When Your Marketing Goes Too Far: How One Dermatologist Got Suspended for Dancing and Rapping during Procedures

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Don't get yourself in trouble by failing to think through what you're doing and how it can damage your clinic and your reputation if something goes wrong.

You may have seen something about the recent case of  dermatologist Windell Davis-Boutté The “Dancing Doctor” who has been suspended for "negligence" after posting videos of herself dancing and rapping while performing surgeries. The physician used the videos to market her practice, where she was seen rapping and dancing, that it ended up having her patients file lawsuits against her with some of them claiming to be severely injured. (CBS article)

To get real for a second, this was a stupid thing to do for lots of reasons. Anyone who has been around for a while knows that it's not if you get sued, it's when you get sued since your patients have been pretty well conditioned to expect perfect results based on their own criteria.

The result: Dr. Davis-Boutté was sued by 7 of her patients and was forced to agree to a 2.5 year suspension of her medical license.

According to Gutierrez and Johnson (2018), there have been other instances like Davis-Boutté’s where physicians are singing and dancing while doing procedures. It causes immediate alarms to go off for patients, as physicians are expected to be focused exclusively on their care and the procedure. 

So what did Dr. Davis-Boutté get so wrong?

  1. She wasn't focused exclusively on providing the best care: Patients expect perfection from their treatment and if they're unhappy with the outcome in any way they're going to be looking to the doctor for answers. Any indication that the physician wasn't focused exclusively on providing the best care is immediately going to be the peg on which they're able to hang blame.
  2. She turned her patients into props: No patient really likes to be filmed when they're unconscious on the operating table.
  3. She made it public: Of course that was the whole idea. These were 'marketing' videos and they were produced and posted online in order to increase visibility for her practice.

While this went completely off the rails from the beginning for Dr. Davis-Boutté, there are some lessons to be learned. Here are a few things Dr. Davis-Boutté could have done to meet her goals without dropping a bomb on her dermatology practice.

  1. Use patients only for live testimonials: The social proof of happy patients is probably the best general marketing you can use, but they need to be aware of what they're doing and how it's going to be used. I'd suggest that if you're shooting live videos for promotion that you let patients "sign-off" on the final product before you actually release it. Make sure that patients 
  2. It's not about you: Patients want to be treated by a physician who's nonthreatening, caring and personable, and who puts them at ease, but they don't far beyond that because they're focused on themselves. Your efforts need to be focused on them as well. 
  3. Focus on what's actually important: There's only one thing that you're looking to have patients think about you if you're performing cosmetic treatments; that is that you're "the best" at what you do. Marketing campaigns that promote you as being the funniest, hippest, or best looking have no place beyond getting some initial interest. Successful clinics focus on outcomes for their patients and strive to earn new patients primarily by word-of-mouth.
  4. Think it through: All of this could have been avoided with a few simple "what if" questions were asked 

Below are a number of resources around the ethics of marketing physicians and procedures. In some cases it's a little head-in-the-clouds but remember that cosmetic medicine has really caused headaches for the medical ethics community.

Read more

Continuous Care. (2018, March 15). Ethics of healthcare marketing for physicians and medical practices. Retrieved from https://www.continuouscare.io/blog/healthcare-marketing-ethics-for-physicians-medical-practices/

Cătoiu, I., Geangu, I. P., & Gârdan, D. A. (2013). Applying Marketing Principles in the Field of Medical Services – An Ethical Challenge? Procedia Economics and Finance, 6, 449-456. doi:10.1016/s2212-5671(13)00162-7

Gandolf, S. (2014, July 22). 7 Dangerous Legal Issues to Avoid in Doctor Advertising. Retrieved from https://www.healthcaresuccess.com/blog/doctor-marketing/dangerous-legal-issues.html

Gutierrez, P. L., & Johnson, D. J. (2018). Can Plastic Surgeons Maintain Professionalism within Social Media? AMA Journal of Ethics, 20(4), 379-383. doi:10.1001/journalofethics.2018.20.4.msoc3-1804

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011, November). Women's Health Care Physicians. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/Clinical-Guidance-and-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Ethics/Ethical-Ways-for-Physicians-to-Market-a-Practice

Medical Spa Pricing Strategies To Increase Profitability

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Pricing your medical services is a key factor in your clinic's success.

Your pricing strategy helps to determine how patients respond to you, and their feelings about your clinic. It's as likely that you're charging too little as it is that you're charging too much.

There are plenty of different pricing strategies; bundling, discounting, subscriptions...   let's take a look at a few and the research that can help give you a guide for what might work in your situation.

Before we start, let's settle on a point of view and the outcome we're looking for. In general, we're discussing how to maximize gross revenues. There are some strategies that you may employ with other goals in mind; for example you may want to work only 20 hours a week and so your focus may be on maximizing hourly revenue rather than focus on a total. That's an entirely justifiable goal and we'll discuss it and other areas around this in future posts.

For now  let's just begin with maximizing gross revenue.

Pricing High or Pricing Low?

In some cases physicians combine "lowest cost / cheap" with "value".

This is completely wrong.

"Value" is the primary buying criteria for every person and every purchase. The difference is that while cheap or the lowest cost is an external measurement that's easily quantifiable, "value" is completely internal and emotional. Value is personal.

Buyers who purchase high-priced services or pay more do so because they perceive the value from these purchases to be higher than cheaper alternatives. I many cases this is completely without merit but there it is.

So... economy pricing could be a hit and miss for your medical spa. With many reports of botched patients and reviews about horrible side effects and complications, medical spa may want to avoid the "cheapest" label for a number of reasons. The problem with being the lowest price is that there can be only one, and you can get stuck in a race to the bottom with competitors who are also pursuing a "lowest-cost" pricing strategy. And a patient who comes to you for price will leave you for a lower price just as quickly.

So, it may be that premium pricing is a much better option if you're able to execute. 

Break it Down or Bundle it Up?

For this specific strategy, you would need to consider different ways to implement this. Breaking it down refers to x number of treatments for this price per treatment. Example, you can price a  treatment for ___$ a session as opposed to using a “starting from” price implementation.

A bundle pricing strategy could also work for patients who need multiple treatments (e.g. laser hair removal, non-surgical fat contouring) or multiple procedures that could reduce wrinkles but if you break it down, patients could also see how much the treatment is per session as opposed to bundling it up. 

Bundling is a common strategy for treatments that require multiple treatments to see an effect and satisfy a patient.

