Share This Post

Ep.09: Easier Path to New Cosmetic Patients

Ep.09: Easier Path to New Cosmetic Patients

Learn from Catherine’s 40+ years as marketing and business advisor for top aesthetic practices around the world:

  • Digital marketing pitfalls
  • What works and what doesn’t in increasing patient revenue
  • Easy ideas on generating more profit immediately
  • …And much much more!

FREE practice-building content

FREE advice call with Catherine

Episode Transcript:

Welcome to “Beauty and the Biz.” Discover how to grow your practice with effective cosmetic patient attraction, conversion and retention advice from author, speaker, trainer and cosmetic practice business and marketing coach, Catherine Maley MBA.

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.

Just in case you want to hear the inside scoop of how podcasts go, this is my fourth try today to do this because what I keep forgetting is I live in Sausalito and it’s this summer so guess what happens? We have seaplanes and helicopters that take off less than a mile away from me and I can hear them quite easily so every time I try to do the podcast one would take off and I said, “oh no problem now that they’re gone they’ll be gone for at least 30 minutes.” Well sure enough then like let’s say that was the sea plane then the helicopter took off so I guess it was a very busy day today you know with the tourist thing in the air. By the way though if you ever come to Sausalito definitely do a helicopter or a seaplane tour, they’re really fun and you can get just killer views of Northern California.

So anyway let’s talk about today’s episode. The topic is “Easier path to new cosmetic patients.” Doesn’t that sound great? Wouldn’t you like an easier way to get to new cosmetic patients? So before we get to the easier way let’s go ahead and start with the harder way to get new patients. So not too long ago the only way you could really do it was with TV and radio and print ads and billboards and there’s nothing wrong with that if it still works in your community. Now in some areas it still works I will say not many, but you have to take a look at where you’re at. The thing that I don’t like about TV and radio is that it takes just a ton of repetition to get any attention and then to get somebody to act it’s a whole other feat and it’s very expensive. The thing about TV and radio is you can’t segment it like you want to because they’ll still give you shows or they’ll put your commercials on shows that cater to your demographic, but you’re still just wasting a whole bunch of eyeballs that are never going to want any of your services so I don’t love that.

The thing about magazines, I think those are definitely a dying breed. Maybe it still works, I do like the social magazines and I like the top doc magazines, but I only like them to use them as marketing pieces and as PR. So things like “As seen in top Doc’s magazine” I think there’s some value to that and then of course there’s billboards. Those are pretty expensive. I’ve looked at those before for certain practices and there’s actually a couple practices out here in California that do pretty well with them but it’s not cheap and they’re up year after year after year so people just get really used to them because here’s the thing: you want them on a really busy highway but then they have to stay put because you want people to see them every day all day, start thinking about it, and it could take them a year or two before they actually call. That’s just the way it is, so this is the whole issue with all this mass advertising, it’s very difficult to target who you want to target and it’s tough to get attention.

So then we move on to PPC, otherwise adoringly called Google Adwords. A lot of you have horror stories about Google AdWords. Here’s the thing about that – you better know what you’re doing or work with somebody who does because you can go through an awful lot of money very quickly and not even realize what happened. I know I tried it once for my business and I lost five hundred dollars in a blink of an eye and I still don’t exactly know what happened because I had no idea what I was doing so you really want to be careful with that and don’t just be lackadaisical. You have to really work with somebody who knows direct response copy and knows how to write compelling words that get the consumer to click on your ad but then don’t just haphazardly send them to your homepage, that’s not where they want to go. A cosmetic patient who clicked on an ad let’s say for eyelid lift that’s another thing. Do not call it blepharoplasty, they don’t know what that is, you have to call it what they would call it, the consumer. So you would call it an eyelid lift but then when they click on your ad it better go to an eyelid lift page talking about eyelid lift with before and after photos of eyelid lifts, testimonials from patients who had an eyelid lift, FAQ’s about an eyelid lift, and then of course on that page you have to have an opt-in that asks for their name, their email, and their cell phone and then that’s all I would ask. I think some of you ask way too many questions and it turns consumers off and they just leave. And then of course let them call as well.

