There are more providers than ever who consider themselves to be in the field of aesthetic medicine. Not only does this include the core four—dermatologists, plastic surgeons, facial plastic surgeons, and oculoplastic surgeons—but a record number of non-core providers who are now in the space as well. The market has never been as robust as it is today. Non surgical options are not only more prevalent, but more effective with less downtime than ever. This is in part due to great advancements with injectables, chemical peels, body sculpting, and physician grade skincare. The top aesthetic companies today continue to invest a higher percentage of their revenue into R&D, innovation, and marketing. This, combined with a growing economy and the power of social media, has led to a record number of people searching, asking for, and receiving aesthetic procedures.
As the market becomes more and more crowded and commoditized, differentiating is more important than ever. Gaining attention and retaining patients is less about treatment trends and more about quality, trust, and relationships. Emphasize your expertise, develop staff, communicate well, and consider specialization.
When you have an increase in suppliers, in this case providers, and price becomes a key player, commoditization usually follows. This is particularly evident in the aesthetic space. The two most common mistakes made when trying to compete in an ever-growing market is to compete on price alone and trying to mirror what the competition is doing. This includes marketing tactics, pricing, and product offerings. If there is one word that is the most important when it comes to standing out in a crowd, it is Differentiation. How do you stand out in the medical aesthetics crowd?
Several practices across the country have thrived in the face of increased competition. There are a variety of reasons why some physicians have accomplished this, including but not limited to: credentialing, keeping up with technology, focusing on staff, a high amount of patient communication, and other differentiating strategies. These practices have recognized how critical these strategies are.
Out of Office
Joel L. Cohen, MD has successfully differentiated himself and his practice, AboutSkin Dermatology in Lone Tree and Greenwood, CO, by focusing on his passion for research, teaching, and advancing the field of dermatology when he is not in the office seeing patients. During his consultations, Dr. Cohen will spend extra time with his patients highlighting specific scientific papers he has written and clinical studies he has conducted that may be relevant to the patient he is treating.
“I sometimes show them excerpts from my lectures that I gave at one of the national or international meetings on what they are presenting with.” This not only builds the confidence of the patient, but clearly differentiates Dr. Cohen from others and keeps the focus on his expertise, not price.
Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, who has built a busy practice in a very short time in both New York City and Miami, has focused on embracing the changing society we live in.
“Today's patient is more visual and more likely to go to social media to watch and learn about procedures prior to coming in. Instead of becoming frustrated with this, I have found it is best to capitalize on this growing trend and do my own posts almost daily on forums like Instagram and Facebook.” Patients find a comfort with Dr. Bhanusali's videos and feel like they get to know him before they have ever met him. It has taken a bit of the “fear factor” out of the initial consult and Dr. Bhanusali has a close rate that is much higher than the industry average. While some providers have become frustrated with social media and the negatives that it can bring, Dr. Bhanusali has embraced it and uses it to stay ahead and differentiate.
One of the best ways to differentiate your practice is by having a customer-centric, knowledgeable, and engaged staff. Carolyn Jacob, MD, Founder and Director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology, has been ahead of the curve when it comes to focusing on her staff. The practice has a “Sunshine Committee” dedicated to celebrating work anniversaries, birthdays, and other special dates. They also work on team building holiday events like Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and Halloween costume parties. The team organizes fundraising events centered around various charitable organizations that support melanoma and psoriasis research. At their monthly meetings, one employee is recognized, which helps to share and highlight staff appreciation. Two words that Dr. Jacob keeps front and center in the practice are “fun” and “laugh” and this is felt the minute you walk in the door of her bustling practice.
“If you were to ask one of our staff members what differentiates us, you'll likely find that we are constantly teaching, thanking, and encouraging our staff. I want them to grow as I grow…and of course have fun doing it,” she says.
Jeff Hsu, MD, Co-founder of Oak Dermatology with Ashish Bhatia, MD in Chicago, IL, is also a big believer in the power of staff. “We always like to make sure the entire staff, from the doctors to the aestheticians to the front desk share the same ethos. Every touchpoint leaves a lasting impression on our patients,” he says.
Candace Spann, MD Co-founder of Couture Dermatology and Plastic Surgery in Las Vegas, adds, “Morale is a big deal in our office. Happy employees are inclined to rave about us to everyone they talk to and not only does that build retention with our current patients, it is also a great source of our referrals. We often have patients say ‘your office just has a different vibe to it,' which we take as a great compliment.”