The answer may be to do both.

Some medical spas utilize a “membership plan” method, wherein a patient is given an option to avail of similar procedures, for this certain price. This is essentially that 'concierge medical model' but it is an uncommon practice in cosmetic medicine, yet it’s something that has serious advantages.

Should it be a 5, 9, or 0?

Pricing with the ‘9s at the end is called Charm or Psychological Pricing. It’s when you dock a cent off from its perceived value. Grocery stores employ this strategy thus many customers, and many are enticed when they see an original price and see the lower priced amount.

However, it doesn’t work all the time. You simply can’t have all treatments priced $_99. 

The answer: price treatments differently.

However, consider the “psychological” aspect of the patient when they browse your price list. Round numbers like 0s work well for people who rely on emotions because seeing the number would make them “feel good”.

One of the most effective pricing implementation strategies online is a discount or "credit" on a first treatment inside a specific time window. Sumo (see below)has done their research on the matter, and found that most customers signed up after learning they could receive store credit, and that the company’s email list grew by 87%. 

Slashing off or Discounting?

The strategy works well definitely for costly treatments. Instead of offering a $4 discount for a $12/unit of Botox, better to have it as such: $150 off a $450 for a treatment of Botox. Thing is, for both examples, the price is just docked 3 times off its original cost. Patients tend to go for the $150 off as a larger perceived value.

For values lower than $100, go for an actual percentage.

You can have a side by side comparison of the old price to the current price by putting a slash on the old price, provided the old price is higher than the current one.

You can implement any of these at a time, but remember not to go overboard with it. Learn which strategy could definitely work for your medical spa, and which would be more cost-effective as well. For your medical spa to get more patients and leads, you may need to switch up your pricing or implement different ones at the same time and which ones receive the most profits.

Further Reading On Pricing

Ciotti, G. (2015, September 09). 10 Pricing Strategies That Can Drastically Improve Sales. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/250289

Maguire, A. (2017, March 16). 6 Different Pricing Strategies: Which Is Right for Your Business? Retrieved from https://quickbooks.intuit.com/r/pricing-strategy/6-different-pricing-strategies-which-is-right-for-your-business/

Moreno, N. (2018, May 10). 9 Pricing Strategies to Explode Your Revenue (Backed by Psychology). Retrieved from https://sumo.com/stories/marketing-pricing-strategies

Reeves, C. (2016, August 03). 8 Pricing Strategies To Use On Your Product, Service Or Workshop (FS124). Retrieved from https://fizzle.co/sparkline/7-pricing-strategies

Von Wilpert, C. (2018, July 04). Ecommerce Store Credit Strategy (Hint: 87% Email List Growth). Retrieved from https://sumo.com/stories/ecommerce-store-credit

How to Get More Positive Reviews

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Receiving one negative review can affect your medical spa marketing and sales?

Some clinicians believe that a couple of negative reviews are common and to counter that, you just need to receive more positive reviews. That’s easier said than done...

Some stats:

According to Vendasta, you get an 18% bump in sales when there are reviews that customers see. 

Based on Robert Cialdini’s research 77.3%, people are inclined to follow through with a favor when you ask them for help. Influencing your patients to leave a review will make a difference, so you should be making it a point to ask for reviews from your patients.

In an infographic by Website Builder, 84% patients submit online reviews to rate physicians. Review Trackers, on the other hand, find that most patients would leave a review after a negative review, and only 24.8% of patients will leave a positive review.

Here are the do’s and don’ts in getting more positive reviews.

Do Not: Disregard Any Review You Receive

You will need to find where most of your patients post about you, and start from there. 

Regardless if it’s positive or negative, you need to know where you receive them. As for responding, a simple thank you would suffice. Don’t get too carried away, choose your replies. Reply only to around 25-60% of reviews that are 3 stars and up.

However, if a negative review surfaces, it’s better to contact them directly offline than engage with the patient any further.

Do: Claim Your Listings

As such, wherever you have a listing, claim it. 

Facebook, Yelp, and Google are the best platforms to have reviews for business in general, and in Website Builders, ZocDoc, RateMD, and Healthgrades are the top 3 review sites for physicians. So you can have at least SIX different websites to have a listing on. Up to you then, which would be strategic on your part.

Do Not: Depend on One Review Page

If you want patients to come to your medical spa, then you will need visibility. Google is definitely your best bet to be noticed, although it would take a while, with some traction from other sites, you are on your way to acquiring new patients. 

You may need to consider Google Reviews as your primary channel for reviews. Through Google My Business, you can control the reviews that you receive from your patients. You would easily be found via Google provided you have complete information (i.e. website, schedule, contact details, and reviews).

Do: Add a Testimonials Page on your Website

Another channel where you can post reviews is on your website. These could be in a form of testimonials or reviews from other sites. Many physicians apply this strategy, and it is effective because it could also help arouse more interest in you and your medical spa. Adding a testimonials page would also add value to your website.

Do Not: Resort to Posting Fake Reviews

Posting fake reviews are definitely a no-no. You can detect fake reviews if there is no pro and con, if it uses uncommon terms, and if multiple reviews come in a short amount of time. Don’t be afraid to ask from reviews from your patients, even if they are family or friends.

Do: Automate Your Reputation Management

There are many reputation management software in the market, and if your medical spa does not have one yet, you may be missing out. Many businesses have seen an influx of reviews ever since installing a software. Not only that, you could control the reviews you receive and prompt the patient to write a review 

Medical Spa MD’s partner in Reputation Management -- Podium -- is in and has helped businesses receive more reviews. Your medical spa can benefit greatly by saving $1257 when you are a member of Medical Spa MD.


