Event Marketing: Strategies to Spotlight Your Practice and Cosmetic Services

The notion of hosting an event can be overwhelming, but many practices find the endeavor worthwhile. Ahead are tips for success—and a word of caution.

With Kim Nichols, MD; Suneel Chilukuri, MD; Gary Goldenberg, MD; Todd Schlesinger, MD; H. L. Greenberg, MD, and Joel Schlessinger, MD
 

Event marketing, one of the mainstays of cosmetic dermatology practices for years, continues to grow in popularity. Whereas some forms of marketing have declined in the wake of social media, event marketing is an endeavor that works seamlessly with online efforts. In fact, experts find ways to use the two outlets for mutual success.

Practical Dermatology® magazine asked a panel of cosmetic dermatologists to describe their event marketing strategies, sharing tips on what works and what they’ve learned.


Anniversary Event

Kim Nichols, MD
NicholsMD in Greenwich, CT

Our Annual Anniversary event serves as a thank you to our clients by offering them a premium, red-carpet event experience with once-a-year special pricing on our cosmetic dermatology services. Among the highlights:

• Attendees enjoy valet service, professional photography photos, magazine publicity, our step and repeat, and custom food and drinks.

• We gift all attendees a skincare gift bag valued at $300.

• The Anniversary Event is highly anticipated by our clients, as the event offers savings via bulk buys that are not available the rest of the year. Attendees can buy two or more items and receive 30 percent off during the event. While we spare no expense to ensure clients have a special, unforgettable experience, we invite local celebrities, influencers, and press who attend every year as we know this year’s party is marketing for next year’s event.

• The Anniversary Event is split into two (day and night), two-hour sessions. We find that this is the best way to both accommodate the 180+ guests who attend annually and also ensures that the room is never empty. As NicholsMD of Greenwich is located in a gala-centric and philanthropic community, we have found that our day session is more popular in attendance and revenue as compared to the night session.

• While our Anniversary Event is open-house style, clients must RSVP to attend and normally bring a guest. Our number one referrals are “Friends and Family,” so an event like this contributes to our growing loyalty of patients.

Did the event replace any other events or initiatives?

As an office, this is the only time of year we offer significant discounts and pricing. This allows us to preserve the specialness of our anniversary event, increase RSVPs and sales every year, and motivates clients and first-time clients to join our practice by purchasing services in bulk. Additionally, it also preserves the integrity of our services and business that we don’t discount throughout the year.

How do you market the event?

We send direct mail invites to our top 100 spending VIP clients. For three months, we give all patients that come for an appointment an invite in the office. We have the invite on all of our exam room TVs that rotate our Before/Afters for passive marketing. We mention it on all email blasts, including sending two email blasts marketing only the event itself.

We have all hands-on-deck and the staff is fully invested in the event.

• We set a budget of $5/day (very small) 30-days prior to the event on Facebook to market the event while also gaining online exposure of the practice.

• We encourage our clients to schedule appointments prior to the event so when they attend, they have their custom price quote and client plans in mind so they’re purchasing with confidence.

• Last year’s event is the best marketing for next year’s event. When you throw a good party, people come to the next one and talk about it.

Scenes from the NicholsMD Anniversary event. Note the signature drinks are teal to match the practice branding.

How do you capitalize on the event to ensure new bookings or skincare sales?

Ten percent of our revenue is in skincare.

• We tell the staff and clients that all clients can buy in confidence. If you purchase Vollure at the event but at your appointment, Dr. Nichols recommends Voluma, we honor the discount. This idea of buy-with-confidence allows the physician to still be in control of their ultimate recommendation while also informing clients to just buy something of interest—the physician will tweak your purchase if necessary and the discount will be honored.

• We ensure the event is better every year, as last year’s event is marketing for the next event. After three years, we have built a reputation to throw great parties in town.

• We encourage bulk buy with exclusive discounting treatments of two or more. This way, we don’t have clients buying one treatment of Botox—something they would have purchased anyway. With the value of bulk buying, they get at least two treatments of Botox while creating patient loyalty.

