By Joyce Sunila

I just returned from the Multi-Specialty Cosmetic Surgery Symposium in Las Vegas. In addition to the medical sessions, it included four full days of practice management sessions covering a range of topics from marketing to consultation skills to staff training.

Every year, one topic seems to dominate the marketing talks. This year’s buzz was reviews and reputation.

·         How Google’s new algorithm favors those with the best reviews.

·         How bad reviews can bump you off the first page of Google.

·         How to counter bad reviews. (A few schools of thought on that one…)

·         How to get your patients to write good reviews for you.

·         How to protect your reputation (that is, your Reviews).

Google, Google, Google

Google’s been the Big Bad Wolf of the marketing sessions for years. Its ever-changing algorithms sweep ferociously across the Internet, forcing abrupt changes in rankings and thus SEO strategy. This year the Big Bad Wolf had a henchman: The Godfather. Online reviews have become so powerful that “protection rackets” have sprung up to counter them.

Internet marketing companies now promise to protect your reputation by squeezing good reviews out of your patients and trying to negotiate away your bad ones –all in the name of higher Google rankings.

Step Back – What’s the Goal of Marketing?

Not all of the presentations were about reviews and reputation. There was a panel discussion about how to handle consultations. During the question–and-answer period, a young doctor in the audience took the microphone and confessed he spent quite a long time with prospects, and that he enjoyed getting to know them.

He was quickly cut down by a panelist. “You’re wasting the practice’s time. After 30 minutes you should close the sale.”

He protested. Everyone on the panel nailed him. They suggested he attend a session about “closing skills.”

The Irony of It All

No one mentioned that the onslaught of “bad reviews”doctors are getting might be related to treating patients like cash cows instead of human beings.

Next year, I’m hoping the Symposium will include a panel about how  doctors can spend more time listening to their patients. People who are listened to carefully and sympathetically tend to be happy campers. They have neither the time nor the inclination to complain on the Internet (and they are also a whole lot less likely to sue you). Just saying …

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