This morning a gardener came over and gave me two pink roses. They were fragrant and in full bloom. He showed me where to hold them – in the middle of the stem, where he’d shaved off the thorns. If I were the person hiring gardeners in my little gated complex, I would count his gesture as top-tier marketing.Bridal pink - morwell rose garden edit

It gave me a moment of pure pleasure. It set the tone for the rest of my morning and reinforced the positive feelings I already have toward people who beautify my environment.

Later that morning, I was talking to a doctor about relationship marketing. He said he’d stopped sending birthday cards to patients. Only four people had responded to the discount offer in the birthday mailings, and he saw that as a low return on investment (ROI).

Ah, what a numbers-crazed society we live in! We drill, drill, drill for data and crunch numbers until they scream for mercy.

But numbers aren’t reality, they are shadows.

The ROI reality of that campaign was:
• Four people used their birthday discount.
• 496 people saw the envelope.
• Most of them probably opened the envelope, given how electrifying it is these days to spy something real amid the bills and junk mail.

What did they think?

• Some thought: “Hey, at least something appeared in my mailbox on my birthday.”
• Others thought: “What a crock. That doctor probably has a mailing service do this – the card’s not even signed.”
• Others still thought: “Those lousy doctors add their marketing costs to what they charge people for medical services.”

And on and on. There’s no predicting how people will react to your birthday cards. Ideally, of course, they’ll react like this: “Hey, Dr. Smith’s still around. He was so great when he did my rhinoplasty, I bet he has one of those laser skin remodeling things I keep reading about. Note to self: See Dr. Smith when the coffers fill up again.”

These responses don’t show up on a chart or graph, but they all have some impact on business.
One thing is for sure: The reaction to that card is based on the patient’s most recent experience with the doctor. Fond memories – good feelings Bad memories – bad feelings.

A patient loyalty tool like a birthday card is just an echo of you. An avatar, if you will. It goes out into the world to remind people of who you are.

Obviously, then, the best way to get guaranteed (but not-possible-to-calculate) “ROI” from it is to give great service in the first place.

Keep Reaching Out

You need patient loyalty tools. Cosmetic surgery treatments are intermittent. Your avatars keep you on the radar screen between visits.

Here’s my ftwo cents about birthday cards.

• Don’t send discounts. It’s not necessary.
• Go the extra mile and send something exquisite – as exquisite as a rose in bloom.

• Sign the card yourself, and scribble something about how you hope they’re enjoying their results. That small gesture – like shaving the thorns off a rose’s stem – speaks volumes about how much you care.

Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers, creating newsletters for plastic surgeons. She can be reached at [email protected] or via [email protected].