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What Cosmetic Surgery Patients Want from You

Understanding the decision-making process of the cosmetic patient and your approach to meeting their needs is as complex as the surgery itself.

I actually wrote a book on this topic called Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients Are Saying, where I interviewed cosmetic patients to determine what they wanted from a cosmetic surgeon and a lot more. You can get a free copy of my book on my website. It’s a quick read and will help you understand cosmetic patients better, so you do the right things to encourage them to choose you over your competitors. 

Cosmetic Surgery Patient:

Your prospective patients are consumers with a credit card vs. an insurance card.  That completely changes their thought process and how they go about choosing the right surgeon for them.

This consumer patient knows they have choices.  So they expect to be treated well with friendly and caring service. A great result and a comfortable experience from beginning to end.

This distinction is critical in understanding their motivations, desires, and the complexities they face in their decision to undergo surgery and in selecting a surgeon.

The Emotional Journey of a Cosmetic Patient

For starters, this is an emotional journey for a cosmetic surgery patient. The decision to have cosmetic surgery often comes from deep-seated insecurities or a desire for a change to improve something about their appearance.

This could be holding them back from playing life full out. So they are willing to invest time, money and effort to change it. 

Patients have typically mulled this over for years. They have been looking in the mirror and unhappy with what they see for a long time. Before they actually finally decide to do something about it.

However, this is not an easy decision.

It involves getting over the fear factor to enhance, rejuvenate or renovate something about their appearance they hope will give them a boost of confidence and improve their self-esteem.

That’s part one – deciding to make a change so they feel better.

Part two is deciding on the surgeon who can address their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities.

They are seeking assurance, not just of your surgical skills since they take that for granted, but also your empathetic understanding of their concerns.

They want you to validate their desires are legitimate and then give them the reassurance they will get the results they want. So, you need to be the surgical expert AND the emotional anchor to win them over. But there’s more…

The Logical Evaluation

Now comes the logical side of the decision. The patient is making a substantial financial investment and is expecting a return that is well worth it because of how this change in their appearance makes them feel.

Cosmetic patients are doing a cost-benefit analysis and weighing the cost of surgery against the time, money and hassle involved.

They are also considering the risks and evaluating the credibility and track record of the surgeon and the practice.

So, it’s your job as a surgeon to provide clear, comprehensive information about your skills, but also transparency about outcomes, recovery times, and the realistic expectations around what surgery can do for them.

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Choice and Decision- Making Complexities

But, that’s not enough.

Cosmetic surgery patients have a plethora of options.

There is too much information available to them and too much choice and it’s all so confusing.

  • Some choose their surgeon based on your training and expertise
  • Others based it on your reputation and reviews
  • Some base it on your social media and before/after phots and
  • Others base it on your gorgeous office and bedside manner
  • And some just go by price.

BTW, 10-20% of consumer patients only consider price when making this decision, so I suggest you not catering to them, because you will have to lead with price and that’s a race to the bottom.

But this wealth of choice makes decision-making difficult for the rest of the patients. Surgeons must stand out not just through their surgical expertise, but also by demonstrating an understanding of the unique fears, hopes, and dreams of prospective patients considering surgery. 

Choosing a Plastic Surgeon

Think about how difficult it is for the would-be patient to select a surgeon. They sift through websites and social media, study before-and-after photos, read reviews, and often navigate through a sea of marketing strategies such as interactive tools and price estimators.

The surgeon that addresses both the emotional and logical sides of cosmetic surgery, and can connect on a personal level, will win over the patient.

The goal is to establish a presence that resonates with the values and expectations of your preferred patient demographic and deliver a consistent message that speaks to the patient’s search for cosmetic enhancement AND emotional support.

Now let’s talk about Narrowing your Focus:

Surgeons face the paradox of choice when it comes to marketing their practice.

They cannot—and should not—try to be everything to everybody.

Spreading yourself too thin across too many platforms and attempting to appeal to all different shapes and sizes of cosmetic patients will dilute your message and marketing results.

A more strategic approach involves defining your ‘ideal patient’ for your practice.

Think about the criteria you would use to rank that patient: For example, your preferred patient:

  • Get great results
  • Is easy to find online and market to
  • Includes a good profit margin
  • They are a good referral source for you
  • They require little handholding
  • They have the financial wherewithal
  • They are appreciative of your skill and expertise and
  • And you enjoy working with them
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When I consult with surgeons and we do this exercise, it gives them so much more clarity as to WHO their preferred patient is, given this criteria. For example:

The more mature mommy makeover patient scores high because overall, they

  • Get great results
  • Are easy to find and market to using PPC and FB Mommy groups
  • It’s a good profit margin
  • They are a good referral source for you because
    they hang out with other mommies who need your services
  • They have the financial wherewithal more so than
    a young girl in their 20s, let’s say 
  • They are appreciative to get their body back
  • And you enjoy working with them

On the other hand, the male hair transplant patient scores lower because:

  • They get great results and it’s a good profit margin
  • However, it costs a fortune to advertise to them, they may not have the financial wherewithal and they are NOT a good referral source so you’re not building a team of unpaid sales ambassadors like you to with the female mommies.

And, I’m not saying one is better than the other but be very clear what game you want to play when it comes to marketing your practice since you have limited resources, so you want to spend them wisely.

When you get very clear about your preferred patient, it’s much easier to tailor your marketing message, advertising efforts, as well as the patient experience.

The Cost of Precision

And, focusing on a defined patient base is also cost-effective. Targeted Marketing reduces costs and improves your ROI.

So, instead of casting a wide net, focused marketing efforts means your resources are directed where they are most likely to get you the best results.

At the same time, you’re building a specialized reputation, which attracts patients who are looking for exactly what you offer and that leads to a more successful surgeon-patient relationship.


So, to recap, understanding the cosmetic surgery patient who holds a credit card rather than an insurance card is crucial to your practice success. These patients are making a deeply personal and financial decision that demands both emotional and logical support from you.

And, for you as the surgeon, this focused approach to defining and meeting the needs of your preferred patient, is not just practical but also financially prudent because you will:

  • Spend less on marketing and advertising
  • Attract better quality patients
  • Get better results

And that’s more emotionally satisfying for both you and the patient.

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A Complete Guide to Understanding Your Aesthetic Patient and Growing Your Aesthetic Practice. Catherine Maley, MBA went straight to the aesthetic patient to get the answers you need to succeed with your patients.



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