Marketing Your Medical Spa With A Blog Part 1

Part 1: How to market your medical spa, laser clinic or plastic surgery practice with a blog.

In Part 1 of this video series on building patient traffic with social media, Alex Panagiotopoulos of Freelance MD explains how plastic surgeons, dermatologists and laser centers are using blogging and blog marketing to increase patient traffic and increase SEO for their websites and clinics.

Protecting Your Medical Spas (And Your Own) Reputation Online

Medical Spa MD has been threatened with lawsuits on more than one occasion for something that someone posted in the forums.

If you're running a laser clinic or medical spa you'll have some unhappy patients from time to time as well.. and very soon every one of your patients will have a Facebook page, Twitter stream, or personal blog that provides a public platform for them to voice their displeasure.

In fact, more than 85% of your potential clients who are looking for a medical spa or elective plastic surgery proceedure are doing research online. And it's not just kids. People between 35 and 60 are the fastest growing group online. If you're not the most prominant voice, you're loosing patients, revenue, and reputation.

There have been a number of medical spas and physicians who have literally gone out of business because they were unable to manage their reputation online when it was attacked. (Look at American Laser Clinics reputation.) Trying to 'fix it' with underhand tactics can make it worse.

And there's nothing you can do about it.

Here's a story on CNN about a student who created a Facbook page about a teacher:

A former Florida high school student who was suspended by her principal after she set up a Facebook page to criticize her teacher is protected constitutionally under the First Amendment, a federal magistrate ruled.

U.S. Magistrate Barry Garber's ruling, in a case viewed as important by Internet watchers, denied the principal's motion to dismiss the case and allows a lawsuit by the student to move forward.

"We have constitutional values that will always need to be redefined due to changes in technology and society," said Ryan Calo, an attorney with Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society.

"The fact that students communicate on a semi-public platform creates new constitutional issues and the courts are sorting them out," Calo said.

Katherine Evans, now 19 and attending college, was suspended in 2007 from Pembroke Pines Charter High School after she used her home computer to create a Facebook page titled, "Ms. Sarah Phelps is the worst teacher I've ever met."

In his order, Garber found that the student had a constitutional right to express her views on the social networking site.

"Evans' speech falls under the wide umbrella of protected speech," he wrote. "It was an opinion of a student about a teacher, that was published off-campus ... was not lewd, vulgar, threatening, or advocating illegal or dangerous behavior."

Matthew Bavaro, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who is representing Evans, was pleased with the ruling.

"The First Amendment provides protection for free speech regardless of the forum, being the Internet, the living room or a restaurant," he told CNN.

So, while there's nothing you can do to prevent an unhappy patient from broadcasting their displeasure, there is a way to keep that unhappyness from being the first thing that comes up when someone searches on your name or the name of your medical spa or clinic. That's to be the dominant 'voice' that's heard when someone is looking for information about you, your practice, or your services.

So what can you do to protect your personal and medical reputation?

In effect, you need to have a bigger microphone. That means that means that you're going to need to do some heavy lifting online to make absolutely sure that when someone is searching for information on your medical spa, dermatology practice, or plastic surgery clinic, the information that they find is about your practice, not negative comments from disgruntled patients.

And since this is such a problem for every medical practice and physician, we've been looking to help address this need. We're about to launch two new Medical Spa MD Select Partners to help.

The first, Freelance MD, is a creative agency specializing in marketing and advertising outsource services for medical spas and plastic surgeons. The second will be announced later this week.

Freelance MD will be hosing a free webinar on social media marketing this week. (You can see details and register in the previous post.)  If you're not an expert at using search engine marketing, social media, special events and local PR, you'll want to sign up and learn how it's done.

Financing for Your Medical Spa Patients

Perhaps it is true that the medical spa aesthetic industry is beginning to bounce back, as indicated by the post on Allergan's increase last quarter.

I do know that in our practice we have seen an increase in patient flow. However, while the patients are gaining interest and beginning to come in for consults, one major problem still exists for some.  Financing.

With the credit card companies raising interest rates for some, and all out cancelling accounts for others, the method of using one's credit card for paying for aesthetic procedures is not as easy as it once was.

Awhile back I posted on Care Credit sending "Dear John" letters to many practices. The practices that Care Credit retained found that the criteria in financing approval had been increased making it difficult, if not impossible, for some patients to finance their procedures. I do have to say, though, that I am beginning to see Care Credit lax their criteria a bit as more of our patients are beginning to receive financing.

