Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Increasing Business with Patient Appreciation Days

Several days ago I mentioned that the fastest way to the next customer is via the customer currently sitting in your database, ie, if you aren't going out of your way to treat that customer well, h/she don't bring in the next one!

Let's talk today about utilizing your patient database as a "feeder"system for your business growth plans.

  1. How many names are in your database? Do you know how to export them to an Excel Spreadsheet? Do so. Export first and last name, street address, city, state, zip, email address, date of birth, and date of last visit in your office.
  2. Once you have this information in Excel, save as Patient Database.todaysdate.xls
  3. Sort by email address to see how many email addresses you have. Delete all those without an email address. Do a "save as" with just email addresses. Name is PtEmails.11.1.08.xls. Be sure to date this because over time you will add more patients and the lists will get confusing.
OK, how to use this information?

Hold a Patient Appreciation Day
  • Ask one of your filler and/or cosmeceutical reps to design a postcard mailer and a flyer that you can hang in the office where patients check out. Some reps are allowed to not just create the postcard but cover postage as well. Ask around and see who accommodates you the most.
  • Invite the patients in your database to come in for an educational seminar about non-surgical facial rejuvenation and injections from 4-7 on that date. Avoid weekends, as people have family things going on.
  • If they bring a friend both they and their friend get $50 off their injection or cosmeceutical product. Be sure this is clearly stated on the invitation.
  • Also announce this via email.
  • You will want to use a service for emailing. Constant Contact is a good one. Very reasonable fees and you can mail as often as you wish, as the cost is based on the number of email addresses, not the number of times you send emails. You can easily see how many opened it, whether they forwarded it to a friend, etc.
Come back for the next blog post and I'll teach you how to create a Patient Referral Program that's extremely easy to create and run.

Here's to your success,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sur-Thriving in a Difficult Economy

Christian Louboutin was on CNN this morning--he's having his best year ever! A pair of his shoes runs around $1K or more. Now, if some of your aesthetic treatments run about the same, on average, per treatment as a pair of Louboutins, doesn't it make you wonder why you aren't having your best year ever?

Consumers are confused and concerned about America's economic problems. If financial troubles haven't hit them yet, they're wondering when and if they might. Your customers may be scrutinizing their aesthetic purchases, which ultimately puts loyalty to the test. They may be looking at other options to see if the treatments they receive at your practice can be matched elsewhere for a lower price. What to do?

Here are 3 sur-thrival tips. I call them Sur-Thrival Tips because if you do them, you'll not just survive but thrive! I'll be posting more sur-thrival tips over the next few days and weeks, so tune in again.

  • Position aesthetic care as a need, not just as a want. Who needs aesthetic care? People looking for work, folks wanting to hold off on a surgical aesthetic solution by using laser treatments and fillers, brides, mothers of brides (and grooms)-to-be, women re-entering the job market, trophy wives, executives, models, actors, professional singers, sales reps who sell high-end items like luxury cars, high-priced homes, insurance--they must look like they are doing well. Get out there and present 30-min seminars to these groups at their job sites and clubs. Go into their sales meetings, run ads targeting job-hunters, singles, brides-to-be.
  • Sell experience and skill. The average consumer has never really understood the value of a highly trained specialist to deliver aesthetic care. They figure if one nail salon is about the same as another, then every aesthetic provider (cosmetic dentist, cosmetic dermatologist, plastic surgeon, etc) is the same as another except for--what's that?--price! Focus any advertising on experience and skill to differentiate yourself from the price-cutting competitors.
  • Survey your customer base or hold a focus group or two to identify the driving factors for your products and services. Use this information to determine if and how attitudes have changed. This can identify new opportunities for your business as well as changing the message you put out to the public.
Marketing never stops. If you stop marketing, you waste the brand equity that's already been established.

Commit to making your brand more relevant over the next 12 months. You'll end up miles ahead when things turn around (and they always do).

To your success,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How Important is the Practice Website?

If I come to your office as a prospective patient and see torn curtains hanging at the windows, a maze-like layout to the office, and nobody there to assist me, is it likely I'll stay for the appointment? You know the answer. I'll bolt faster than a cat in a tubful of ice water.

So, does it stand to reason that if I come to your aesthetic website and it's unattractive, difficult to maneuver and hard to find important information (like before/after and financing details as 2 examples), that I'll bail and go to another aesthetic practice site? You betcha.

Your website is the doorway to your practice for the vast majority of patients. This assumes, of course, they can FIND YOU on the internet by typing [procedure] + [city] into a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or MSN (the top 3). If you are doing search engine optimization, (SEO) with a reputable SEO firm, then at least consumers have a chance of finding the site.