Supporting research and reading:

Bassig, M. (2017, August 04). Patients More Likely to Review Their Doctors After a Negative Experience. Retrieved from https://www.reviewtrackers.com/patient-reviews-doctors/

Bassig, M. (2018, April 04). Did You Know? 67 Percent of All Yelp Reviews are 4 or 5-Star Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.reviewtrackers.com/know-67-percent-yelp-reviews-4-5-star-reviews/

Bloem, C. (2017, July 31). 84 Percent of People Trust Online Reviews As Much As Friends. Here's How to Manage What They See. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/craig-bloem/84-percent-of-people-trust-online-reviews-as-much-.html

Bonelli, S. (2017, February 08). 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business when asked. Retrieved from https://searchengineland.com/70-consumers-will-leave-review-business-asked-262802

BrightLocal. (n.d.). Local Consumer Review Survey | The Impact Of Online Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/

Christopher, E. (2017, June 14). 5 Proven Ways to Get More Customer Reviews On Google and Facebook. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/295655

DashBurst (2017, November 02). Why Positive Reviews are So Valuable to Small Businesses. Retrieved from https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/04/importance-of-online-reviews.html

Shrestha, K. (2018, February 06). 50 Important Online Reviews Stats You Need to Know [infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.vendasta.com/blog/50-stats-you-need-to-know-about-online-reviews

Walker-Ford, M. (2018, May 06). How to Make a Website that Influences People: 9 Web Design Psychology Tips [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/how-to-make-a-website-that-influences-people-9-web-design-psychology-tips/522884/

Websitebuilder (n.d.). [User Reviews is The King: Why Online Reviews Can Either Make Or Break Your Business] [Infographic]. Retrieved from: https://smallbiztrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/58ba1a5ea43c71e16d55cd7f.full_.jpg

How To Use Your Patients To Grow Your Medical Practice

The best marketing for your clinic is when your patients do it for you.

Word of mouth takes many forms, but it's increasingly being handled online through social networks and search engines. Patients are now researching you online before they call. They look at your reviews. They run searches with your name and "complaints", "malpractice", "lawsuits", "reviews". If you're going to compete, you have to be in the game.

To do that, you're going to need the right tools, which I'm going to show you, but you have to be convinced that they're important to buy and use or you'll just stay with what you know, so I'm going to dive in to why you need them first.

You've got a marketing problem that you didn't have before.

It wasn't long ago when you just needed to be found, and ranking high in searches drove traffic and filled your treatment rooms.

No longer.

Consumers of all types have subtly changed their decision behaviors online and are weighing buying cues much differently than just two years ago. Reviews are seen by prospects as increasingly important in their buying decisions.

That changes the playing field. (Don't believe me? Just keep reading.)

When asked, 90% of people read reviews before visiting a local business. 85% of those people relate that they trust those online reviews as much as they would a family member or trusted friend.

But it goes beyond simply making the first call to your front desk. Consumers spend 31% more money with businesses that have higher reviews than their competitors. It has nothing to do with price, the quality of service, or other metrics. It's the perception in the consumers mind that higher rated businesses are more trustworthy than those with few or negative reviews. There's a simple reason for that I'm sure you're aware of; a review is how the consumer 'felt' about the business after everything else was taken in to consideration; price, value, responsiveness... The star matrix is really a metric of satisfaction at the end result.

Just today I was looking to arrange three business lunches in the coming week. In every case it was the number of reviews and the star totals that made the decision for me.

Here was my thinking:

  • Few reviews? It's too risky; there are safer choices.
  • Lower star rating? Patrons weren't satisfied. Who want's to eat there?
  • Negative reviews by themselves? Tricky... some people are jerks so an occasional bad review is unavoidable, but it's too risky. I'll go somewhere else.
  • Negative reviews with responses? A few negatives is okay. I can trust the positive reviews more and - especially if the business has responded to the reviews - I think they take their reputation seriously. It makes me more confident that they don't want negative reviews and they work harder than others to avoid them.
  • Lot's of reviews (even a few negatives) and a 4+ star rating? That's the place.

And the above is especially true for your clinic.

Think about what you would do if you were deciding between two clinics – both with 4 stars – where one clinic has 5 reviews and the other has 25.

You'll choose the one with 25 every time, and that's costing you patients if you're the clinic with only 5.
 

Do reviews really drive new patients?

Here are the results of a survey we sent out to members showing the importance and value of enlisting patients in your growth strategy. The recipients were selected from a cross-section of members to try and hit all types of clinics; dermatologists, plastic surgeons, medical spas and cosmetic clinics.

Question: What is your most effective marketing?

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Yep. Number 1 and 2 - word of mouth referrals and internet searches - both fit squarely around your online patient reviews. Everything else is a very distant third.

Reviews are a primary traffic driver and trust builder:

  • Reviews are free. Advertising that is completely free of cost is a rare commodity. Reviews let your patients build links to your site and drive new traffic.
  • They're authentic: New prospects want to know what your existing patients think of you. Reviews let them communicate that in an authentic voice that prospects relate to.
  • They build trust: 92% of Americans trust word-of-mouth more than any other form of marketing – even if they don't personally know the person... and online reviews are more trustworthy than testimonials on your site that you have complete control over.
  • Improves your search rankings: Google ranks websites according to their perceived authority and their ability to provide valuable content. Customer reviews can help tell search engines that your brand is established, and when more people online are discussing your firm, Google will rank your site higher in search engine results. It also helps to add links to customer reviews on your site, because Google rewards sites that contain links to other authoritative websites.
  • Lowers your bounce rate: Customer reviews help your business stand out and make visitors to your website more interested in your product or service because of the value others have had. The impact on your site’s bounce rate can be meaningful and can help to trigger higher rankings as bounce rate is arguably one of the ranking factors involved in search results.
  • Previews your star ranking: Many sites that feature star rating systems will show a preview when someone does a search for your brand. This means that a person will not need to click on their page to see that your company was rated favorably, as the star level and the first few sentences will show up on the search results page. Google will sort search engine results based on the number of reviews received, giving you an advantage and an SEO boost. Your good reputation will then precede you, increasing the likelihood that a person will click through and choose you above your competitors.

Reviews are interesting in another way as well; they tell you what's important to your patients and they identify weak spots in your systems that you can address.
 

Do reviews really increase your revenue?

From the same survey, we also asked clinics how much revenue  each new patient added in just the first month. The lifetime value of each patient is dependent upon the clinic type (nonsurgical / surgical) but can be expected to be a multiple of this number.

Question: How much is a new patient worth to your clinic in the first month?

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It's interesting that there's a gap here in the middle, but once I thought about it it made a lot of sense; the clinics we surveyed were fairly well divided between "medical" and "spas"... So if you're a cosmetic medical practice you're far more likely to be on the right of this graph with each new patient spending North of $2000 the first month.

Question: How many new patients does your typical client refer each year?

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Okay, this is were we start to see some hope of shifting the results here to the right if you're getting on board with patient reviews and those reviews are working for you. If you're able to shift that 3 patients a year to just 4, that would equate with roughly a 20% greater delta in your yearly growth and a corresponding increase in revenue and profits. Just a small increase in the coefficient can have a dramatic effect in the end result over time.

That's what we're looking to try and do.
 

