Practitioners outline how they communicate the benefits of offering a multi-treatment approach to patients.
How many times has a patient attended your clinic for a consultation and said ‘I want 0.5ml of lip filler please’ or ‘Can I have two areas of Botox done?’. While it may seem like these direct demands will save you a consultation and make you a ‘quick buck’, most aesthetic professionals will recognise that this isn’t an ethical or profitable route to take. Conducting a thorough and detailed assessment of the patient’s concerns and educating them on the most appropriate treatment plan, while allowing them time to reflect on your advice, is widely regarded as the gold standard approach to an enquiry and consultation within the specialty.
Often, a practitioner’s assessment will result in the recommendation of a multi-treatment approach, involving a number of modalities such as injectables, skincare and energy-based procedures. But, communicating this to patients can be difficult; especially if they’re convinced that all they need to do to be the next Kylie Jenner is have half a millilitre of lip filler. So how do you get through to patients? And how do you turn them into loyal, returning customers?
Aesthetics speaks to three leading practitioners and a marketing specialist for their recommendations.
Aesthetic practitioner and dental surgeon Professor Bob Khanna, who has been practising for 22 years, explains, “You’ve got to look at a multi-treatment approach because the very nature of the ageing process involves not just one particular tissue – it involves everything including skin, fat, muscle and bone.” He emphasises that a healthy treatment protocol should comprise toxins, fillers and some form of regenerative treatment such as platelet-rich plasma, chemical peels or lasers, explaining, “If done properly, these treatments can be very effective. There’s no question about it, combination therapies are the way forward and always have been.”
Consultant plastic surgeon Mr Taimur Shoaib agrees, suggesting that practitioners should reflect on their methods of care in the NHS and adapt this to their aesthetic clinic. “We learn this multidisciplinary approach from the NHS where we often treat people requiring many different specialists, caring for them, for one successful outcome. We should be aiming towards this in our aesthetic practices as well,” he says.
Charlotte Moreso, managing director of True Grace PR, acknowledges that while necessary from a clinical standpoint, providing a number of different treatments for one overall result also opens the door to multiple marketing opportunities. She explains that combining procedures can bring a ‘newness to treatment offerings’ without having to invest in new products or technology.
Before a potential patient picks up the phone or fills in a booking enquiry for a clinic, there is work to be done to convince them that a holistic approach to aesthetic treatment will offer better results than a single procedure. Moreso acknowledges that even though this may seem like a harder sell in terms of appearing to be more costly to patients, it doesn’t have to be when marketed correctly.
When promoting more straightforward combinations of treatments, for example offering a body contouring procedure alongside cellulite treatment, she advises that practitioners can create a brand for their protocol, which will allow patients to see it as a single treatment rather than multiple individual procedures. Having done this for clients previously, Moreso says she found that practitioners often have multiple products or devices that they use on their own, but could be easily packaged together. “They could be used at the same time or one treatment following the other, generating efficacious results; far better than one single device would bring,” she explains. Creating a brand name that consumers will understand and relate to, will also be beneficial says Moreso. The ‘Trio Tech Treatment’ is one example she shares, which was created for the Triniti Plus device.
She explains that it combines the power of three technologies – laser, bi-polar radiofrequency and infrared light – to treat three key signs of ageing. “The treatments are usually used in seclusion for anti-ageing results, however this particular protocol harnesses all three in one,” she says. When detailing to patients what the multi-treatment will involve, Moreso advises that practitioners keep their marketing copy simple, explaining, “Short, clear and understandable bullet points on who the treatment is suitable for and what results can be expected is critical. Marketing goes wrong when too much tech-talk is included and when there is too much copy to read. Provide the treatment in a nutshell and explain the rest in the consultation.”
While this should work well for these more straightforward holistic protocols, the practitioners point out that the necessity for a more indepth multi-treatment approach, decided upon at consultation, will be harder to communicate to the mass market. Professor Khanna says, “In my consultation, even though a patient may just want to have their lips done, I need to look at their whole face to assess the alignment of their nose, chin and forehead. By default, multiple combination approaches will be discussed.”
Moreso advises that similar marketing methods would apply, noting, “Consumers like to see proof before parting with any amount of money, so it is essential to show patients strong before and after case study results and a clearly written testimonial when promoting your holistic treatments.” She says that in these cases, practitioners should focus their messaging on how the patient was assessed, why the particular procedures were chosen, and how they benefitted the patient, emphasising how the approach was tailored to the patient’s needs and how they will be tailored for all future patients’ requirements.
Including examples from different types of patients in your marketing, for example a young woman in her twenties and a post-menopausal woman, is also important as it will ensure you appeal to a wider demographic, says Moreso.
