Your client base: Mining this important source of valuable information

A business owner recently shared her concern that her healing practice is not growing the way she’d hoped. While she was attracting new clients to her practice, some came only once or twice and then didn’t return and others dropped out part way through the recommend course of treatment.

The first step in solving this or any other mystery is to gather information. After discussion, she decided to take the following steps:

  • Make a list of the clients she saw over a typical period of time – she chose to look at the last six months – and separate them into three groups – ones that returned for the full course of recommended services, those who dropped out after one or two visits, and ones who stopped coming part way through the agreed course.
  • Review the clients’ records – initial intake forms and progress notes – to learn what they stated was the reason for seeking her services in the first place, what treatment they received, and how progress was measured. She also looked at demographic and psychographic information – likes, dislikes and other interests – as well as the types of treatments they received.
  • Contact former clients – a few from each group – and ask what influenced their decision to remain or drop out part way through.

Quickly trends developed. She was able to ascertain that the best predictor of remaining through the full recommended course was the clarity the client had about what they hoped to achieve – that is, the more specific they were about what they wanted, the more likely they were to stay until they got it – or at least made measurable progress.

Another factor was how well progress could be measured. Related to clarity of objectives, having measurable ways to track progress resulted in much better client longevity.

Demographic factors and treatment modality did not correlate to whether they stayed in treatment, but she did see trends in terms of the clients who sought her out in the first place. With this and what clients shared as reasons for leaving early – it wasn’t what they expected, they didn’t see enough progress, etc. – she was ready to make changes.

First and foremost, she decided to really probe in the first meeting to define what the client hoped to gain and then once that was clear, how that could be measured. If it was apparent after the initial session that their expectations exceeded what could reasonably be gained from the alternative therapies offered, she was able to re-set expectations. While some decided not to continue, it was clear to both why.

Also, at the end of each session, she and the client made an agreement about what the client would track to measure improvement. With written notes from the client about each day’s progress or lack thereof, not only was the benefit of the work more obvious to both, the treatments could be better tailored to meet clients’ needs.

Finally, as she developed marketing materials to attract clients, she was able develop them in a way that appealed more specifically to her identified clients in terms of demographics. Finally using what she learned about psychographics, she was able to target the places her client were most likely to congregate – yoga studios, spas, and health clubs.

Looking systematically at what is – and sometimes more importantly isn’t – working in your business can yield useful information that will allow you to take concrete steps to improve. While it is essential to track your market and other external factors, don’t forget to mine this important source to help you guide your business.

Since 1991, Laurie Breitner has assisted organizations with operational improvement, organizational development and strategic planning. Learn more at

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