Lawrence Martin, MD, is a board-certified facial plastic surgeon in Arlington Heights, Ill, which is a Northwest suburb of Chicago. Though Martin’s surgical procedure revenues are down almost 50%, minimally-invasive procedures performed on current patients are holding steady.

“I’m seeing more of my surgical patients holding off on surgery but still opting to do something. They are resistant to committing to surgery and are waiting for a turnaround in the economy.”

To help sustain him through these rough times, insurance-based procedures are holding steady, as well. Martin has always maintained an equal balance of cash-paying cosmetic patients and insurance-based patients. 

Although he hasn’t seen any major change in his patient demographics, Martin is seeing a trend in working patients in their 40s and 50s. They are unwilling to take the week or two off for surgical downtime for fear of losing their job. “They want quick fixes with no downtime,” he remarks. “I have gotten very proficient with injectables and the art of fine-tuning faces for maximum result with little or no downtime.”

Amid the dark clouds of the recession, Martin’s silver lining is in how creative and resourceful he has become to sustain his revenues. Rather than performing the volume of facelifts he was performing, he’s doing substantially more perioral rejuvenation. Using Botox to raise the corners of the mouth and a variety of fillers to smooth lip and marionette lines and plump lips—and then peels around the mouth—is giving his patients what they want. “I’ve even been injecting permanent silicon in lips for my established patients who want a long-lasting result,” he adds.

In addition, Martin and his staff are getting better at increasing the average order size per patient by adding Botox and retail to the treatment.

Martin has noticed lots of competitors vying for the same patients by using large-scale advertising efforts. To combat the competition, Martin has increased his promotional budget and is spending more on patient mailings and in-house patient seminars, where he sees a really good return. “I can seat 20 patients for one of my seminars and 12 to 14 of those attendees book procedures,” he says.

Concentrating on current patients is a strategy that is working well during this difficult time. Martin sends out patient newsletters with lots of before-and-after photographs, an e-mail campaign and evening hours to attract patients and increase the revenues per year they spend with him. He and his staff are also concentrating on word-of-mouth referrals like never before— “I have placed much more emphasis on referrals from my patients and it’s paying off,” he says.

Though Martin has not yet cut staff, he is looking to hire someone who could take on all aspects of the marketing. That person, he says, “should be the practice manager and fill in as a scrub nurse.”

While business has slowed down, Martin is like many other practitioners, including McMenamin—he now has the extra time to spend with his patients and that’s paying off in referrals. “I’ve always done my own injectable procedures and I know that will lead to more when times improve,” Martin says.

In addition, he has been able to cut his overhead expenses, redoing the health insurance policy at a lower rate and renegotiating the office rent. All of these efforts have kept Martin’s practice alive during a hard-hit time.

Martin has mixed feelings for those wanting to get into aesthetic medicine at this time. “Most physicians wanted to be a doctor as far back as grade school, but now, you need to ask yourself how much you want to compete? Is it worth it? As Yogi said, ‘When you get to a fork in the road, take it,” meaning explore and cover all options,” he says.