Cynthia Price, MD, Director of Skin Science in Phoenix, AZ, adds, “Our investment in the education of our staff for the cosmetic procedures we offer, both new and old, as well as the skin care products we carry is the best money, effort, and time we could spend.” The warmness of Dr. Price's personality and bedside manner is felt when a patient calls in on the phone and by every staff member. “My staff is the best representation of who I am and a key differentiator for us.”
Todd Hobgood, MD, facial plastic surgeon in Scottsdale, AZ runs a practice that is flooded with five-star reviews. Dr. Hobgood has a team meeting every day to review the schedule of patients for the day and take an “all hands on deck” approach to serving their patient base. “Providing a ‘Nordstrom' type experience is important to all of us” says Dr. Hobgood. “We encourage them to stand when the patient walks in, address every patient by their first name (and encourage them to use it often), and we are also big on hand written, personal notes.”
Never underestimate the power of your staff when looking to differentiate your practice.
Effective communication with patients should never be taken lightly. Gary Goldenberg, MD focuses his high-end practice in New York City around this concept. The practice returns all emails and phone calls the same day and he gives his cell phone to the majority of his patients, especially his cosmetic and surgical patients. “If a patient was nervous, I always call that patient the next day and many patients have told me that no one has ever done this for them.”
Vineet Mishra, MD, a dermatologist with Scripps in La Jolla, CA, shares that his patients love that there is always a dermatologist on call to answer any questions or concerns that may arise after a visit or procedure. The increased accessibility is something that Dr. Mishra has heard time and time again is a reason patients like to see him over other providerss.
Dr. Rebecca Kazin, who has a boutique practice in Chevy Chase, MD, wants to ensure her patients are receiving premium service for the premium price they pay, and one example of this is giving her personal email to every patient. She is committed to responding day and night so her patients do not feel like they are just a number. Accessible and clear communication, along with scheduling patients in a manner where she is not rushed with them, have contributed to differentiating her thriving practice.
Implementing a team approach when treating patients has also worked extremely well to help differentiate Dr. Spann, who is a dermatologist and her husband, Dr. Marvin Spann, who is a plastic surgeon. “At Couture Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, as complementary specialists, we constantly interact with one another to ensure the best possible outcomes for our patients. We will collaborate and give input on anything from settings on the laser, to the best combination of procedures for a desired outcome, to pre/post surgical care. We also bring in our aesthetician in the early stages to collaborate on post procedural treatments to provide optimal results.”
Dr. Hobgood and Annie Bruno, RN incorporate this “team approach” as well. On the homepage of their website, Dr. Hobgood and Ms. Bruno stand side by side next to the caption, “Together, Dr. Hobgood, a board certified facial plastic surgeon, and Annie Bruno, registered nurse and certified aesthetic nurse injector, offer a complete range of surgical and nonsurgical procedures for the face.” This shows the partnership and respect that these two providers have towards each other, and the alignment puts patients at ease and builds their confidence.
Focus and Fulfillment
Providing gold standard treatment options and not the latest fad, has also differentiated Dr. Hobgood's practice. Dr. Hobgood and Ms. Bruno will only offer what is tried, true, and proven. They are not always the first to offer “what is hot,” instead opting for a wait and see approach to make sure it is a good fit for their patients and their practice.
David Horvath, MD has followed a similar approach, focusing on procedures that he enjoys doing, not just what is going to make him money. Dr. Horvath, early in his Cleveland Clinic training and then in private practice, asked himself, “What do I enjoy the most?” He specializes in complicated breast augmentations, tubular breasts, and revision rhinoplasties. His excitement, and expertise, for these procedures are felt by his patients. “While many others will do a little bit of everything, I focus on what I truly love to do. This is noticed by my patients who often say ‘You can tell you love what you do' and they are right. I find an increased energy level during the consultation that actually gets the patient excited ”
Do not fall into the trap of conforming and being a follower. Stand out in the crowd and differentiate your practice. The steps you take to accomplish this do not have to be drastic. Making a concerted effort and taking action similar to the physicians mentioned above will not only benefit your practice greatly but will benefit your patients' experience as well. As the market becomes more and more crowded and commoditized, differentiating is more important than ever.