Now that the holidays are over, what can cosmetic practices expect in the first months of 2017, and how can they start the year off on a positive note? We asked nine aesthetic physicians around the U.S. to share their experiences and best practices.
Tanya Kormeili, M.D., Santa Monica
Tanya Kormeili, M.D., a dermatologist practicing in Santa Monica, Calif., says January is hopping at her practice because she and her staff specialize in nonsurgical rejuvenation techniques. And while they see their fair share of patients before the holidays, recovery times — especially after laser procedures — make many wait until after New Year’s Day.
“Therefore, beginning of January is a busy time for us as we start the series of antiaging lasers,” Dr. Kormeili says.
Other procedures that are in demand for this time of year include body contouring and chemical peels, according to the dermatologist.
Whether January is bustling or slower post-holiday crunch, Dr. Kormeili says some downtime can be good. It’s a time when doctors can evaluate what’s working and what’s not and make needed changes.
“I use the ‘slower times’ to learn new skillsets, train the staff better, work on the business-end issues and also to spend time with my family,” Dr. Kormeili says. “Balance is the key. When the busy season hits again, I feel rejuvenated and in good shape to handle the extra hours I have to work to accommodate patients.”
Dr. Kormeili says her practice does no marketing, has no specials or promotions….
“I had a very wise businessman tell me to always focus on making myself better as a professional and never work so hard in my trade that I become obsolete. I really took that to heart!” she says.
Adam Basner, M.D., Baltimore
Baltimore, Md., plastic surgeon Adam Basner, M.D., says the busiest months of the year tend to be those leading up to summer.
“Summer is a ‘deadline’ that patients start to think about. They want to look good and be recovered. In our practice, mid to late winter and then spring are the busiest times of the year accordingly,” Dr. Basner tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “These patients are generally focusing on body contouring surgeries rather than facial procedures. Marketing efforts would be best focused on breast and body surgery, which will coincide with patients' interests."
Manish H. Shah, M.D., Denver
Denver, Colo., plastic surgeon Manish H. Shah, M.D., says that business success in January depends on planning during the fourth quarter of the prior year.
“We make sure to plan out any post-holiday specials at that time. We manage cash flow concerns closely to make sure that January expenditures can be covered in what is typically a slower month for business,” Dr. Shah says.
Among his practice management pearls: “We make sure to keep surgical slots full using incentivization, while at the same time promoting lower cost [and] lower downtime nonsurgical procedures for those who are not interested in surgery,” he says. “We focus on 30-day sales cycles for all procedures to maximize revenue every month. Because certain times of the year are associated with certain types of cosmetic surgery, we also follow a calendar to make sure that breast and body cosmetic surgery procedures stay at top-of-the-mind awareness for our patients and potential new clients because spring is a short time away.”
Patients and potential patients in Denver and surrounding communities tend to put the outdoors first, Dr. Shah says.
“Scheduling for procedures is always secondary to golf, tennis, cycling, etc. Procedures that provide low downtimes, even for surgery, are preferred,” he says. The summer is usually our slowest season for surgery but gets very busy for our non-surgical procedures practice. The rest of the year is very busy with surgery. Teachers and students will preferentially have their procedures in the summer and over winter break because they have enough time to heal. February to May is best for breast and body procedures to get ready for bathing suit weather. It also picks up again in the fall because the weather gets cooler and it is easier to hide surgery under bulky clothing. Facial surgery patients tend to be older and financially more secure, so they have procedures year around.”
Marketing-wise, Dr. Shah’s practice is well into promoting Valentine’s Day.
“Our first quarter 2017 featured procedure is full perioral rejuvenation involving [radiofrequency] skin tightening, [radiofrequency] microneedling, and filler injections for the lips and mouth as a single treatment package to get ready for Valentine's Day,” he says.
Jacob Freiman, M.D., Miami
Miami, Fla., plastic surgeon Jacob Freiman, M.D., says plastic surgery procedures increase and decrease depending on the economy and family schedules.
“There has always been a steady increase in procedures but, at times, the increases are slower due to the economy such as 2008,” Dr. Freiman says. “The busiest time of the year is after tax season when consumers receive their tax refund. The slowest is usually during the summer and the beginning of the school year when children are home from school and parents are focused on family issues.”