What should I do?

The short answer to "what should I do?" is - Do something. Anything. But don't do nothing.

How much less is your clinic worth to someone who wants to buy it if your reviews are negative? How much harder is it to recruit staff? How many patients are you losing that you don't know about.? Simply put, your online reviews are your brand, and an indication of patient trust and satisfaction. Reviews are what people are saying about you to others (which is what your brand is), and you can't just ignore your brand and reputation if you want to have a successful clinic or valuable asset. 

You have 3 options; you can ignore it, you can do it manually, or you can do it automatically.
 

Option 1 - Ignore my online reviews

You can't ignore it... Well, actually I guess you can. After all this is what most clinics do. They bitch and moan about someone leaving a negative review since they know it hurts their reputation, but they take no proactive actions to increase or control those reviews.)They simply float along with the status quo and hope nothing happens.

Here's what ignoring it means:

  • Your competition may not ignore it, which means that they're either taking your existing market share, or they're putting you further behind while you're not even showing up to compete.
  • You're reputation is uninsured: Something really damaging can happen which you won't be able to respond to.
  • You're missing out on every new patient that might have been brought in. You're missing sales, word of mouth, and compounding growth. This is really where you're killing yourself long term.

Pros & Cons: The only pro to this is that it's free, but the cons are legion. If you're ignoring your reputation and new business you're damaging your clinic. Go stub your toe in penance.
 

Option 2 - Do it manaully

Yes, you can do this manually but don't be fooled that it's not a lot of work. It is, but up until now this was the best way that you could address this need and what most clinics have tried to do in some form.

Here's a simple framework of what you should be doing right now at your front desk.

  • Implement operational systems at your front desk check out procedure that is followed for every single patient. (See the Ultimate Clinic Operations Blueprint)
  • Every happy patient should be asked to please leave a testimonial or review on their Facebook page or on your Google Business Listing. You should ask if they would be willing to use their phone to do it right now. (You may want to add a small discount or free product gift if they're willing to do this.)
  • You should contact Tea & Muffins Design to have some postcards made where patients can fill out a testimonial right there that you can use.
  • You should send an email or postcard reminder soon after each appointment. (You'll want to keep track of who has already left reviews or you'll irritate your happy patients with redundant emails.)
  • You should set up a number of Google Alerts to try and monitor when reviews go up so that you can respond to them.

Pros & Cons: We'll, at least you're doing something but this is time intensive and a real pain in the ass to try and manage after the first week. The opportunity cost is huge in the time invested and the "just-one-more-thing-to-try-and-manage" costs.

And there's another problem with this. Even if you're proactive and constantly ask your patients to leave reviews, they don't. 

Have you ever left a review? You have to be really motivated and it's much easier just to do nothing once you're out of the clinic.

But where there's a problem there's also an opportunity.
 

Option 2 - Do it automatically

To be an automated solution you need to have software that is both drop-dead simple to use, and gives you complete control on both Facebook and Google.

It also needs to be easy to incorporate it in to your operations, and use easy workflows; texting review requests, reputation management, notifications, tracking, permissions, and even additional patient interactions.

Here's what this software should do:

  • Needs to be really simple to use: No more than entering a name and phone number. Needs to be used during check-out when patients are most willing to leave you a positive review AND any time thereafter.
  • Needs to be simple for the patient. Needs to work via simple text message, not an app or download.
  • Needs automatic monitoring of my reviews: I want to be notified of every review and be able to respond  in one place, not login to every review site.
  • Needs accounts for each team member: I want track everyone inside the system, and their reviews.
  • Send external texts: I want to be able to send text messages to my patients as followup, reminders, or just to inform them about an offer we have coming up.
  • Let's patients and prospects text me: I want prospects to be able to text me directly from my Google review page or Facebook.
  • Simple... Did I say that already?

Since we're aware that this is a growing need for our Members we took a look at the front-runners in this space. Here are 3 of the top business review software providers to take a look at with their user satisfaction ratings supplied by G2 Crowd.
 

Highest Rated Reputation & Review Management Software

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Highest Rated Ease Of Use Reputation & Review Management Software

 Ratings from  G2 Crowd

Ratings from G2 Crowd


As shown above, Podium is the clear winner among business review management software providers both in total user satisfaction and usability - which is critical.

so we contacted Podium and asked them to help us provide their software at a discount for our Members (you).

They agreed.

So, Podium partnered with Medical Spa MD to provide a special offer exclusively to our members which includes both a full Podium account, discounted fees, and special training for your staff in our Training Academy.

Here's a quick video I made to show you how simple it is to send a review request to your patient while they're checking out!

This is exactly how your front desk staff would use Podium when a patient is checking out, or your staff would use it from their cell phone right in the treatment room.

"Hey, would you mind me texting you a review request to give us some feedback?"

Damn that is nice!
 

Here's Podium explaining more about their software.


And about their messaging feature which allows patients who see you online to text you questions, a much easier action to take than calling and talking to someone.

Because reviews are increasingly critical for every business there are startups that are building solutions to fill the need - including using patient reviews to fill your appointment calendar, increase patient satisfaction and compound your patient referrals and word of mouth marketing.  


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Get this special offer from Podium 

Medical Spa MD Members receive a special, full service Podium account that includes: no setup fee (save $300), a 10% discount forever (save $330/year) and on-demand patient review marketing training for your entire staff ($597 value). 

This offer is not available anywhere else

Waiting Room Marketing That Sells Automatically

Your waiting room lets you market directly to your patients when they're most receptive, and video triggers the greatest emotional response and patient inquiries into your services and products.

Marketing to your patients in your waiting room should be like shooting fish in a barrel. After all, they're already inside your clinic and they're sitting there waiting for you. If you're smart, you should be using that time to educate your patients about your services and explaining all of the treatments and programs you're providing.

Don't put out damn magazines and don't install free WiFi!! Why the hell are you wasting this golden opportunity?

Here's a list of the most effective marketing strategies and how you might implement them.

Waiting Room Marketing Videos

The very best waiting room marketing is a customized looped video that goes through your service offering; lasers, fillers, Botox, payment plans, financing, packages and whatever else you're offering. They're emotional, they're aspirational,  If you do this correctly it's incredibly powerful and you can count on a slew of new questions, up-sells and cross-sells.

Take a second and view some examples of Frontdesk Custom Marketing Videos >

Note: While the videos all come with music, you'll want to have them looping on mute with just the images or you'll drive yourself crazy listening to the same songs over and over.

