I want to share a story with you, and a true story at that. This story comes from the early days of The Newsletter Pro (back when it was still Solution Marketers) and concerns two of my clients: a tale of two businesses. In this case, the two businesses just so happened to be dentists, but I encourage you not to get caught up in their profession, or start protesting that your business is different. Instead, pay close attention to this story—it has the benefit of hindsight and contains more than a few nuggets of wisdom.
Shortly after opening, we immediately gained two dentists as clients. Let’s call them Dr. Smith and Dr. White. Now, Dr. Smith had been a dentist for a number of years, but had only recently opened his own practice. Dr. White, on the other hand, had been in practice for over 20 years. Their offices were located only 20 miles apart. Both doctors made it clear that they were interested in three things:
1. Improving patient retention.
2. Getting more referrals.
3. Attracting new patients.
As time went on, I got to know each doctor on a more personal level, but I also got to know more about their individual practices. From a business standpoint, they were extremely similar. They each made $500,000-$600,000 in revenue; they were both great doctors; and their patient ratings were through the roof. They each did a little marketing, but not much, and they were both looking to grow. Right off the bat I realized that Dr. White should have been much further along in his practice—after all, he had at least two decades of experience over Dr. Smith.
Both Doctors asked me to put together a marketing proposal for their practice, and I readily presented them with several options.
- Mail a monthly print newsletter in an effort to increase patient value and referrals.
- Start a monthly referral campaign (announced and advertised in the newsletter).
- Begin a multistep direct mail campaign (I gave them a few different options and ideas).
Dr. Smith immediately signed up for all three options. Within weeks we were mailing a monthly newsletter, two direct mail campaigns, and a referral campaign. He had even implemented another campaign on his own in an effort to increase case acceptance.
Dr. White also took action. Together we implemented a quarterly newsletter and one direct mail campaign.
Fast forward six months. Both doctors complained that they were not seeing as many patients from the direct mail campaign as they had expected. However, Dr. Smith mentioned that his patients loved his newsletter and his referral numbers were up. Dr. White was have the opposite experience; very few patients mentioned his newsletter, and his referral numbers were up, but not by much.
As a business owner, I understood their frustrations. After all, they had thrown a lot of time and money at these marketing campaigns and they weren’t seeing the results they thought they deserved. Their knee-jerk reaction was the blame the campaign itself, but I decided to do a little digging to make sure there weren’t any other variables negatively affecting their outcome.
After meeting with each of them, I discovered that both doctors needed to improve the way they tracked their campaigns. On top of that, they were in desperate need of “appointment overhaul.” Their front desk was working as an “anti-sales department,” and it was hurting their numbers.
Dr. Smith took this information very seriously. He worked hard to improve his practice and developed phone scripts and phone skills training courses. In the end, he made the tough decision to let his primary phone person go. She simply wasn’t following through with patients. After making these simple changes, Dr. Smith’s practice began to flourish! The direct mail campaign that he was disappointed in at first ended up bringing in over one million dollars in new revenue last year, and the newsletter campaign continues to improve his referral and retention rates. In fact, it’s been so successful, he was forced to bring in an associate doctor to help him handle all the patients!
Dr. White, on the other hand, did nothing to correct the problem. He was convinced that it was the campaign to blame, not his practice. Any and all suggestions I gave him fell on deaf ears, and before long, Dr. White and I decided to part ways. His practice was struggling then, and it continues to struggle now.
These doctors, who started on such similar paths, diverged in three ways:
- White wasn’t willing to improve himself or his practice. Change is hard, but few things in life worth doing are easy. Being a business owner is all about growing, evolving, and solving problems.
- Smith understood the idea of receiving and implementing expert advice. This is a common trait among wealthy business owners. He could have thought to himself, “Shaun is only recommending monthly newsletters so he can make more money.” In fact, that’s probably what Dr. White thought and why he eventually quit. But nothing could be further from the truth. As an entrepreneur, I only ever give advice that I feel is in my clients’ best interest—even if it’s not in mine. I am always more interested in a long term relationship than I am in short-term money.
- Smith throws a lot of spaghetti at the wall. Over the years, I have watched Dr. Smith try many different things–some worked, some didn’t—but he kept throwing. Dr. White wanted the one idea that would be easy to implement and would drive massive amounts of patients to his practice. Unfortunately, that beast is hard to find. It’s far easier to have 10 campaigns that bring in 10 clients each than it is to find one campaign that draws 100.
In the end, Dr. Smith didn’t do anything that Dr. White couldn’t have done. In fact, his prices were higher and he was newer to the market, and yet he found more success. He didn’t have any special sauce or magic marketing skills—he just followed some simple advice.
Which leads me to my final thought: What are you going to do now?
Will you seek out expert advice? Are you willing to throw some spaghetti against the wall? Will you make a point to continue learning and growing? Can you embrace change and focus on the opportunities it provides rather than the challenges it brings? Are you able to be introspective and work on yourself alongside your business?
The choice is yours.