If you're anything like me, the following aesthetic promotions sound all too common…
The best price in town!
Botox - for new patients only, just $X per unit!
Buy one, get one free!
From Groupon to radio ads, all of these dull marketing messages provide patients a dizzying array of offers that delivers razor-thin margins to the practice. It can be all too tempting to join the fray in hopes of "keeping the customer long-term." The reality is that while you can (and should!) be using promotions strategically and extensively as part of a strategic marketing plan, there is a very right - and very wrong - way of going about doing so.
When done well, you can look forward to a steady influx of new patients and inquiries. Executed incorrectly, your profit margins will disappear into thin air and your patient roster will become a laundry list of price-shoppers and complainers. In short, all promotions are not created equal. Today, I'd like to shine a little light on why rock-bottom pricing and offers are in fact counterproductive to your practice-building efforts; and how you can design offers that get your phone to ring without turning your practice into "that med spa" catering exclusively to the price-sensitive consumer. Let's dive in, shall we?
A Patient's First Experience Sets the Standard
Among the biggest pitfalls of attracting new patients with low prices and discounting is that from a patient's first interaction and treatment with your practice, a precedent is set. The patient who gets to know your practice as "the discount place" will ultimately expect and demand discounts and special pricing for their entire relationship with your practice - and if you are unwilling to offer further price breaks, that relationship will more than likely be cut very short!
Add Value - Never Take it Away
I'm known for saying "add value, without ever taking it away." There's no denying the power of a promotional offer to drive business - however, the fine balance lies in how this is presented to the prospective patient. Promotions can either add value and build your practice's brand or take it away and cheapen the perception of your practice. The key to a successful promotion that ultimately builds your practice while driving new patients to your practice is to offer immense perceived value to complement your main offering (whether that is a neurotoxin, a laser package, body contouring, or plastic surgery) rather than slashing the price (and in turn, the perceived value) of this treatment itself. Let's elaborate on this, for a moment…
The Beauty of Perceived Value
If there are two words you should learn to love when it comes to designing promotions and putting together offers - let them be perceived value. Consumer psychology studies show us that shoppers make purchase decisions based on emotion and then justify those purchases with logic after the fact. Ultimately, emotional purchases mean that a particular treatment or procedure offers a certain value in the patient's mind.
When the perceived value of a treatment is higher than the cost, based on what matters to a patient, price resistance should not be an issue. Said another way, when we are able to offer benefits that outweigh the price of a treatment (in the patient's mind and based on their goals), we are able to make a sale. That being said, perceived value is not necessarily tied to cost. Let me illustrate this with two examples - while a computer technician may only take a few seconds to remedy that annoying problem with your laptop, and a plumber can repair a leaky faucet in mere minutes, and possibly using a mechanism that costs only pennies… having a functional laptop, or faucet that runs smoothly, is of immense value to us as consumers.
Perceived value is not a function of cost of goods sold. This means we can offer incredible value and satisfaction to patients, without breaking the bank or eroding profits. It means that without handing out discounts or competing on price, we can still compel patients to choose our practice and take action quickly. Ultimately, it's all about perceived value. Two of my favorite examples of offers with high perceived value (that cost very little to your practice) are chemical peels, or a complimentary session with an energy-based device that does not have a consumable. In some instances, specific skincare products and/or bundles can also work incredibly well in this context. Once again, the goal here is to add on to our treatments and procedures with 'extras' that cost very little to provide, but give the patient substantial results or satisfaction.
How To Offer A Price Break, Without Lowering Your Price
Among brand marketers, we have an expression - perception is reality. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the development of promotional offers for your practice. Similarly, two words you wish to avoid at all costs are "free" and "discount." Position something offered at no cost as "complimentary" and any promotional pricing as a savings or incentive (although, as I hope you've gathered by now, these should be used very sparingly if at all).
So, here's the secret to offering a "discount" without lowering your pricing or fees by even one red cent… Rather than offer a discount, consider offering the same amount as a gift card towards future treatment. For example, rather than offering $200 off a laser package - offer all patients who purchase a laser package that same $200 in the form of a gift card towards future treatments. Not only does this avoid "slashing" the price of your treatment, it encourages future business and gives patients a tempting incentive to try other procedures or treatments that your practice may offer.