We use a couple of finance companies who have imposed these new credit limits on our patients. I had sent out emails to colleagues in the industry inquiring as to who they're having more success with. I ended up adding a brokerage finance company,, who delivers a patient's financial application to a variety of finance companies. Our representative told me that if they can only get the procedure amount partially financed with one company, then they will propose the remainder of the balance of the procedure to the other companies. In some instances, there may be two or three finance companies involved with the patient making one payment to

How has it worked out for us so far? On average, for every five patients we send them, approximately two or three receive financing. As it is now, we have more patients waiting for better financing options.

So, the patients are beginning to come in again and we are faced with providing sufficient financing options. I encourage anyone to share their experiences with others on financing options that are truly benefiting their patients and their practice.

Paula D. Young RN runs internal operations and training at Young Medical Spa and is the author of the Medical Spa Aesthetics Course, Study Guide, and Advanced IPL & Laser Training course for medical estheticians and laser technicians.

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Aesthetic Predictions for 2010

I think everyone staring out in the aesthetic industry, especially if you are a non-core practice, needs some sort of a guru. Someone to guide you along the way in your decisions on equipment, procedures, pricing, staffing, standard operating procedures, menu of services, etc. Our guru many years ago was Fran Acunzo from Acara Partners. Perhaps Fran's most famous, or successful client, is Dr. Bruce Katz of Juva MediSpa in New York City.

I remember listening to some of his suggestions he had for us at the time and saying "Is he serious? I have no idea what this SmartLipo thing is, but if he thinks it is going to be the next big thing, then we had better trust him as our consultant". Needless to say, Fran was right. And not only about adding SmartLipo to our practice when it was first approved by the FDA, but other procedures and services as well. So, to me, when Fran speaks... I listen.

Fran blogged his predictions for aesthetic procedures for the year 2010 and it's already making it's way across the internet cited and adapted into blogs by (Read Susie's comments on such predictions) and many, many others. If you have not yet read his predictions, I'd like to post them here in their entirety:

Here are my 2010 top 10 predictions in the world of Aesthetic Medicine

1. Dysport will become a strong competitor to Botox.  Dysport, Medicis’ new entry into the world of botulinum toxin, was launched in the spring of 2009 and has begun to see increased demand as market awareness grows.

2. Non-invasive body contouring will continue to grow in popularity lead by Erchonia’s Zerona.

3. Face lifts will continue to drop in demand while liquid face-lifts grow in popularity, especially with the younger market (40 -54 year olds)

4. Fat transfer, specifically for natural breast enhancement, will become sought after by women who were previously uncomfortable with implants.

5. Laser Lipolysis will continue to be one of the most in-demand medical aesthetic procedures due to its minimal downtime and great results.

6. The younger audience (24 – 40 year olds) will continue to discover aesthetic medical services for preventive aging.

7. There will be an increase in the number of men having aesthetic medical procedures starting with facial fillers and injectables (i.e. Botox, Restylane, Radiesse, etc.)

8. The tipping point of when men and women want to have their tattoos removed will arrive and the demand will grow exponentially.

9. Facial Rejuvenation will come of age as medical practitioners perfect their skill combining aesthetic medical facial procedures for a complete Medical Makeover including the combination of fractional resurfacing, ablative resurfacing, chemical peels, photofacials, skin tightening, injectables and facial fillers, etc.

10. What was an Extreme Makeover in 2003 when the then popular TV show hit the airwaves will now become the Everyday Makeover.

It is entirely up to you whether or not you place your trust in Fran's predictions. I would guess to say there would be some discepancies amongst professions, but I can tell you I am already beginning to see many of these prove true in our own practice. It's also interesting to me that, upon research, I could find no other person or entity posting such predictions.

So, unless you have a crystal ball somewhere that has worked for you, I'm sticking to what has worked for us!

Author: Paula D. Young RN runs internal operations and training at Young Medical Spa and is the author of the Medical Spa Aesthetics Course, Study Guide, and Advanced IPL & Laser Training course for medical estheticians and laser technicians.

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Medical Spa MD: How to operate effectively in turbulent times.

If you’re involved with or own a medical spa, this question is no doubt on your mind.

In this article, I will give you several tips and tools to evaluate your laser centers culture and operations, so you can successfully navigate any economic downturn… And live to sell another day when the inevitable upturn comes around.

What is the Passion and Purpose of Your Medical Spa?

You reap what you sew. When you engage proactively and passionately in your business you will undoubtedly be successful and see your practice expand. It helps to articulate your passion for your medical spa.

At Assara Laser, our passion is to “help clients look and feel great, not fake.”

