Dr Mark Tager shares his tips for a successful practice: how to convert prospects into customers and develop a strong brand
The essential elements for business success in aesthetics are to develop a methodology in order to clarify your positioning, your offers and who you are to your customers. In this article I am going to look at some different business models, and the key ingredients of the patient experience which can lead to a successful practice.
Different business models are appropriate for different kinds of practice. A physician-centric model is good for media leverage. Physicians can become key opinion leaders, presenters and conduct studies and workshops. But the downside of this is that there’s only one physician. It’s essential to be media-trained if you’re going to be the individual who is representing your clinic—you are the brand.
In a franchise-centric model the assumption is of a standardised service quality. It’s very easy to offer incentives and price reductions. You can reach a larger audience and there is the economy of scale. Savings are achievable in record keeping, discounts from manufacturers, insurance, supplies, training, staffing and launch costs. On the other hand the service can be perceived as impersonal, providers can come and go, and there is a danger that the best providers will set up on their own and take patients away with them.
A single-focus centre allows specialisation in one area. This allows for focussed marketing, clear-cut demographics and treatment efficacies. It’s easy to train staff, but success can generate ‘me too’ competitors and you can lose clientele to them. Also it’s hard to drive revenue from product ‘up selling.’
To build a brand you need a unique selling proposition. A popular method to devise your unique selling proposition is to consider what pitch you would make to a stranger given 30 seconds alone in a lift together. Be specific, clear and representative. Make your message easy to communicate. Ensure that everyone in the practice from the receptionist onwards has the same mind-set and message.
Your USP has to be consistent with your value proposition, link with your principles of practice and driven through your marketing materials and reinforced by all your staff, because quality is meeting and exceeding patient expectations.
Ensure you mystery shop your practice. Get someone into your practice to give you the feedback that you need about how you are doing in order to enhance the quality of the patient experience.
Understand your patient’s motivations
Patients come into clinic in different stages of readiness. It’s really important to understand what has motivated them to step through the door, and what it is that concerns them about their skin. A useful technique is to immediately give them a mirror and start assessing together the ‘problem’ areas.
That first encounter in your practice is critical. You really have to deliver the ‘wow’ for that patient, alleviate their anxiety, increase their comfort level and build brand attachment.
One of the most useful ways to grow brand awareness is by developing brand ambassadors. Social media is key to the ambassador process and ambassadors that have an active following can be very useful to a growing business. Twenty percent of your patients are the most valuable ones in your practice—you need to reward these patients and make them feel special.
The conversion cascade
I co-authored a book with plastic surgeon Stephen Mulholland, MD, in which we discuss the ‘conversion cascade.’ There are steps involved in attracting and moving people through your practice. It is crucial to understand the metrics associated with each step, to stop money leaking from your business. For example, what percentage of phone calls do you convert into treatments? Without data it is impossible to build a practice and make improvements. Also evaluation of patient co-ordination, the checkout, the building and the perceived overall impression are essential to provide an understanding of the patient experience.
Step 1: The phone call. The receptionist must be charming and engaging, and know the 30 second scripts on every service that you have. You will want to closely monitor conversion rates into bookings from that first phone call.
Step 2: From the consultation to the treatment. Again look at conversion rates and how these can be driven higher. Make certain to spend enough time with the patient to build rapport. Some practices routinely set aside a unique block of time to see their new consults.
Step 3: Post-treatment up-sell. Booking in for maintenance. For example, in addition to six-monthly treatments of neurotoxins or fillers, it may be appropriate to offer some form of skin health program that has people coming to you on a more frequent basis and that augments what you do. Adding a popular branded service such as Hydrafacial can help recruit patients, have them leave satisfied, and return frequently, often with their friends. You can also offer nutritional counselling, functional medicine and ancillary serves to help people get total health that is reflected in the skin.
Don’t be afraid to say no
There are patients that, if you’re going to be honest and ethical, you should turn away. Patients who over-negotiate. Patients with body dysmorphic disorder. If you know that your technology cannot provide the results that they want. If you don’t have the right technology to really address deep acne scarring. Patients with unrealistic expectations. For example a person over 55 who might not get a good result from a skin-tightening procedure might be better going to a plastic surgeon. It’s critical during the consultation process to under-promise and over-deliver, explaining the percentage improvements that may arise from a treatment.
It is better to respectfully turn somebody away than to treat them badly. If you treat them and you do not meet their expectations, they will tell more people about the negative experience than they would have done with a positive one.
The importance of team
Without doubt in any practice the physician is very important, but so are other staff members. Patients want to know who is doing the treating, how credible they are, and how they come across in the marketplace. However even the most caring, compassionate and talented clinicians can be undermined by the quality of their staff.
Success really is a function of how good the team is. Different personality types perceive and interpret events differently. In general the physician tends to be directive, highly logical and litigable. But every staff member needs to understand who they are, their type, their temperament, their strengths and their weaknesses in order for you to model your business accordingly. No matter what your leadership style you have to be flexible in how you deal with the team members. Understand each individual’s skillset and match them to appropriate tasks based on competence, confidence and commitment. Ensure you build task-related feedback into your staff appraisal system, do it frequently, and don’t only comment on the negative.
Ancillary sources of revenue
Ensure your messaging and your service delivery are consistent with a value proposition. Look to the devices and treatments that have people coming back to your practice. Build skin health. This becomes a powerful driving message that allows you to sell nutraceuticals and herbal preparations.
Dr Mark Tager is CEO of San-Diego based ChangeWell Inc., a training and consulting company that guides organisations and individuals to higher levels of health and performance W: changewell.com