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How to effectively market your practice

Article-How to effectively market your practice

Susan H. Weinkle, M.D
Miami Beach — The internal marketing done in the office is much more beneficial than external marketing, such as newspapers, television and radio spots, for enhancing a cosmetic surgery practice, according to Susan H. Weinkle, M.D., in private practice with Dermatology/Skin Cancer Mohs Surgery, Bradenton, Fla.

"With internal marketing you provide a product in the office that speaks for itself. Patients leave the office and go tell a friend. That is marketing in nutshell," Dr. Weinkle says, who is also assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa.

Adding services Dr. Weinkle says dermatologists should consider adding cosmetic services to their practices if they don't already offer them because the procedures can be performed safely and effectively with minimal risks and excellent benefits.

"Cosmetic (work) is monetarily rewarding and fun," she says.

It is also in demand with 80 million baby boomers.

"Boomers are big spenders who expect success and prosperity. They desire to be in control, are very competitive and always want to win. Boomers expect 100 percent customer satisfaction," Dr. Wienkle says.

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She points out that the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reports a 20 percent increase in 2003 to a total of nearly 8.3 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures.

"Botox continues to rank first among all surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures," she says, adding that laser hair removal, microdermabrasion, chemical peels and collagen injections are also very popular. In 2004, Botox continued to rank first with total procedures performed — up almost 25 percent from 2003.

Internal marketing "The receptionists who sit in the front office are probably the most valuable people in the office because they greet patients, smile and welcome them," Dr. Weinkle says.

She recommends that the receptionist be dressed in business attire or scrubs that are uniform in color and style. Patients should be offered a beverage and given information about new cosmetic procedures while waiting.

The way a telephone is answered is also important.

"It must be answered with a smile, which communicates over the phone, and the person always identifies themselves, so the caller knows with whom they are speaking," she says. "Today's society has become so impersonal that this is an automatic bonding."

Dr. Weinkle has been in business for 20 years but does not have a formal patient referral program.

"Referrals just happen. They happen because we provide a good product," she explains.

Creating an appealing atmosphere should not be underestimated.

"I like to make it a positive, relaxing experience for patients to come to the doctor. I have the office decorated in soft colors, and have current magazines in the waiting room. I have relaxing music in the office and also while I am operating. Patients don't realize why they are so relaxed, but it has to do with the whole environment that is created by the music and décor and lighting," she says.

Patients should also be informed about what is going to happen.

"We provide written materials telling them about the procedure and post-op care they might need. If you tell people when they are anxious and nervous they don't always remember it so I give it to them in a written form," she says, adding that she gives them an ice pack to take with them.

"I give them my office and home phone number on their post-op care sheet, although they never call me at home," she says.

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