By now, it should be abundantly clear to you that life is not going to return to the “normal” that we knew not too long ago. The game has changed. Days of carefree spending, easy credit, and free-flowing optimism are over for the foreseeable future.
As an aesthetic physician, you will not be able to do what you have done in the past decade and expect the same results. Those who adapt now will flourish, and those who try to get by on the “same-old, same-old” will perish.
It’s tougher than ever to get that steady stream of patients flowing through your office. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You need to be more strategic than ever before.
Getting your fair share of patients takes well-thought-out strategies and processes. Consider the following concepts when mapping out how you will promote your aesthetic services in the new emerging economy.
CHECK YOUR MIND-SET
“What you believe, you will see.” Thinking abundance would be a good mind-set strategy to embrace from here on out. If you believe there are still plenty of patients for you to serve, your mind will stay open to the opportunities all around you. That will lead to creative energy in terms of ideas and actions taken by you and your staff, and you will, indeed, see plenty of patients. Try it.
Know your USP—unique selling proposition. It’s time to get noticed and stand apart from the rest. The emerging economy has tipped the scales. The demand for aesthetic procedures has decreased, but the supply of physicians offering aesthetic services has increased. This supply/demand ratio will force you to separate yourself from the pack.
Emphasize your aesthetic practice’s strong points. Develop a competitive advantage. Play off what you consider to be unique about your practice, and emphasize your strengths.
These strengths may include the following:
- Any celebrity patients you might have;
- Your pro-bono work in your community;
- Your office staff;
- Technology you are using; and,
- Your new spin on old procedures.
Work on your practice, not in it. Do you have a job or a practice? When you stop and consider the different revenue streams your practice could generate, you may be pleasantly surprised that your practice could reap huge returns with or without you being there.
Work smarter, not harder. Work only on activities that produce revenues for you. Delegate the rest. Set up systems for every process in your office so nothing falls through the cracks and each patient receives a consistent experience every time. This also helps ensure you get the most return on investment from each patient.
Build a rock-solid team. Hiring the wrong staff person is expensive. It costs you 1 to 1.5 times that staff person’s annual salary in terms of bad patient relations and spoiled office atmosphere. Stick to the old adage: Hire slowly and fire quickly.
Choose your target patient carefully. The new reality is you want to cater to higher-quality patients. Today’s aesthetic patient must feel the need and have the wherewithal to get what they want in terms of aesthetic enhancement.
Target potential customers who can best afford and use your aesthetic services. More than ever, you should pay attention to the quality of the patients. You need to target those patients who are least affected by what happens in the economy and are “last affected,” meaning mature, affluent patients.
Consider the mature patient versus the 20-year-old patient. The mature patient has sheer length of time on this planet to rack up needs to turn back the clock—wrinkles, sagging skin, bulges, fat, and veins. She is also more likely to have the emotional and financial wherewithal to afford your discretionary services.
Research your patient’s wants and needs. Here is something to keep in mind about human nature: Your patients will do whatever they can to buy what they want rather than buy what they need.
Survey your existing patients. Do you know the new challenges your patients are facing? How do they respond to the dips in the economy and redefine their needs? Instead of cutting the market research budget, you need to know your patient’s profile. The more you understand your patients and give them what they want, the more often you’ll see them and their friends at your practice.
Adjust your procedure portfolio. Depending on what you learn from the above-mentioned patient research, help your aesthetic patients see new opportunities to take care of themselves. Perhaps they can’t or won’t afford big surgical procedures, so this is the time to educate them on the smaller procedures (such as fillers and Botox). Even though they pay less money, you can reconnect with them and they will come back for the bigger procedures later.
DO MORE FOR EXISTING PATIENTS
Existing patients are a gold mine waiting to be explored. Take extra care of your existing patients. Keep in touch with the ones who already know, like, and trust you. They will return again and again and bring their friends with them.
Your current patients are the main source of your revenue, if you just communicate regularly with them. Educate them on the latest advancements in aesthetic medicine, and, by all means, let them know you appreciate their loyalty.
