Did you hear about the blowout sale at the Rolex store recently?
For those of you who enjoy travel, were you able to scoop up a bargain when the Ritz-Carlton had it’s “all rooms must go!” deal?
If you’re an automotive aficionado, have you noticed that a Mercedes-Benz salesperson is always eager to slash away at a MSRP…so you will sign on the dotted line that day?
What about the “end of season” buy-one-get-one-free promotion at Louis Vuitton?
No! Of course not! The reason you’ve never heard about or seen any of the instances above is that they would simply never happen.
Many of the most prolific brands in the world recognize their value, and refuse to do anything that would ever diminish or take away from the cachet they have spent decades to build. To share two quick examples of how seriously the world’s most coveted brands will go to protect their value – Louis Vuitton literally burns unsold inventory each year, to avoid putting a lower price tag on their top-quality merchandise. Meanwhile, in the 1990s Burberry decided to abruptly stop manufacturing it’s ball caps after they gained popularity and became a cultural symbol among the street-gang youth crowd in the United Kingdom.
While these examples are extreme, the very same principles apply to your aesthetic practice. All too many surgeons and providers aim to drive business and attract new patients by doing the one thing they never should…destroying their value. Today, I’d like to share how many practices ruin the prestige and quality they work so hard to build, often without realizing it. I’d also like to share a number of action items your practice can take to avoid being one of the many that finds itself devaluing procedures.
Devaluation Culprit #1: Constant Use of Discounting/Group Buying Sites
While it’s one thing to use a promotional offer or loss leader to attract a long-term client relationship (in my experience, offering peels can be one of the best ways to leverage this strategy)…incessantly using discounts to get new patients into your practice is entirely another. Remember that from a patient’s very first interaction with your practice, you are “training” them on what to expect. A patient who comes to you through rampant discounting will expect discounts for the duration of their relationship with your practice. As for group buying sites, just say no.
Unless a client comes to BrandingMD in incredibly desperate financial circumstances, we do not permit them to use Groupon or similar sites to promote their services. There is frankly no faster way to position your practice as a commodity – the ultimate marketing “no-no”, as I explained in my previous article about why so many practices struggle. if a client comes to you over price, that is precisely why they will leave. Simply put, clients who are bargain-driven almost never have any sense of loyalty.
How To Fix The Problem: Use discounting and promotional offers sparingly, and only when paired with a campaign to further convert and engage both new and prospective patients. Ideally, any low-priced offer should be part of what we refer to as an “ascension model” – to upgrade them to progressively higher-value procedures that offer superior results. As an example, you may run a Facebook campaign for an attractively-priced peel. Once someone comes into the practice and receives the treatment, they are then entered into an e-mail nurturing and patient education campaign for laser resurfacing.
Devaluation Culprit #2: Failure to Invest In The Patient Experience
As I discussed at length in my article on patient loyalty, many practices believe that offering quality customer service is the same thing as patient loyalty. While both work hand-in-hand, they are in fact quite different. To summarize the difference, customer service is the ability of an organization to consistently meet or exceed the patient’s expectations. On the other hand, patient loyalty is the desire on behalf of the patient to continue to do business with a practice over time. Patient loyalty is rooted in an emotional connection with a practice, and driven by a consistent experience and interaction with people, products and processes. Whereas quality customer service is a requirement to do business (and further drives loyal clientele), patient loyalty is the foundation of sustained profitability and growth. The key to patient loyalty is delivering a remarkable patient experience
How To Fix The Problem: You’ll find that most patients have never received any kind of personalized communication from a doctor or aesthetic provider, ever. From a personal, unexpected phone call to your patient to having a member of your staff write hand-written thank-you card, imagine how enhanced appreciation of your patients would create word-of-mouth discussion about your practice While the sky is the limit, here are just a sampling of several simple (and very affordable) initiatives your practice can implement to create a memorable experience for your patients:
- Handwritten letters – No list of patient appreciation suggestions would be complete without a call for handwritten letters; and for good reason – they work. Yes, they take some time, but consider doing one a day. Don’t be Hemingway, no novels – just a few lines saying thanks.