Do you work with industry to plan or support the event? How about local businesses?

We are a flagship of SkinCeuticals and have a lot of marketing support from SkinCeuticals-Loreal.

We have an open house feel, and every treatment room has a specialty, i.e Ultherapy in Room 1, CoolSculpting in Room 2, etc. We ask the reps of those companies to sponsor a portion of the event: $500. Most reps can help to offset your cost for food and beverage of an event.

Why is the event worth it to you and your practice?

We really do want to say thank you to our loyal patients. There’s no better thank you than our clients saving cash.

Branding: After an event, the exposure and publicity helps to show clients and future clients that we strive to be the “it” place in town.

We know our services can be more expensive than competitors’. We know we’re not the cheapest in town; but we don’t want to be. This event allows us to be more accommodating to patients and helps those patients afford and make the investment into their skin that we want to help them to make.


A Focus on Relationships

Suneel Chilukuri, MD
Refresh Dermatology, Houston

We have a patient appreciation event that highlights our gratitude to every member of our Refresh Dermatology family. In the past, we have had a brunch where we served breakfast, mimosas, and other refreshments. We timed the event a few weeks before Mother’s Day and hired a professional photographer to photograph mothers and their daughters. As we see several generations of family members, it was lovely to see Grandmothers along with their daughters, granddaughters, and a few great-granddaughters. Each patient received an 8”x10” digital and print photo in a Refresh Dermatology branded photo frame to capture this memory. In addition, we awarded approximately $100,000 in prizes, including a full Mommy Makeover to raffle winners. I specifically ensured that no products or services were sold on this day as the goal was to thank our patients. The event was quite memorable to our patients and for our team.

Did the event replace any other events or initiatives?

In the past, I was with a larger group that utilized a “patient appreciation day” as a way to drive more sales by discounting services. While the event was financially successful with six-figure sales, the day was not emotionally satisfying to me. I did not feel that we were giving back to our loyal clients. Moreover, I do not believe in discounting services, but I do enjoy giving things away. As a result, I changed the event to give away gifts, such as iPads, gift cards, products, and services. Everyone who joined us had a blast!

How do you market the event?

We marketed the event via social media, email invites, and personal in-office invites. All of our team knew about the event and mentioned it to every patient that we saw the month before the party. Our tag line was, “Bring your family but leave your wallets home.”

The Refresh Dermatology event afforded clients the chance to have professional photos taken.

How do you capitalize on the event to ensure new bookings or skincare sales?

Although our goal was to only give back and honor those patients who chose to join our Refresh Dermatology family, we ended up having numerous referrals from those who attended the event. We saw a spike in booking new patient consults over the following month. Many of our new clients noted that their referral source had raved about the party and how we gifted without expecting anything in return.

Do you work with industry to plan or support the event? How about local businesses?

I did and do work with industry to plan this type of event. We are blessed to have fantastic local and regional representatives for the aesthetic products and technology we utilize on a daily basis. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to introduce patients to these reps who provide the raw supplies that improve a client’s self-perception. The reps were surprised (and initially dismayed) that we were not selling any products or services at this type of event.

We did invite a few local businesses to join us to celebrate their own clients. The dentists that are located within the same building chose to invite their clients and we discovered how many patients we had in common. In addition, we invited trainers from two local gyms to join the party as there is significant cross-referral for our body contouring patients.

Why is the event worth it to you and your practice?

While there is an incredible investment of time and financial resources to have a successful event, I love the opportunity to give back to our loyal patients. Over the last few years, we have created incredible memories for them. These patients refer their friends and family since they know that our entire team is dedicated to ensuring successful, compassionate outcomes. Unfortunately, I have had to close our practice to new clients in order to maintain the ability to create the proper patient experience. As a result, I will be mailing handwritten thank you notes with individualized gift cards to those top-tier members of our Refresh Dermatology family.


