Business coach Alan Adams provides a basis overview of how to retain patients and grow clinic profits
Many of the plastic, maxillofacial and aesthetic clinic owners I speak to are so busy working in their business that they rarely find the time to work on it. They may be technically excellent – exceptional in some cases, and they rightly focus on staying at the very forefront of their specialism.
Yet, their clinics are not always the most profitable, nor are they as busy as they could be in terms of patients coming through the door. Why? Because they’re so busy ‘being busy’ in their practice that they have no time left to focus on the commercial side of the clinic. Plus, there are many practitioners who have limited sales and marketing strategy, or if they do, it is often simplistic, due to their lack of expertise in this area.
In this article, I will share with you some simple and straightforward strategies that can help you to make your clinic more profitable. This can be done without making major changes, as we’ll be focusing instead on the power of minor changes over time. By making just a small improvement in each of the areas detailed below, you can hugely enhance your business.
The first area to consider is the data your business has available as, in my experience, it is one of the most valuable and easily-gained resources. In essence it does not matter if you record your patients’ details on a simple Excel spreadsheet, or a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) system. What is vital is that it works for you, and is kept meticulously up-to-date. This data can then be used to target your existing and potential clients. Who should you be adding to your database?
Quite simply – anyone that you and your wider team has ever engaged with. It may be people who have visited your website, have made an enquiry, who you have met with at a show or event, or someone you have had an initial consultation with, and who has been referred to you. You will always need to adhere to The Data Protection Act1 to collect and use data like this, which offers guidance on your legal responsibilities. For example, you have an obligation to ensure data is safely stored and that you have permission to actively use this data.
Who should you be adding to your database? Quite simply – anyone that you and your wider team has ever engaged with
You can secure patient permission to collect and use their information by adding a box in consent forms that says, ‘Are you happy for us to contact you by email/post/ phone?’ which allows them to tick and sign to confirm. You should capture all the data that’s relevant to you and your business, including the patient’s full name, email address, date of birth, previous services used and phone number.
Although it should be noted that The Data Protection Act states that data should be ‘used for limited, specifically stated purposes, used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive’. You’ll also need to give them the opportunity to opt-out of any communications at any time – for example, a clear ‘unsubscribe’ button under each newsletter or mailshot you share.
The second area you should consider is communication. You now have an expanded list of contacts on your database and will need to decide how to communicate with all the contacts on it. The key here is to communicate often enough that you are on their mind, but not so often that it feels pressured. This is very much down to you and your own individual clinic, and how often you feel your contacts would prefer to be communicated with – whether by text, phone, email or post. Again, you can find out what they prefer by asking them.
For example, if you’re an aesthetic practitioner offering a more accessible and repeatable treatment, it is probably appropriate for you to communicate more frequently than someone in a specialist area of surgery. All you need to do to work out the right level is test and measure. If you’re finding that you are getting a lot of unsubscribes for weekly emails, try sending them fortnightly instead and compare numbers until you get very few people unsubscribing, and lots of positive enquiries coming through.
Before any potential (or past) patient becomes a current patient, there are a few important things that need to happen. Firstly, they need to trust you. To help develop this trust, your communication should focus on stories and topics that showcase your credentials, training, expertise and ability. Good examples include award-wins, PR articles in newspapers and magazines, and industry accolades. In addition, referrals from existing happy patients are extremely valuable. So, if you are not already asking for referrals in a formal way, then this is certainly something to think about next time you speak to any of your current patients.
Any potential patient needs to understand how you can help them. Bear in mind that we can all be motivated by either the fear of something (for example, it could be the fear of ‘looking old’ or having wrinkles) or an opportunity (for example, the desire to be more physically attractive). For the former group of individuals, you need to demonstrate how you can help them avoid or reduce signs of ageing, whilst for the latter you should talk about your expertise in, say, lip enhancements or browlifts, which can help these individuals gain something, so these are important to include in all your messaging. You should listen carefully to their concerns and address them appropriately.
Talk to your team about communicating with patients in regards to the additional services and products you have within your clinic
Once you have done all the above, the next stage is to turn potential patients into existing ones. I would suggest that you have a timeline worked out that highlights when each individual contact was communicated with, when and how they were followed up, and by whom. This could be compiled on a spreadsheet or CRM system. You should avoid any potential confusion or inconsistency by developing scripts for your team and creating templates for emails and letters wherever possible.
I advise my clients who are practitioners to give specific thought to their potential patients’ issues and opportunities. By identifying people’s motivations, you are in a much stronger position to be able to offer them what they are looking for. To provide further encouragement to book an appointment at your clinic, you could share more in-depth insights into what the end result will look like, send over testimonials, enable them to speak with past patients, or perhaps offer some kind of additional support.
Think about how often people use your services, and look at what you can do to increase this number. The work you have already done will help you understand why your patients come to you in the first place, so use that knowledge to encourage them to come back more often.
Talk to your team about communicating with patients in regards to the additional services and products you have within your clinic. This could be through additional add-ons, or as part of a package – bundling your services and offering them to clients as a package can be an effective way of increasing their spend with you. Do give some thought to how you want to position each of the packages too, so for example, the cheapest package you offer might be £2,000, the middle £4,000, and the highest £10,000. What you include within these packages is up to you, but studies have shown that people are much more likely to pick the middle option (Centre Stage effect).2
While I know this all sounds great, it also sounds like a lot of hard work. However, it’s all quite minimal, as you do not need to implement every idea I have shared with you straightaway. The best thing to do is to focus enough in each area to increase your current figures by 10%.
This might be through increasing the number of patients by 10% – in this instance you’d look at communicating with them through methods I mentioned above, and run some offers, promotions, advertisements, issue a press release, or networking, and so on. Or if you wanted to increase the spend of current patients, you could look at encouraging them to consider other add-on services or packages.
While all the outlined recommendations require some commitment of time to get everything set up, the costs to do so are minimal as you can choose to do this all yourself; resulting in the increase in revenue becoming profit for the business owner.
To recap, it’s all about making small changes that could have a significant impact on your business. These changes are as simple as asking your customers if they’re happy for you to contact them (and how), and using this data to keep in touch with them, reminding them about any offers you’re running and building trust by offering them genuine advice and guidance.
It’s about ensuring that your existing database is aware of any other services you offer, and then encouraging them to explore these. Plus, it’s about increasing the amount you do, as all of the people you’re contacting could turn into hot leads, and subsequently, new clients.
We are in a truly beautiful business, and with a few ‘nips and tucks’, your clinic can offer the service that your patients want, and you the lifestyle that you wish. Whatever you do, keep focusing on sculpting your ultimate clinic, and good luck!
1. GOV.UK, The Data Protection Act (2017) <https://www.gov.uk/data-protection/the-data-protection-act>
2. Rodway, Schepman & Lambert, Preferring the One in the Middle: Further Evidence for the Centre stage Effect, (2012)