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Ep.21: How to Hold a Patient Event That’s Fun and Profitable


How to Hold a Patient Event That’s Fun and Profitable

Discover in this episode:

How your patient event can rake in new patients!

Best practices and pitfalls

What to serve at your event!

Vendor guests!

Planning, advertising and follow up!

…And much more!

FREE practice-building content

FREE advice call with Catherine

Episode transcript:

Beauty and the Biz

Ep.21: How to Hold a Patient Event That’s Fun and Profitable

Catherine Maley, MBA: Hello and welcome to Beauty and the Biz where we talk about the business and marketing side of the cosmetic practice. I’m your host, Catherine Maley, author of Your Aesthetic Practice: What Your Patients are Saying, as well as consultant to cosmetic practices to get them more patients and more profits. So, today’s episode is called How to Hold a Patient Event That’s Fun and Profitable. So, here’s what you’re going to discover, how you turn your event into a money-making machine that gives you a return on your investment for years to come. And how to fill the event with prospective new patients who are eager to say yes, as well as who should be at your event to build up your word-of-mouth referral sources. And then what you and your staff should focus on during the event to make all your hard work pay off big time. So, the big question is, actually is not a question, I get this complaint all the time. We’re not holding any events, we used to hold events, nobody ever came, they were a big pain in the neck, they cost a fortune, it was such a waste of our time, and we’re never doing it again. Well, I would like to say back that up a bit. And when I go through this presentation, see if you did it this way. Because I know for a fact patient events work very well. But you have to work them. They’re not easy. You’re right there, they take money, time and effort. But the return can be unbelievable. I used to do these a lot. In California, when I first got into this industry, and human beings are still human beings, women still love to shop and buy and get to know their plastic surgeon. And those are the kind of women you want. You have some major fans out there that would help support you, if you would just reach out to them. And they’ll come to your events, they’ll bring their friends, they’ll talk about you forever. And I still hear from surgeons that say, do you know I still get a call or two, at least every year, for event I did years ago, they never forgot me. And that’s the point, the whole thing is FaceTime. We don’t forget a face as much as we forget somebody we saw on the internet. But when we actually were face to face with somebody and spoke with them, we might have forgotten their name. And they might have even forgotten your name until they needed you again. And then they remember. So that’s that. And I believe event should be revenue generating events. I know some of the practices, these altruistic practices, they’re just doing it to be nice. And that’s fine. But I think that’s a disservice to your patients, because you want to thank your patients for being loyal to you. So, you’ll see how I do it.

