Volumes have been written on how to effectively market an aesthetic surgery practice. Sadly, though, many of the current volumes are out of date or theoretical at best.
To continue to stay ahead of the competition, many practices are realizing the need to do a little bit of personal aesthetic surgery on their own image—to refresh it and create improved outreach programs that improve the bottom line.
The change in the consumer appetite for information has grown as exponentially as the number of physicians now offering aesthetic procedures.
In a world that is filled with fast news information, reality television, and fake news conferences, how is your message going to cut through all that clutter?
Let’s first take a look at the Internet, as it has become the fastest-growing source of news and information ever. Many will agree that prior to consultation, a significant number of patients have already done research on aesthetic surgeons on the Internet and have “checked them out” before ever stepping foot into their office.
Your Web site is your window to the world and should be inviting, interesting, educational, and up to date.
YOUR WAITING ROOM
Another area that is often overlooked is the waiting room or reception area. Popular television shows such as Nip/Tuck or Dr. 90210 may give an unrealistic view of aesthetic surgery, but they have a cutting-edge, high style and attitude.
Recently, I was in the waiting room of a physician I considered to be world-renowned and was surprised to find myself in what looked like my grandmother’s living room. While this physician was definitely on the cutting edge when it came to surgical prowess and technological advances, his office felt dowdy and dated.
When you go to your office tomorrow, walk in through the front door and take a seat for about 5 minutes. Look around with scrutiny and determine if this is the first impression you want to give your patients. If the answer is no, I have two words for you: interior designer. As in, ask someone to sit in your waiting area for 5 minutes and suggest ways to update your office’s image.
There are also many simple things you can do to use this area to promote yourself. Many offices now have a flat-screen television on the wall that displays 24-hour news programming, such as CNN. Why not use that television to display patient before-and-after photos or clips of you demonstrating procedures?
Web Site Reality Check
Is your site in need of a quick nip/tuck or a full-fledged extreme makeover? The answers to the following questions will help you decide.
- Does my site offer a “shop window view” into my practice?
- How is my image perceived on the site?
- Does my site look like it belongs to a cutting-edge practice?
- How does my site compare with the competition?
- When visitors come to my site, are they impressed with what they see?
- Am I able to track visitors who go to my site?
- Are visitors signing up to receive newsletters and event information, so that I can create a permission-based marketing campaign?
- When I Google or search the Internet using relevant aesthetic terminology, where does my site appear in the search results?
- Does my site have search engine optimization capabilities?
- If a person sees me on a television show and follows up online, are they likely to contact me after reviewing my site?
Also, make sure that any collateral material on display in your waiting room is current. There’s nothing worse than reading a newsletter (or a magazine) in a physician’s office and realizing it is from last year.
STATIONERY AND SUPPLIES
Business cards, stationery, and brochures—how have yours held up over the years? Does that logo still look as good to you as it did when you opened for business? Or does it look like you are stuck in the 1980s … or worse?
Rebranding yourself might be just what the doctor ordered and could be as simple as redesigning the logo or adding a new color to it.
Before you order your next reprints of cards, stationery, or brochures, look around at what others are doing. How does your image on paper match up to theirs? If it doesn’t, then write yourself a prescription for a new “card look.”
Are you tired of turning on the boob tube and seeing physicians who are less qualified than you, making a huge name for themselves nationally (or even internationally), and doing the same kind of procedures as you?
I have been asking physicians that question for years, and the answer is always yes. As with everything else in aesthetic surgery, however, the world of public relations (PR) has become very competitive. More physicians see it as a good way to promote their practices, and the media see it as a good way to reel in advertisers, as audience ratings soar every time a news story on aesthetic surgery airs.
Publicity is the most credible and cost-effective way to promote a practice, but not everyone is ready for this kind of strategic media involvement. Carefully placed news stories on wire services is a useful option for those who realize the value of a PR campaign but are not yet ready for their close-up on television.
For example, a physician who wanted to tout breast reconstruction procedures in time for Breast Cancer Awareness month used the wire service strategy. He landed his story on a number of local television and newspaper Web sites, as well as Forbes.com and MSNBC.com with direct links to his Web site.
For a small investment, he bought valuable exposure for his practice, created a way to easily educate the public, and provided links from national news sites to his Web site.
The way to beat your competition is head-on, and a well-orchestrated publicity program can be vital to the success of your practice.
Though a good PR program can give you visibility, don’t forget the importance of network and referral programs.
Patients spend many thousands of dollars on medical procedures, and from the perspective of many physicians, once a patient recovers that is the end of your involvement.
See also “Why Public Relations?” by Jason C. Ellman in the March 2007 issue of PSP.
In the patient’s reality, however, recovery marks a new beginning. That patient has made a significant investment in his or her personal image and wants to maintain that investment.
To address this issue, cross-marketing opportunities are available to the aesthetic surgeon. For example, consider developing marketing relationships with high-end spas, hotels, hairstylists, lingerie boutiques, fitness clubs, and area restaurants—to name a few possibilities—and arrange promotional ties. Discounts, twofers, and other perks mean a lot to customers and can turn into return business for your practice.
Even in a difficult economy, the marketing-savvy surgeon can continue to build a thriving business.
Angela O’Mara is president of The Professional Image Inc, a medical specialty public relations agency located in Newport Beach, Calif. She can be reached at (949) 760-1522, or at .