Generally, Dr. Freiman says he sees a big uptick in business a month right before each holiday, but then the number of surgeries diminish just before the holiday because patients don't want to be in pain or bruised in front of family.
“The best way to start off on a good business foot would be to cast your marketing net to an international audience during American holidays,” Dr. Freiman says. “Also, accept the fact that the business ebbs and flows so save during the busy times and schedule vacations for your slower months.”
Jason A. Shapiro, M.D., Miami Beach
Jason A. Shapiro, M.D., an internist and medical director at Tribeca Medaesthetics, Miami Beach, Fla., says that while it might sound cliché, come January 1, the concept of a “new year, new you" resonates.
“Gym memberships see an uptick in business, as do cosmetic and aesthetic procedures and treatments. At Tribeca Medaesthetics, we try to engage our patient base with this message and a New Year’s promotion that will make people feel good about themselves,” Dr. Shapiro tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
Should they be filling appointment slots now or gearing up for spring?
There is no time like the present to be filling appointment slots, he says.
“Valentine's Day always seems to be overshadowed by New Year's Eve, however it's an important day to remember, as it's just a month away,” Dr. Shapiro says. “The seasonality of this industry depends on the location of your medical practice. Tribeca Medaesthetics is located in the heart of Miami Beach, which is a vacation destination for the rest of the country. In our experience, business tends to pick up when schools begin their academic year and peaks through the spring. Summer months tend to be particularly slow in Miami, with respect to patient flow. We attribute this to the hot weather and this is the time when most people go on vacation with their families.”
Dr. Shapiro says he has noticed stronger interest in simple and inexpensive procedures, like Botox or lip augmentation at the start of the New Year.
“I believe this is a fiscal response of most patients wanting to spend less money because the recent money spent during Christmas and New Year's Eve,” Dr. Shapiro says. “Conveniently, injectables are perfectly timed for the beginning of the year because of the proximity of Valentine's Day.”
Alexa Nicholls Costa, NP, Boston
Alexa Nicholls Costa, NP, cofounder of LexRx in Boston and Lynnfield, Mass., says the New Year is a time for creative marketing campaigns.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important to leverage personal and professional connections — collaboration over competition. Team up with businesses that share your target clientele and have an overlap in approach to strengthen the referral pipeline and secure new customers. Consider hosting an informative and fun seminar where attendees can try new products, discuss the latest treatments and engage with one another,” Costa tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
Another winning strategy, according to Costa: Craft an incentive-based loyalty program to welcome newcomers and reinforce client appreciation and retention.
“This could be done by encouraging current clients to bring someone to their next appointment who may be interested in treatment. The guest could enjoy a free consultation and your current client would be gifted with a discount for that day's treatment,” Costa says.
Farah Naz Khan, M.D., Dallas
Dallas, Texas, plastic surgeon Farah Naz Khan, M.D., says 2017 is a year for practices to focus on improving their social media marketing (especially Instagram and Facebook).
“Instagram is especially useful because surgeons can post before [and] after pics and instantly get the point across! Most patients feel worn out after the holidays, and while they may be low on cash, they are looking for ways they can feel better and look more refreshed without spending too much money,” Dr. Khan says. “To that end, noninvasive services, such as fillers and Botox and treatments for facial resurfacing/skin tightening via lasers/radiofrequency machines are big in January [and] February.”
Dr. Khan says her practice is booked with surgeries for January. The focus is on tummy tucks, liposuction and mommy makeovers for the fall and winter months when temperatures are cooler, so it’s easier for patients to wear the necessary compression garments, postoperatively. Breast augmentations are popular January to May, in anticipation of beach weather and swimsuits.
“To that end, marketing efforts for breast augmentation surgery serve useful during these months,” she says.
January can be a slow month for cosmetic practices, according to Dr. Khan, but surgeons can avoid the slump by marketing more noninvasive services and by booking procedures like tummy tucks and liposuction in advance.
“We have also found summer month to be slow, since people are on vacation or getting ready for the kids to go back to school. While patients may not have time to have full surgery during those months, [it’s] best to focus on smaller, noninvasive options to get patients into the office. Often, they may only have time for facial fillers, but will return for that tummy tuck or mommy makeover in the fall,” Dr. Khan says.
Michael C. Edwards, M.D., Las Vegas
Las Vegas, Nevada, plastic surgeon Michael C. Edwards, M.D., says the New Year can be a good opportunity to review all aspects of a cosmetic practice.
