Teaching Your Practice to Market Itself

Some surgeons have a “one and done” mentality so they spend a fortune advertising for new patients and their staff spends a crazy amount of time working those “leads” to find the diamond in the haystack who is ready to move forward with surgery. Save time, money and effort by teaching your practice to market itself.

Other surgeons realize it’s smarter, easier, cheaper and faster to create a great experience and connect with their patients so those patients, in turn, refer them to others who also become surgical patients.

Neither is the right way; however, creating a referral-based system teaches your practice to market itself. That way, you energize your staff, attract more of your ideal patients, deepen your patients’ engagement with you and solidify your own commitment to build a practice worth talking about.

By Catherine Maley, MBA


The health and success of your practice can be gauged by this simple factor—how many patients refer you to others they know. If you don’t know the answer, pull a report called “revenues by referral source.”

I have surveyed top cosmetic practices all over the US and the average mature practice gets 45%–70% of their revenues from referrals. That’s good to know and tells you where to spend your time, money and efforts proportionate to external advertising efforts. And, if your percentage is less than 45%, that indicates you spend a lot more time, money and effort attracting new patients to replace these “one and done” patients who are NOT bragging about you.

But here’s what we know… referred prospective patients are more likely to convert to paid procedures, and more likely be willing pay a premium for the added social proof of a referral. That leads to lower advertising costs as well as labor costs since these are highly qualified leads that convert, and that leads to increased staff satisfaction and morale. Here are strategies to grow your own referral-based practice…


This starts at the top. Your staff probably treats your patients about the same way you treat your staff. And, if you have a customer service mentality, then your team will likely adopt one as well.

Think about ways your everyday behavior might be affecting your practice’s ability to generate referrals and adopt this mindset, “The surgeon takes care of the staff, the staff takes care of the patients, the patients take care of the practice”.

”Braggable” Service

This starts with the right team and everyone in your practice is part of customer service. This idea must be drilled into everything you and your staff do, think and say.

Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill

You can train someone to do the tasks required; however, you can’t train them to be naturally friendly, kind, and compassionate. Hire those innate characteristics and people skills.

Never-Ending Improvement

Regularly meet with your staff to remind them of your vision and the standards of behavior you expect, and how important customer service is to your survival. Have them read your reviews, both good and bad, review before/after photos of great results and make a big deal out of thank you gifts and cards you get from your happy patients.

Give to Get Mentality

Focus on the question, “How can we serve our patients?” This question makes your mind think of how you can add value to your patients’ lives, and that changes everything. Find ways to empower your team to create, deliver, mend, and extend the total patient experience.

Exceed Expectations

Identify every potential touch point of a patient’s journey with your practice. Do a patient walk-through with one staff person focused on visual, another on smell, another on auditory and another on kinesthetics. Now brainstorm how do we make this experience with us even better?

Surprise & Delight

Everyone loves surprises, so how could you incorporate them into your practice? For example, when a patient puts down their deposit for surgery, thank them with a goody bag with pre-surgery products to help with scarring and/or faster recovery.

Be Different to Stand Out

Look at what your competitors are doing and do the opposite. Examples include: No wait or Starbucks is on us, “We want you happy guarantee,” give patients the morphed computer print outs and anything else you can think of that would differentiate you.

Get Social to Get Referrals

All of your efforts above should be highlighted on social media since this is engaging and authentic content worth sharing and can grow your reach exponentially. Interact with your audience and encourage them to participate by asking them questions, getting their feedback and inviting them to share their thoughts and their selfies! Use these strategies to set up a systematic approach to generate word-of-mouth referrals so your cosmetic patients voluntarily participate in your marketing and attract new patients to you.

Catherine Maley, MBA is a cosmetic practice consultant, speaker, trainer, and blogger. She also has a podcast called Beauty and the Biz and her popular book, “Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying” is read and studied by plastic surgeons and their staff all over the world.

She and her team specialize in growing plastic surgery practices using creative patient attraction, conversion, follow up and retention strategies as well as staff training to turn team members into converting rock stars.

Visit Catherine for Free resources at www.CatherineMaley.com or Instagram @catherinemaleymba.

Click below to read “Teaching Your Practice to Market Itself” in its original format in Aesthetic Society NewsFall 2022, volume 26, number 4.