Why the Recession Drastically Affects Your Laser Clinics Bottom Line

You’ve probably noticed that generating revenue is not as easy as it once was. There are myriad reasons for this; from the decline in disposable income, to unemployment hitting record highs and tanking real estate valuations. As if these facts were not bleak enough, credit markets are virtually frozen so business owners are finding it nearly impossible to obtain small business loans and lines of credit. Refinancing current loans has become difficult for small businesses.

In short, we're operating in the perfect storm.

Accepting Reality and Responsibility Today

The easy way out is to close up shop and blame the recession. This will not help you going forward, it will not pay your devoted employees their wages, and most of all, it will not help your clients “look and feel great, not fake.”

So, accept responsibility. 

The hardships of the recession create a fact-pattern, problem to be solved; not a reason for failure. To paraphrase Michael Jackson, start, first, with the man in the mirror. Think about the following questions. And pay attention - there will be homework at the end of this article!

Finding Your Medspas Winning Competitive Difference?

Let’s be honest. The quality of your laser clinc's treatments are probably not drastically better than that of your competitors. The proprietary equipment and IPL or laser systems (Thermage, Fraxel, Titan) that you use are, for the most part, available to the competitive skin clinic market at large.

You may believe (and tell clients) that your microdermabrasion treatments are better because you use a diamond-tipped wand or aluminum oxide crystals. You may think that your IPLs or laser hair removal treatments are better because you use cryo-cooling or because you use chilled air cooling, or because you use a diode laser or because you use alexandrite lasers . . .

BUT . . .

Step in to your clients' shoes. To them, the bells and whistles of your Thermage or Fraxel device don't matter. Your clients already expect expert advice and cutting edge cosmetic lasers, IPLs and skin tighening equipment, so merely meeting this fundamental requirement is not a winning competitive difference.

What does matter to your clients are presentation, client interaction, customer service, reliability and consistency. Consider this carefully.

What is each of your medspas clients worth? 

At Assara Laser, one of the most popular packages is our $449 per month Unlimited Laser Hair Removal Program. On average, a client that signs up for this program will remain a member of the Program for 7 months, depending on the results they wish to achieve. How much is a single unlimited client worth to us?  A client in the program for 7 months, making a monthly payment of $449 is worth $3,143. For many laser clinic owners, a single laser hair removal client is worth more than a home mortgage payment!

Do you treat every single potential laser treatment client that contacts your laser clinic as if they’re worth $3,000?

What is your time and effort worth?

Before my partners and I built Assara Laser, I was an attorney. I still practice corporate law as a labor of love, when a friend or business contact has an exciting deal. I normally discount my rate to about $400 per hour, as law isn’t my primary source of income. 

Assume an hour of your time is worth $400.  Assume further that, every time your customers complain, you are willing to give a discount, or a free treatment and that, collectively, free and discounted treatments account for a 20% loss in your revenue. To make up for this lost revenue, how much more work do you have to do? 

Well, let’s add 20% to your 10 hour day, which now makes it a 12 hour day. If your annual sales are say $1,000,000 per year, you’ve lost $200,000. This translates into 500 hours more of work you must do to bring your revenue back to status quo!

Is there a big difference between a day that starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 7:00 p.m. versus ending at 9:00 p.m.  You betcha there is!  Is there a big difference between a loss of $200,000 and a loss of zero. You betcha there is!  And these differences drastically affect your quality of life.

How Do You Avoid Mistakes?

Mistakes are costly. A happy client is worth more than $3,000, and will likely refer business, the best and cheapest form of marketing. A single angry client will result in you working 2 hours more per day for the following seven work days, and will possibly diminish your reputation by badmouthing your medspa. 

A lot of people think excellent customer service means free treatments. It doesn’t. Excellent customer service means delivering what you promise. You know the limitations and effectiveness of your treatments so promise only what you can deliver and do it consistently, with a smile on your face!

Your Homework

Write an email to one close friend or business partner (or to me, if you would like to engage in this project with me:, in which you answer the following questions.  Cut and paste the text below into your email, and fill in the blanks with no more than three sentences: 

I wanted to pick your brain for a moment. I’m working on a plan to really blast my medical spa practice off the ground, and I wanted you to use your intuition to judge the quality my sentences below.  What do you think? 

The best way to succeed in business while I make clients feel great is:

The recession has made it harder for my medical spa to operate because:

My medical spa’s winning competitive difference is:

Each of my laser center's potential clients is worth:

I will earn every cent paid to me from a client’s hard earned money by:

The biggest recurring (or systemic failure) affecting my customer service is:

Please let me know your thoughts.

Note: The above is a guest post from Will S. of Assara Laser Centers.  You can find Assara on the web at the following links: Assara Homepage and Assara Blog.

If you would like to write or guest post for Medical Spa MD please contact Medical Spa MD here.

