Despite all the advances in the fields of manufacturing and DNA research, there is still no new patient factory. It’s up to you to attract and retain patients, and all your most profitable future patients already exist. Many of them probably belong to your competitors, so you must persuade them to do business with you instead of them.
This is a skill that business owners can learn. At its base, it comes down to advertising, something successful entrepreneurs are doing anyway. Plus, if you’re going after your competitors’ clients, your chances for success increase for the following two reasons:
- You are targeting only those prospects who have already purchased or are in the process of purchasing a product or service similar to yours; and,
- You are rewarding the competitions’ best clients for taking immediate action while showing you proof of their purchasing intent.
Go after the market that already exists. The simple understanding of whom you are targeting gives you a competitive advantage. In order to position your practice to gain strategic advantage, it is important to understand that anyone—and everyone—who has already bought the services similar to the ones you offer will make up the deepest pool of potential new patients for you.
Traditionally, most display advertising has been written to focus on the wants and needs of the brand-new prospect that we hope will become our patient. You could read the Yellow Pages, newspapers, or a magazine and notice that your competitors’ ads are trying to appeal to everybody; as if everybody were a good prospect. Only a small segment of the market actually is going to take some decisive action, have the money, and actually do something.
To succeed, your advertising has to target those prospects—that small section of the population that has a real interest in getting a cosmetic procedure.
This segment of prospects only makes up about 5% of the available market. Your available prospect list isn’t very long. You have to be “everything” to that small group of people.
The real potential profits for cosmetic surgeons is in the 95% of the market that has been ignored. And that is your competitors’ best, most profitable number of patients and prospects. Once you grasp this, it’s going to get a whole lot easier with your advertising campaigns.
COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO MARKET DOMINATION
We can thank our biggest competitors for several things. They paid heavily to attract our perfect patients. These patients already believe, trust, and have paid for services similar to ours.
Think of how much money it costs to acquire a brand new patient with advertising expenses, overhead, employees, etc. These costs can be astronomical. Your biggest competitors have gone through all the trouble, time, effort, and money to find qualified people, and then get them to raise their hand and actually make a purchasing decision. Your competitors have saved you a fortune both in time and money.
All of your future best patients and prospects already belong to your biggest competitors. It’s up to you to convince them to do business with you. Once you fully understand and appreciate this one critical piece of knowledge, you can then focus all of your marketing, advertising, and public relations campaigns around accomplishing this goal.
Your competitors have saved you a fortune in both time and money. Everybody that they’ve attracted to their practice already believes in having cosmetic procedures done.
Your biggest competitors’ patients have already been converted to believing in the services and products that you offer. Your job is now to offer greater incentives than those of your competitors.
There is more profit in those patients who have purchased from your competitor waiting to be attracted to your practice, than to the small stream of future prospects who are coming into the marketplace.
What logical steps do your best prospects go through before they even consider a cosmetic procedure? These prospects will begin their emotional purchases in the following ways:
- They will start to collect brochures, compare doctors’ credentials, facilities, patient testimonials, price, etc; and,
- They will view Web sites and read testimonials—anything that will help them facilitate their decision.
Your main goal on a consistent basis is to get their full attention and attract those prospects who have proven to make emotional purchases.
Every time they make an emotional step—that is, collect brochures, sales material, quotes, or consultations—they’re a little bit closer to a sale. It proves that they’re serious; that they are one of the 95% who you’re trying to get.
The people who already believe in the benefits of plastic surgery have already identified themselves. There is no need to waste valuable time and money trying to convince people who aren’t interested in what you’re selling.
These prospects have already made the emotional decision to begin the buying process. You’re simply rewarding them for their decision to take action.
REWARDING EMOTIONAL PURCHASING DECISIONS
The psychology behind this strategy is to grab the full attention of these prospects immediately and make them feel that they are very wise for having made a decision to have a cosmetic procedure. They should be congratulated for having taken some action trying to solve their problem. Let these prospects know that you understand their dilemma and that you’re willing to help them.
