In my travels, the same limiting beliefs keep coming up again and again. These are beliefs aesthetic physicians “know to be true” because they have seen them with their own eyes.

Replace those beliefs with ones that are more empowering and profitable.

BAD BELIEF #1: I NEED MORE PATIENTS

Do you really need more patients, or do you need more aesthetic profits?

A practice can go broke attempting to attract total strangers to their practice using all sorts of expensive trial-and-error marketing strategies. In the postrecession economy, patients will have been conditioned to be more cautious and conservative. They are more skeptical and more difficult to obtain.

Think back to what it’s like when you explain a procedure in response to an established patient’s questioning. How does that compare to explaining a procedure to a total stranger who is a prospective patient sizing you up?

It is all-around easier, smoother, more relaxed, and effective to have a conversation with that current patient who trusts you implicitly than the stranger who is questioning everything you are telling her.

Retention is the new acquisition. Embracing rather than ignoring the gold mine right in front of you is the strategic way to grow your practice. Your current patients who return and refer will fund your ongoing acquisition costs.

Think about it: How does a total stranger become a good friend of yours? Typically, you feel a connection with them, and you feel safe, comfortable, and interested in what they have to say. You talk and find things you have in common. You make time for them, make them a priority, take their telephone calls, respond to their e-mails, talk fondly about them to others, invite them to events, and make plans to get together.

I agree that you need new patients, but only if the majority of them come from your endless chain of referrals. If you get one patient and she gives you at least one referral—and that referred patient gives you at least one referral, and you keep that going—then you will never run out of new patients.

BAD BELIEF #2: THE PATIENT HAD SURGERY AND IS DONE

You cater to a very hungry market—the patient who wants to look and feel good and will invest their time, money, and effort to do so. They believe looking good will make them feel good. This is not a one-time feeling.

The patient who cares about her appearance has a built-in need now and next year (and for years to come). If they care today how they look, then they are really going to care as the aging process takes an even bigger toll and creates more wrinkles, crepe skin, and sagging body parts.

Putting in the effort up front—now—to attract these aesthetic patients to your practice and nurturing those relationships will prompt them to return again and again for procedures, treatments, and products.

In addition, you can strategically increase your revenues per patient by doing the following:

  • Encouraging patients to return more often;
  • Cross-selling and up-selling them on additional procedures and products;
  • Keeping them loyal to you so they don’t wander off to your competitor; and
  • Encouraging them to refer others.

Invest a lot more of your attention and resources in what happens before, during, and after each and every patient interaction. The alternative is finding more new prospective patients, which takes additional time, money, and effort to transition them to loyal, returning patients.

BAD BELIEF #3: MY PATIENTS WOULD NEVER GO ANYWHERE ELSE

This belief will kill your aesthetic profits. You are kidding yourself if you think you are the only physician to satisfy your patient. The aesthetic patient may like you and love your staff. However, if she is not treated well, then she will go to your competitors. At that point, she thinks they will offer her more—a friendlier staff, better value for her money, gentler injections, no waiting, free samples, and the list goes on and on.

Aesthetic patients are fickle consumers and always on the lookout for “better.” Do not let your ego get in the way. Build a gate around your patients so they wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else. Do this with patient appreciation events so that they get face-to-face time with you throughout the year, informative monthly newsletters with themed information, and offers, birthday cards, holiday offers, and other ongoing communications.

BAD BELIEF #4: MY PATIENTS ARE CHEAP

The American consumer is alive and well. As much as you believe your patients have taken a good hard look at their conditions and debt and have stopped spending, when it comes to investing in aesthetic enhancement, you should know the facts.

  • Your prospective patients recently spent a collective $40 million on the latest scary flick to get scared out of their wits;
  • They donated tens of millions to the Haiti recovery effort;
  • They spent $2,000 on scalped tickets to watch the Olympics in person; and
  • Go by any trailer park and spot the satellite dishes that run $50 to $150 per month.

Plenty of money is out there, changing hands. The trick is to find out how to face the money as it flows to you.

There is always a group of prospective patients who always have the money for procedures. They want to feel better about their appearance. You should develop the skills to focus on those most likely to want your services right away, such as the mature patient whose concerns—sun damage, wrinkles, and sagging body parts—are more urgent than those of younger patients.

Today’s aesthetic patients are looking for more value, not just a lowest price. Pricing is a perceived value. If you don’t educate the patient about why you charge what you charge, the patient can only go by price since they haven’t been given any other criteria for making a decision.

Be creative. Give them special packaged pricing. Offer special pricing one time per year for a specific reason. Bundle services and products together with special pricing.

BAD BELIEF #5: I ONLY INVEST IN INTERNET MARKETING

Congratulations to you for being on the Internet. You must have a presence online in today’s digital world. Actually, you will lose much credibility if you don’t have a Web site. Here’s my question to you: Is your Web site attracting the patients you want? Are they showing up for their appointments? Are they converting to paid procedures?

The Internet is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it levels the playing field and everyone can look like a big sophisticated company with the right Web site look and feel. However, the Web has trained the public to click away and see the boundless alternatives available to them. With one simple Google search, they determine there are many practices in their area to help them with their aesthetic concerns.

This abundance of information and countless alternatives creates a competitive atmosphere in which the patient knows if you can’t or won’t help them, they have lots of different choices elsewhere. This can be overwhelming. With all this information available at the push of a button, the consumer thinks he or she has the power and information they need to negotiate the best solution for them. That alone can create price-shoppers.

You have got to be on your game for every single step of the Internet surfer’s experience. Most Web sites should not be overly cool. The Flash movie that acts as an “opening screen” to your Web site? Get rid of it. People looking at your site are there for information about a problem they have, and they want a solution.

The next huge gap can be found in the content on your practice’s home page. Most Web sites focus on the physician/surgeon and why he/she is the best, as opposed to talking to the patient, identifying their problems, and relating how you can solve them.

You are asking patients to find you on the Web, call you, come in, meet you, and spend lots of money on you … all in a matter of minutes. That’s not how most people make decisions, especially female aesthetic patients. They want to get to know you or feel as if they know you so they can trust you are the perfect solution.

Conversion rates on the Internet are horrible. Even if the patient calls you, your receptionist is probably not equipped with the right questions and responses to turn that lookee-loo caller into a booked appointment. And that leads her to say that everyone who calls is price-shopping.

On The Web!

See also “Reclaiming Profits in Your Practice” by Catherine Maley, MBA, in the March 2010 issue of PSP.

Here’s the secret to dealing with this. Yes, they are price shopping because nobody gave them a better reason not to. Unless you give them other criteria to go by, price is the stabilizer in any consumer decision.

The point is, Internet marketing only attracts a potential new patient to you, but it does nothing to convert that patient to a loyal, returning, and referring patient. That takes other modes of communication, such as patient events, regular e-mail, and direct mail contact throughout the year.

CONCLUSION

What you believe is more important than what is. Actively seek out the opportunities that will enable you to flourish in aesthetic medicine.

There is a saying that is very appropriate in this context: “When you change the way you see things, the things you see will change.” (Wayne W. Dyer)


Catherine Maley, MBA, is an aesthetic marketing strategist and author of Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying. She can be reached at www.cosmeticimagemarketing.com or (877) 339-8833.