Customized Educations Materials

Don't put out general magazines. Instead, build booklets or binders with customized educations materials about your services. You can use the vendors advertising materials to begin but as soon as you can you should look to produce your own materials that explain - from your point of view - the services and treatments from an educational point of view. Patients want this information and it sets the stage for the consultation or treatment room conversations by priming the patient with questions that they can ask. How much do you pay for Restylane? How painful are fillers? What skin type am I? What treatments are synergistic?

Product Displays

Show off the products you are selling in your medical spa.Your products should not be stored in a shelf somewhere. You could probably have patients try out Testers for several products. Make sure the products are visible and accessible by your patients. Not only showing off your products a marketing strategy, it would definitely help your revenue. Make sure they're not expired.

Waiting rooms can be a bore or anxiety inducing, so try out these strategies to put life in your waiting room and see how it works out.

Storytelling Patient Testimonials That Sell

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The key to success in any business is to have some understanding of psychology that allows you to match your products and services to a buyers emotional need.

Human behavior, at it's roots, is driven by pain avoidance and the desire to increase pleasure. It's the basic trigger upon which all other actions are based. And what is the #1 way to most clearly communicate the pain/pleasure journey and outcome?

Stories.

Humans "buy" stories, because, as you probably already know, people make their buying decisions with EMOTION. Stories put people inside of the experience in a relatable way. They work much better than simple data or list of features. Feature lists are how you sell commoditized products and if you're doing that, you're only competing on price which is eroding your margins and profits. 

Gerard Zaltman, the author of How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market found that 95% of cognition happens outside of our conscious brain and inside our subconscious, emotional brain.

Telling stories activates parts of the brain associated with sight, sound, taste, and movement. They make us feel an experience without directly experiencing it. They literally transport us into the world of the story and light up our emotional brains, which is where we make our decision whether to buy or not. 

Then question then is: whose story do you tell?

There are any number of options here.

First off, you can tell your story, and by your story I mean you as a clinician... there are big benefits with this in that almost any story engenders the knowing, liking, and trusting that leads to patients feeling comfortable buying from you.

Second, you can tell the patient's story.  Here, you could talk directly to the patient going through a common experience, with just the right combination of specific details and vagueness so they can fill in the details for themselves. 

Third, you can tell the future patient's story.  By this, I mean the story they’ll be telling after they’ve benefited from your service.  This is called “future pacing” and the trick with it is to make it feel as real as anything that’s already happened or is currently happening to them.

But all of these stories come with a price. You've got to produce them all, or have others produce them for you. THAT is the beauty of patient testimonials and reviews, you're enlisting your happy patients to help sell these short stories to others in the form of "reviews".

Benefits of Patient Testimonials for a Medical Practice

As John D. Rockefeller said, "I'd rather earn 1% off 100 men's effort than 100% of my own efforts". Organizing and promoting your patients reviews can add significant growth and traction for your clinic. Your existing patient's 'reach and network' dwarfs your own. That's why it's critical to get your patients working for you. It's the "word of mouth" Holy Grail, but it doesn't build itself, you're doing to have to facilitate it.

It's all about social proof.

Professor of psychology and bestselling author of Influence: The Psychology of persuasion, Robert Cialdini says “If you can get people who are similar to the person you’re trying to persuade to speak on your behalf, it’s a lot easier for you than if you have to try to hammer your message one more time into a reticent mind.”

Human beings are social creatures. We look to others to determine what actions we should take.

If you're ready to follow Rockefeller and organize your patients to help grow your clinic, you're going to want to help them tell stories and add recommendations and reviews. You can either push that boulder up the hill yourself, or you can use tools that make it easy.

Our suggestion is that you take a look at the special offer from Podium, and then you get to work helping your patients tell stories that grow your clinic's new patient bookings.

How To Write (Or Fix) A Killer About Page For Your Medical Spa

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What's the most important and useful page on your medical spas website? It's your about page. Your "about page" is where new patients learn why they should choose you, stick with you, and what's in it for them.

After your homepage - which is where you're trying to drive all of your traffic too and so the number are skewed - your "About" page is going to be the most visited page on your site.

People want to know who you are, what you look like, why they should trust you over your competitors, and if they should trust you with their face and body. 

Crafting Your About Page

Crafting a grade A About Page requires more than just a location, your office hours and a paragraph on how you're great. While it's not easy writing about yourself, I'm going to walk you through, step-by-step, how to squeeze the most benefit from this critical page.

1. What Value Do You Give Your Patients

This one is a biggie, which is why we're starting with it. Your About Page should be ALL about the value you provide to your patients - NOT all about how great you are. Don't squander the chance to answer the questions that your perspective patients are looking for. Yes, patients want to learn about you and your team and we'll get in to that, but the most important thing they're looking for is how YOU are going to help THEM. That's what they're going to make their buying decisions on and that's why you have a website in the first place.

2. Who Is Your Clinic For? Who Is Your Target Patient?

Who is your most profitable patient? What is your most profitable treatment? Which treatment attracts the most new patients? These are the questions you'll want to start with. Don't fall in to the trap of trying to be everything to everyone. (The cliche holds true in cosmetic medicine as it does elsewhere.) Find a a patient who is right in your sweet spot and write directly to her. Why should this patient choose you?

On the Medical Spa MD page you'll see that right up front we're speaking to clinicians who are looking for info on the business of nonsurgical cosmetic medicine. Those 3 items; nonsurgical, cosmetic, and medical providers are how we filter and segment who we're talking to. It doesn't matter where you are in the world or if you're a MD, DO, PA, NP, RN, if you're a clinician we can help you. We don't cover lotions and potions, we don't talk to patients, and we don't tuck in to invasive surgical techniques.

It's all intentional. Why? Because when the right people visit your About Page you want them to immediately recognize themselves. You want them  to know that the site was created for THEM. Anything that detracts from that central point should be included only with great hesitancy. You're looking to connect to the right people, not all of the people.

3. How You're Going To Benefit Them

Ok, you've written a few sentences geared towards your ideal audience. Now what? Most sites you'll see will begin by talking all about themselves; what medical school they graduated from, how committed to patient care they are... There is a place for a little of that but it's not the main course (it's more like the mint at the end of the meal.)

Key takeaway coming here: Patients want to know about you because of how it may relate to them!

Some ways to think about your About Page.