Before somebody is in the process of actually deciding to have a cosmetic procedure done, they go through what I call and refer to as emotional purchases.
What do people do right before they decide to choose a cosmetic surgeon? They’re probably looking on the Internet, in the Yellow Pages, and at magazine ads. They’ve gone online to different Web sites. Maybe they’ve actually called a few cosmetic surgery facilities and asked some questions. Perhaps they might have even requested a brochure, etc.
Before people have a cosmetic procedure done, they go through different processes. For example, suppose somebody has had problem with acne all their life. They’ve tried all the acne creams. They’ve tried the lotions. They might have been to a dermatologist for some type of injection or treatment. They’ve ordered things off the television.
You must offer these prospects a reward incentive. Let the prospects know that all they have to do to qualify for your reward is to show some proof that they actually made an emotional purchase. It could be that they bring in one of your competitors’ brochures, business cards, pricing quotation, computer imaging—whatever they received from your competitor will work. This is extremely important.
By having the prospects show proof of their emotional purchase, they are qualifying themselves for your services. Your incentive can be whatever you believe has a high perceived value to these prospects. It could be a certain dollar amount available as an instant credit with your office good toward their choice of any procedure you perform.
REWARD PROSPECTS FOR TAKING ACTION
You’re targeting only those prospects that already purchased or are in the process of purchasing a service similar to yours. You’re rewarding your competitors’ best prospects for taking immediate action while showing you proof of his or her purchasing intent. Please remember that your initial rebate or special incentive you’re offering is only a one-time acquisition cost to your practice. The lifetime value of acquiring this new patient could easily be worth thousands of dollars or more to your practice.
There is so much more value in those patients who have done practice with a competitor. They are just waiting for a reason to change loyalties. It is certainly better than investing your hopes and marketing budget on the small stream of future prospects who have never purchased services similar to yours.
You must start rethinking your marketing campaign strategy, or at least a portion of it, in order to specifically target and appeal to people in the process of making the decision, or who may even have your competitors’ information on their desk. This should be the focus of your strategy; this is the prospective patient you want to find.
You need a way to capture and maintain those prospects and future patients. In addition, you are targeting patients and prospects who have already made the decision to buy. They haven’t made the purchase yet; they just need to buy from you.
Now you are opening up to the possibilities, and opportunities, of gaining a greater share of your marketplace.
Ideally, you want to get your competitors’ most profitable patients to “jump ship” and come over to your practice. Are you offering enough incentive to make them want to switch? Keep this in mind when creating your offers. If you’re expecting to steal your competitors’ patients, you must prove to them beyond a shadow of a doubt that your services are truly superior in every way.
No one is going to switch to your practice if it isn’t worth the trouble. Your incentives and offers must be enticing enough to break the loyalty factor they have in place with your competitors.
You should know the price points used by your competitors. Your prospect is comparing what you’re doing and saying about prices with what your competitors are doing and saying. This is the first basis of comparison that your prospects are using in their judgment. Do a price and value comparison, which is a great way of building upon the gap between you and your competitors.
Pricing is very important, and that’s something that should be analyzed ahead of time, but let me give a brief explanation why it’s so important.
Ideally, what you really want is that segment of the marketplace who makes up the bulk of your competitors’ income. This is the 20% of your competitors’ patients who account for 80% of their practice. This is your exclusive target group.
LIFETIME VALUE OF YOUR PATIENT
A profoundly important piece of the strategy: If you do not truly know how much a patient is worth to your practice over the long run, you are doomed to become complacent and may find your competitors have targeted your patients for capture.
Your patient’s “lifetime value” represents the average profit you receive from your hard-won patient over the entire time you expect them to be with you. Perhaps you have never thought about a patient’s long-term value to your practice. Maybe you have never calculated their lifetime value, either.
To calculate this, determine what a patient costs by dividing your marketing budget by the number of patients it produces. Determine your average sales and your profit-per-sale. Determine how much additional profit a patient is worth to you by how many times they receive services from you.