Specific strategies to get your patients to return include the following:
- Follow up on old leads;
- Search your database for any old inquiries and send those individuals promotional offers via mail or e-mail, or just call them on the phone;
- Ensure that your receptionist(s) know the new strategy and can answer the patients’ questions effectively; and
- Encourage word-of-mouth referrals from existing patients.
Make certain your staff always asks, “How did you hear about us?” A word-of-mouth referral is the absolute best advertisement you can incorporate into your practice. It’s also the cheapest form of advertising that you can invest in, and it takes so little time and effort.
Be sure to send a sincere thank-you note for each referral you get from a patient. Acknowledgement and appreciation of your referring patients will prompt them to send more patients your way. In addition, you can invite your best-referring patients to your office periodically for a complimentary, noninvasive treatment. You can also send them a small gift or card on their birthday and during the holidays.
Invite prospective patients to visit your practice for fun and educational “open door” events. Let them see you in a more relaxed setting so they get to know you and your staff on a more personal level. Offer goody bags, demonstrations, refreshments, and special pricing. Encourage your existing patients to bring along friends, family, or relatives.
Maintain your marketing efforts. Are your competitors cutting back on their marketing budgets? Now is not the right time to cut back on your efforts. Actually, it’s the best time to step up your efforts to not only keep your own patients loyal but also to attract your competitor’s patients.
ATTRACT NEW PATIENTS
How can you do that? Some strategies work very well.
To begin with, get multiple media exposure via a combination of mail, local newspaper, online media, brochures and business cards, and the sponsorship of a community event. Currently, you can negotiate excellent media rates, and many in the media are especially willing to work with you on your terms. Advertising in general is not being used as much as in recent years, meaning that you can really stand out among your competitors. However, advertise only where your research tells you the preferred patient will be looking. In other words, find out what they read, watch, listen to, and attend, and then be there.
Networking is going to be more important from now on. The new marketplace is all about permission-based information and social marketing media. You can’t force patients to see, hear, and watch you, but you can strategically get in front of them as the aesthetic expert. They can now turn to you and boast about you to their friends.
It isn’t who you know, it’s who knows you. Align with others in your community who share the demographics you do. Speak at and attend events. Connect with as many others as possible. Every person you meet should know who you are, what you do, and the services you offer. Provide your business card, get interested in what they are doing, and follow up with them. Tell them it was a pleasure to meet them and how much you would appreciate their referrals to your practice.
Practicing aesthetic medicine in the new economy will take strategic effort. You will need to out-think, out-market, out-learn, and out-train your competitors so that patients see you—and only you—as the logical choice for their aesthetic enhancement.
Get active and strategically put a plan in place to make it happen. There is much you can do to get out of this economic uncertainty and even flourish, no matter what.
Catherine Maley, MBA, is the author of Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying. Her firm specializes in teaching physicians how to attract more aesthetic patients to their practices. She can be reached at (877) 339-8833.
An Automated Process for New Patients
- A new patient calls and asks questions. The receptionist answers the patient’s queries according to a frequently-asked-questions document. She asks for and books the consultation.
- The new patient immediately receives a welcome package, which includes a welcome letter with your personal handwritten comment; additional information about the procedure she is interested in; patient testimonials and photographs; and additional information about you, your staff, and your community involvement.
- The receptionist calls 48 hours in advance of the appointment and sends an e-mail 24 hours ahead to help ensure the new patient shows up.
- The new patient is warmly greeted by the receptionist, welcomed to the practice, offered refreshments, and escorted to the reception area.
- She is shown an introductory welcome video as well as albums of patient stories with photos, plus additional information on various procedures, treatments, and products available to her.
- Your patient care coordinator escorts the patient to an office or exam room to bond with her, learn more about her concerns, and brief her on your accomplishments.
- The new patient watches a personal message from you on a flat-panel monitor in the exam room while she waits for you. She also watches silent digital photo frames of comparable procedures in which she may be interested.
- What follows is your patient consultation.
- You pass the patient back to your patient care coordinator to close and book surgery or an appointment.
- You follow up with the new patient.
The point is to leave nothing to chance. Processes are defined ahead of time and followed, no matter what.