Also, an event can help spread your name recognition, when you now get the word out that you’re having an event that should spread around your community. And that certainly helps people remember you. And then always bring new patients, you know, you’re trying to find new patients, right. But what an easier way to find new patients. That’s a nice direct point, their girlfriend brings her girlfriend to your office, introduces you to her. I mean, that’s as direct as you can get. So, this definitely increases word of mouth referrals. And then it also brings back your long-lost patients, those who loved you, and just forgot about you because the competitors have been after them or they’re just got busy and just moved on, or those who didn’t love you, they didn’t have a great experience. But they would be open to coming back. So, you could actually welcome them back. And see if you can resurrect that relationship because times change. And you know what we all you know, forgive after a while. And so even if something did go sideways, invite them to your event you never know. And then in an event, you’re also a very big priority, should be cross promoting all you offer, I cannot tell you how many patients think of you as one procedure, and nothing else. I’m sure you’ve heard; I didn’t know you did that? Well, one of the reasons they’re doing that is because we’re all pretty busy, and our heads are swimming with information. So, they might have pigeon holed you into this one thing. So, at this event, they’ll find out that you offer all sorts of non-surgical and surgical, so it’s a great time to let them know you can help them in more than one way. And then it builds patient loyalty, of course, because the more interaction they have with you, the more loyal they will stay with you. And then a really big one is, it can reenergize your practice especially if you’re feeling a little burnout or you feel like you’re working really hard for not much effort, events can really pull you out of the doldrums. And same thing with your staff. If your staff feeling burnt out, this can really– this can be a very fun thing for your staff to do if you keep it fun. So here are the steps to a successful open house. You’ve got to select one person to be the event planner. Either you hire an event planner or your wife is the event planner or your best staff person who planned her own wedding, planned her sister’s baby shower, just plans, loves planning an event. Pick the person who most fits that job, because it’s got to be somebody who’s detail oriented, who can follow through and who can direct everybody else to the end goal which is a killer patient event. So, you’ve got your coordinator now. Now, you’ve got to pick a date and a time. This works differently in different areas. However, I will tell you what has worked the best that I know of Thursday night, then Wednesday night, then Tuesday night, I have found that weekends didn’t work as well. And I found that the hours of four to seven work very well. Because if you think about it, if a lot of your patients are working, and they’re coming from work, you don’t want them to go home first and then go back out, because there’s a good chance they’ll never come back out again. So, I wouldn’t catch them on their way home. So, four to seven works well. And Thursday night is kind of close to the weekend. But it’s not the weekend yet. So that seems to be your best bet. Now, you also want to involve your vendors, and you know, they’re always after you, they’re always trying to help you. And you know, oftentimes you feel like they’re a nuisance, but when it comes to events, they’re your best friends because they’re going to support this thing for you. Not only are they going to give you food, and whatever tchotchkes and, and all of that, but you’re going to give them space in your practice to promote for you that evening. In a patient event, I don’t think the staff and the surgeon should be promoting, I think they should be schmoozing. And let the vendors do all the promoting and the selling. So, give them some room, let them do demonstrations, let them give you gift baskets to raffle off or free services or procedures. Definitely work with them, they’ve been through this a million times, they know what works in your area, call on them to help you with this. Because it really is a win-win for the vendors and for everybody. They get to promote their value. They’ll spend time with your patients promoting but then you get to spend time with your patients just you know hanging around, having fun and schmoozing as I said, and they’ll do all the educating for you that night. But you also want to spiff up your event. It’s great if you can get a local celebrity, if you can have a fundraiser, you know right now I’m doing this in October and of course, it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that’s always a good cause. You have to figure that out in your community. Here’s the problem with the breast cancer awareness, everybody does it. And it starts to look a little self-serving because it’s such an obvious one, you might want to try something else that includes I mean, kids and dogs works beautifully. But just you know, think about what you’re most passionate about as a team and have a fundraiser for that.

You also need to set decide about the catering. Are you going to cheap out on the catering or are you going to go quality? As in are you going paper napkins and paper plates or are you going, you know, maybe plastic plates and you know, fine China or– figure that out, what I have found is if you’re a high-end practice, then stay with that, be consistent and offer quality food, you know, just quality. If you’re kind of new at this and you don’t really, I don’t know, you could always just do the old like, you know, sandwich trays from the local grocery store, just decide. But I will tell you, the more that has spent here, the more money that patients have spent that night. So, think about that. You also need a theme. And I love when the seasons are changing. So, something like your fall event, you know fall in love with your skin or we’re falling for you kind of thing, or a spring event. You know, after a long winter, people want to get back out and start socializing again. So, you can have a spring event or one that works super well as a holiday event. However, if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to do it before Thanksgiving, because nobody’s going to be able to do it during the holidays, it’s too darn busy. And then one that’s worked so well over the years was Ladies Night Out or girl’s night out. There’s something about leave the kids at home with the husband, come on out and socialize, shop and sip. You know, so it’s got drinks and fun and shopping and that seems to work super well.

