By Debbi K. Kickham
If you’re reading this article you’re likely a plastic surgeon. But do you also think of yourself as an entrepreneur? Because the truth is, every plastic surgeon in private practice has to be a self-starter to achieve visibility – and credibility – in order to win over patients.
I’ve worked with plastic surgeons for more than 30 years, developing strategic marketing campaigns and targeted promotions to secure my clients prominent positioning in the media. That’s as opposed to advertising – which is a different approach altogether. Let’s face it, an editorial feature about your practice is much more desirable than buying yet another ad in a magazine (and thus falling into the trap of doing exactly what your competition does) as feature stories by media are effectively a third-party endorsement. As the co-author of The Boston Globe bestseller Off the Wall Marketing Ideas, I always differentiate my clients through creative marketing and public relations strategies that generate positive and unique visibility – and thus, more patients – for my plastic surgery clients. Here are a few examples of what you can do to distinguish your medical practice from increasing competition in this important, and profitable, sector.
Hook Onto the News
Many years ago I represented a phenomenal plastic surgeon who had also taught himself how to paint in oils. He, quite remarkably, painted his very own versions of “Vermeer” masterpieces. When the Hollywood movie The Girl with the Pearl Earring debuted, I contacted the producers to arrange for this plastic surgeon to display his “Vermeer” oil painting of the same title at the film’s Boston debut. It was a great way to show off this doctor’s unique and unusual talents, and to get potential new patients to learn about his practice.
Similarly, there was a big news story a few years ago in which there was a lot of speculation about whether James Bond actor Daniel Craig had undergone a brow lift. When news like that breaks, it’s vital to issue a press release on the particular subject matter involved and to get on social media to position yourself as the go-to expert who understands all things plastic surgery.
When a new injectable filler comes onto the market, for example, make sure to call the local medical/health reporter at your local TV station to tell them all about it and why it’s so great – and why you should go on the air to discuss it. It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – make sure to capture your patients’ email addresses and permission so you can send them regular newsletters via Constant Contact.
Cross-Market with Another Upscale Provider
It’s always a great idea to position your practice with a similar upscale company or doctor in a different industry. Cross-marketing with, for example, a luxury spa, a cosmetic dentist, or a posh fitness center is a smart way for both companies to build their brands. You, after all, are not just a plastic surgeon – you are an entrepreneur who has to keep his or her eye out for marketing opportunities.
Get on Instagram
This is quite easy to achieve, and in fact, it’s one of the ways that Dr Raffi Der Sarkissian in Boston is able to generate patient leads. When he realizes he has times available to fill with consultations, his top nurse injector posts photos and his practice photo on Instagram, offering discounts between certain hours.
“It’s hit or miss,” says Lori Skinner, his nurse. “But it’s more a hit, and I get a good response out of it.” The same holds true when companies such as Allergan or Galderma offer special discounts or deals. Whatever you do, make sure to broadcast it on social media and to post if all over your website. Remember, you can include up to 30 hashtags in your Instagram post, everything from “#cosmeticsurgery” to “#Iloveplasticsurgery.”
Highlight a Product
Dr William LoVerme of Accurate Aesthetics in Wellesley, Mass, is a huge fan of “SinEcch” – a product containing arnica Montana that reduces swelling and bruising after plastic surgery.
He told me, “It’s actually made by a pharmaceutical company, and I believe it works.” He then added, “I spend thousands of dollars a year, buying it to give to my patients.”
Dr LoVerme tells his patients all about it, but I would go a step further and actually produce a beautiful one-page document that showcases the product and why he gifts it to all of his patients, to use after plastic surgery. In this document, I would also highlight other special extras that you offer to patients – perhaps, like Dr LoVerme, you offer a free facial after plastic surgery.
I can’t say it enough – as an entrepreneur with your own medical practice, you need to do everything you can to differentiate yourself from your competition. As I say in Off the Wall Marketing Ideas, “Marketing is the art of making yourself memorable.”
Don’t Let Patients Leave Empty-Handed
If you’ve been written up or featured in a media outlet, make countless print copies of the coverage and hand one out to every patient that visits your office. If you don’t have an article written about your practice, write one that discusses what makes your practice special, unique and different, and give this tip sheet to patients. You might not believe it, but with so much digital information, patients will appreciate getting a hard copy of an actual article or one-sheet discussing your practice, which they can hold onto to – or give to a friend.
If you have samples of products such as Aquaphor, distribute them to all your patients in a small gift bag, and remember to include a one-sheet giveaway with news and information about your practice. Everyone loves getting a swag bag, and it’s an “exit-strategy” marketing opportunity that I believe that most plastic surgeons overlook.
Tap Into the Bridal Market
Brides, especially, are good candidates for plastic surgery (a year out from their wedding) or injectables a few weeks before their wedding. Don’t overlook bridal magazines, bridal shows, and bridal events in order to target this key patient demographic, as well as bridal websites. The popular magazine Brides was just recently bought by Dot Dash, and if you wish to get a hold of their editor, contact me at Debbikkickham@hotmail.com, and I’ll give you her email address, as well as a couple of other vital key media contacts that you can put to use immediately.
Don’t Forget About Your Phone Message
When patients are put on hold when they call you, make sure that you broadcast news and information about your practice that they will remember.
Discuss Your Favorite Technique or Filler
One of my plastic surgery clients was a self-proclaimed “unabashed fan of facial implants,” and I urged him to issue a press release about why he believed they were so great. Patients – and assignment editors at news outlets – always love to hear about what’s popular.
Additionally, if there’s an injectable that you really like, say so and let the world know about it. It’s a smart way to distinguish yourself from your competition. Make sure to discuss the benefits of each product or service to educate patients why they should consider it.
Position Your Practice as a Luxury Brand
Dr David Shafer, a top plastic surgeon in New York, always tells his staff, “We are the equivalent of a five-star restaurant or hotel. I want my staff to go above and beyond to make sure that every patient feels special and that everyone leaves happy.”
His tactics include offering convenient Skype or FaceTime consultations for patients in far-flung locations, and offering concierge-type assistance with hotels for patients who fly into town for surgical procedures.
Dr Shafer’s office in Manhattan also has a “back door” to ensure privacy for celebrities and VIPs as they exit. He also makes “house calls” when necessary. In fact, the only thing missing is a chocolate on the pillow – but chances are, he’s got that going on, too.
One last thought: Do you have a limiting belief that you’re not good at marketing? This is what I always say. Remember when you were single, you put on a nice outfit, fixed your hair, and spritzed on fragrance? That’s not dating – that’s marketing. And everyone knows how to do it!
Debbi Kickham is former Editor of ROBB REPORT magazine and the owner of Westwood Marketing USA, which specializes in marketing plastic surgery practices.