So anyway, here’s the point: pay-per-click is expensive and you never know what’s gonna happen because you’re bidding with your competitors. If you have somebody in your area who spends a bucketload of money on PPC you’re almost better off watching when they’re not doing it and then jumping in because otherwise you may never be seen. You can’t compete with somebody with a huge budget is the point unless you’re dying to one-up them. But here’s something else that’s really interesting – did you know only 3% of people clicking on google adwords is actually ready to buy? Isn’t that interesting? I mean, wow so think about that all of you, I mean a lot of Plastic Surgeons are just spending a fortune on PPC to try to get attention from those 3% who are actually ready to buy. That’s really tough, so some of you said okay forget PPC it’s too expensive I’m not gonna do that I’m gonna do social media.

The thing about social media is it’s not taking up a ton of your money yet, but it is taking up a boatload of your time. Also if you’re gonna play that game you’ve got to get pretty creative with your posts, you’ve got to be tech savvy and you’ve got to be able to interact with people who are talking to you. I mean that’s really brutal because you’re also supposed to be a surgeon and a leader and managing your team and running a business and then you’re supposed to interact with every Sally who wants to ask you a silly question so you have to figure that out. By the way I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the social media sites are very quickly strangling your reach because they need you to pay to play. Have you ever noticed that you used to follow somebody and now you don’t see them anymore? That’s because they’re deciding I think nowadays and I’m guessing on this, but I know I heard something like only about ten percent of your audience is actually going to see you, and if you want more of them to see you, you have to pay and that means start doing ads. So it’s just gonna be like the other platforms it’s just a different platform. So right now you’re giving money to let’s say, TV, radio or billboards, then you gave money to PPC, now you’re just gonna give money to Facebook or Instagram… There’s no getting around that. Advertising will always be around, that’s just the way we do it. We live in a world where there’s a marketplace of goods and services and then there’s a group of consumers and the supply and demand will always dictate how much advertising costs and how much you’re willing to pay to get in front of new patients, that’s just the way it is.

But here’s the thing, if you have to advertise a lot more now than you used to just because of the competitive nature, but then you have to deal with the quality of the leads I know I hear this all the time, “Oh they’re crappy leads, they’re not even serious” well that could be true but what else is true is you better have staff on their game who can really convert. You can’t just have anybody answering that phone; you’ve got to have somebody who really knows how to ask for the appointment. Also you have to set up parameters. The public will run you ragged when you’re trying to cater to them so you have to have some boundaries and make sure the no-show issue doesn’t get out of hand. And try to qualify as much as you can ahead of time so they’re halfway serious when they get there, because there’s nothing worse than spending all this money sifting through all these leads to spend time nurturing them for them to show up and then spend your time with them educating them on your services and then having them not convert. I mean it’s just doesn’t that wreak havoc with your emotional state?

So all right, that was the bad part so now let’s talk about the easier path to new cosmetic patients. Of course what I’m talking about is the friends, the family and the colleagues of your current patients who love you, who know you, who trust you, and all they have to do is talk about you to their friends, family and colleagues so they too will know like and trust you. That’s your lowest hanging fruit. That’s also your leverage if you think about it, you already spent a fortune of time, money and effort getting the current patient you already have, so why not expend some of that effort in making that grow? Because here’s also an interesting stat – on average, all of us have a circle of influence that expands to at least 250 people. So think about it like this: if you have a database of let’s just say 2,000 patients and you put some creativity and effort into that, can you imagine if each one of them only refer one of the 250 people they know? It would double your database. Isn’t that crazy? So sometimes it’s easier to look within than to seek outward.