  1. Tell a story: When you have a great story about how your clinic or medspa was built to change lives (even if they're your own), share it. Good stories humanize you and provide context and meaning to your services. Even better, good stories are 'sticky', meaning that your patients are more likely to remember them and pass them on as part of their story about your brand.
  2. Be human: Most medical spas, plastic surgeons and dermatologists have pages that scream stuffy and formal. Physicians were taught to control the situation after all and formality and hierarchy provide easy to see guard rails that keep everyone in their place. I'm the expert. you're the patient. You're lucky to be seen and treated by someone as magnificent as I. Patients hate that. My advice is to step off your pedestal and use your About Page to tell the human story of you, whatever that is. Don't be afraid to pull out a misstep or mistake (as long as it's not a negative treatment outcome) like switching majors in college or making a difficult life choice. People want to be treated by other humans, not gods.
  3. Skip the medical babble: Please don't use medical jargon. You may think it makes you sound super-smart to use "neuromodulators", but it really just makes your patients think you're talking down to them. People want and appreciate straight talk and clarity. Just be authentic.
  4. Be unique and visually interesting: Instead of following the classic script of writing a few paragraphs about your 'mission', try something that makes it more interesting and compelling. Everyone has some photos of their blank waiting and treatment rooms. Make something interesting that demands attention and that people will remark on. Boring = death. Don't do what everyone else is doing.

Here are some example About Pages that I've included for you to take a look at. I've purposefully excluded any medical spas or clinics since much more can be learned by looking at the best About Pages rather than just those from existing practices.

Great Example About Page Examples

If you have any other suggestions from sites that I have missed please leave a comment and let me know. Even more importantly, if you don’t like one of these pages I would love to hear why not. Oh, and these are in no particular order. I just couldn’t do it.

TUMBLR - A great about page that has credibility oozing out all over the place in an interesting package. It's clever and communicates very clearly with human copy

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Bentley Motors - Bentley's About Us page does an excellent job of creating that magical and illustrious vibe. They use rich professional photographs and enticing copy. The whole point of this About Us page is to get you to feel part of the experience. To draw you in to their way of thinking and acting which is, in fact, their marketing plan and branding.

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Eight Hour Day - Here'a creative studio with an awesomely human about page that tells the story of the people behind the brand. They use some straightforward copy and photos that make you feel like these are people who know what they're doing and that you'd really like to work with. Hey... that's the point.

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Harry's - Yep, the razor guys. They don't even call this the about page. It's "Our Story". It's clean, there's plenty of white space, it has purpose and it's well designed.

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Hello Alfred - A services platform for residential buildings, Hello Alfred's about page puts the founding story front and center and tells the "why" of their business, not just the 'what'.

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The Saddleback Story - Leather travel bags hand made in Mexico. Another "here's how it happened" story about page that really checks all of the boxes. It's human, compelling and relates some really interesting stories that elevate their products from expensive leather bags to a complete lifestyle.

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Ok, so there are some great About Pages out there to learn from.

Take a look at your existing About Page - if you have one - and just start making it better. Change out the photo. Write some better copy. Add some white space. Your About Page is going to be the most visited page on your site. Make it great.

If you'd like us to take a look at your site's about page and provide some feedback, just contact us.

Can't separate your clinic from every other medspa? Try This Simple Innovation Technique.

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If you're not doing anything other than what every other plastic surgeon, dermatologist, and medical spa is doing you're stuck competing on only one thing; price.

And that's a straight shot to the bottom.

There can only be one lowest price in a market and the second-lowest price will always lose. Just ask Kay-Mart and Sears who lost long ago to Walmart. Worse, a patient who comes to you based on price will leave you just as fast for someone who's offering IPL, Botox or cosmetic injectables for less.

To get unstuck and find some area where you can distinguish yourself you'll first need to identify the orthodoxies and assumptions that you're already using. The most common assumptions revolve around what others are doing and especially the "we've always done it that way" lazy way of thinking.

Here's a way to tackle this. Start by actually writing down the assumptions that you have that - if they are true - would prevent you from achieving your goals. Your clinic is filled with assumptions: patients won't pay for ___, my staff can't sell, they're not motivated, I'm not good at business, everyone is doing it better than I am, I have to work 60 hours a week... you're looking to root out orthodoxies by identifying existing assumptions and overturning them to illuminate blind spots or limiting beliefs to look at your problem in a new way. By articulating these assumptions you can then attempt to test them - which is key - in order to make better decisions that actually improve  your business and lifestyle. Y

Example: Alan Robinson (co-author of Corporate Creativity) writes in his book how KC Fine Furniture trained their delivery drivers in basic interior decoration so that when they deliver furniture to the customer, they help arrange the room, and accessorize. As a result, their rejection rate dropped from 10% (the industry standard) to 1%. That simple change decreased their returns by an order of magnitude. Nice.

Assumption Reversal

Here's an example based on a process from the book Orchestrating Collaboration At Work.

Procedure

  1. List all the assumptions you have about a particular topic, even the most obvious ones. Remember, not all assumptions are wrong. You just want to be explicit about them because they may hold the key to achieving a breakthrough idea. (Aim for 10-20 assumptions
  2. Write down the opposite or a modification of each assumption.
  3. Use each assumption as a trigger for new ideas, write each idea on a Post-it® Note, and place them on flip-chart paper for evaluation.

An example: Assume you are a dermatologist with a new medical spa and want to attract new patients. You might list the following assumptions:

  • My existing patients are going to competitors who are charging less for filler injections.
  • I should lower my filler injection prices to compete.
  • I will make up the loss on other treatments.

Next, reverse these assumptions as shown in the following examples:

  • My existing patients are not going to competitors who are charging less for filler injections.
  • I should not lower my filler injection prices to compete.
  • I will not make up the loss on other treatments.

Finally, use these reversals to suggest ideas:

  • Emphasize that that you're not the "Walmart" of filler injections.
  • Stress the high cost of my treatments and "you get what you pay for".
  • Give patients who recruit their friends an "insider friends and family" deal.

Source 101 Activities for Teaching Creativity and Problem Solving. (VanGundy 2005)

What assumptions do you need to question?

You're always going to see competitors as the person just down the road, but the truth is that you're competing with much more than that. The path to success is paved with broken assumptions and you need to question - and test - all of yours. If you're relying on the wrong assumptions about your market, your patient population and your business, you're driving with the breaks on at best.

Here's Why Podium Should Be Your Reputation Management Software

Getting positive patient reviews that give an accurate representation of your medical spa's reputation used to be hard. Now it's easy.