Another Approach: Instill Long-Term Practice Loyalty with Patients Who Have a “Milestone” Mindset

Events are just one aspect of marketing. Here’s how to transition milestone-driven “one-time” patients into lifetime patients for a more robust and healthy practice.

By Bridget Brennan and Stephan Finical, MD, FACS

Women are the world’s most powerful consumer market, driving 70-80 percent of all consumer spending—including healthcare decisions—with their buying power and influence.1 According to The American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, women undergo more than 90 percent of all cosmetic procedures.2 Women are, and will continue to be, the dominant patients for the industry, which means earning their long-term loyalty is the key to maintaining a thriving practice. One challenge in building long-term patient relationships is that many women may be introduced to aesthetic services for short-term reasons: a major life event or milestone.

Practices that transition milestone-driven “one-time” patients into lifelong (happy) patients may increase their ability to retain a robust and healthy practice over the long term. So what’s the most effective way to do so?

First, it’s helpful to understand the role of milestones in women’s lives. As the world’s primary caregivers for both children and the elderly, women often assume responsibility for managing milestones within their households, from holidays to birthdays to graduations, new home moves, new jobs, engagements and weddings, to name just a handful. These milestones are catalysts for purchasing and marketplace engagement, which is why we see so many advertisements tied to them.

Significant life milestones—like birthdays that end in a “0” or the beginning of a new chapter of life—can often be the inspiration for a patient’s first visit to a practice. A patient whose catalyst is a high school reunion, for example, may not be thinking long-term about their skincare and aesthetic needs when they walk through your door for a non-invasive treatment. Milestone “moments” like these should be viewed as one of the most important opportunities you have to forge long-term patient relationships.

Proactivity is required. For example, don’t assume new patients are aware of all the services and procedures your practice offers: be sure to let them know. Common sense? Yes. Common practice? Not necessarily. Everyone is pressed for time, and it’s easy to skip the step of asking “discovery” questions with new patients that go beyond the treatment they’re receiving that day. Simple questions such as, “While you’re here, do you have any other questions for me about your skincare or appearance?,” can open up the opportunity to talk about other services that may be relevant for your patient.

Additionally, if you don’t have a process for doing so already, strive to introduce every new patient to a practice partner and/or surgeon, even if they don’t have an appointment with one. Being welcomed by a practice owner can help deepen the patient’s connection to the practice, and make them feel valued for their business.

The goal should be that every new patient leaves your office with a vision of the possibilities for future care, and excited that they’ve found a partner in skincare and aesthetics—“this is my place”—that can accompany them through their life journey.

The following are just some of the milestones that serve as catalysts for treatment at Charlotte Plastic Surgery in North Carolina, where one of the authors of this article is a partner. Do you recognize these milestones? If you do, how are you leveraging them to build conversations that educate and inspire your patients, and instill long-term loyalty?

40th Birthday. A 40th birthday is a common catalyst for a “Mommy Makeover,” the term that refers to combining breast rejuvenation and abdominoplasty. Many women tell us they’re interested in such options because they feel they’ve “completed” their families. We see women in this age group also inquire about tummy tucks and liposuction, as well as breast rejuvenation with implants, lifts, or both.

50th Birthday. Turning 50 is a major milestone that often sparks an interest in proactively maintaining energy and a youthful appearance. Many 50-year-old patients tell us they’re unhappy with loose neck skin and jowls, and subsequently they’re interested in face-lifting procedures. In our practice, we see that patients in this age group are also commonly interested in facial aesthetics, Botox, fillers, and eyelid and facial surgery.

60th Birthday. As life expectancy grows and people stay in the workforce longer, many 60-year-olds tell us they want to look as good as they feel, and in our experience, are primarily interested in facial aesthetics.

Graduation. Graduation from high school or college may be an instigator for a rhinoplasty. Graduations are often followed by a break of some duration and change in living location, which makes it possible for an individual to undergo a procedure, heal, and start the next chapter of their life in a new place, with newfound confidence.

Divorce. A marital break-up is a modern milestone that can be a catalyst for pursuing cosmetic procedures. The rates of “gray divorce” (marital break-ups over the age of 50) have increased and can lead to “reinvention” in various aspects of someone’s life.

