Keys To Having A Successful Clinic – Enter Market Research
‘Knowledge is power’ runs the cliché — but in business knowledge usually means something else: money.
That said, where exactly do you acquire business knowledge? In our hyper-connected world there’s no shortage of information, but making sense of that onslaught and transforming it into useful knowledge is another thing. And while you can’t knock the hard lessons of experience, that won’t be enough to give you the breadth of knowledge to help you take your business to its true potential in the marketplace.
Enter market research.
A dedicated market research strategy is not only a necessary step prior to establishing a new clinic – it’s a source of knowledge you’ll need to renew on a regular basis to stay competitive in the game. Markets change. To remain vital in a dynamic industry, TCM practitioners need to learn what’s going on now to plan for the future. Market research should be an essential part of your acupuncture practice management strategy.
It’s important to be goal-oriented. Start by jotting down the questions you’d most like answered. Maybe you’d like to know what treatments and products are currently most in demand across the industry — and what prices are patients willing to pay for them. Maybe you’re interested in specialist TCM treatments that are insufficiently provided by existing practitioners in the market. Maybe you’d like to know how the demographics of your town are changing — and how that may influence the kind of TCM treatments in demand in the future.
In other words, be specific about what you want to find out.
Here are some ways to approach market research.
The easiest way to discover answers to your questions is to take advantage of your existing roster of patients. You can do that informally, through your one-on-one interactions during sessions, or else you can shove a questionnaire and sharp pencil into your patients’ hand as they’re departing the room. Politely, of course.
While people are resistant to the endless questionnaires and evaluations that turn up in our email inboxes — where’s that DELETE button? — you’ll be surprised how willing and responsive patients can be if you ask them personally.
Pick up the phone and invite a select group of patients to a small focus group (you might have to promise pizza). Get a discussion going around your key questions and encourage honest feedback.
Your Fellow Practitioners
Sure, competition arises between fellow practitioners, but let’s face it: we’re all in this game together. More likely than not we’re going to want to share our experiences for mutual benefit. It’s not a zero-sum game. Every practitioner has a different skill set and a different treatment style and we all have a lot to learn from each other.
It helps if you’re a member of state TCM societies and make the effort to attend conferences. That’ll give you access to a network of practitioners. Nevertheless, you can also just set aside time for coffee with friendly colleagues in your area.
Take another look at your own data
Among the benefits of Electronic Medical Records is the ability to closely monitor a range of statistical data concerning your clinical operations. For example, with Unified Practice you’ll always be able to get a sense of your patient demographics, behavior, and even how ICD and CPT codes are used across your patient base. You might be really surprised what you discover about your clinic!
Hire a market research firm
Depending on the size and capital of your clinic, it may be most efficient to take the plunge and professionalize. Hire a professional market research firm to answer your questions as comprehensively as possible.
A slew of resources exist in the public domain to help you build your assessment of the market. Much of this information is provided free by the government. You pay your taxes for a reason, right? While this information will be less targeted to answering your specific questions, there’s plenty you can learn about the state of the market.
Investigate demographic information to discover all you can about the population in your target area. Everybody is a potential client. So use that data to build a picture of your community to better understand how your treatments can have a positive impact.
Make sure you stay up to date with TCM publications and the reports of professional societies.
Plenty of universities undertake research about the state of health care in the US. Much of this information is easily accessible. Take advantage of libraries and academic databases to add this research to your knowledge base.
Market research is a quest for maximum business knowledge — a way to protect yourself against unexpected events. With a clever strategy in place you won’t have to work in the dark.
By Matthew Leask