Receiving negative patient reviews is a bummer, especially when one of your unhappy patients - perhaps with unrealistic expectations - looks to wreck your reputation online. And it's the angry, unhappy patients who can really damage your reputation because their voice or 'comment' is abnormally enlarged since your happy, satisfied patents are not the ones who most often leave you reviews.

It seems that patient reviews fall in to two camps; friends and family who you beg to give you reviews, and unhappy patients who seem bent on destroying your reputation.

No more.

Podium gives you a super simple way to to gather patient reviews from almost all of your patients and build your reputation on Google, Facebook and other review and reputation sites. (Watch the video above to see how easy it is to request a review.)

There are a myriad of benefits for a continual stream of reviews including:

  1. Increasing your SEO rankings and visibility of your clinic for more patient traffic.
  2. Increasing the number of inbound contacts you're front desk is fielding.
  3. Outbound contacts to your existing patients via text message (a 99% open rate)
  4. Control of your online reputation by gaining a massive influx of patient reviews that more accurately show your actual reputation and lessen the effect of a few unhappy patients.

Check out the Podium special offer for Medical Spa MD Members.

Facebook, Google, word-of-mouth all expand your reach - note that Podium handles this use case as well - but reviews can make or break your reputation and either lead to long term success, or abbreviate your opportunities.

You'll notice on this chart that online reputation is critical for  "Medical / Healthcare" businesses. The reviews that you now have are setting the tone for your new patients since a whopping 87% of consumers - including consumers of cosmetic medicine - now search for even local businesses before they contact them. 

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It's often the case that successful clinics are competing in ways that the rank and file don't appreciate, or don't have access to (Asymmetrical Competition), using tools and spending smart money in areas that actually benefit them in the long term rather than just saying yest to the salespeople who walk through the door.

Take a look at the special offer and free setup that Podium is offering to Members.

Patient Retention through Better Customer Service

Even medical practices need to brush up on customer service. Some patients complain about the poor services provided by staff. Online reviews for some practices have patients talking about how poorly they were treated by the staff and may need to find a new doctor. This could hurt your practice, as your leads could decrease because of your staff members.

If you received poor reviews about the staff, then it might be time to reconsider getting friendlier staff or training them for better customer service.

Manage staff well

Customer service starts within the practice. How you deal with staff could translate to their behavior towards patients. Aside from better treatment towards staff, provide them with appropriate training such as customer service and procedures.

In a medical aesthetic practice, allow staff to have training and delegate tasks for them so they could also take part in your practice and learn more about how to deal with patients in different situations.

Survey Patients

One of the many ways you can connect with your patients is to give them a say in what you are offering. Many experts suggest this method as a way to put your patients first. While you cannot offer every treatment out there, at least consider the idea of having that non-surgical treatment or an alternative.

For your reference, the most common procedures in 2016 (according to the ISAPS) were Botox or dermal filler related procedures, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser hair removals.

Hold Offers, Discounts, and Specials

All patients love to hear the words discount and special. If you have found footing Advertise it on social media or conduct an email blast. Either way, build a relationship with all your returning patients, and hook them up with your offers and specials so they could refer your practice to their other friends.

Invest in Social Media

A large number of practices are on social media, not to keep up with trends, but to connect with customers digitally. Social media is one of the most recommended marketing strategies, and this is how you can pick up potential patients for the practice.

Twitter and Facebook are among two social media outlets that have improved on the business side of customer service. Businesses on Twitter have been given a feature to accept or decline a Direct Message (DM) from an individual. Facebook has also that option on Messenger to set up chatbots for your business. Further discussion about this concept will come at a later time.

Strengthening Your Medical Spas Local SEO Strategy

Many say, it’s always best to start small, which is true, because going big could cost you. It is crucial to keep up with the trends, and a solid marketing strategy can help you make your way to Google’s 1st page, without being banned. Thus, it is important to keep marketing at a steady pace while still following the rules. In this case, we advise you to start LOCAL.

Local SEO could help boost your website’s visibility in your city or state.

When you search for Local SEO, Google My Business (GMB) always comes up. This is a great way to be known through the search engine. Google is very much intuitive, knowing one’s location as they search. Thus, it is important as you update or set-up your website, to have a GMB listing underway. Google My Business also added a feature which is schedule appointments.

NAP, NAP, NAP

No don’t take a NAP. NAP means Name, Address, and Phone. All of which should be consistent in all your pages or social media websites. Aside from NAP, you also have to input your times and days of operations.

List on Local Directories

All businesses can start by listing their companies on Google My Business, so should your medical practice. Local directories could also help you put your practice on the map. Here are several directories you can start listing in:

  • Google
  • Yahoo!
  • Yelp
  • Facebook

Ask for reviews with Podium's special offer for Medical Spa MD Members.

It’s not bad nor it doesn’t violate HIPAA practices when asking for reviews. After all, most patients look for reviews first prior to scheduling an appointment with the doctor. Ask your patients to include the location of your practice when you encourage them to write their review. If some patients have already submitted their own, you can filter out the bad reviews, if any. Note, never to call out the patients that gave you a bad review.

Understanding Women as Customers

Failure to understand the role of women as consumers and decision makers is seen as an impediment which prevents Americans from getting good health care.

This is the result of the research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) among more than 9000 women respondents in US, UK, Germany, Japan and Brazil. Their study reveals that 70% of global consumer decisions are controlled by women, with 94% of them making their own health care decisions.

However, 77% of them do not do what they have to do to stay healthy because of lack of time. There is much information available online but only 31% of them trust the information they see in the internet. But the good news, according to CTI, is that they have also found out ways to make a difference in improving the trust and satisfaction among women.

Doctors and medical professionals can foster dialogue and provide clear communication. Providing them with enough information allows them to make informed decisions leading to a trusted partnership. Allowing women to also make their opinions matter may achieve connections to the female market. CTI research reveal that women make up around 88% of the health care workforce. It was found that women who share their stories and personal experiences as a heath decision maker allowed them to make connections with fellow women.

Researchers at CTI say that:

Developing a keen understanding of these women's wants and needs in health care, and using that understanding at every stage of product development and commercial relations, will help companies uncover and leverage huge market opportunities as well as surprise and delight their customers.

More on: http://www.talentinnovation.org/_private/assets/PopHealthcare_Infographic-CTI.pdf

Aesthetic Show 2015: We are Invited!

