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Ep.03: Three Ways to Turn Patients into Raving Fans

Three Ways to Turn Patients into Raving Fans

Today’s episode is called “Three ways to turn your patients into raving fans”.  I’ve been beating this drum for almost 20 years now and call me crazy, but it seems to me it’s always been a lot easier to get your current patients to brag about you to their friends who then refer you and they come in and say yes. That just seems a whole lot easier than going out and going into that big internet world and trying to find somebody who wants your services. It’s also a lot cheaper and a lot more fun when you’re doing a consultation with somebody who already is pre-sold on you.

Learn three fundamental ways to get your “fan patients” to do the marketing for you with word-of-mouth advertising as well as how to “help them help you” with bringing in more patients. You’ll get a higher return on your invested time and efforts. Not to be missed!

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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.

Today’s episode is called “Three ways to turn your patients into raving fans”.  I’ve been beating this drum for almost 20 years now and call me crazy, but it seems to me it’s always been a lot easier to get your current patients to brag about you to their friends who then refer you and they come in and say yes. That just seems a whole lot easier than going out and going into that big internet world and trying to find somebody who wants your services. It’s also a lot cheaper and a lot more fun when you’re doing a consultation with somebody who already is pre-sold on you instead of, you know what it’s like when you have a stranger patient and they’re looking at you with the nines or what is called the 11s, the forehead frown. They don’t trust you, they don’t know you, they’re listening to you but questioning everything you’re saying because they don’t have any preframe.

So I really believe that a lot more effort should be put into word of mouth referrals and raving fans than brand-new stranger patients. I just I know for a fact it’s easier. Every practice in the past was always grown this way and now for some reason with the new world I realize everyone’s got to do external marketing but it will never go away. A girlfriend or a family member talking to another girl friend or family member will always be your fastest path to new business growth. It just is. It’s to the point rather than the zigzagging all over the place, the clicking and the calling and they call you, and they call everybody else.

So in this one, I just want to focus on remembering that this would be an easy, faster, cheaper way to do it. And there are easy ways to do it so that’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m just gonna give you three ideas because I swear that’s where all your leverage is. You want a patient for a lifetime, not one time right? So here’s what I know. I’ve studied marketing forever and one thing they always say is the Pareto or Prieto or whatever, the 20/80 rule, it’s true here just like everywhere else. 20% of your patients would absolutely spend more with you, refer more patients to you and return more often if given the opportunity. If you would focus some of your efforts and budget on making that happen, that’s a much easier way to grow a practice.

So here are three ideas. My first one is an aesthetic advisory board. I got this from the business world when I was in corporate a million years ago. There was always an advisory board for the corporation I worked for, big Fortune 500 companies, and they always had these killer people on their boards that helped them. They met quarterly and they would help them grow the practice. Well I thought why the heck don’t we do that for our industry? So I call it the aesthetic advisory board, and here’s what you would do. You would carefully, with your coordinator, select 25 of your favorite patients (the ones who spend the most with you, sing your praises every chance they get, they’re friendly to your staff, they love you, would never go anywhere else). Who would be better than that?

So you pick 25 of them (you can go bigger) but for your first advisory board just 25. Now you have your coordinator call them personally and invite them to be part of your new aesthetic advisory board and just tell them this is about growing your practice with patients just like them and we’re inviting you to a dinner and all we ask is that you bring a friend that would be new to the practice. So basically you’re just inviting them to a dinner. Okay now in this case you do have a nice dinner and I would put some money into this because you’re going to get a lot of return out of it. So you have a dinner for 50 people, 25 are your patients the other 25 are their friends, and I would also have your staff on hand to make sure they’re capturing everything that’s going on. I would also have a couple of current patients planted, ready to help get the ball rolling. The dinner needs to be nice. I believe there needs to be wine and/or alcohol because it helps loosen everybody up because they’re all strangers and they don’t know each other.