Do you know how much each patient is worth to you? And how much money in advertising you can afford to spend to get one new patient? Every practice knows that patients are its life’s blood. Very few physicians fully understand the financial impact each patient can have on their own practices.
Until you have calculated how much a single patient is worth to you, you cannot possibly know how much you can afford to spend to get a new patient or what it costs when you lose a current patient.
PREPARING YOUR OWN ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN
Make a list of all the publications that carry the advertising of your biggest competitors. Examine magazines, business journals, newspapers, and Yellow Pages (both print and Internet versions). This exercise will open your eyes to what message your competitors are giving to your prospects.
List all of the potential reasons why your competitors’ patients might be dissatisfied with the level of service they have received or not received from your competitor. Do they feel neglected, have they had no contact with that practice, etc.
Create an advertisement that will steal your competitors’ patients and prospects. Meet with your staff and ask the following questions. The answer will enable you to create such an advertising campaign:
- First, what strategies or actions could your competitors implement that would severely damage or cripple your ability to compete with them? Why aren’t you doing it?
- What three key benefits can you describe about your practice that is so valuable that a prospect would chose you over all your competitors?
- If I were your prospect, what value message would I need to hear in order to be instantly interested in your practice?
- How can you get your prospects to believe 100% that your services will be everything they want and everything you promise?
- What irresistible offers could you make that would be impossible for a prospect to refuse or ignore?
- Make a list of the strategies and incentives that would make your competitors’ patients and prospects switch over to your practice. Read the list to your staff.
- Given that a prospect is interested in your practice, what would convince them to choose your practice first over all competitors?
- What do prospects want that your competitors are not providing?
- For a typical prospect, what work or life conditions must preexist for them to be a prime candidate for your services and practice?
- How can you prove or illustrate absolute credibility for your services? What consequences are there for a patient of yours if they do not have a continued relationship with you and your office staff?
By the time your competitors catch on, if they ever do, you’re already way ahead of them in the game. By then, you’ll already have gained a huge competitive advantage over your entire marketplace.
READY FOR ADVERTISING STRATEGIES?
The following examples are given to clearly illustrate the strategies behind these advertising campaigns. These examples will spark the creative ideas for your own practice. Brainstorm with staff members, partners, etc. See just how many creative ideas you can think up.
“If you’ve tried Botox, or if you regularly receive Botox injections, or have even inquired about Botox, simply show us proof—via receipt, invoice, etc—and you’ll instantly qualify for our new Botox club membership. This will include confidential medical consultation and $50 credit with us.”
“If you have ever had a surgical procedure performed or had a consultation with another doctor, call us immediately for a special offer.”
“If you have received a quote from any of our competitors, show us proof and you qualify for an immediate 20% discount at our practice.”
“If you’ve received a written estimate from any of our competitors, simply show us proof and you’ll receive a special discount with us.”
“Have you already spent good money on pills, creams and lotions, and other remedies with little or no results? If you’ve been to any health care professional over the last year—for any reason—simply show us proof via receipt and you’ll instantly qualify for a new patient discount worth X amount.”
This is strategic marketing. Those patients who already believe in the benefits of plastic surgery have already clearly identified themselves. You no longer need to waste valuable time and money trying to convince people who aren’t interested in the services of a plastic surgeon.
The rebate or special incentive you offer to them is only a one-time cost to your practice. The lifetime value of acquiring that patient could easily be worth tens of thousands of dollars to your practice.
You must create a deep relationship with your current, future, and past patients—one that creates such loyalty that they would never consider going back to your competitor. You must identify those people who have proven to spend money and will probably spend more money in the future. Focus your efforts on them.
Steven Von Loren is a consultant to medical practices. He can be reached via www.getbetterclientsnow.com, as well as (530) 268-3635 and . This report is a result of more than 15 years of research and case studies covering thousands of practice owners. Excerpts from it have appeared on MSNBC, The Today Show, The Washington Post, Fox Practice News, Yahoo! Small Practice, thestreet.com, and others.