So, once you’ve had that figured out, you’ve got to promote your event. And this is where people fall apart. It’s a big deal to get somebody off the couch or away from all the billion other things they have to do to come to your event. It’s a big undertaking, that can’t be taken lightly. So, you want to use everything at your disposal to spread your word. So, you want to email your current list, you want to put it on your website, you want to use social like you’ve never used it before. You want to post and boost and make ads and do videos and do it a lot. You know before the event starts, you can do in-house signage, flyers that you send out and you can even walk around like if you’re in a building, you can invite all your neighbors, if you’re in a community like anywhere like a retail, invite all the local vendors and their customers. At this point, you might want to still do some local advertising via magazine or newspaper or radio or TV. Just figure out, is that the clientele that you want to come to your place, but the point is, is you want to talk this up and be everywhere. Even give lapel pins to your staff to where a month before saying you know ask me about our event coming up or don’t miss our event, you know, ask me about it. You really need to spread the word it doesn’t just happen. And with all the promotion you do, the most important part is forward this to a friend, bring a friend, tell a friend, share with a friend. It’s so important that they can bring their friends because number one, it’s just more comfortable for them to bring friends with them to a social event. It’s not easy for anybody to just walk into an event alone without knowing anybody, bring your friend is super helpful. And they’ll call and say, may I bring more than one friend? Well, yes, you can, you can bring as many friends as you want. I would even incentivize them for bringing a friend. For example, you can have– you get an extra raffle ticket or a free retail product when you bring a friend. And then the friend is now a prospective patient for you. And you know, you should also invite the media Yeah, just never know, if it’s a slow news day, maybe they’ll come, if it’s got a PR angle that they’re interested in, that will help, I would do a press release and then I will call your local station manager and ask them, you know, is this of interest to you, and then maybe they’ll bring over you know, a reporter with a camera, you just never know. And then you also want to invite any strategic alliances that do refer to you or could refer to you. So those would be obviously hair salon, spa owners, retail shops, women’s clubs, Chamber of Commerce can be iffy, make sure you know your chamber, sometimes it’s you know, very older people on a bus who come in, eat all your food and get back on the bus and leave, so you know, be careful with that. Health clubs or personal trainers or any non-competing anybody’s, you can invite estheticians, as long as you don’t have estheticians, because then they would see that as competing or let’s say you’ve got people in neighborhood who do permanent makeup, or they do eyelashes, or anybody who would share your kind of demographics, you want them at your party. So, number one, you want to get to know them but number two, you want them to see how popular you are as a plastic surgeon. So, they will now start referring their friends, because you took the time to actually get to know them when nobody else has. And then don’t forget the big reason to have an event, it gives you a very good excuse to call back old consultations who didn’t book. I just gave a talk on this, like how to follow up after a consultation that didn’t book. And you know, those consults where it didn’t go anywhere and you’re like, where did you go, they won’t answer your calls, they won’t respond to your emails, you’re not getting any feedback at all. And you’re probably feeling rejected by that or you just don’t care. But the point being, you never know what’s going on, there’s a chance they got some bad news and it just stopped that discussion or they were in a bad mood, or who knows, you’d have no idea. So, give them a call, or send them emails or send them direct mail and invite them to your patient event. That could be just what they needed to come back in and talk to you again, or reconsider you again. Because they’ve had more time to think about it and now the pressure’s off, they can just come in and say hi, and you know and get to know you a little better. And that might be just what they needed to know book a consult with you. I mean, book surgery with you, what am I saying. And then you want to prepare your office, I would put up, you know, it can be messy if you’ve got food. One thing that I’ve learned, and I don’t know why people make this so complicated, but you have to have one bite hors d’oeuvres, you cannot have like a taco stand, it’s messy, and it’s complicated and they need two hands. They’re already going to be holding their purse and a drink and now they have to hold the plate. And now they need to, you know, figure out how to get the spoon, you know who’s got a hand for the spoon. So, keep it simple, simple, little or dirty things. But make them heavy, because it’s dinnertime. So, you don’t want them to leave because they’re hungry. So have good stuff but please keep it simple. And then prepare your office and staff. Everybody has a role that evening. And they’ve got to know that they’re not supposed to be standing around doing nothing. And so, I often recommend incentivizing them. Like, for example, all revenues collected that evening, let’s say a percentage of those will be divvied up between all the staff, something like that helps them. But then also make sure they’re easy to identify as staff at the event. So perhaps they wear special T shirts, or they wear a hat, or they have a flower in their hair, or they have a name tag. Somehow if it’s crowded the patients are going to be looking around for somebody to help them buy something or ask a question, they have to be easy to identify.