But finding your site isn't enough if, when consumers arrive there, the information they want cannot be located without extensive clicking through layers upon layers, if the headers don't make sense, or if it's ugly and disorganized.

Just today I went to the website of a prospective client in Beverly Hills. Beverly Hills is THE toughest market in America for plastic surgeons. Sooooo many plastic surgeons. I was stunned to find a hideous, poorly formatted site. Honestly, it is obvious that this person did the site himself. And it's a pity. Because I imagine him to be a terrific practitioner. But if I were a consumer, I wouldn't stay on the site for more than 5 seconds--that's about enough time to be turned off and get the click out of there.

So, a word to the wise. Consider prospects' first interaction with your practice. If your website is crappy, fix it. If your receptionist lacks finesse & charm, doesn't speak clearly and pleasantly and/or doesn't "get it" when interacting with upscale clientele, don't pass GO and don't collect $200--fire her! You have much too much to lose.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Four Legs to Successful Conversion

Imagine a 4-legged chair. If one leg of the chair is broken, the chair wobbles and may not hold your weight, correct? If two legs are broken, the chair is just as useless as if all 4 legs were missing.

Successful conversion also rests on 4 legs. They are:
  1. Desire
  2. Timing
  3. Ability
  4. Trust
In any transaction, whether it's buying aesthetic improvements, a dishwasher, a car, a house--virtually anything--these 4 things must be in place for the transaction to take place. You must identify the first three and instill the last one.

If I go to Sears and begin looking at dishwashers and John, the appliance salesman, wants to sell me a dishwasher today, he needs to evaluate my level of desire, timing and ability in order to make that sale. If I just came in to "look" because my dishwasher works just fine but we're "thinking" about remodeling sometime in the future, what is the likelihood that John will sell me a dishwasher today? Very small, right? So you quickly see the importance of John evaluating my level of desire and my timing. So, how much time should John spend with me? Enough to insure that later, when I am ready to buy, he will be my salesman because I trust him and Sears, but he need not "go for the close" because he now understands my level of desire and sense of timing negates a sale today. To instill trust he might tell me the benefits of their guarantee, low repair statistics, financing options and therefore, instill the trust that will make Sears "my choice" when I'm finally ready to take action.

So how does John sell a dishwasher? By identifying each consumer's level of desire, sense of timing, and ability to buy, while instilling trust that Sears is the place to buy and that John is the person to carry out the transaction with efficiency and integrity. In other words, John must first identify the desire, timing and ability through polite and carefully constructed questioning, and he must instill trust. Note that he can only control the trust factor. He cannot control my timing, my desire or my financial ability to buy, but he must understand them in order to evaluate whether and when he might be able to consummate a transaction. If I have little desire, don't need a dishwasher now, or don't have the money even though I need a dishwasher now, it matters little how much trust I have in John because I cannot or will not buy that dishwasher. Got this so far?

So how does this apply to the aesthetic practice? Just like John, you need to evaluate each prospective patient in the first 3 areas (desire, timing, ability) at every opportunity until the paperwork is signed and money is exchanged. Every Opportunity. This means that every connection with your office, from the website to the receptionist to the consultation, must identify desire, timing and ability while instilling trust.

Example: When a consumer calls the front desk for information, it's the job of whoever takes that call to elicit the caller's level of desire, timing and ability. If they fail at this, you end up with appointments that cannot convert, either because the consumer isn't ready to do anything, isn't really that committed or doesn't have the money.

How is this done? Simple and polite questioning. Things like:
  • Mary, you've called the right place--we do perform [procedure]s! May I ask how long you've been thinking about having a [procedure]?
  • John, we do perform [procedure]--are you hoping to schedule this during your vacation or before a special event? (Note: many people elect aesthetic procedures/treatments before weddings, reunions, etc).
  • Susan, about 60% of our patients finance their [procedure]s. I'm happy to send you some information about that if you'd like. (Notice that staff member asks this before the caller has to expose their financial limitations by asking for financing information)
  • Jan, most of our patients find that it's helpful to bring their Significant Other to the consultation; is there someone you'd like to bring with you?
This is done again at the consultation appointment by the person who takes the patient back to the exam room. And again by the physician or dentist who examines the patient. It must be done casually, without sounding like the Grand Inquisition. More examples:
  • Mary, who would be coming with you to drive you home after your [procedure]?
  • Have you been thinking about how you'll look after your [procedure]?
  • Do you have someone who will care for your children while you're recovering?
  • Did we send you financing information? (those who don't need it will say so and those who do will be relieved that they didn't have to bring it up). Do you need any help completing the application?
Note how appropriately constructed questions instill trust while eliciting the information you need to gauge the probability of a conversion. By understanding your prospects' timing, level of desire and financial ability, you will close more business and waste less time on those who have no ability to convert.