- Train staff to learn (and use) first names – A person’s first name is the most important sound in the world. Saying it to someone shows they’re more than just a customer.
- Share your own “amuse-bouche” – In fine dining restaurants, many chefs have an amuse-bouche, or a special bite (or small plate) specially created by their own hand, and often reserved for only the best customers. What can you give customers that is unique to your brand, or you personally?
- Complimentary upgrades – If you add a new service or upgrade a product, consider giving it away to your best customers.
- Post-transaction gifts – Give people something related to what they’ve purchased from you. The bigger the transaction, the more important this can be (consider the ever-present “free gift with purchase” at department store cosmetics counters!)
Devaluation Culprit #3: Driving Patient Action With Low Prices
All too many practices will do an incredible job of ‘building up’ the value and expertise of the surgeon or provider through their marketing, public relations, website, and consultation process – only to completely dismantle it at the moment that matters most. While it can be incredibly useful to use incentives to entice a patient to commit to a procedure on the day of consultation, I am of the opinion that offering substantial discounts is not the way to go about doing so. As we discussed above, discounting services from the outset “trains” your patients to expect reduced rates and negotiate with you for the duration of their relationship with the practice. What’s more, a price-based incentive to commit to a procedure at the time of consultation can create a “high-pressure”, automotive-sales type of environment which only further damages the value and quality you wish for your practice to exude.
How to Fix The Problem: The best incentives can prove to be “value adds” rather than discounts that leave a sense of desperation. From adding a non-invasive procedure at a low cost, to products that can enhance results and/or patient comfort post-procedure; there are numerous ways to drive your prospective patients to action that don’t involve “talking down” your price. An example I have seen work incredibly well for a practice that offers “mommy makeovers” is to offer a complimentary treatment with their feminine rejuvenation laser. In doing so, not only does the patient see immediate results to accompany their procedure, they often return to schedule a series of rejuvenation treatments. Not only is the patient driven to commit to their initial procedure, but the “incentive” drives another stream of revenue for the practice. If you currently use a price-discounting incentive for prospective patients, you may wish to trial a value-added incentive and compare the results – I am confident you will be pleasantly surprised.
Devaluation Culprit #4: Commodity Positioning
I saved the very best for last. As I discussed in my widely-shared article on the commoditization of aesthetic practices and procedures, while consumers may initially shop on price, what they are ultimately looking for is value. The formula to create value is simple – create an offering that is distinct in the marketplace, and serve the patient’s needs more effectively than the competition. As Theodore Levitt, the famous Harvard Business School economist, once said, “There is no such thing as a commodity. All goods and services are differentiable.” Although you may carry a generic product (as a very common example, let’s use Botox) your offered product – what you’re really selling – is the expertise, quality, skill, and distinct experience that accompanies each unit. Your execution is the differentiator here, and execution is by no means interchangeable.
How To Fix The Problem: When price becomes the primary influencing factor for purchasing a product or service, it means that the producer has failed to differentiate its services to the consumer. It means the consumer doesn’t find any more value in choosing one competitor over the other. Your practice is either perceived as a distinct brand, or as a commodity. Brands get the patient’s attention, while commodities are lost in a sea of obscurity. The more competitive your market, the more things rings true. Beginning today, I challenge you to rethink the way you approach your practice: as distinct, and never a commodity.
If you are ready to begin putting these steps into action, and maintain the value of your procedures, I’d love to share a valuable, complimentary resource that can help along the way…
For a limited time, you can download a complimentary digital edition of our popular book “Now The Patient Will See You”. With dozens of checklists, templates, and evaluation tools, this book will help you forge ahead more efficiently, confidently, and intelligently. You will be able to leverage the power of branding to enhance your existing marketing activity for maximum results. At the same time, it will accelerate your growth through a framework for market leadership that takes most practices years (if not decades) to understand and execute.