Medical Spa Lesson: The least recommend way for handling your medical spa PR problems.

Note: The identities that were in this post have been changed but the events are all as described.

A Medical Spa chain is not happy with what someone else has posted about them in the community forums of this site.

The negative comments are directed at one of the management team. I became aware of this medical spas concerns a few days ago after I received a string of emails from the medspa chain's 'CS Manager'. (Im guessing that CS is short for customer service.)

I can certainly understand why this medical spa is unhappy. Evidently the individual named in the comments was previously part of a failed franchise called Skin Nuvo and was one of three Skin Suvo operating officers who was sued by the SEC for 'Swindling investors of $11 million'. However, charges against the individual in question were dropped.

Here's an excerpt on the Skin Nuvo suit from the San Francisco Chronicle article:

Three men, including a Concord resident, were sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday on charges that they swindled more than $11 million from investors in a skin-care business that later filed for bankruptcy.

..."Skin Nuvo was projecting a glamorous image with their stores in very flashy and high-end malls, but beneath the surface, the company was in deep financial trouble," said Michael Dicke, an SEC supervising attorney.

Skin Nuvo, based in Henderson, has since filed for bankruptcy. During the alleged fraud from 2002 to 2004, the company's Bay Area stores -- which sold skin care and hair removal products -- were located in shopping malls in San Francisco, San Jose, Richmond, Concord, Corte Madera and Walnut Creek.

The SEC suit seeks to bar the men against any future violations of securities laws, a civil monetary penalty and the recovery of any ill-gotten gains.

So here's some of the emails that I received, and my response, over the course of the next three or four days. They start with an email from S.H. the CS (Customer Service?) Manager.

First email: S.H. of Nu U

Subject: Slanderous blog agiainst N.V./___ Medspa
Message: I need to speak with someone ASAP re: several slanderous remarks that have been made on your forum against N.V., owner of _____ Medspa.
Please contact me at 702-xxx-xxxx to discuss.

Thank you,
CS Manager

My same-day response to S.H.:

Hello S,
What can I do for you?

S.H. want's to talk immediately. He's entirely too irate to just communicate that a comment may have gone over the line and violated Medical Spa MD's own terms. No, S.H. want's to talk. Now. Here's the next two emails:

Is it possible to call you?  Too much to put in an email.


Jeff – there is a blog on your website re: N.V., owner of _____ Medspa.  The blog is dated 3/4/09 and is authored by “_____ Isn’t For You”.

The blog states Mr. V. only hires attractive females and then tries to date them / makes sexual advances towards them.  It goes on from there.

This is slanderous and libelous and a complete and total lie!  I am formally requesting this particular blog entry be removed immediately.  If you are unwilling to remove said blog then I will forward onto my legal department for further handling.  Please reply at your earliest convenience.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

CS Manager
_____ Medspa

I got another email amost immediately. Evidently my inability to grasp just how urgent this issue is and my lack of action in removing an anonymous post is getting under S.H's' skin. He dicides to forgo any more niceities and threaten me with his 'legal department'. Ouch. Here's S.H's next email.

This is slanderous and libelous and a complete and total lie! I am formally requesting this particular blog entry be removed immediately. If you are unwilling to remove said blog then I will forward onto my legal department for further handling. Please reply at your earliest convenience.

Have to give it to S, he's a silver-tongued devil. I mean, having an entire 'legal department' set on my like wild dogs? Terrifying.

So now I'm dealing with the 'legal department'. Here's what they sent.

Our firm, Kamensky Rubinstein Hochman & Delott, LLP, represents ___ medical spas.

Our client has informed us of various outrageous and defamatory blog postings/comments made on your website that impugn the character of Mr. N.V. of ___, specifically postings from "___ Isn't For You!" dated 3/4/09 and 4/10/09 and "former skin medique employee" dated 3/25/09.

In the March 4, 2009 posting, "__ _ Isn't For You!" falsely states that Mr. V only hires attractive females and then tries to date them or makes sexual advances towards them. In addition, "__ _ Isn't For You!" falsely states that if such sexual advances are not accepted, the employee does not get paid. In addition, in "__ _ Isn't For You"'s April 10, 2009 posting it falsely accuses __ _ of "multiple violations of state and federal labor laws, multiple instances of unwanted sexual advances and harassment." Similarly, "former skin medique employee" falsely states that Mr. V is "crooked," a "con artist," and "shady" and further falsely states that "if N.V. is involved . . . It is a scam from the word go."