Class Reunions. Patients heading to class reunions are often particularly interested in injectables and other non-surgical procedures.

Weddings. Marriage ceremonies are a well-known driver of interest in plastic surgery and skincare procedures. Not only is the bride involved, but the parents of the bride and groom also want to look their best. In addition to skincare procedures, neuromodulators for hyperhidrosis have been effectively used to eliminate excessive perspiration on the important day. For mothers of the bride and groom, comprehensive facial rejuvenation including brow, eyes, mid face and neck are among the commonly desired offerings.

Retirement. The end of one chapter in life leads to the opening of the next. In our experience at Charlotte Plastic Surgery, we see patients who’ve worked all their lives express the desire to enjoy an active retirement. Maintaining a youthful appearance allows retirees to feel healthy, fit, and relevant.

Milestone to Lifetime Patients

Life’s milestones are a catalyst for women’s engagement in the marketplace, and that can include skincare treatments, cosmetic procedures, and plastic surgery. Understanding your patient population and being cognizant of the opportunities to provide education at these milestones puts a practice in a better position to treat each individual over the long term. Practices that can position themselves to be not only a significant part of their patients’ milestone events, but their entire life journey, are likely to be rewarded for their effort.

Stephan FinicaL, MD, FACS is a partner at Charlotte Plastic Surgery in Charlotte, NC. He has over 20 years experience in aesthetic plastic surgery as well as the management of a large plastic surgery practice. He is a member of ASPS, ASAPS, and an officer in the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. He can be reached at sfinical@charlotteplasticsurgery.com.

Bridget Brennan is the Founder and CEO of the consulting firm Female Factor (thefemalefactorcom), and author of the acclaimed book, “Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers” (Crown Business). She is a contributing writer for Forbes and one of the world’s top experts on the subject of women consumers. She can be reached at bridget@thefemalefactor.com.

1. Why She Buys, The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers by Bridget Brennan (Crown Business)

2. 2016 American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery database.

Ringing in the Holidays

Gary Goldenberg, MD
Goldenberg Dermatology, New York City

While we have some specials on cosmetic services throughout the year, our annual pre-holiday event is the big event of the year. We offer specials and packages on numerous cosmetic and regenerative procedures to current and prospective patients. Space is limited, so patients have to RSVP. We offer gift bags with skincare products to those that RSVP.

How do you capitalize on the event to ensure new bookings or skincare sales?

For many procedures, this is the only opportunity to buy packages at a discount. We also have an array of offerings, ranging from chemical peels for those that have never had a cosmetic procedure, to skin tightening and body contouring to those that would like to have a bigger impact.

Do you work with industry to plan or support the event?

We usually team with industry partners for the events. This way we are able to pass the savings onto the patients. One tip is to ask for support from non-competing companies.

Why is the event worth it to you and your practice?

It’s a great way to thank patients for their loyalty, even if they don’t purchase any services. For those that are on the fence, it’s a great way to allow them to purchase a procedure or package at a discount. And for those who will have the service, anyway, it’s a great way for them to purchase it with a discount. If done correctly, these events are usually a great success.


Go with the Glow

Todd Schlesinger, MD
Derm and Laser Center of Charleston,
Charleston, SC

Our annual Glow Night has been a success, and patients look forward to it every year.

Did the event replace any other events or initiatives?

We are holding our fourteenth annual Glow Night this year. It started as an open house to thank the community, patients, family, and friends for their patronage. It has expanded into a city staple every year with the community looking forward to it. We were the first in the area to hold such an event and now several do. We consider imitation the best form of flattery.

How do you market the event?

We market the event through all social media outlets, print, radio, and TV. It’s wise to create buzz early with hints of to what to expect, such as gifts and specials. Internal marketing is key to creating buzz. Let everyone who walks through the door know about the event.

Glow Night at Derm and Laser Center of Charleston generates lines for entry and local TV media coverage.

How do you capitalize on the event to ensure new bookings or skincare sales?