It’s very helpful to have circles where there are tables of six so they can talk with each other during dinner and get more comfortable, and then you’re going to give a presentation. It’s not long, you don’t go on and on, it’s the face time that they want with you but you are the authority and the credible resource for them so you just give a talk showing lots of before and after photos, of what’s going on in the aesthetic world. Things are changing quickly, we’ve got surgical, non-surgical and everything in between so you just give them an update on that. Now you talk for maybe 20-25 minutes and now you say, “So let me explain why we’re here. I’m watching the world of internet marketing in our plastic surgery industry, and I’m not liking where it’s going. I don’t want to play that game because I just think it’s a waste of my time and effort. I think I’m a very great surgeon and I want to grow my practice organically with other patients just like you. So I’d like you to do me a favor as part of my advisory board. Can you please help me with ideas on how you would go about growing my cosmetic practice?”

Now that’s where the wine kind of helps because some people are scared to death of public speaking and so you really need everybody to relax and that’s why I have a couple of patients planted in the audience to get the ball rolling. Your staff has got to be on top of this taking notes of everything people are saying because it’s a brainstorming session so there’s no bad idea and they’ll get more creative as they go because they will start to listen to somebody else and then that’ll give them an idea of another thing so you’re looking for who they know, what they know, what connections they have, what lists they have access to, and it’s amazing when you do this.

I have watched things happen like somebody’s sister was the station manager at the local TV station, and so she introduced the doctor. Somebody else got him a guest spot on a blog. It was a mommy blogger and she wanted to talk about mommy makeovers. Somebody else had an Instagram following of I don’t know, 40,000 people so that was nice. Somebody else owned an exclusive retail shop and she said she has a beautiful list and they could do some kind of cross promotion and it just goes on and on. You just never know. Think about this, there are 50 women in the room, which is a lot of connections. So after that you want to thank them, so the 25 women who you know are given a customized black card and it’s their VIP card for being on the aesthetic advisory board.

I took this idea straight from the airlines. I don’t know if you travel much, but I do. I play that game very well because I want to get on the plane first, I want to get off the plane first, I want to get my bag on, and when there’s a problem, I want to call the hotline, so I pay dearly for the loyalty of American Airlines, who sucks actually. I can’t remember the last time I got where I was going on time, and there’s a connection everywhere so the connections are always tight and it’s a joke, but you have to hook up with somebody. It used to be United and they were even worse so now I’m with American and I don’t really have any choice anymore. But the point being, we want to be treated special to then become your raving fan because now that raving fan is bigger than just a regular patient, they are your sales ambassadors.

So the VIP card – keep it simple. It’s only for the year and you will re-evaluate it next year, but put some perks on there that others don’t get. So here are some examples. You can have last-minute Botox appointments, free monthly peel, they’re invited to private events that nobody else is, they get 10% off skin care products, you can even have free shipping so they don’t have to come in because they’re already loyal, they’re not going anywhere. If you happen to be in a city you could offer them valet parking. Just make it special so they’re getting perks that others aren’t.

Now what do you do with their 25 friends who are new to your practice? Well now you offer them a “get to know us” gift card of $100 and on that gift card is your private phone number and a private email. The goal is you want them to have a visit to your office, have something done, go through your entire process and report back to you their findings. What their experience was like, and do they have any ideas, suggestions or recommendations about how their experience in your practice could have gone better.

Trust me this was a little work but the rewards will pay off dearly for several years after this. You just have to do the effort upfront and then keep the ball rolling so here’s my idea number two for how to create raving fans.

You have a photo shoot party. Frankly I would do this on a Saturday rather than an evening because you need people relaxed so probably a Saturday is your best bet, or maybe you have one on a Thursday night and one on a Saturday and give people the choice. So now you want to invite anybody who recently had a surgical procedure done by you. Invite more than you need because you’re going to have a lot of people who aren’t going to be able to do it or won’t want to do it so you need enough to make this happen, because the goal here is to get social proof. So you’re having a photo shoot party and you make it really fun, it’s got free food, again free alcohol seems to work very well to loosen people up, and you’re going to invite a really well-known in your community hair stylist from a really cool salon, a makeup artist who’s also well-known in your community and a videographer (that you can get anywhere, there’s a bunch of unemployed wedding videographers available so you can get one of them) and you make it really fun. You can even have a retail shop who offers clothing, just like maybe the shirts or the earrings you know, any vendors that you have that could also become your good referral sources, and they’ll appreciate this because you’re getting them in front of a lot of new potential clients, and you appreciate them because they’re glamming up your patients for the photo shoot.