This is not the type of content expected from a thoughtful website regarding medspas. Accordingly, we request that you immediately remove the postings posted by "__ _ Isn't For You!" dated 3/4/09 and 4/10/09 and "former skin medique employee" dated 3/25/09. We also request that you provide us with the names and all information in your possession relating to "__ _ Isn't For You" and "former skin medique employee."

Now isn't that nice? Within something like 72 hours we've progressed from a simple email request to this Medical Spas' demand that I turn over information on individuals who've made negative comments about them. This medical spa went from trying to get a single comment removed, to making the front page of Medical Spa MD. (Medical spas usually have to pay for that privledge.)

Of course this may not be the kind of publicity that __ _, S.H, and N.V wanted. I can't think that this medspa would really want the fact that one of their corporate officers was once sued by the SEC. But with the nasty-grams that S and his legal department are sending me it made me wonder what all the hubbub's about.

__ _ Medspa: Lessons for S.

Let me take a moment here and discuss what I think S could have done that would have better fit his medical spas business needs.

First: Don't take it personally. Every medical spa is going to have unhappy patients and ex-employees. You can't shut them up. Don't try. Perhaps they're unhappy for a reason. Your best bet is to engage in civil conversation. If you're making decisions on behalf of your medical spa or laser clinic, you need to keep your emotions out of the way. You're going to have dissagreements and sometimes they'll get personal. Don't let it affect your 'actions'. Medical Spa MD doesn't have any interest in harming this medical spa and no Medspa MD author wrote those comments.

But I wasn't responding fast enought to S and he took that as a slight. It wasn't. I don't know S and my first response, 'how can I help you', was an invitation for him to lay out his case. He didn't take advantage of that. Instead he lost focus on what he was trying to accomplish.

Second: Focus on your goal. Sean's goal was simply to get me to remove a comment. It's not unreasonable. I've done it before. I've removed any number of comments that attacked individuals in a way that had nothing to do with their business and was just an attempt to hurt them personally. I don't like those attacks and when I find them, I often remove them and at times, block an IP address so they can't make more.

S lost sight of the goal which was to get a comment removed. Instead, he switched his goal to getting to me. If he'd not been so agressive he'd probably have gotten the offending comment edited or removed. Instead, S pulled a gun by threatening me with his 'legal department'.

Third: Never pull a gun unless you intend to use it. S went nuclear when he had his 'legal department' fire off a demand. If S was smarter, he would have done his homework and seen that Medical Spa MD has been threatened many times by medical spa francises and their lawyers and knows well how to handel cyber-slap lawsuits. Read this Medical Spa MD post on cyberslap lawsuits, legal rights and anonymous comments on the web.

S went 'legal team' way, way too fast. I wasn't being unreasonable. I didn't tell him to 'go to hell'. It just wasn't at the top of my list of things to do. Medial Spa MD can get twenty or thirty contacts a day. I could care less that S demands to talk to me on the phone right away. Get in line. A single anonymous comment doesn't rise to the need of emergency care. S would have done much better with a simple, "I know you're busy" and a written explianation of his need to get a medspa comment removed.

__ _ Medspas legal team doesn't have a leg to stand on demanding information about people who comment on Medical Spa MD either. Anyone has a perfectly legal right to post anonymously on the web. Comments on Medical Spa MD are most commonly anonymous for exactly that reason. Physicians don't want to be held liable for the advice they give to other doctors, and laser technicians working at some laser clinic franchise don't want to lose their job.

Last: Never pull a gun on the person holding the mic. If you don't know what that means... From the begnning, S is making demands and acting pretty agressive, but he's only got one weak pair of twos (his 'legal team') and he plays them right away. Now he's got nothing left. If he's emailing some ex-employee that kind of intimidation might work, but not in this case.

By threatening Medical Spa MD and myself directly he's chosen to make an adversarial relationship when he needed a helpful one. While I don't have any axe to grind against S or __ _ Medical Spas, I don't really appreciate this kind of interaction. Any new threatening communications S or his 'legal department' they'll be posted right here on Medical Spa MD's front page where our 50,000 monthly visitors can decide for themseleves. (I can't think that any named Medspa's physicians will welcome questions about it.)

So where does that leave Medical Spa MD and __ _ medical spas?

For my part I'll put a quick notice up on the Medical Spa comments and take a look at them sometime in the next few days. If there's something that violates our terms, I'll edit or delete it.

I can't think that S has solved his Medical Spas business needs though.

Care Credit - No Longer Practicing Medicine


I was included in an email from a fellow MAPA member yesterday with some urgency regarding Care Credit ceasing to do service with their medical spa.

This physician was to the understanding that Care Credit is suspending its services to any practitioner who is not a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, cosmetic dentist or veterinarian.

