May 23, 2012
Two Mistakes to Avoid in Practice Marketing
Updated November 7, 2014
Being a marketing consultant to plastic surgery, dermatology, and cosmetic dental practices as well as a patient myself, I've picked up a thing or two about the mistakes that doctors make with their patients.
In the following list, you'll discover the top two most costly errors and how to avoid them. Avoid these and you will be well on your way to profitable and lasting patient relationships.
Mistake #1: Ignoring Your Patients
Do you know the biggest reason a patient never returns for a first (or repeat) procedure?
- It’s not your bedside manner.
- It’s not that they didn’t like the results they got.
It's because you didn't show them that you cared! You ignored them and let them go on their merry way...to another surgeon in the area who probably wooed them and treated them exactly how they wished you had treated them.
Use direct mail and email marketing to let your cosmetic patients know what’s going on in your practice, what new advancements are happening in the world of plastic surgery / dermatology /cosmetic dentistry, and what they can get out of seeing you again (think promotions here).
Before you decide that direct mail is too expensive or that email marketing is too much of a hassle, consider this: the patients whom you had prior contact with are up to 80% more likely to book a procedure with you than a new client browsing around your website or trying you out for size in your consultation room.
This is why your efforts should be spent on wooing these "goldmine" patients - they end up costing less in the end...AND they will bring in more profits!
- Direct mail can be a great way to put a tangible offer into a patient's hands. One that they can hold on to, pass on to a friend, or bring in to the office to redeem your offer.
- It is always less expensive and more productive to reach out to patients who are already familiar with you and who like and trust you then to hit your head up against a wall trying to attract total strangers to your practice.
- Have your direct mail pieces ready to hand out to every person who comes in for a consultation to bring them back for more.
Hold seminars and workshop events to educate patients and build rapport.
- When you hold a topic-specific seminar, for example, you'd target your existing patients with a direct mail piece and/or an email inviting them. Plan to offer refreshments and announce an open-question forum for patients to ask for more information from you. This additional face time will build rapport while also establishing even more trust with them as they see your expertise and how caring you are.
- Be sure to always encourage them to invite a friend or family member to the seminar!
- Announce these events in social media and in your newsletters.
Mistake #2: Assuming a Patient Will Refer
Look at how valuable just one of your patients is to your practice...
- It is a fact that the average person has about 200 people in their sphere of influence. That includes family and friends as well as co-workers, people they live close to, and the people they interact with in their usual daily outings such as at the gym, the hair salon, at their children's school, etc.
- If you were to be able to have each of your patients refer just ONE person to you in their sphere of influence, would that help grow your practice much? You bet it would!
- So how do you accomplish getting those referrals from your patients? You plan ahead of time and have a system set up whereby you and your staff handle each patient after their procedure in a set way. This standard of communication ensures that they will help you grow your practice.
- Don't neglect to ask patients to leave feedback on review sites like Yelp, Google Local, and RealSelf.
Here are a few examples that work for our clients:
My own plastic surgeon was wise when he emailed me the digital pictures of my before and after results. You need to make it a MUST to give your patients their photos!
Have a high-quality camera (with at least 7 megapixels) that you can use to upload into the patient's computer profile. It's going to take some organization and consistent follow-through by your staff, but I guarantee that your patients want to see these!
In a book written by Catherine Maley, MBA, the following statistics were discovered:
- 82% wanted their before/after photos
- 76% would have shown them to others, if only they were made available to them
You also have to consider the timing of when the patient will be the most receptive to referrals. When are patients the happiest with their results? From experience, I know - it's at the post-operative appointment.
Right when they are the most excited about their results, give them a pre-finished, handwritten card with their photos inside that says, “Thank you for your trust” and be sure to include your name, telephone number and website address. We use a custom card company that has gotten rave reviews and positive responses from patients.
And according to Ms. Maley, this should not only be followed for surgical procedures. She recommends using this same process for injectable procedures as well.
Gift Cards are Golden
I've learned that many of my clients offer gift cards or gift certificates for procedures that can be purchased for a patient's family member or friend. The biggest problem is that they aren't making the patients aware that they offer them!
Display them in the front reception area and dress them up in open gift boxes or inside of tissue paper adorned fancy gift bags...get your patient's eye to what you want them to buy. Have a sign that suggests them for all occasions...They will be most receptive to buying one when have their wallet out, right?
There is no better way to convince patients of your skills and expertise than to show them with pictures and accolades from patients who love the results you gave them.
It's hard to know who to trust when it comes to choosing a doctor, and as we've discussed in prior articles...the amount of information they can access can completely overload them to cause them to be especially "fickle buyers" of your services.
Whenever a patient is in your practice and is thanking you for the amazing results, ask them immediately for a testimonial and permission to use their pictures.
- They can write it out, type it up, talk into recording software on a computer you have in the office, speak into your camera...be creative and get that testimonial!
- Video testimonials can be made and posted on your web site and social media profiles.
- Written testimonials can be spliced into a video or posted as-is on your site's testimonials page.
The more proof you have that your patients are delighted with you, the better able you'll be to convert people into new patients. And again - ask them to leave a review for you on review sites such as Yelp, Merchant Circle, City Search, and the like.
Don't Forget to Say Thanks!
When a patient does the best thing possible to help grow your practice - referring someone they care about to you - don't forget to thank them!
Send them a handwritten card or letter on beautiful stationery (not your letterhead please), call them personally, send them an email, and thank them again the next time you see them in your office.
Some of our clients even send out a small gift or a gift certificate good for future services. Whatever you decide to do, show them your sincere thanks...and then don't forget to stay in touch!
Need Help with Building Better Patient Relations?
Give us a call today at (951) 665-8360. We offer complete medical marketing services for effective and lasting strategies and fast results.