Aesthetic nurse prescriber Jacqueline Naeini acknowledges that case studies are something she has adopted in her marketing strategy. “Promotional videos help too,” she says, explaining that with full patient consent, she shares films of treatments taking place, with voice-over explanation of why she is combining various methods, and testimonials on her clinic’s social media platforms, as well as on its website.
When using social media, Moreso recommends that posts should be picture-led to instantly grab attention. “Use keywords as hashtags so you attract people searching for posts relating to those words or phrases and keep posts regular and updated with new information, testimonials or case studies,” she advises, reminding practitioners to keep descriptions short and snappy, with links that click-through to other pages with more in-depth treatment information on your website.
When your marketing efforts begin to generate consultation bookings, the next step is to evaluate how you ‘sell’ the combination of multiple treatments in these appointments. And, for the practitioners interviewed, they all agree that the word ‘sell’ should be immediately struck from clinicians’ vernacular.
Professor Khanna says, “I don’t look at this as selling and I don’t go in with the mindset that I’m selling because I think that’s fundamentally flawed. If you go in there thinking you’re selling oranges, a car, a handbag or shoes, you’ve got one thing in mind and that is to close the deal and make money. As far as I’m concerned, as clinicians, we have to make it very clear what our objective is. For me, the objective is not to try and get as much money out of this patient as quickly as possible, it is to build a relationship based on trust. That trust has to be worked on very carefully and is a two-way process.”
Mr Shoaib adds that he believes aesthetics should never be looked at as a commercial industry, rather that it should be treated in the same way as any medical profession. He adds that clear engagement with the patient during consultation is standard in order to offer the highest quality service that puts the patients’ interests and safety first.
To this end, Professor Khanna explains that, for him, a consultation involves a co-diagnostic approach. He says that he offers patients an educational experience in a language they can understand and shares case studies of successful holistic treatments he has performed before. “I don’t use scientific terminology which is just going to bamboozle them,” he says, explaining, “My heart is in the right place; if a patient doesn’t go with the treatment plan I recommend then I won’t take it personally; I know I’ve educated them and done the right thing. If I don’t allow that time to educate them on the benefits of holistic treatment, if I don’t go through all the most suitable options, then I’ve not had a meaningful consultation experience with my patient – I’ve just rushed into treatments because I’ve been lured by pound signs.”
In terms of phrasing recommendations to patients, Mr Shoaib says it’s important to ensure practitioners don’t bluntly try to upsell. “Don’t say something like, ‘You’re here for botulinum toxin, but I’ve noticed your damaged skin’,” he says. Instead Mr Shoaib advises to ask patients to look into a mirror and point out their concerns. From this, a more natural conversation will develop, so that practitioners can make their recommendations based on the concerns noted. He will also acknowledge when patients discuss other people’s looks and what makes that person attractive. He says it’s important to make clear that aesthetic treatment cannot make patients look like the person, but practitioners can identify features that they desire, which can be emulated; for example good skin tone or a more defined jawline. “You can then prescribe a specific, tailored treatment that will naturally involve a combination approach,” he says.
And for those patients who come in demanding one particular treatment, Professor Khanna says, “You should never let a patient dictate a treatment plan to you. That’s always going to be a problem. I get patients who will come in and say ‘I want half a millilitre of filler in my lips’. When this happens, I think to myself, I don’t know if that’s the most appropriate treatment for them, so I’m not going to do it. Remember to ask yourself, who is the clinical expert here? If they’ve trusted you with a consultation then they should continue to do so.”
Professor Khanna emphasises, “As clinicians, we have to differentiate ourselves from a car or a shoe salesperson because this is about the long term. Justify your reasons for your holistic approach; show the patient lots of case examples, go through the treatment plan and explain exactly how it will benefit them.”
Building your skills in promoting holistic treatments is one challenge, but training your staff to do the same is another. Mr Shoaib explains that he often invites his staff into consultations with patients, firstly so they can learn new skills from each other and secondly, to demonstrate someone else’s expertise to the patient. “All of my team have varying skills – some have a greater degree of expertise in certain areas than I do – for example skincare treatments – so we will do a joint consultation,” he says, adding, “I think a team-based approach is important for holistic results. Patients can see how you’re working together to create the best solution for their concerns.”
When training staff on how to approach consultations with patients who simply demand particular treatments, Professor Khanna shares the analogy he uses on his training courses to build practitioners’ confidence in saying no. He says, “Pretend you’re flying a plane – you’re in control of every aspect of the flight and are responsible for taking off, landing and the safety of your passengers. If a passenger gets up and says ‘let me have a go’ and you allow them, you’re letting that passenger take control of something that is extremely complex, something they really shouldn’t be in control of without the qualifications and training you have. Don’t let anyone else get in that seat – you are the pilot and you are in charge of the wellbeing of your passengers. Just like you are the clinicians and you are in charge of the wellbeing of your patients.”