Here’s what I would recommend you do – just to bring this home to you, go ahead and pull a report (and by the way if you can’t pull these reports, you need a system where you can it’s that important) if you pull a report called revenues by referral source depending on what the categories are that you set up it will be called something like, “word of mouth”, “friends and family”, “patient referrals”, or “staff referrals”, or “physician referrals”. And by the way I recommend you decide on the categories and keep them separate but you don’t need all of these different ones because a lot of times when I’m looking at reports somebody will tell me this was word of mouth but then it turns out when I keep looking one of them one of you called it word of mouth, somebody else called it friends and family, somebody else called it patient referrals and you have to get consistent with that so you have good data to follow. You also want to know a really important one, and that is “existing patient”. That’s the one who loved you, gave you money, loved their result and came back for more. That’s what we’re looking for so you want to know all of that. So it’s called “revenues by referral source” to give you some context and a benchmark, here’s a very general overview – if you’re a new practice I mean let’s say one to ten years, your word-of-mouth should be about thirty percent. If you’re an established practice let’s say ten to twenty years, your word-of-mouth should be about fifty percent. If you’re well established, your word of mouth should be seventy percent or more. Okay it’s just something to go by because here’s what I know for sure: the straightest path between a new patient and you is always going to be their friend. It’s their friend talking with them face to face; talking and bragging about how great you are and talking and getting them to go to you. There’s nothing cleaner than that. It’s faster, it’s cheaper, it’s easier, and the best part is they usually convert. I mean, what better review or social proof can you have when a girlfriend’s talking to a girlfriend and she says, “My God, you look fantastic! What have you been doing?” and sure enough she says,” Well let me tell you my story” and she says, of course “well who did that?” and you’re off to the races.

So now the rest of this time let’s just talk about how we’re gonna do this. In the old days you used to just wish or hope or expect or assume or feel entitled, of course people are gonna come to you. I have to tell you in today’s world, nobody is thinking about you ever. All they’re thinking about is themselves so you need to be creative and focus on this. The more you focus on this the more often they will talk about you to their friends. So here are just some simple strategies.

Number one: when somebody walks into your office, there needs to be in-house signage in strategic places and it needs some copy such as, “The greatest compliment you could ever pay us is to refer our practice to your family and friends.” I was actually in a practice where the surgeon had that very statement because it’s a popular statement and it makes sense. “The greatest compliment you could ever pay us is to refer our practice to your family and friends.” He had it painted on the wall near the check in and check out counter so when you walked in the very first thing you saw was that. I thought that was kind of neat. It was kind of in-your-face but very effective. Also on your patient intake form, most of you use a very generic form that says referral source and that’s it. Some of you get fancy and say, “Please tell us how you heard about us “and then you give them options. One of the options is always a place for a friend’s name or a current patient’s name. If they fill that in you need to have another blank next to it that says, “May we thank them?” and then have a yes or no so they can say yes.

If they say yes, there should be a protocol that immediately happens because sometimes people say, “Oh yeah, I refer you, I refer you all the time oh yeah, I refer you constantly” but you never see anybody from them. This way there’s a control document when they say yes, Smith referred me to you, you immediately have at your reception desk thank-you notes with colored envelopes with stamps. Maybe even with a gift card which I highly recommend, or a Starbucks card or some kind of little gift you put that together. You hand write the note and keep it very simple, “Hello Susan, thank you so much for referring Susan to us we’re gonna take great care of her.” and then you put a little gift card in there you address it and you put it in that evenings mail. You don’t wait, you don’t collect them, you make them happen immediately because I’ll tell you people never get around to this kind of thing. It’s the little things and I know and trust me on this, it’s the little things that are not efficient they’re a pain in the neck you have to stop what you’re doing and handwrite things, that’s where all the secret sauce is. I promise you on that one, people really notice when you take time out of your day to do something that takes your time. I’ll tell you what you don’t want to do, and I’ve seen it happen way too many times – somebody’s got that computer-generated form that says, “Thank you so much” and they plug in the person’s name and you might as well not even send that. If anything, I find that more insulting than anything else so don’t even bother.

Another one, also at the checkout desk or even at the check-in desk, you want to have a referral display with cute little takeaway cards and again, some kind of message that says, “the greatest compliment you could ever pay us is to refer our practice to your friends and family” and then, “please take a few cards on your way out.” And the thing I like about this is if it’s at that checkout counter and the consumer opens her wallet and she looks over at this sign, she’ll go ahead and take a couple cards and put them in her wallet and you really want this. You want to be walking around with her with in her purse because we don’t go very far without our purses or at least our wallets. When the subject comes up, and when they want to talk about you, it’s just a step even further where they have your name and your website right in front of them and it’s a prop that they can pass off to their friend. Or some of you have tough names or your website names are tough or people just can’t remember, so it’s really nice to have that paper trail.