“Look at your marketing budget and evaluate what has worked and what hasn't, and discard the poor performers. Look at your expenses that occur on a regular basis and see if they are still of benefit,” Dr. Edwards tells Cosmetic Surgery Times. “Make sure your office staff (new and old) all are aware of what the practice offers and that they can speak about these intelligently.”
While business trends tend to vary year to year, in general, schedules get busy before the holiday season, the months leading up to summer and in the fall, when the kids are heading back to school, according to Dr. Edwards.
“This is a time of year when patients make their resolutions to take better care of themselves and to finally go after the procedure they have been thinking about. Marketing efforts could focus on means for patients to improve their appearance, such as skincare, laser procedures, Botox and dermal fillers. At their consultation, they may be found to be better served by a surgical procedure or at least informed about their options,” Dr. Edwards says.
Marnie Nussbaum, M.D., NYC
Marnie Nussbaum, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City, says practices can start marketing and promoting their cosmetic procedures right away, as the New Year comes with promises and resolutions to look and feel confident and beautiful.
“Patients tend to focus on improving themselves starting in the new year with diet, exercise and, of course, aesthetic procedures and are, therefore, focused and primed for information,” Dr. Nussbaum tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
Now is the time to fill up schedules, according to Dr. Nussbaum.
“Traditionally, November and December are a busy months as many patients can take vacation days for optimal recovery time. Patients generally don’t mind any downtime with family members, however, feel quite differently among coworkers,” Dr. Nussbaum says. “Interestingly, January and February are also great months for laser procedures, as the patients are not anticipating excessive sun exposure, as well as, neck procedures or submental injections, like Kybella, as patients can hide the treatment areas with a scarf and look completely appropriate. Cosmetic surgeries then pick up in the springtime around May to get bikini ready — especially noninvasive body contouring and tightening. The slowest time of the year is usually August, as most patients are away on vacation or don’t have the desire to visit the physician’s office.”
She says that her practice’s marketing efforts are usually focused on a “New Year, new you” platform.
“Many people will make resolutions in the New Year to be the best version of themselves that they can so offices can build upon that kind of enthusiasm and energy,” Dr. Nussbaum says. “The start of the New Year is a great time for laser resurfacing, as the skin has ample recovery time prior to being exposed to excessive sun exposure. Body contouring is also a great procedure to have done in the winter months to allow for recovery and get ready for warm weather activities. It also can promote healthier eating and exercise by giving a jumpstart to looking like their best selves.”
Strategic Advice for YOUR Practice
Thomas Hofstetter, managing partner of Points Group, an international medical and healthcare marketing agency headquartered in Florham Park, N.J., says that every practice should have a strategic plan for the year.
“Unfortunately, most practices don’t, but that’s absolutely a best practice that every practice should implement. Even if the practice is only a single doctor practice, the doctor should sit down and create a document where he [or] she states the following: What are my strategic goals for the year (e.g., want to add a service, doctor, location)? How will I achieve these goals? What do I have to do to achieve the goals? What are my biggest obstacles to achieve my goals and objectives and what do I have to do to overcome my objectives,” Hofstetter tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.
He recommends that physicians analyze their financials.
“Take time to sit down with your accountant and finance person to analyze last year’s income. What services brought the most revenue? What services delivered the most profit? What services are declining and… why?” he says.
Thus, the next steps are to create a budget that is aligned with your strategic plan for the year and to start planning your strategic marketing initiatives.
“Especially for cosmetic surgery, there are often seasonal trends for services. There are great tools that allows you to help investigate and plan your strategic marketing calendar. Use www.Google..com/trends to investigate seasonal trends by service. For example, enter breast augmentation and look at the past five years with Google Trends and you find that patient are looking for this service more in the March/April/May timeframe leading up to summer. The tool also allows you to compare different services. If you compare tummy tucks with breast augmentation, you will find that the trends are almost the same,” Hofstetter says.
Physicians should use what they know about their service trends to line up specific marketing campaigns that support these trends. Hofstetter says his firm recommends launching a series of campaigns focusing on specific services, rather than on general campaigns with a we-do-it-all message.
“Marketing at the beginning of the year should focus on patient’s motivation to have a positive impact on their life and to make them feel good,” Hofstetter says.