On July 9-12, 2015, the Aesthetic Show will bring together new procedures and breakthrough products related to running a Medical Spa.  This will be held at The Wynn Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is a sales-oriented show that is an avenue for medical professionals, buyers and potentials partners to meet. Continuing education credits are provided for attendees.

This is great opportunity to learn about marketing strategies, discover new products and meet other Medical Spa practitioners.

According to its website, the show presents Advanced Techniques for Practice Success courses which are helpful in building, growing and marketing an aesthetic business. Some of the lecture topics include Internet and digital marketing, expanding practice and profitability, analysis of one's business model, mastering patient consultations, improving staff management skills, and real world success examples.

There will also be discussions about emerging procedures and techniques, use of energy-based treatments for skin resurfacing and tightening, and updates about injections techniques and tips from experts among others.

You may visit the Aesthetic Show website for more information: http://www.aestheticshow.com/ or call +1 (949) 830-5409. 

Storytelling As A Medical Spa Marketing & Sales Tool

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If you want to increase your sales, learn how to tell stories in the consultation room.

If there's a truism in your medical spa it is the money is made in the consultation room, and the ability to tell stories about successful outcomes, happy patients, and life changing results is how it's done.

Stories trigger our emotions and allow us to create a "shared experience" that psychologically aligns the listener with the speaker and removes what are common blocking mechanisms around what is 'logical'. In telling a story, credibility is not even an issue. According to Geoffrey Berwind, a storytelling consultant

The use of stories, properly conveyed, is actually how we prefer to receive communications. When leaders learn how to meld the use of stories with the left-brain data-based information they also need to convey … well, this becomes irresistible. Their influence and engagement becomes more powerful, and real change occurs because people are moved to action.

Researches also reveal that regardless of the content of the ad, those which tell stories become relatively more successful. In the issue of The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Quesenberry and research partner Michael Coolsen found that the structure of the advertisement predicted its success, regardless of its content.

A study made by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that more people were convinced to change their behavior to reduce the risk of hypertension after the storytelling approach was used.

In a research done by neuroeconomist Paul Zak, it was found that our brains allow us to focus in tense moments of the story because of the release of the stress hormone Cortisol. Also, empathy and the promotion of connection is felt because of the release of the feel-good chemical Oxytocin.

In an experiment, Zak asked study participants to donate money to a stranger after they were asked to watch and emotionally charged movie about a son and his father. It was revealed that people were more likely to give more monetary contribution to a complete stranger. Stories, especially those that capture the attention of the audiences, allow people to move and act.

Several researches were already made to show how storytelling can affect and motivate people to do something, or change their behavioral patterns. Marketing and brand managers capitalize on this information as a way to advertise their product. As a marketing strategy, storytelling boils down to using the right metaphors and structures and then generating a story that is remembered and attributed to a brand.

Speakers for TED talks use narratives and powerful stories and imagery to share their message. Even Steve Jobs himself uses images and one-line concepts to support verbal storytelling.

As executive coach Harrison Monarth puts it:

Storytelling may seem like an old-fashioned tool, today — and it is. That’s exactly what makes it so powerful. Life happens in the narratives we tell one another. A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.

References:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rodgerdeanduncan/2014/01/04/tap-the-power-of-storytelling/ https://hbr.org/2014/03/the-irresistible-power-of-storytelling-as-a-strategic-business-tool/

Mommy Makeovers for Mom's Day

Mother's day is just right around the corner. Husbands and children are thinking about ways to make this day special for moms. A makeover and pampering may just be the right gift for her.

Mommy makeover is a marketing strategy and a marketing term which has gained popularity over the years. In a study conducted by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 62% of mothers who want to regain their youthful look before giving birth.

Mothers who want to restore or improve their post-pregnancy bodies undergo multiple plastic surgery procedures which include tummy tucks, liposuction, breast implantations and breast lifts.

Medspas may capitalize on this by providing discounts for bundle procedures, especially with the celebration of Mother's Day.

How Your Competitors Might Be Destroying Your Medical Spa Business Using Google Maps

Almost anyone can damage your medical practice business or reputation by turning Google against you.. and it's not very hard.

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Here's an example from Wired Magazine detailing how a restaurant's business was destroyed: Read the article.

It began in early 2012, when he experienced a sudden 75 percent drop off in customers on the weekend, the time he normally did most of his business. The slump continued for months, for no apparent reason. Bertagna’s profits plummeted, he was forced to lay off some of his staff, and he struggled to understand what was happening. Only later did Bertagna come to suspect that he was the victim of a gaping vulnerability that made his Google listings open to manipulation.

He was alerted to that possibility when one of his regulars phoned the restaurant. “A customer called me and said, ‘Why are you closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday? What’s going on?’” Bertagna says.

It turned out that Google Places, the search giant’s vast business directory, was misreporting the Serbian Crown’s hours. Anyone Googling Serbian Crown, or plugging it into Google Maps, was told incorrectly that the restaurant was closed on the weekends, Bertagna says. For a destination restaurant with no walk-in traffic, that was a fatal problem.

In the case above the business owner is actually trying to sue Google, claiming that a competitor manipulated the restaurants business and that Google didin't do anything about it.

He's not going to get anywhere with that, but it serves to highlight just how vulnerable a local business can be if you're not keeping abreast of what's going on.

Beneath its slick interface and crystal clear GPS-enabled vision of the world, Google Maps roils with local rivalries, score-settling, and deception. Maps are dotted with thousands of spam business listings for nonexistent locksmiths and plumbers. Legitimate businesses sometimes see their listings hijacked by competitors or cloned into a duplicate with a different phone number or website...

Small businesses are the usual targets. In a typical case in 2010, Buffalo-based Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry saw its Google Maps listing changed to “permanently closed” at the exact same time that it was flooded with fake and highly unfavorable customer reviews.

“We narrowed it down as to who it was. It was another jeweler who had tampered with it,” says Barbara Oliver, the owner. “The bottom line was the jeweler put five-star reviews on his Google reviews, and he slammed me and three other local jewelers, all within a couple of days.”

The first thing you should do is go to Google, Yelp, Yahoo, and Bing and search for your business in different ways using your street address, name, zip code and your name (with misspellings if that's possible) and see what the returned results are. That should give you a sense of whether or not you might have an issue. All of the search engines have a method for creating a local business listing and changing it once you have it.

Not addressing new technology is really just whistling past the grave yard. Your business and reputation are vulnerable and makeing sure that you have clean information online is the first step.