways that don’t help the bottom line. For example, in my first solo clinic I built out I spent a small fortune on leather waiting room chairs. What a waste! I could have taken that $500 and put it to use in a far more productive way.
Build. Measure. Learn. This is the mantra Eric Ries promotes in the Lean Start Up method. Basically we need to experiment with what works. Test ideas, try new things, don’t assume something will work or will be worth it ahead of time. Question everything.
As an example, a few years ago I was trying different ideas to get our supplement and lab sales up during our slow time of the year which is the month of December. Every year for the previous 18 years December would see a drop of 50% in sales, of course I take two weeks vacation during that time but patient purchasing is also low because people are distracted by holiday shopping and travel.
So we sent out a series of emails in late November offering a free five minute consult as a holiday gift to all of our patients. We set aside a few afternoons for me to do these phone calls, just kind of a friendly check in type of call. Every single one of those hours we set aside was booked solid with old patients that wanted to check in. Out of a hundred or more patients there was ONE, one call that was purely social, it was an old old patient named Sam who just wanted to say hi.
Every other call led to a sale, people re-upped their supplement programs, people bought labs they were wondering about, many of them scheduled a paid consult to go over some issue that they just wanted to check on me about. This one marketing idea presented as a holiday gift took a few hours of my time and literally doubled our usual December sales numbers taking it from our slowest month of the year to our best month ever at the time.
One thing I didn’t realize until we ran this “experiment” was that a lot of people had extra money to use up in various Health Savings Accounts that they would lose if they didn’t spend before January 1st so we tapped into a storm of big sales with those folks that we didn’t anticipate.
I like talking to people as you all know by now I’m sure, so for me this was fun, it was a holiday cheer, feel good thing, I got to talk to tons of people I’d lost track of and we ended our year on a big upnote and of course drove a large amount of revenue into January as well in terms of follow up consults and lab reviews.
Try a few new things, my biggest money makers have never been the most costly things, often it’s the reverse. Again, the mantra is BUILD, MEASURE, LEARN. Meaning, build a sales idea, test it, measure it and then learn if it works. Think of it as a scientific experiment and keep your budget low low low.
– Dr. Daniel Kalish