Now, I personally think you should be selling at this event. So, I would set up some type of iPad fast Checkout, whether that be you know those little squares that you add to your iPad, and you run your credit card on them, figure that out. Because if you make everybody stand in line to buy something that’s a deterrent for them because they don’t want to spend all evening standing in line. So, think about Apple, how they do it, nobody standing in line, they just walk up to you and they’ve got everything right there with them. Do it that way, that’s how it looks. It shows that you’re very high tech and you keep things moving and people will buy a lot more, they don’t have to wait. Now always send out reminders. You’ll use technology, don’t forget our events coming up. It reduces the no shows because the reality is, you’ll get like half no shows but then you could also get double the amount you saw because they didn’t bother calling an RSVP. So, it’s always a crapshoot. Just make sure you have more than enough food. It’s bad when you run out of food, it doesn’t look good. So, you want to remind them at least 48 hours before and then maybe 24 hours before. You can text them if you they give you your cell phone, you need them to show up for the event. Now hosting the big night, you’ve got to make a big deal out of it. So especially if you have a difficult location, you know, you’re not easy to find, you need to put up balloons and lights and have a red carpet and do valet parking. You’re trying to make it as easy as humanly possible for people to show up at your event. You don’t want them coming to your event and they realize there’s no parking and they just leave, or they can’t find the darn thing. I was at an event where they literally had those spotlights that they use, like in Hollywood, and boy, you couldn’t help it. No, there was event going on that night. That was pretty cool. And then you want to have a hostess at the door. And it’s got to be your friendliest staff person, this is the part I was good at. I’m really good hostess, and then I would welcome them and I’d get their energy up, I say, oh, you’re gonna have so much fun this evening. And I would immediately do two things. One, I would hand them the evening program. And it would be talking about like, welcome to our event, these are the event specials for tonight only. And you know, a lot of you will say, Oh, yeah, you say 15% off tonight only. The problem with that is you’re making them do math and nobody knows what that means. So, I would literally write out like a little graphic that said, let’s say Botox, it’s regularly priced this, tonight special price is this. And then I would say and you save this, so they could see what the savings was and we sold a ton doing that. But I also would have them enter the drawing for the gift baskets that the vendors gave us. And it was very simple. All they had to do was write out their name, their telephone, you know, their cell phone and their email, that’s all I needed. And then we would put those in a big bowl that they could see. Because if you’re getting any resistance, quite frankly, I am one of those people, I don’t want to give you all of this stuff, because I know you’re gonna [inaudible 00:16:35] me. However, if I can win some free services and gift baskets, okay, you got me. So, I would highly recommend that. And then during the event, you want to educate them and keep them busy, because otherwise they’re just standing around doing nothing. So, you want to have before and after photo, testimonial albums, you want to have digital picture frame showing off your great work. If you’d have those big videos or what do we call them flat panel monitors, loop a PowerPoint of strictly before and after photos, is silently going around and around so they can see your great work. Offer computer imaging and skin analysis. People love to see themselves on the computer and all the problems their skin has. Do demonstrations, have your vendors offer samples and testers. Maybe you have somebody doing makeovers because you have a makeup line or do many facials because you have a skincare line. And then as the surgeon, most surgeons don’t love standing around chit chatting. So personally, I would always keep my surgeons busy with many presentations, they would do them like 15 minutes on the hour every hour. And we would just keep it short and then make it interactive because it’s much more about the patient, listening to the doctor like seeing that he’s you know, you’re the specialist, you show some before and after photos of the various things you offer. And then let them ask questions because it’s the FaceTime they want with you, that one on one FaceTime where they feel like you’re listening to them, that’s what’s going to get them back to booking surgery. And then during the event, you got to have somebody who’s the videographer, and or the photographer, taking a ton of photos because you’re going to use them in your marketing, especially with social media. Take videos of your patients who love you let them say how great you are, let them tell their story. And their story is, this is how you know crappy my life was, this is the pain I was in, this is what Dr. so and so did for me, which is why you want to choose him as well and this is how great my life is now. That’s what people want. And the best time to get that is when the patient’s there, they love you already, they have on their hair and makeup. And then you’re just asking them, hey, do you mind doing a video?

