By Joyce Sunila

You’ve been a winner all your life.

But something’s changed. Things are slipping. You’re up to your eyeballs in debt, buying equipment, trying to stay on top of a medical specialty that’s become a moving target.

If this sounds familiar, you’re probably committing at least three of four major marketing mistakes. It’s likely you are:

1) Copying retail marketing.
Discounts, loss leaders, and other retail store gambits shouldn’t be applied to professional services. They create the wrong image, equating cosmetic surgery’s hard-won skills with commodities.
Instead, convey the distinctive, impossible-to-imitate expertise that makes you more than a doctor, but an artist who happens to work in medicine.

2) Ignoring how luxury brands win.
Who does Lexus look to first when rolling out its new lineup? Lexus owners. Owners have already experienced Lexus’s peerless service. Lexus parlays that investment to move new product.
Look to your database of loyal patients when planning marketing initiatives. Current patients have already jumped the biggest hurdle people face when booking plastic surgery – they’ve decided to trust you. Parlay that trust.

3) Overpaying and understrategizing.
There’s a well-known formula in marketing: It costs 10 times more to attract a new patient than it does to bring in a current one. Doctors who rank new business above repeat business spend the big dollars on pricey services like SEO, portals, and other lead-generators. What’s left over – the crumbs – go to the truly cost-effective tools like email, greeting cards, flowers, local events, etc. This upside-down spending pattern drains the practice and leads to desperation.

4) Not thinking long-term.
Today’s cosmetic patient is worth more than $100,000 in lifetime service. Mature cosmetic practices (10 years old) should rest on a foundation wherein repeat business accounts for 50% of receivables.
Instead of thinking long-term, most practices don’t plan. Their marketing swerves back and forth, each year’s plan correcting the previous year’s low-yield initiatives. This is waffling, not strategizing. There’s no vision.

How can you get off the slippery slope? Set a goal of securing your patients’ lifetime value. Work toward that goal constantly. Use your database every way you can to put a lock on patients. They are your equity. A guaranteed flow of repeat customers is the best way to ensure growth over the long haul.

Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers, providing e-newsletters, blogs, and social media services to aesthetic practices. You can contact Joyce via [email protected] or visit the Practice Helpers Web site at