Now I do make this a gift card, it’s called a “referral reward card” or it’s called a “get to know us gift card” and it has a value of 50 to 100 dollars. Now I know some of you are tied with the fee splitting thing so we never have a tit-for-tat, I’ve called many boards to find out what are the rules on this and I wouldn’t get caught up in all of that. The rule is you cannot pay for a referral so there’s no tit-for-tat to this, they can refer or not but they’re not getting paid for it. However it would be nice for you to make sure you thank them so we’ll talk about that a little bit.

Now let’s say you have the referral cards there but people aren’t taking them. At that point you want to proactively hand them a couple cards along with their receipt for the day and just say something nice like, “Oh by the way, I gave you a couple of referral cards, we’d love if you pass those out.” Just something very simple, don’t make a big deal out of it, don’t push it, but give them the tools to help talk about you throughout the industry, throughout their travels. Now you can also do something fun like “fun Fridays” and the staff can wear cute t-shirts that say, “Ask me how you can save fifty dollars on your next appointment” or they can wear lapel pins that say “We love referrals.” Won’t that be fun?

You can also have a brainstorming session with your staff where everybody gets together and they relax, yet you need a minute to do this and somebody’s writing down everything that’s being said or you record it and the question is “who do we know that could know us?” So you just go right down the list – it’s their friends and family, it’s hair salons they go to, its health clubs they work out at, its retail shops they shop at, its media outlets that they happen to have connections with, perhaps it’s moms groups, maybe they’re a mom and they have a moms group, or maybe they belong to the Chamber of Commerce, or maybe they belong to some kind of hobby group or maybe they’re really involved in fundraising. The point is, you all know a lot more people. Remember we all know at least 250 other people. If you were to brainstorm and start thinking of all the connections you have that could be just what you need to get the ball rolling. Now in case you want to make more fun out of this, you could actually have a friendly staff referral contest. So you would give the staff cute little referral cards, like the $75 “get to know us” gift card and there would be little initials on there so you know which staff person was responsible for the referral, and now you have a contest for 30 days. In the staff room you have a grand prize for the most referrals, and it’s a big grand prize, like a flat-screen monitor or an iwatch or a huge shopping spree. Make it a big deal. And then you also give second prizes of lesser value to those who participated but then didn’t win. And by the way, if somebody doesn’t participate that’s a really good indication that they’re not part of the team and you want to take a look at that.

Now in addition to that, let’s say you want to do something simpler. So now you could have just a simple staff event and you would take an evening and if it goes well you can do it several times, but you have one evening or one day or just block some time depending on how busy you are, and you tell your staff that all of their friends and family are invited to your special evening where they can get procedures done or day they can get procedures done for a really good price. However because of the great price they’re going to get, they have to agree to provide their before-and-after photos, give you a great review, and write a testimonial about their story so others can read it. So that’s the point – it’s gonna be a great evening of just friends and family, they get a great deal but they’re gonna have to work a bit for it. I hope that makes sense. Speaking of staff, the next time you hire staff you might want to find out if they’re bloggers or if they’re big on Instagram, like how big of a follower list do they have, can they bring any clients along with them, especially if they’re an aesthetician or some kind of service provider, can they bring a Rolodex with them? Do they have any connections with the media? I mean really take a look at that when you’re hiring people, sometimes they can come with a nice list for you and that gives you a great bump quite easily.

You can also just network within your neighborhood. A lot of you are in huge buildings where there are plenty of other service providers who share the same demographics you do so I would just say hello to them. Now you have to be careful because this feels like a sales call doesn’t it, if you start walking around and knocking on doors. I would get a friendly staff person, I would give them cookies, you know this has to be really fun it’s just like when you buy a new house and somebody comes to the door with the cookies and welcomes you to the neighborhood, it’s kind of like that. No sales, no pressure, you’re just saying hello. You have some cards and you want to invite them down or up to your place. You want them to come and you can even offer them like at lunchtime if they can get away. You serve lunch to the doctor and their staff so your staff gets to know their staff and you get to know the other service provider it can’t hurt at all and if they’re right there in your neighborhood or close by that’s your best bet for referrals.