Immediately my stomach got tied up in knots as I thought “here we go again... another RealSelf debacle!”. I decided to get that facts for myself being that our practice is a non-plastic, non-derm facility.

During the call I found out that this rumor is partially true in the fact that Care Credit is suspending services to facilities that:

  1. Do not have a physician on site approximately 60-70% of the time.

  2. To physicians who are primarily medical directors that mostly travel between facilities.

  3. To practices that do not have at least 60-70% of their services being cosmetic in nature.

  4. Practices that perform medical care, critical care, fertility services, long term care, pain management and weight loss services that occupy the majority of services in their practice.

  5. To physicians who do not perform at least 60-70% of those cosmetic procedures themselves.

In talking with the customer service rep, she said they have made this decision to "consolidate their strategic image" and they are not “singling out” any specific specialty. She said their main decision to decline some accounts is because they don't want to stand in the way of a medical patient receiving experimental care, or a procedure that an insurance company won’t pay for that is considered medical in nature. Although not deemed “medical” in nature, per se, fertility clinics are also being denied services. In discussing the board certification requirements, I could not get a clear and decisive answer other than physicians need to be board certified. Period.

She also told me that she could tell by our account number (the 4 digits in the center) that our account with them was initially set up as a cosmetic practice and not internal medicine. Those identifying numbers is what triggered letters to go out to certain practices and not others.

She went on to say that if anyone feels they do 60% or more cosmetic services, and the doctor is on site and performs at least 60 % of those services, they can call to dispute.

So, to clear things up for those of you who are uncertain as to your status, I asked for a copy of the letter that went out and I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. Here’s the crucial part of the letter:

“GE Money Bank continuously reviews our portfolio and lending criteria to anticipate and respond to market conditions, consumer needs, and strategic fit.

Upon review of our portfolio, we have determined that we will be limiting our lending partnerships in the cosmetic market to Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, Facial Plastic Surgeons, Dermatologists, and a small number of other Board Certified specialties performing cosmetic surgery.”

I have also heard rumors that Chase Health Advance is, or will be, taking similar action. My closing thought is, if you didn’t get a letter, then chances are you have not been rejected.

Author: Paula D. Young RN runs internal operations and training at Young Medical Spa and is the author of the Medical Spa Aesthetics Course, Study Guide, and Advanced IPL & Laser Training course for medical estheticians and laser technicians.

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Medical Spa Marketing: Calling All Clients!

While attendance was down at THE Aesthetic Showthis year in Las Vegas, the enthusiasm for practice rejuvenation was high. Every lecturer mentioned, in one way or another, the hardships of practicing aesthetic medicine in this economic recession. Speakers delivered suggestions focusing on how to grow your practice with either an increase in marketing endeavors, a decrease in operation costs, or addition of new services.

Most clinicians in attendance were looking for the next great technology to add to their practice to bring in new patients. I think a sobering message, at least for me, was Dr. Stephen Mulholland’s lunchtime motivational speech on how to cut the fat in your practice and how to capitalize on internal marketing of your existing patient population which is something we’re all probably not doing to the fullest of our potential.

His point was right on when he said we spend more time and money trying to solicit new patients that we aren’t capitalizing on the patients we already have. While we may be sending our patients birthday cards with incentive coupons, or monthly newsletters, how many of you are conducting an active outbound marketing campaign? Botox follow-up reminder calls, “thank you for the referral” call, how about “we know you've tried filler A in the past and we have filler B on special this month”?

If your practice management software is not engineered to be able to pull out these clients for follow-up calls, it’s time to change software programs. Now more than ever you need to be able to query on a certain group of patients who are ready for a follow-up treatment and have not yet scheduled their appointment. Dr. Mulholland’s point was that you have already gained the trust of that client so why let them slip through your fingertips? Current clients should be treated as VIPs as their positive experiences are going to bring in new clients via “word of mouth”.

So, if you’re experiencing more downtime in your practice, now is the time to appoint a staff member to begin an active “client rejuvenation” campaign.

Author: Paula D. Young RN runs internal operations and training at Young Medical Spa and is the author of the Medical Spa Aesthetics Course, Study Guide, and Advanced IPL & Laser Training course for medical estheticians and laser technicians.

Submit a guest post and be heard.

Medical Spa MD Members get a Podium patient review marketing account and save $1,257

Protect your reputation. Get new patients. 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.

Older Plastic Surgery & Laser Clinic Patients Are Online

It's no longer the case that teens are the ones flooding Facebook and Twitter. (You can follow Medical Spa MD on both Medspa MD on Facebook and Medical Spa MDs Twitter feed.)