So the videographer is going to first take just still shots, like before-and-after photos. Now some of you get caught up on this because you’re supposed to take before-and-after photos without makeup, but you do that anyway, this is different. I actually like to turn this into wall art, and hear me out on this… You get some really cool shots; you could even have them like reading a book or having tea or meeting with a friend just some fun photos. You could even have them leaning against a wall outside or sitting in a park if I mean if you want to go that far, but the point being, a typical cosmetic patient typically does have their makeup on and they are doing things. They’re shopping, they’re being with friends, and they’re being social. So then you would take that photo and turn them into wall art in your office and you would have a little banner with a saying from them something like, “I love my new look.” You know what I mean, so it’s not your typical before and after photo which are fantastic and you still want to do those as well, but this is in addition to that.

So now you’ve got the still shots, if you can get them you want to video tape their story. Everybody loves a story, that’s why when we were little kids we always wanted somebody to read us a story. We loved the beginning, the middle and the end. So interview your patients who are willing to do this, but here’s the thing, you have to prep them because most people are not comfortable when you stick a big camera in front of their face and they have to ad-lib like I have to do right now. It’s not comfortable, you don’t just do this. It’s really awkward actually so make it easy for them. There are two ways to do that – either review the points ahead of time with them, or interview them.

Now here’s a good patient story – What was the pain they were in like? What were they really uncomfortable with? Why did they choose you? (Because that’s why other patients are gonna choose you). What was their experience like with you? (This is where they loved you, they were relaxed, they were comfortable throughout the whole journey, the staff took great care of them). And then lastly the crescendo is how much has it changed their life and transformed their life for the better? We’re trying to get emotion in this because this really is transformational and that’s what patients gravitate towards. The stories of other patients just like them helps them also make the move to surgery.

Now in addition to that I would have a social media booth set up, and you go to Amazon and you get a customized backdrop. You know how they do that on the red carpet, they always have that red velvet thing but then they have the red backdrop and all the cameras and in the back they have everyone’s logos. Well you can have your logo but be sure to have also your website URL and any of your Instagram stuff like your hashtags and all of that because what you want is the patient to go into your social media booth and take photos and shoot it out into their social media channels. All of that just helps them become a raving fan. Talking to all their friends and fake friends online.

Now here’s the last strategy. This is for the post-op visit. I would say the post-op visit is almost more important or as important as the initial consultation when you’re trying to create raving fans. Here is the objective for a post-op visit. It’s always of course to get before-and-after photos especially if they didn’t come to the photo shoot, but it’s also to get reviews, get referrals, and get them to return again. So don’t you oftentimes have trouble getting them to return for their photos? Because you know what happens, and I’ve had at plenty of surgery, I often don’t show up when I’m happy, it’s when there’s a problem then you can see me again but otherwise everyone’s not dying to come back again because they’re busy people and they’re just moving on with their lives and they’re loving things. It’s the unhappy patient that keeps showing up isn’t that right? So you want to make sure you don’t let that slide. You need to see the patient again, and you don’t want to wait too long. You need them to be ecstatic about their result. If you wait too long, they’re already used to their result and it’s just become part of their life and the emotion that they felt initially is going to dissipate, so timing is so important. Get them back in right away, like within the first one or two weeks, but then when they’re healed by let’s say and I’m just generalizing, let’s say by the third week, get them back in because that’s when all the bruising is gone, they’ve already forgotten the pain.

I think it’s like having a baby, you already forget how bad it was so you’re ready to do it again. That’s when you need to catch them and as the surgeon you need to thank them for choosing you and if they wouldn’t mind would they please help you out to grow your practice by giving you a review or reviews to help other prospective patients get the same feelings and results that you have gotten. And then you pass them off to the staff and by the way the staff, when they call to make the post-op appointment, the staffs gonna say, “we have a thank you gift basket waiting for you” and I’ve got to tell you, I know it’s a bribe but it’s a good bribe because you would do this all day to get this raving fan.

