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When speaking with my accounts, I frequently hear the phrase, “We need new patients.” My response is, “Why?” Sure, you want new patients to help grow your practice, but there is more than one way to achieve growth. Targeting your current and past patients is a smart, cost-effective way to grow your practice. Educating these patients on your aesthetic service offerings—and hopefully inspiring them to return to your practice or schedule additional visits—is a great way to advance your practice. You have the advantage because your patients trust you because of the quality care you have provided to them in the past.

It is important to engage these known, close-at-hand individuals. Here we review several ways to make this happen.

Schedule Patient Education Events

In a perfect world, practices would simply advertise their products, services, and offerings, and then patients would quickly respond and book an appointment. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Your patients need to be educated on what you have and what you offer. Practices need to proactively reach out and inform their patients. Sure, there are educated consumers who know exactly what they want, but the reality is that practices need to create a demand. Having witnessed many educational events, I know that it's important to “help” create the need. Consumers buy benefits, not products. They want to look and feel younger. That's the benefit. Here are several patient-education event tips that will help practices reach out to their patient base:

  • Make it a “special” RSVP event
  • Limit the number of attendees (you want active engagement with your audience)
  • Select a topic that is educational in nature (i.e., Anti-Aging: Facts and Myths)
  • Charge a deposit that can be used toward products or services
  • Have a sign-in sheet to capture names and email addresses
  • Offer a free consultation at the event

Remember, the goal is to produce an education-focused event that attracts individuals who likely have an interest in new products and services and who are familiar with your staff and practice.

Segregate Your Database

The ability to mine your database and extract information that identifies specific patient profiles is invaluable. Consumers have many choices that are just a click away. Keeping patients—past and present—connected to your practice minimizes the need to replace lost opportunities with new patients. By segregating your database, you can:

  • Search users who have received a neuromodulator but have not had a filler.
  • Identify patients who have purchased skincare products but have not come back.
  • Run a report to identify patients who have not been back to your practice in six, nine, or 12 months.
  • Generate a report that shows patients who have not crossed over from your medical practice to your aesthetic offerings.

By prompting patients to return every four months instead of every six months, you generate more patient visits and increase your opportunity to satisfy customers.

Bundle Your Offerings

Bundling is packaging more than one product or service together. Do not simply discount single products or services. Your patients will experience optimal outcomes—and a resulting increase in satisfaction—when you bundle multiple products together. Here's why:

  • Patient trust and loyalty are enhanced when they have optimal outcomes.
  • Gift-with-purchase marketing has been a successful tool in retail for years. Consumers will buy and spend more to get something for free. (Think: department store make-up counter's “free make-up bag with two items purchased.”)
  • If you sell on price alone, you will lose on price alone.

Remember that benefits sell. Educate your patients: “If you use these two products together, you will see additional improvement,” or “This will protect your investment.”

Build a Patient Referral Program

Do you have a program in place that thanks current patients for referring family and friends to your practice? You should. When practices are asked where they get new patients, the number-one response is referrals. Most of the time, however, those same practices admit they have no formalized referral program in place (unless it's through a manufacturer or vendor). If a patient has a great outcome or experience and is willing to share that with a friend, reward them for the referral. Every patient that leaves your office is a walking/talking advertisement. They are your best marketing tools. To ensure a referral program is successful and generates a return on investment, make the program easy to implement, track, and communicate to your patients.

Use an Aesthetic Interest Questionnaire

When patients book an appointment, they have a specific need. What you don't know is if there is anything else that concerns them about their appearance. Prior to a consultation—when patients are filling out their paperwork—use a thoughtful, brief questionnaire to generate interest leads that can be discussed in more detail during the consultation. The questions should be condition-related, not product- related. Condition-related questions allow you to choose the best treatment for the patient. Make sure the questionnaire captures names and email addresses so you can follow up on interests or concerns. Too often practices say, “Yes, we have a questionnaire, but we rarely review or follow up on the results.” That's a huge miss.

Promote Ancillary Service OpportunitIES

Every team member who has patient contact should be able to credential all products, services, procedures, and providers. Do you regularly tell patients about everything your practice offers? While you don't want patients to feel like they are being sold something, be ready to demonstrate that you have their best interest in mind by suggesting products or treatments that address an area of concern. Often, patients have had a consultation and there is a personalized treatment plan in place. Make sure you monitor that plan. Here are several questions to consider when evaluating your patient base for ancillary/aesthetic opportunities:

  • Do your providers discuss the importance of medical-grade skincare with patients?
  • Do you provide a mirror and ask patients about specific areas of concern during the consultation?
  • Do you offer your professional opinion on the treatment options available (starting with the best option)?
  • Are you always willing to modify your treatment plan to fit within the patient's stated budget and time frame?

Maximize Your Skin Care Opportunity

Take a moment to analyze your reception area. Does it look like you have a retail presence? Put yourself in your patient's shoes for a moment. As you move through the office, from reception to checkout, would you be aware that you carry skincare products? It should be obvious, because:

  • Proper skincare enhances patient outcomes.
  • Patients will visit your practice more frequently.
  • If patients do not buy skincare products at your practice, they will buy them somewhere else.

To increase retail sales in your practice, consider:

  • Having a prominent display near checkout where patients can sample and purchase products.
  • Making appropriate educational material available.
  • Including before-and-after pictures showing your outcomes using the products.
  • Encouraging staff members to use the products so they can talk from experience.
  • Incentivizing staff members to sell retail (staff members will sell when there is a direct benefit).
  • Making available for purchase skin-care packages that “protect the investment” of every procedure you perform.

No Silver Bullet

There is no silver bullet to engage patients already in your practice. The opportunity is there through training, planning, execution, and tracking success. Identify one opportunity and perfect it for your practice … then take on another (and another). The end result of focusing the appropriate time, effort, and resources on your current and past patients will be practice growth through enhanced patient engagement. n

Bernie Magrino is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group of Allergan, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company based in Irvine, CA. Mr. Magrino consults with dermatology and plastic surgery practices in the areas of financial analysis, practice valuations, human resource issues, marketing, leadership training and team building, sales training, compensation, and cosmetic practice development. He has more than 20 years of consulting, training, sales, and sales management experience.

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