The chat below shows the details of the Baby Boomers rush to embrace social networks. In the last week at least three people have told me of a parent that has 'discoverd Facebook'. It's no longer the case that you can just have a web site and sit back to be found. The web is maturing and big business. The rush of Baby Boomers to embrace Facbook, Twitter and social networking in general is indicative of this move.

According to the study referenced below, Baby Boomers...

  • Increased reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67 percent year over year; nearly 80 times faster than Gen Y (1 percent)
  • Posted a 59 percent increase in using social networking sites—more than 30 times faster than Gen Y (2 percent)
  • Increased watching/posting videos on the Internet by 35 percent—while Gen Y usage decreased slightly (-2 percent)
  • Accelerated playing video games on the go via mobile devices by 52 percent— 20 times faster than Gen Y (2 percent)
  • Increased listening to music on an iPod or other portable music player by 49 percent—more than four times faster than Gen Y (12 percent)

Meanwhile, Gen Y...

  • Participation slipped in virtual worlds from 23 percent to 19 percent
  • Consumed no more video online than they did last year
  • Clogged and contributed to wikis less (it's down from 35 to 33 percent)

Additional data from the latest Accenture report is summarized here from TWICE.

For medical spas, plastic surgeons and dermatologist, this represents a change in the way you'll need search engine marketing in order to get in front of your potential patient population. Yellow pages, newspaper... gone. Search, blogs, social networks allow you to harness technology and get it in front of your potential patinets; woment 35-60.

Medical Spa Consultants in NYC

Spa NYC is looking to open a Medical Spa and has talked to some Medical Spa Consultants.

We are looking into opening a medical spa. We are physicians, general practititoners, and have spoken to several consultants who would provide assistance to do the business planning, financial proformas, operating procedures, assist in hiring staff, marketing, equipment recommendations, space planning, info systems recommendations, web site development, etc.

We are located in the greater NY metropolitan area. anyone use a consultant they would recommend, or is it even worthwhile to do so?

And here's my response:

Beware. The vast majority of medical spa consultants are less than worthless in my opinion. Thre are only two that I've ever recommended and they both specialize in a specific niche.

Physicians are, as a rule, intelligent, but they think that because they're intelligent that they'll be able to 'think their way through' a problem. That's not generally the rule. Physicians have a reputation for being poor at business and there's reason enough for that.

The real cost of poor medical spa consultants is that they waste your time and distract you with irrelevant things like proformas statements and excel worksheets that project your earnings. Useless. Of the dozens of clinics I've been involved in and the millions of dollars spent and made, I've yet to see one single medical spa business plan that was worth a piss in the wind.

My advice is this. Go slow. The market isn't going to be kind to those who make mistakes and you can easily spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars in a bloodbath education. Just ask the myriad of physicians who regularly frequent this site. Go slow. Go slow. Go slow. Spreadsheets are worse than useless as are business plans. I've written dozens and they're used to give a sense of security where there is none.

Choosing technology? Note this sentence from Susan DeGuide MDs testimonial on joining Medical Spa MD: "I would not buy a new piece of equipment now without first consulting Medical Spa MD".

Post a question about the technology you're investigating and you'll receive responses and possibly an offer to talk by the physicians who are using it. If you don't take advantage of this resource you're too stupid to be practicing medicine. (Getting off on a little bit of a rant there... sorry.)

If you're looking for someone to build your medical spa for you so you can just step in, work 40 hours a week, and own everything, you've already lost. Cosmetic medicine is an entirely new area for most non-core docs and there's a learning curve. Don't get ahead of it. The greatest thing about Medical Spa MD is that you're able to find and network with physicians who are not your direct competition and are willing to help. Take advantage of it.

If you have some advice for a physician group in NYC that's opening a Medical Spa, help them out here or in the forums.

Fraxel, Thermage, and CO2 Laser Physician Chat

You'll want to make you take advantage of the newest feature on Medical Spa MD, MAPAs live discussions and chat archive.

Last Chat: Tuesday, Jan 27 at 8PM EST
Thermage, Fraxel, and CO2 Laser Ablation

The discussion will include treatment perameters, effectivness, cost, the technolgies and anything else of interest. Physicians with experience are invited but the chat is open to any interested parties. Fraxel, Thermage or other reps who identify themselves and are willing to engage in open discusion are also welcome.

The transcripts of previous chats on Marketing and Fraxel are already available on the new MAPA Chat Archive along with a new area for reviews of medical spa technologies.

Botox training for physicians: SEO Garbage

SEO (search engine optimization) is becomming increasingly important for your clinic or medspa.

