"They're talking to strangers when their goal should be to get 50 percent of their new business from patients they already have. Stimulating this income stream costs a fraction of what it costs to advertise," says Karen Zupko, president of Karen Zupko Associates, a Chicago-based practice management firm.
With the mushrooming popularity of injectables and less invasive procedures, cosmetic surgery has become more markedly dependent on repeat business. The public now starts anti-aging treatments at younger ages than in the past, often in their 30s, allowing for potentially 30 or 40 years of continued treatment.Importance of trust
Cosmetic surgeons are completely dependent on their patients' trust to stay in business, particularly because they provide a service tied in to one of humankind's most complex and volatile character traits: vanity.
A marketing strategy should acknowledge this by placing a major emphasis on building relationships. Bringing in new, potential patients is the least of a surgeon's concerns. It won't turn the practice into a self-perpetuating business because there exists no such ad that, on its own, inspires real trust.
Internal marketing is key
The type of marketing that will cultivate relationships with current patients is internal marketing. By turning satisfied patients into loyal fans, surgeons can capture all the repeat business and referrals they deserve.
The only way to build relationships is the old-fashioned way, through contact. This includes:
Internal marketing vs. advertising
The good news is that internal marketing costs only pennies on the dollar compared to advertising.
According to Ms. Zupko, staff training also is a form of marketing. She says, "You already have an office staff. What does it cost to hold staff meetings that make sure everyone's up to snuff on phone etiquette, aware of the patient schedule and prepared to address every patient — by first name — who comes in?"
Follow-up phone calls are also an easy way to reassure patients, she says. "It's been documented that depression is common during the two weeks right after surgery. Follow-up phone calls of encouragement and reassurance during that time have a profound effect on how patients perceive you. Again, it costs nothing."
Computer systems also have potential that cosmetic surgeons often do not use fully. Most practitioner scheduling software can be programmed to automatically notify patients by e-mail when they are due for repeat procedures, such as Botox (Allergan) and facial fillers.