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2 reasons why having a waitlist doesn’t indicate success

November 1, 2021  By Brad Cote, RMT

Photo: doidam10/Adobe Stock

I remember back to one of my business classes (of only a handful) at my college when the teacher presented the concept of success in our careers as having a waitlist. She explained after treating for many years and getting great results for our patients, eventually, we would have the privilege of a long waitlist of prospective patients excited to be able to work with us. I remember thinking to myself “A waitlist sounds great, at that point, I’ll be fully booked up and making great money and have fulfilled happy patients.” I set a waitlist as my target goal for when I graduated and became licensed.

When I first started my practice, everyone I spoke to from other therapists, mentors, and friends said the hardest part of building a practice is getting new patients and I needed to brand and market myself to not burn out and be successful. I heeded this advice and made it my mission to become a master practitioner and marketer (still my goal and working on this 13 years later). I consumed every book I could get my hands on from theory to practical applications. I stumbled upon a book by a marketer Dan Kennedy that discussed direct response marketing. I didn’t know at the time how much of an impact direct response and Dan would have on my career, but I knew the information was simple and seemed impactful.

Essentially, direct response marketing is a type of marketing designed to elicit an instant response by encouraging people to take a specific action – for example, pain relief. This differs from brand marketing that is more focused on general messaging and broad campaigns, like the location of your clinic. I started incorporating direct response into my blogs, postcards, business cards, and anything about my practice and customer-facing. Well, within about 30 days I was fully booked with a waiting list. Sounds good, right? I thought so too, at first. However, two major issues came up that caused me stress, cost me money, and made me look bad to my patients and prospective patients.

The problems
First, I didn’t filter any of the prospects so I ended up getting a mixture of people with a variety of backgrounds, injuries, and goals. While we as practitioners are trained medically to accommodate all issues in our scope of practice, there were issues I didn’t have much experience with or those that I didn’t enjoy, meaning the patient would be better working with someone who is specialized in their issue. So, some patients didn’t get the best results and some got results but I disliked the process and became less passionate about treating specific conditions such as pregnancy.


Second, I didn’t have a system in place to handle the new inquiries, re-bookings or simply couldn’t follow up because I was so busy with treating the current patient roster I created. The marketing was bringing me prospective patients but I was unable to even pick up the phone to book them in so those prospects booked elsewhere, on my marketing spend! With my patients, I dropped the ball by not following up with how their treatment was and getting them re-booked (often I didn’t re-book because I was back-to-back) so the same thing started to happen. Either I couldn’t get them in for two weeks or I didn’t give them the opportunities. Again, a loss of patients.

So as you can see above, a narrow focus might solve one problem but can create a wave of bigger problems in other areas. I didn’t need new patients, I needed the RIGHT new patients and the RIGHT systems to accommodate them. The “elusive waitlist” only created a negative experience for prospective patients because they needed to wait, often in pain, instead of getting relief while active patients got frustrated not being able to schedule frequently. Understandably were forced to seek out an alternative option to help with their healing journey.

My suggestion is to focus more on solidifying your practice foundations and incorporate strategic planning to ensure your active patients are taken care of while you are not having people needing to wait to use your services. Your ability to identify where you are and your singular focus is imperative for your success at any phase of your health practice.

BRAD COTE is the founder of Link Performance Therapy, a successful cash pay private practice with a focus on athletes. He has grown his clinic from zero to 7-figures revenue within 18 months of operation using a combination of proven structures, systems and strategies that he now shares with healthcare business owners across North America who are looking to gain new patients and grow their business.

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