You’ve probably heard the “golden goose” story. It’s been around since about the 5th century and there are several versions of the fable.

Gold-en goose • a continuing source of wealth or profit that may be exhausted if it is misused. Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English

Unfortunately, there’s a healthcare marketing version that’s completely contemporary. It’s just as painfully sad as the original, and our version holds an important lesson for nearly every practice owner. We’ll tell the tale about a healthcare practice, it goes something like this…

It seems there once was a busy practitioner who was enjoying a steady flow of new patients into his practice. For whatever reason, business was good. The patients presented cases that he liked and the bottom line was doing well, thank you.

The tragic part of this happy snapshot is in the words, “for whatever reason.” The practitioner didn’t know why business was good because he wasn’t tracking the source of new patients. It turns out that he had been running a Yellow Pages ad, which since business was good, he decided not to renew for the next year.

It was a decision that nearly killed his practice. When he stopped the advertising effort, the new patient volume also dried up. What’s worse, he lost his leading ad position and he couldn’t begin again for an entire year. The “golden goose” was dead.

Of course Yellow Pages is not the cornerstone strategy that it once was, but the principle is still valid and applies to all marketing and advertising. I often hear variations of this tale from healthcare practice owners who stop critical parts of their marketing program and—because they aren’t tracking—they don’t know why new patient numbers crash.

The moral of this story is: You’ve Got to Track.

Tracking the source of new patients or business (sourcing) is a fundamental activity that is relatively easy to do, and it’s absolutely vital to knowing what’s working and what’s not working in your marketing plan. It requires a system, accountability and follow-through. And without it, any program changes are guesswork and your goose may be in jeopardy.

Basic tracking can be as simple as asking on the first call, “Who can we thank for referring you?” (The answer reveals the source, and compiling and tabulating the sources is data to be reported and reviewed weekly or monthly.)