One-day-only specials are key. Create an immediate need to phone in or be present to take advantage of the discounts.

We have had positive growth each and every year.

Do you work with industry to plan or support the event?

We keep overhead low by letting staff help plan and work the event. Local businesses donate raffle gifts, food, and drink, in turn we acknowledge them at the event and in marketing.

Why is the event worth it to you and your practice?

Closing the office for four hours once a year to thank the community and staff pays off throughout the year. Although we are offering a high discount on services for one day, this allows the ability to up-sell when the patients present for their treatments. It is a win-win.


Focus on New Technology, Education

H. L. Greenberg, MD
Las Vegas Dermatology, Las Vegas, NV

We do not have a “signature” event, but we do hold special events every year. Typically, we will host an event when we introduce new technology or, at least twice per year, we will hold in-office lectures and demonstrations.

When we hold an in-office event, we let people know prior to the event what we will be doing. The goal is to generate interest and educate, with the ultimate goal being to sell the product or services we are promoting.

Did the event replace any other events or initiatives?

No. It is so hard to know what will and will not work. Things that we are interested in do not always generate the buzz that we thought they would. We have had third-party companies come in during a large laser purchase to assist in the event, and we have done our own events following their template of newsletter, e-mail, Facebook events, follow up e-mail, etc. It’s just hard to know what works best; trial and error is still ongoing at Las Vegas Dermatology.

Post-event coverage on Las Vegas Dermatology’s Instagram.

How do you market the event?

Having give-aways helps, as does stating something to the effect of “limited space available” to create interest and ensure responders actually attend. We’ve had events where people paid to attend the event, and others that were free. We’ve had a magazine give us added value to promote the event.

The guarantee is: there are no guarantees.

How do you capitalize on the event to ensure new bookings or skincare sales?

We offer one-night-only pricing and sell packages.

Do you work with industry to plan or support the event?

We have worked with local business on cross promotion, which helps a lot. But again, there are no guarantees.

Why is the event worth it to you and your practice?

The events help generate buzz, and once patients come in, they tell their friends. We have the ability to link the event on social media; that also helps in terms of allowing people who never came to the event to see what we are doing. This generates even more interest. (See lvderm on Instagram.)


Yearlong Value: A Contrarian View

Joel Schlessinger, MD
Skin Specialists PC, Omaha, NE

While many practices focus on “signature events,” we don’t really do this. I get why it seems like a good idea and I also get that it can drive significant business, but I also think it causes individuals to either overpurchase and be upset they did or underpurchase and then question every procedure they do for the rest of the year. Instead, we try to offer decent values throughout the year. It may be less exciting than a huge event with limos and lights, but it seems to work for us.

To the point of having events, we have tried them over time. Generally, the response has been iffy at best. For example, one event ended up being a disaster due to a huge rainstorm. Attendance was a total of five people. Another event had a phenomenal attendance of completely unqualified individuals who came for the door prizes. And those who were qualified were turned off by the promotional nature of it and the circus-like atmosphere (as was I!).

My recommendation is to be true to yourself, not what some “marketing expert” or company says. That doesn’t mean that this sort of event might not be perfect for you or your practice, but just have a healthy suspicion that this may not be the answer to your prayers.

It is my contrarian view that these are wildly oversold by industry. They benefit from it in many ways and the resources and advertising done by a practice often spills out to success for the companies without success being seen by the actual practice. While an event may provide a large infusion of cash into a practice, this then has to be annualized to determine if the event really is necessary.

 

Contact Info

For advertising rates and opportunities:
Ali Kinnie
(917) 589-4160
akinnie@bmctoday.com

Rick Ehrlich
Associate Publisher
(609) 922-0337
rehrlich@bmctoday.com

About Practical Dermatology

Practical Dermatology is the monthly publication that provides coverage of medical care, cosmetic advancements, and practice management for clinicians in the field. With straight-forward, how-to advice from experts in various fields, we strive to enhance quality of care and improve the daily operation of dermatology practices.