Now regarding surgery, I personally believe in sending a gift while somebody’s recuperating. I do like the idea of flowers, some people send food but when you’re recovering if you’re in a pretty down state I don’t know I’ve had several surgical procedures and I plan to have more but it’s not fun so it would be fantastic if some flowers arrived and you called that night to see how the person’s doing and then leave a message if that you know she can’t come to the phone. And then of course have your staff follow up after that. If you did that, if you send flowers and you called that night to check in, and then your staff called other nights to check in tell me they wouldn’t tell their friends. I mean that’s a good story because how many doctors do this in today’s world? Zero. I know maybe three and I know an awful lot of practices, it’s not popular because it’s one of those things it’s not automated yet, it takes some trouble to do this. It’s a hassle, you have to make it part of your protocol. I think it’s well worth it, you send flowers for what fifty, seventy-five dollars, wouldn’t you pay all day $75 to what $20000 surgical procedure? I would.

Now another thing that comes up is after surgery when they’re estatic about the results. You need to grab that. The timing on that is crucial, so you have a goodie bag waiting for them to return to your office because you need to take their after photos. Everyone gets the before photos but then they don’t get the after photos because they haven’t made a protocol. So after surgery when they’re really excited, not a year later nobody’s excited then, it’s already become  their body at that point or their face, they don’t remember anymore or as well and they don’t have the emotional charge that they had. So when they’re super, super excited, you invite them in for their goodie bag and in their goodie bag have tchotchkes – things like a t-shirt with your logo or a water bottle with your logo, and I whatever it is I would make it very high quality. You know the gifts that you give them and then also you can put in there your skin care. You can also put in there a gift card for some kind of treatment after surgery to now introduce them to other services you offer, but then you’ve got to include their before and after photos in a thank-you note.

So here’s what I would do – you know how you take before-and-after photos, I would somehow get them instantly. I don’t know, print them out and I’ll have some kind of photo printer there and then put their before-and-after photos in a thank-you note that goes into their goodie bag. In the thank-you note (it’s hand signed by all of you, again it’s a pain in the neck and well worth it), and it also has your name and your website on there and your Instagram and your Facebook and then guess what? She’s going to show it to at least three of three other people. I guarantee it. A woman, a female woman is not capable of keeping a secret that’s for sure and she will definitely tell at least her sister or her best friend or her neighbor. Trust me on that one. So that’s the goody bag, and then I would also include like VIP comp cards because she’s now kind of like a VIP patient, she can pass out complimentary consultation cards for her friends to also see you for surgery. And then because I assume or I hope you’re charging for a consult in today’s world, because it’s such a big no-show issue, so right on there you would say “A complimentary consult thanks to Sue Smith” so you can also track those.

And then lastly, all of those strategies are fantastic but here’s the real secret sauce: you have got to thank anybody who does anything nice for you. When it comes to growing your practice, whenever you do get a referral you send a personal note, you personally call them, you send a little gift, maybe you offer them a complimentary treatment, maybe you call them in or the next time they’re in there you give them a little extra Botox, a little extra filler, a little extra laser on an extra body part, the whole point is behavior that is rewarded is repeated, so you’ll get a whole lot more referrals when you show your appreciation. I actually ask patients about this in my book and they wanted to feel appreciated, you know quite frankly we all do. Everybody wants to feel appreciated for doing something nice for somebody else so just please don’t take it for granted make sure you say thank you. So that will wrap up tonight.

Please subscribe to “Beauty and the Biz” I’d really appreciate it. I’d also appreciate it if you would share “Beauty and the Biz” with your friends, your staff and your colleagues. Also please send me your comments and your questions and any guest ideas you have because I’m gonna start having guests on as well. And then please check me out on Instagram. I’m @CatherineMaleyMBA because somebody took Catherine Maley so I had to add MBA at t the end of mine. Okay I hope that was helpful and I hope you found valuable insight on this episode of “Beauty and the Biz”. For more episodes, tools and Catherine’s free book, visit and be sure to subscribe to get the latest practice building strategies delivered to you. And don’t forget to share this “Beauty and the Biz” podcast with your staff and colleagues!

Picture of 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.


Beauty and the Biz is for Plastic Surgeons who know they don’t know everything and are open to discovering the pearls to grow and scale a sellable asset when they’re ready to exit.

Listen in as Catherine interviews surgeons who talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery and listen to Catherine’s pearls from consulting with plastic surgeons since Year 2000.



More To Explore