You're Actually Selling Trust

Most of our clients think they are selling procedures and treatments. Although procedures and treatments are the goal of a successful consultation with a patient, what you're actually selling at the consultation is trust--trust that you will deliver the results discussed at the price agreed upon. Trust that they will be better off after the procedure or treatment than they are now. Trust that you have the skill, experience and aesthetic eye to create a satisfactory outcome. Trust that you will not laugh at their physical imperfections. Trust that they will have no more pain than they can tolerate. Trust that you and your staff will be kind to them.

You have surely noticed a larger conversion ratio in referred patients than those who find you on the internet or via the Yellow Pages, right? Why is that? Because the original patient (the referror if you will) transferred his/her trust in your practice to the referee. The referred patient does not feel the need to investigate two or three other aesthetic offices because his/her friend has already told them how terrific you are. The trust in you has been transferred.

So, what does this tell you? Everything you and your staff do, say, print on the website or elsewhere (ads included) must speak to the issue of trust. "You are safe with us", "We are expert at [insert procedure here]", "Over 1000 patients have entrusted us with their dental/dermatology/cosmetic surgery care", etc. You get the idea.

Converting More Incoming Calls to Appointments

The majority of consumers first enter the cosmetic dermatology, cosmetic dental or plastic surgery world with two basic fears--they fear exposing parts of their anatomy which are displeasing to them, and they fear exposing their financial limitations.

Studies show that the average individual choosing elective cosmetic surgery has a HHI (household income) under $70K. Therefore, it's safe to assume that a good portion of consumers evaluating elective procedures of any kind have concerns about revealing their income limits to their elective healthcare provider. This is not a concern in a "regular" doctor's office, as insurance covers most treatments along with the patient's small co-pay. In elective care, however, patients have only their own resources plus the potential of financing plans through Care Credit and other similar firms to cover the cost of elective procedures.

It's always our suggestion to elective healthcare providers that any prospective patient be provided with the full armamentarium of payment options as soon as possible in the relationship. Surely, most physicians are familiar with the average consumer's initial call to the office, which is usually along the lines of "What does it cost for a [fill in your procedure here]?" To the irritation of the receptionist, who has been instructed to either give out the fees or withhold them by responding with the least helpful response of "we don't quote fees over the telephone", these incoming calls must be considered an opportunity to offer financing options and engage the caller in a more in-depth conversation that will lead to a consultation appointment.

It pays (literally) to keep in mind that most Americans purchase large-ticket items by monthly payment, not by total price. Consider a car or home purchase. Most of us are more concerned about the monthly payment than we are with the total cost. Therefore, I suggest that you "run the numbers" to discover average monthly cost of your most popular procedures (when financed) and make sure the receptionist and other staff who deal with patients pre-booking are familiar with the average monthly payment for veneers, for a breast augmentation, or for a series of laser skin treatments, as examples. Then the receptionist can be more helpful to callers who, by and large, are "shopping" for the best price because of budgetary limitations. This also helps the receptionist or patient coordinator to take charge of the incoming call and steer the caller to more important issues such as the qualifications of the physician.

It saves the prospect the embarrassment of having to ask about financing and thereby exposing his/her inability to pay cash, and can dramatically increase conversions because the consumer develops a sense of trust with a practice that provides such options. It also enables the practice to "weed out" those who ultimately won't qualify for financing before staff and physician time is spent on those who cannot convert.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Fastest Way to New Patients

It occurred to me today, well, OK it was actually about 2:34 AM while I was laying in bed THINKING instead of SLEEPING, that marketing is sometimes backwards.

My clients spend alot of time worrying about their ads, wondering whether they should do a blog or what else they should be doing on the internet to attract patients. While this isn't a bad idea (doing a blog or more on the internet) what's backwards is this: the best marketing is a satisfied patient. Flat out. That's the best thing for any business.

It's surprising to me how little attention is paid to the very tool that guarantees future business--current employees and their skills in personal interaction.

I've experienced, and seen, some of the weirdest and worst patient interactions out there in my visits to my own physicians or other service providers, and in visits to the offices of clients. Staff who don't understand the difference between SELLING services and GUIDING customers to more services. Staff who think the patients are actually a pain in the rear and act accordingly. Staff who cannot speak clearly and/or pleasantly on a telephone. Staff who don't get the "I should smile and be pleasant with customers" basics.

What's that about?

I promise you that the best way to get the next patient is to over-satisfy the patients who are sitting in your office right this very minute. More on this when it's not 5 AM.