Skincare is, of course, a major part of a practitioner’s recommended protocol for any treatment when looking at patients’ concerns holistically, but relaying its benefits to a patient, when additional cost is required, can be challenging. Naeini explains that she promotes her skincare ranges as part of her overall holistic approach by offering samples to patients. However, she notes, that none of her staff are authorised to hand out these samples without thorough training on their use. “No staff member is allowed to hand out samples unless they can explain how they work and offer best practice advice alongside them. They could do more damage than good if they offer the wrong advice, so education is key,” she says, while adding that within the first month of offering samples in her clinic, skincare sales increased by 35%. After initial training, to further improve her staff members’ knowledge of both the skincare and treatments on offer in her clinic and how they should be used in combination, Naeini invites all staff to sit in on training courses that she runs alongside her clinic. “I also give my team free skincare to enable them to promote products from their own experience – this adds a personal touch and has been very successful,” she adds.
The practitioners agree that when staff are feeling more confident in their expertise, it will automatically become easier to promote alternative treatment approaches. They note that highlighting your team members’ strengths, and encouraging them to share their opinions on best treatment methods, will go a long way in improving their consultation skills.
The practitioners interviewed highlight that the price of aesthetic procedures can have a large influence on patients’ decisions to undergo treatment at a clinic. And when clinicians are recommending multiple treatments, it can immediately raise the question, ‘But how much will it cost?’. So how do you approach discussing prices with patients?
Professor Khanna says, “I don’t talk money until I’ve educated the patient. If I tell a patient that they need something and then give a price, without explaining it, they’re not going to understand the value of the treatment.” He explains that he will go through all the treatment benefits, how it works and any side effects/contraindications, before discussing cost. He then gives the patient an itemised list with all the treatments he’s proposed so it’s clear what they’re going to be paying for. “I give them a chance to absorb my recommendations and always allow time for them to go home and think about treatment, before coming in for a second consultation where we can address any concerns they may have,” he says.
“If a patient doesn’t go with the treatment plan I recommend then I won’t take it personally; I know I’ve educated them and done the right thing” Professor Bob Khanna
Reflecting on whether a patient then decides to go ahead with his treatment protocol, Professor Khanna says, “All you need to do is allow the patient to discover whether or not the treatment is appropriate for them and if they can afford it just now. They may not be able to immediately, but they might be able to in the future. If they understand that it’s the most suitable treatment plan for them, they will save up.”
Mr Shoaib’s approach is slightly different. He says he purposefully does not know what each of his treatments cost – both surgical and non-surgical. All pricing is discussed with an in-house treatment coordinator, so his consultation is exclusively focused on the medical aspects of treatment. Mr Shoaib says this works well for him and believes this approach indicates to the patient that his goal is solely to offer them the most suitable treatment for them. And for those who want to proceed with some of a practitioner’s recommendations, but not the full protocol, Mr Shoaib says there are a few options in his clinic. “They can pay for it after they have had the treatment, they can pay into their account with us and go ahead with treatment once there’s enough money in the account, or we can change the treatment plan,” he explains, adding, “If a patient wishes to discuss a different treatment plan to the one I have recommended to give them the results they are hoping to achieve, then they need to have a further consultation with me. The consultation should always be directed towards the result the patient is hoping for, and the treatment plan should reflect the journey a practitioner has made to take the patient from their examination findings to their end goal. Inevitably, if a patient has a half-hearted treatment they remain disappointed and eventually the treatment plan will actually cost them more in the long run.”
Professor Khanna concludes his views on treatment pricing, saying, “At the end of the day, I don’t care what a patient’s bank balance is, the treatment plan is the treatment plan. It’s not going to change because they’ve suddenly got loads of money. Don’t let the cost of treatment or your patients’ net worth dictate your treatment plans.”
“Don’t become a technician and just do whatever the patient asks for,” says Mr Shoaib. Professor Khanna echoes this sentiment, saying, “Educate the patient to what is most appropriate for them.” Naeini adds, “Give them the information they need and don’t let them feel forced to go ahead with treatment.”
“A team-based approach is important for holistic results. Patients can see how you’re working together to create the best solution for their concerns” Mr Taimur Shoaib
Of course, there will be times when patients’ requests align to a practitioner’s recommendations or come close. Mr Shoaib emphasises that as long as he knows he has communicated his recommendations effectively, he doesn’t mind offering single procedures on appropriate patients. He notes that it is important they understand the expected results and how they could be enhanced.
And for those who you consult that don’t convert to patients, Professor Khanna’s advice is to reflect on it in a positive light. “If they don’t go through with the protocol you have recommended, that means it wasn’t for them in the first place. So actually, for me, that’s a win-win. It means the patient hasn’t gone away thinking they’ve had a treatment that’s not appropriate for them and I’ve not inherited a patient that’s just going to be unhappy. I want happy patients who value my approach, treatments and consultation.”