Plastic surgeons know, perhaps better than anyone, that image makes a huge difference in a practice. People care about their own looks, and they care about the appearance of what they buy. Appearance counts not only to your patients but to the outside world as well.
Change is difficult for many patients. Making the jump to a new physician or the decision to have a plastic surgery procedure can be stressful. One way to help prospective patients to feel more confident is by projecting a purposeful image, also known as a brand.
In branding yourself properly, prospective clients know exactly what they’ll get for their time and money. Take Starbucks coffee, for example. When you purchase a cup of coffee from Starbucks, do you know precisely what you can expect? Yes. The Starbucks brand adds personalization, great graphics, and a well-thought-out experience to every cup of coffee.
A good brand provides customers with a sense of trust, an emotional connection to the product, and increased confidence in knowing what they are getting.
You can’t totally control what people think about you, but you can use a few simple marketing strategies to influence their perceptions.
People judge you based on all of their points of contact with you: what they see on your Web site; how your receptionist answered the phone and took care of them; what you look like, how you dress, and how comfortable they feel in your office; and whether or not their questions were answered. Most importantly, as a plastic surgeon, people will judge you on your appearance.
Even if you aren’t aware of having one, your practice already has a brand. Every experience a patient has with you—good or bad—creates an impression. How you interact with others influences the way they perceive you, and that is how they will remember you and your practice. You have probably experienced this yourself, as a consumer.
The attraction to beauty and great design is a human mystery that is nonetheless very real. Have you ever made a personal decision based upon how something or someone looks? Do you spend more time considering things that are beautiful or well-designed? Apply this concept to your marketing strategy and gain command of how you are defined by the people you want to reach.
THROUGH A PATIENT’S EYES
It is easier to define yourself in the eyes of your audience when you know your target audience. In marketing for plastic surgery practices, the target audience is the “typical” patient. A recent study by the American Board of Plastic Surgery1 shows that 92% of all plastic surgery patients are women—8% are men; 75% chose to have a procedure to improve their physical appearance; and 25% chose to have a procedure to advance their career. You can use this as a general guideline, but you will want to identify a more specific target audience based on your own practice.
This study also validated that women want to have good rapport, want to be listened to, and want to feel comfortable sharing their concerns. Other factors include the physician’s skills and experience, and recommendations made by others.
Therefore, in order to relate to this target audience, a good brand for a plastic surgeon would include images that reflect self-confidence and professional success. It would also present a physician who has the ability to connect with and listen to patient cares and concerns. He or she exudes trustworthiness, is credentialed, and has experience in the field.
Take some time to think about how you look as seen through the eyes of the so-called typical patient.
Here’s a little exercise I’d like you to do. Gather together all of your marketing materials. Look through them and ask yourself the following three questions:
- What do my patients need to see?
- What do I need to tell them?
- Does the appearance of my marketing materials represent the quality of service that I offer?
Plastic surgeons need unique marketing tools.
Building a purposeful image starts with knowing what your services are and what makes them unique.
In most plastic surgery practices, the physician becomes the primary brand. As a figurehead in your practice, your education and years of experience, your involvement with the community, your professional affiliations, and what your marketing materials look like are all pieces of your brand. Marketing tools are the mode you use to bring your brand to your target audience.
Traditional marketing tools are television, radio, and print advertising. These tools have been called “shout marketing” tools because through them you loudly tell everyone what you can do for them.
Plastic surgery practices don’t need to shout, but they do need to reach out to patients more than ever before. Many advertising firms still do not understand that promoting a medical practice is different from the businesses they are accustom to serving.
It is hard to imagine now, but there was a time before plastic surgery became vogue and highly publicized on sensational television shows. And people found the best plastic surgeons mainly by word of mouth.
As a medical professional, you want to maintain the highest level of respect and standards. This includes loyalty programs and keeping in touch with consults and patients via e-mail, snail mail, meet-the-doctor seminars, interactive patient education, and a video loop playing in your waiting area that features all of your services. These are all good examples of nontraditional marketing. These efforts generally cost less, produce a higher return, and promote a respectful appearance.
Set yourself apart by offering exquisite images, videos, patient education, and procedural presentations that will have prospective customers wanting to know more about you.
Your personal style and manner of communicating determine how approachable you seem to your patients. You and your staff must make them feel comfortable about asking questions, whether in person, online, or outside your office.
Many successful practices include a combination of online, printed, and audiovisual materials in their patient education approaches. Start with one solid element and build upon that, as needed by your clientele. The time and money you spend on this aspect of your practice will be repaid to you in the form of returning patients and referrals.
Too many times, the quality of a surgeon’s marketing materials does not match their surgical abilities. This disconnect is then carried over to what their patients think about the quality of work they do.
You dress for success; you hire an interior designer to make your facilities look warm, inviting, and comfortable; you purchase the finest quality of instruments; and you attend premier industry conferences to learn new techniques and better your skills.
The design of your Web site should demand professional time and energy, with the same commitment to excellence as other areas of your practice.
You have only one chance to make a good first impression. Often, your marketing materials serve as the “front door” for a prospective patient. With competition for patients at an all-time high, you cannot afford to lose a potential patient with a poor first impression.
APPEARANCE EQUALS THE PERCEIVED QUALITY OF YOUR BRAND
Being a plastic surgeon makes the appearance of your marketing materials especially important to your success. Good design contributes to higher levels of patient trust. When people see something that is designed well, there is an emotional trigger that affects how they think, feel, and behave. They correlate good design to quality.
A thoughtful brand/image helps people know what to expect from you, just as they do when they see the Starbucks coffee cup.
Statistics show that people get meaning from about 7% of what you say, 55% from your body language, and 38% from the tonality of your voice. Since you can’t use body language and voice tonality in a Web site or printed materials, how can you convey your message on the Internet? The typical patient wants to feel listened to, understood, and appreciated, and the best way to convey that is via a quality brand appearance.
Candace Crowe is president of Candace Crowe Design, which specializes in plastic surgery marketing and patient education. She can be reached at (877) 384-7676 or www.candacecrowe.com.
- 1. Darisi T, Thorne S, Iacobelli C. Influences on decision-making for undergoing plastic surgery: A mental models and quantitative assessment. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2005;116(3):907-916.