And then in today’s world, you’ve got to have a social media booth. Because everything in today’s world is based on social proof. Does everybody else like you? Who else likes you? Why do they like you? So, you might as well set up the social media booth and anybody in that booth. They agree that their photos will be seen on the internet, you know, because you have to get proof from everybody or have them fill out your social media consent form. But what you’re trying to do is digitally set the Medical conferences all the time too, you know that they have that big frame like the Instagram frame and you stand there and hold it and then they take a photo, do something like that or have a big backdrop with your website URL on it. You can get that on Amazon; it’s called a customized backdrop and set that up and even put it on your red carpet so people can take photos of each other or you the surgeon can take photos with them and they can tweet it out or you know, put it on their Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat Tiktok. You’re trying to spread the word and it’s a fun way instead of selling people you know on social media, now you’re just showing them how much fun your practice is, so give that a try.

And then also I always like goodie bags, there’s something about women and goodie bags, we just love them. But you do them strategically, you don’t just give people a bunch of paper. And I know the vendors want to put their brochures in there. And you can do that, of course, but make sure you have a welcome back gift card. Because the point of a goodie bag is to get them back. So, you’re welcome back gift card could be like a $50 or $100 Welcome bag gift card towards any of our non-surgical procedures. But it has a super tight expiration date, like maybe one month at the most. And now that’s how they Boomerang back again, even if they’ve already booked something or bought something that night, still gives them this because they can use it on another visit. And you can even have it transferable to their friends and family just in case, they already have everything they need, they want to pass it off. And then if you do want to do tchotchkes, do something that makes sense in our industry like lip gloss, or a pen with your URL on it. So, they could use that pen that night taking notes from the vendors, that kind of thing. Now there’s the morning after and everybody forgets this part, because you’re kind of worn out from that night. But you can’t be, this is where you immediately send out your email, your posts, your texts, thanks so much for coming, we had so much fun last night, it was so great to know you and don’t forget, you know, and then they had to buy stuff that night. However, we do leave a little room here, because some of them didn’t realize that. So, you could say, and don’t forget, we did extend until five o’clock today, our special offers that night for those of you who forgot to bring your wallet, let’s say. But if you do that, then you’re training them that they can do that each time. So, I don’t love that idea, but at least thank them for the event and we can’t wait to see you again kind of thing. Because you really do want to follow up forever, because now you have, we already had your current patients, but now you’ve got their friends contact information, and you’re trying to develop a relationship with them.

So, another huge thing you want to do is track your results, you’re not done yet. So, you want to find out, Okay, everybody, and somebody’s got to, the coordinator has to be in charge of this, the person who is the meeting planner, how many attendees were there. And you know, because the hostess did not let anybody through without getting to know who they were. So, they had to fill out a drawing part. And if they didn’t, they had to at least give their name and she wrote it down because they resisted, you know giving any more. But then of those attendees, how many were new patients? All right, of everybody who attended who booked? And then what did they book? And then what were the revenues generate? And then you want to break that down by procedure and products. Because if it turns out, they really like certain procedures over others, make a bigger deal out of that next year, like, you know, give them a bigger room, let the vendor have more space and time to sell that. And then as a team, you really want to debrief. You want to talk about what worked well, what didn’t work well. So, let’s not bother doing that again because there’s no need to spend our time, money and effort on something that didn’t work, improvements for next time. And also, I would hold your attendees and get their feedback, find out what they liked and what they didn’t like. Because you’ll do better next year, I do think you should have an annual patient appreciation event, for all sorts of reasons, it just keeps everyone on their game. Let them stock up on filler and non-surgical if they want to. That’s better than them wandering around aimlessly for the rest of the year, wondering who else to go to. It keeps them, you know, focused on your practice, so of course you want that.

So anyway, that is that, that’s a patient event. I mean we used to bring in hundreds of 1000s of dollars on these events, so there’s no reason you can’t either. You just have to do it the right way. So, I hope that was helpful. Please subscribe to Beauty and the Biz, if you haven’t already. And I would love for you to share me with your colleagues and your staff. And then of course, if you’ve got comments or questions or feedback and suggestions for future topics, you can always DM me on Instagram at Catherine Maley, MBA or just go to my website, leave me a message there, it’s CatherineMaley.com. Okay, that’s it for today. Talk to you later.

Catherine Maley

Catherine Maley

Catherine is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on practice building, marketing and the business side of plastic surgery. Get a Free Copy of her popular book, Your Aesthetic Practice: What Your Patients Are Saying View Author Profile.

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