May 2014 Plastic Surgery Practice

Do millennial Internet marketers really know what they are talking about?

Sunila_JoyceBy Joyce Sunila

Many years ago, I interviewed for a job reading scripts for a Hollywood producer. The interview took place in a mansion in West LA. Afterward, visiting the powder room on my way out, I saw a Best Picture Oscar on a shelf. I was impressed.

Naturally, I was thrilled when I got the job.

And I thoroughly enjoyed going to my “office” every day. It was a cottage next to the swimming pool, across the back lawn behind my boss’s house.

I spent 2 years in these pleasant circumstances, reading scripts that were so awful I wanted to set them on fire, yet enjoying my boss’s down-to-earth brilliance. But after a while, I had to face reality—we were never going to get a movie made. As my ex-boyfriend (a 24-year-old who was then running a movie studio) so bluntly said, “Nobody wants to work with Harold. He’s too old.”


That was what they called the “Baby Mogul” era in Hollywood. Twenty-somethings like my then-boyfriend started taking over key executive positions and transforming movie content.

The upheaval had a good side—we got movie franchises like Star Wars and The Godfather, made by a new generation of young filmmakers—and a not-so-good side: Producers whose faces had a few wrinkles became lepers. They had to hire young people like me to evaluate material and front for them at meetings.

It’s deja vu all over again. We’ve got a national “baby mogul” situation. Millennials have taken over. They’re calling the shots. They control the world of marketing (and thus, business) from their perches at Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.

And their new marketing systems are very mysterious. This morning, I got an email from a client containing some HubSpot studies sent to him by his webmaster. He wanted to know whether the findings in the study might apply to newsletter subject lines, not just social media titles.

The study looked at nine words that could be used to start social media posts and ranked them according to which stimulated the most engagement. The words were, in descending order:










He wanted to know: Should we start sending newsletters with “Should” as the first word in the subject line? Would that result in more people opening the mail?

I wanted to say that the best way to get people to open your mail is to send them valuable mail. Train them to expect enlightening content from you, and the “From” line will take care of the open
rate. You won’t have to fret about the “Subject” line.

Ironically, that same morning I got a notice from Real Patient Ratings saying that this same client of mine had received yet another five-star review from a patient. She’d raved about the doctor’s caring ways, perfect execution, and unbelievable staff.

This kind of review is typical for the client I’m talking about. He does fantastic work, and everybody loves him. With a mature practice in a well-populated region, a doctor of this caliber should not be worrying about what word to use in his subject lines.


Businesses trying to navigate the Brave New World of Internet Marketing are grasping at straws. Internet marketing experts tell them the rules have changed, that they can no longer expect to stay on Page 1 of Google using the old methods. But marketers don’t really know what will work in the future. Every time Google’s algorithm changes, they rush back to the drawing board.

My problem arises when they invite their clients—also my clients—to join them on wild goose chases to “game” the system. It seems unfair to ask plastic surgeons—who have more important things to think about—to help figure out which gimmicks will trip up the search engines or maneuver people’s choices on social media.

The gimmicks Internet marketers obsess over are always backed by “data,” but it’s the kind of data that’s so picayune and removed from sales—ie, the actual booking of actual surgery by an actual person in a consulting room—that it amounts to little more than spreading rumors.


We heard plenty of rumors back in the Hollywood Baby Mogul days. Word got out that one of the young upstarts was working on a science fiction space movie, so producers began asking agents to send them all the science fiction scripts they had on hand.

I read dozens and dozens of science fiction scripts. When the agents ran out of scripts, I read dozens of science fiction books. I became a fan of Philip K. Dick, the darkest science fiction writer in America. I told my boss he’d be hailed as a genius if he made a movie based on a Philip K. Dick novel.

Now Dick is a great writer whose novels were eventually made into successful movies. But his stories bore absolutely no resemblance to Star Wars.

Star Wars, you see, was the secret production everyone in Hollywood was hoping to emulate!


Thankfully, my boss never bought the rights to a Philip K. Dick novel. “Thankfully,” because he would have lost his shirt. No “science fiction property” could have possibly rivaled Star Wars in 1977. Star Wars was destined to become a cultural icon that fit precisely into the zeitgeist of 1977. No imitations possible.

There’s a lesson in there: Second-guessing what the young folks are up to is a lousy way to do business.

When finding new patients turns into a trivial guessing game in a visibility contest invented by millennials, it’s time to go back to the tried and true—staying in touch with people who already know and like you.

Internal marketing is the port you can rest in while the digital age goes through its growing pains. Why not build on the good work you’ve already done? There’s tremendous equity in the patients who already know you. Who rave about how much better their lives are because of you.

Focus on them instead of wrestling with digital conundrums. There’s plenty to do—get testimonial videos from them, invite them to events, send them hand-written notes, send them flowers after surgery, send them e-newsletters. You can still continue to build your community the old-fashioned way—by paying real attention to the human beings close at hand.

Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers in Palm Desert, Calif. She can be reached via [email protected].

Original citation for this article: Sunila, J. They’re back: The invasion of the baby moguls: Do millennial Internet marketers really know what they are talking about? Plastic Surgery Practice. 2014 May; 26-27.