The thank you gift basket would be full of things like your own skin care products, maybe a fun candle, little tchotchkes from your practice, and then be sure to put a gift card in there for a free skincare treatment or maybe a little Botox or something and it’s your way of saying thank you to them. Now here’s what kicks in – it’s the law of reciprocity. When you give somebody a gift or you do something nice for somebody, they are compelled to do something nice back to you so this opens them up for additional favors. So also in the gift basket is a post-op note card and the note card when they open it up says thank you and it has their before and after photos in there and you just use a little Instamatic kind of printer that prints out like the four by six cards and the greeting cards are usually like four by six I think, so they match and so you give them their photos. That gives them the alternative to show their photos to everybody they know or only three of their best friends, and I guarantee most of them will take those photos and you think they’re not gonna show them to anybody, but I don’t know any female on the planet who can keep a secret like, that they will be showing them to somebody. But when you’re handing it to them you’re not forcing anything, you’re just giving them the option “here are your photos, enjoy them.” And in this thank-you note it also has a couple new patient gift cards and if this is for them to pass to their friends and the gift card is a $75 gift card to their friend to also experience your services. There’s no strings attached so you have the thank-you note, you have their before and after photos, and you have a couple of gift cards and leave it at that.

Now in addition to that you want to have a simple process for them to give you a review. Here’s the thing about the reviews, you’re trying to make it easy for them but not everybody is up on the technology so you’ve got to do everything humanly possible to give them the instructions of exactly how to do a Google review or exactly how to do, I know nobody likes Yelp but the consumers like Yelp, so why not instead of fighting it, why not you know get a good Yelp review and make that happen you know organically by helping the patient do that.

So I would literally have a patient review kit that I would put in the gift basket and all the kit is, you’re just making this up yourself, the kit is a thank you instruction sheet that says, “Would you please share your story?” and it has the sentences that to start them off so they can write a good review, and it’s what I said before, the patient story. “This is the pain I was in, this is why I chose this doctor, this is why you’re gonna choose him, this is what the process was like and I couldn’t been happier through my throughout my journey. I was comfortable throughout all stages and this is how great my life is now.” So you help them write that because otherwise it becomes a homework assignment for them and nobody wants to write because they don’t know what to say, so help them with the complete sentences otherwise you’re going to get a five star that just says, “love you” and that’s not what we read as a prospective patient. We’re reading all the long stories; we’re reading all that because we’re trying to find out, “gosh is this the right decision to make?”

Okay, now I do know a lot of you have those iPads in the office and they’re run on a platform, a review platform. I won’t mention the vendor but it’s a great way to get reviews. However, the downside is you’re making them sit in the office and do the review right now before they leave but there’s a chance they’re in a hurry and there’s a chance they’re gonna feel some resistance to that because they don’t want to be forced to do it, they just want to do it if they want to do it. Sometimes they’ll do it anyway, but they’re just gonna say they love you and then they’re off, and there you go give you five stars but there wasn’t a lot of punch to it. So here’s one suggestion – give them a Starbucks card and let them enjoy a cup of coffee while they’re doing it, and they can go down their street but then they take their your iPad with them but that doesn’t make sense. Personally I always put the Starbucks gift card in the review kit that they’re gonna take home with them, but if you’re gonna have them do it in the office at least give them a cup of coffee or tea or something while they’re doing it, or give them some cookies or something to help them stay put and do it. And here’s what else I would suggest, it’s tough to type on an iPad so why not go to Amazon and order one of those iPad keyboards and give them like a little desk to sit at or a little counter to stand at and that will make it easier for them to type. And then of course have some kind of laminated guide next to it explaining the simple one-two-three instructions for how to do it on the iPad.

So here’s the quickest, easiest way to get more raving fans and more procedures. You get your current patients to love you, love your staff, and love their results so they want to return again and again, they want to refer again and again, and they want to give you reviews and social proof. Because here’s the bottom line: retention is the new patient attraction strategy for the smarter cosmetic practice of today. I hope you hear that.

So if you enjoyed this, of course I always love you to subscribe and there’s nothing easy about subscribing half the time on these darn things so I hope we’ve made it easy for you to subscribe. If not, you can go to iTunes and subscribe there, otherwise you can go to my website and we do have a button there for you to subscribe. I’d also appreciate if you share this with your staff, with your colleagues, with your friends also please. I look forward to your comments and your questions, I’m here to help and you can always follow and meet me on Instagram at CatherineMaleyMBA. Thanks so much for listening.


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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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