Independent nurse prescriber Julie Scott discusses why she believes discounting aesthetic procedures is bad for business
As we reopen following the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, practitioners in the field of aesthetics in particular may notice a drop in patient enquiries. Though many patients are desperate to return to their pre-lockdown maintenance routines, many more still are struggling with reduced wages and drops in household income. As practitioners are similarly struggling with the fact that we’ve had reduced or even no income over this period, we are left wondering how to attract patients, new and existing, to fill our books again. The knee-jerk reaction is to lower prices, right? Offer a ’reopening’ or ’post-lockdown’ discount? If you are considering this response I am here to persuade you otherwise. I believe discounting is a bad move for your aesthetic business, not just now, but ever.
Why I don’t discount
Offering your services at temporarily lower prices may bring in patients but, in short, these will be the wrong type of patients. Discounting draws in patients who are motivated by price, and these patients will always leave you when a better deal comes up elsewhere – and they’ll tell their friends to do the same. It is much harder to build loyalty with a price-motivated patient, and remember, it is far better to keep your existing patient base than be constantly trying to regenerate and build a new one.
Additionally, once you start discounting, you can’t go back. If you participate in one Black Friday sale for example, the entire following November is likely to be quiet because you’ll have patients waiting to book when they think the price will drop. And, if you disappoint them and the price doesn’t drop, again, they’re likely to go elsewhere.
However, the main reason I don’t believe in discounting is because pricing is a direct reflection of the value a practitioner perceives themselves as providing. Ask yourself, why did you set your prices to be what they are? Most likely it was because you carefully considered your costs, your time, your education and experience, and decided on a price for each service based on your value. So if you begin offering your services at less than this value, even temporarily, it sends the message that perhaps these services were not ever worth the full ticket price. You are underselling yourself. In my mind, it’s far better to have less patients paying the full price than servicing double the amount of patients to meet the same ends. In short, don’t undermine your skillset and value.
the main reason I don’t believe in discounting is because pricing is a
direct reflection of the value a practitioner perceives themselves as
providing. Ask yourself, why did you set your prices to be what they
It is also important to remember that these services and treatments you are providing are medical procedures that should be considered carefully by patients, not splurged on because they feel the pressure of a sale. How many purchases have you made because it was ‘a good deal’, only to never use or regret buying said purchase? I believe aesthetic procedures should never be put in this category. They should be carefully considered, discussed in detail, and decided on only after a full consultation and cooling-off period, which takes us to the regulations surrounding discounting aesthetic treatments.
Offering a discount to persuade patients to ‘lock in’ a lower price or book sooner than they would otherwise (such as at the end of consultation before leaving your clinic) is not permitted according to the Department of Health’s Review of the Regulation of Cosmetic Interventions.1 In section 5.8 of this report, the Review Committee states, “A patient cannot give informed consent if they are not provided with time to reflect. It is not acceptable that patients are encouraged to commit to such a significant decision without the opportunity for careful consideration.” Therefore, offering a limited-time discount may be in violation of this.
Furthermore, to run any promotion mentioning botulinum toxin or any prescription drug goes against the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulations2 and, according to the Clinical Practice Standards Authority’s Overarching Principles for Consultation, ‘Financial discounts must not be used to entice patients to have multiple treatments or a ‘package deal’.3
Providing added value
I do understand that when practitioners start a practice in a saturated area it can be very hard to compete. However, to build a business long-term, it is more important to ask yourself where you want to place your efforts. Is it bringing in short-term, price-motivated patients? Or loyal, longstanding patients who have no problem paying the full price for your services because they understand what you are worth? Try to find these patients who are motivated by quality. Be clear from the beginning with your business concept – who is your ideal patient? Think about their needs, wants and behaviours and that will then determine how you entice new patients through the door.
If you need convincing to try to woo high-end patients and stop discounting, there is an example that US aesthetic brand marketing strategist Adam Haroun shares, “Did you know that Louis Vuitton burns the bags they don’t sell? You will never walk into a Louis Vuitton and see a sale sign. This is because their reputation and their legacy are far more valuable than those bags they can’t sell. It is the same with your practice.” He adds, “Build your brand to be high-value based on your expertise and education, and the loyal patients will come.”4
However, this is not to say you should never give back to your patients! You can provide added value in so many other ways instead of discounting, whether it’s loyalty schemes, complementary treatments or skincare, refer a friend bonuses or gift vouchers. These can all be redeemed and will be more powerful at building relations with your patients and growing a long-term business than offering discounts would be. Overall, if you are a practice wanting to create long-term growth, I believe discounting your services is the wrong way to go. You’ll end up devaluing yourself, attracting the wrong patients, and maybe even risk violating ASA regulations.2 Instead, provide added value to your patients and watch your business grow.
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