by Jennifer Deal
MPPM & Charles Simpson, MBA
Managing a cosmetic surgery practice can be an exciting but chaotic challenge. Each day, empowered patients present cosmetic surgery practices with a variety of challenges, expectations, and opportunities. Your patients (and your colleagues) push you to be the best.
Yet if you were to take a step back from your practice and survey the industry as a whole, you would see that this field of medicine is truly special. There is nothing else like it in medicine.
You might also realize that successful practices aren’t built overnight.
Multi-million dollar cosmetic surgery practices come in all shapes and sizes. But, the one characteristic they share is patience. Here’s why.
The Patient Perspective
Because the cosmetic surgery industry is patient driven, it’s perfectly obvious that your practice is going to be patient driven as well. Your patients have expectations, and a sense of what they’re willing to pay for their expectations to be met. They don’t need to ask permission from an insurance company, and they certainly don’t need to beg to be shoehorned into an appointment book. When it comes to cosmetic surgery, the customer might not always be right. But, they are definitely in charge of the buying process.
The elective nature of the cosmetic surgery industry allows the patient to dictate the pace of the sales cycle. Your patient won’t book a procedure a moment before they’re ready. Think of it as an extended courtship – with before and after pictures in lieu of flowers, and patient rewards programs instead of anniversary dinners.
The model we use for our sales cycle is based on one simple reality: every prospect must go through a behavioral change process to become a patient. The consumer purchase journey is rooted in behavioral psychology. Sometimes that journey can take a matter of weeks. Most of the time it lasts over a year. No matter what your intuition (or marketing consultants) might tell you, you can’t rush that decision – only your patients can.
For sure, there are plenty of things you can do to facilitate that journey. There are also things you can do to create barriers or gaps in that journey. If you think of marketing as something that helps prospects along that path, then the following advice will make a lot of sense to you. If you see marketing as a way to push your prospects to your practice, then you’re in for a lot of frustration and disappointment.
Because most patients don’t decide to pursue cosmetic procedures overnight, you can’t expect immediate results from your marketing. No matter how clever your tactics might be or how much dough you throw at your marketing budget, that reality will never change. Each patient’s path to a cosmetic procedure is unique and episodic. Your marketing should reflect that.
Patience -> Patients
Patience is critical because it takes time to build the marketing processes and tools that give your patients what they need at each stage of the sales cycle. It takes even more time (and money) to generate content like case studies, before and after photos, ebooks on procedures, blog posts, patient testimonials and other items that will inform prospects throughout each stage of their journey.
Once you’ve expended the effort to share your outcomes and expertise with the world, it takes time for prospective patients to find it. Google has to index your content and rank it in search results. Prospects have to digest this information and apply it towards informed decisions at each stage of the sales cycle. It takes a while for your current patients to share their great experiences through testimonials – be it through word of mouth or over social media.
It also takes time for you to measure what works and enhance accordingly. Just like you move autologous fat to create a better look, your marketing staff should always look for opportunities to shift resources based on what’s working (and what could be improved).
Sustainable, significant growth doesn’t come in a matter of months. It’s more a matter of years.
It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint
Because the cosmetic surgery industry is so competitive, there’s a tendency to push things out the door as quickly as possible: new marketing tactics, the latest technologies, bold promises, and more chatter. Some of it makes an impact, but most of it doesn’t.
Indeed, building marketing tools and processes takes time. But, once those tools and processes are in place: let ‘er rip! Generate and share as much content as you can. Do your best work possible and provide the best experiences you can to cultivate referrals. Push the envelope to give prospects all the information they need as they venture through each phase of the sales cycle. After all, your most sophisticated competitors are already doing this.
If you’re interested in some more specifics, you can view the slide deck from Jennifer’s presentation at the 2014 American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Annual Scientific Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Questions? Contact Jennifer here:
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Jennifer is Director of Marketing for Southern Surgical Arts. Born and bred in a small town, Jennifer is practical and sophisticated. Her expertise and experience helps cultivate Southern Surgical Arts’ marketing and social media presence.
Jennifer worked for a business-to-business marketing and communications firm, FitzMartin for over 11 years before joining Southern Surgical Arts. She served as operations officer and managed 13 employees and was responsible for the profitability of the firm. She still serves as a consultant to the firm.
Jennifer holds a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and was the Harvey Smith Award winner for outstanding performance in marketing. In addition, she graduated first in her class with a M.A. in public and private management from Birmingham-Southern College. Because she is judicious, smart, and proactive, top managers rely on her for guidance and results. She’s not the least bit skittish about diving into the doing, and sharing her lessons and observations from experience. Jennifer has been published in Plastic Surgery Practice and Surge, a publication of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
Jennifer’s many talents aren’t just applied to the benefit of Southern Surgical Arts, but to her community. She currently serves as secretary on the Board of Directors for the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation and serves as the chair for the communication committee and strategic planning committee. She was the chair for the practice management program at the 2014 American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery annual conference. She serves on the planning committee for Denim & Diamonds, a event held to support Project Access. Project Access makes health care more available to low-income, uninsured residents of Hamilton County, Tennessee. She is a marketing and business consultant for many physician practices around the country. Additionally, she volunteers to raise money for the PTO at her children’s school. In 2012, she raised more money from corporate sponsors than in the past. She introduced and implemented, Breast Oasis, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to supporting communities by providing women who may not be able to afford bras, with clean, certified, gently used ones. At Southern Surgical Arts, the bras are provided to Chattanooga Room in the Inn.
Jennifer’s greatest accomplishment is being a mother of two boys and a wife of 15 years to Chad Deal, MD. She currently resides on Lookout Mountain, Georgia.