If you happen to search for Medical Spas on Google you'll be thrilled to know that Medical Spa MD ranks #1. Why? Because there are thousands of comments and nearly a thousand posts that are all original content and create for those searching for informaton that's found on this site.

Of course there are the scammers and hackers who play the system.

Search for Botox Training for Physicians and you'll see a hose of adword-cram sites that exist only to get you to click on a paid listing link and charge the company for the click. These pages are build in the hundreds and stuffed with backlinks and garbage content that's copied and pasted. It's not original, it's not worth anything, and it exists only to trick consumers into clicking on ads since they typically have no other navigation or content for anyone to click on.

Here's an example con job page that ranks high in Google for 'Botox Training for Physicians'. You'll notice that there's no links other adwords. This site is so bad they're actually named Link 1, Link 2, Link 3 at the bottom and evey other link is named; Is anything better than Botox, Physician Botox training and other such keyword stuffing. So this site is actually sitting on top of the content that you would actually be looking for if you were looking for Botox training. The best content on the page is actually 'in' the ppc ads but there's no relevance, just paid listings.

I should note here that if you try to do this a couple of things happen:

  • You loose all credibility. It's really easy to spot when sites are doing this.
  • Google could very well catch you and penalize you by dropping your ranking. If you're using some type of SEO service that does this you're equally vulnerable.

I'll be writing more about SEO and how the web can be used correctly to disseminate the content you want to send and put it in front of the potential patients who are looking for you.

Marketing your medical spa to female patients.

marketing_medspa_female_patientsWondering how word of mouth works when marketing your medical spa to women?

We asked Michele Miller, co-author of the new book "The Soccer Mom Myth: Today's Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys" to share five tips for understanding word of mouth and women.

Do women and men differ in they way make recommendations or share information?
Women are three times more likely to share personal stories with a friend than men. Ask any woman how she found her hairdresser, doctor, or favorite wine, and she is likely to tell you that it was from a friend. Women are natural word of mouth spreaders. They are wired that way – with four times as many connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, women tap deeply into that area that is responsible for bonding and connecting with others.

What can you do to make increase women’s word of mouth?

Here’s the wrong way to do it: “Sign up three friends and we’ll give you a 15% discount.”  This feels like you are asking her to sell out her friends. Instead, change the offer to “You and every one of your friends who signs up will get a 15% discount.” Now she has special access to a discount that she can pass along to friends. You’ve made her the hero. She can offer value to her trusted network.  She has just increased her trust and standing.

What about asking women for referrals; good idea, or bad idea?

This is tricky.  Because women are such great referrers, it seems logical. If you are doing business with her, and she values your relationship, it may seem perfectly acceptable to ask her for a list of friends who might benefit from your services. But that may not be a good idea, even if she thinks you’re the best thing since Starbuck’s drive-thru. She is the gatekeeper of her relationships. She’s not being stingy, she’s being protective. A better idea might be to give her a few of your business cards and say, “if you know of anyone who might benefit from my service, feel free to give them my card.”

If women talk more than men, how do we avoid bad word of mouth from them? 

The “duh” answer is, meet or exceed expectations. The other answer is, communicate clearly and often. If something goes wrong, explain to her exactly why, then do your best to make amends.  Basic, fundamental communication can go very far to deflect bad word of mouth.

How can you delight women?

Give her the personal touch.  It does not have to be fancy or extravagant (though that’s always appreciated).  A personal thank you note mailed the old-fashioned way may be enough to get her attention and touch her heart.  Remember her kids’ names, and even more importantly, the names of her pets.  Give her a gift she can pass along to family members. A financial advisor for my friend Holly knows Holly has two dogs. Every visit, he sends Holly home with two dog biscuits. He even knows their favorite – Snausages. Holly likes his work but what really endears him to her are the Snausages. It’s a personal touch that makes life better for those she loves.

Medical Spa Key No. 7: Create the Optimal Menu of Services

medical%20spa%20pricing%20stampIn many ways, aesthetic practices and med spas are like restaurants. The core of the business is customer service, and oftentimes offering the right menu can make the difference between the success or failure of the enterprise.

Just as a first class restaurant strives to create a unique menu that will distinguish it from all its competitors, you should make it your mission to offer a service menu that offers not only all the most popular med spa treatments but also the most cutting edge, innovative procedures available.  Many of the prospects you will encounter are surprisingly well informed and will be looking for a med spa that can exceed their expectations. Some of these prospects already know the results they are looking for. They will look to you and your staff to guide them to the optimal combination of services, procedures and products to help them achieve their goals. On the other hand, many of your prospects will not have a clue about the specific technologies or procedures involved -- they will simply want to know they are in good hands and will look to you to recommend the best treatments and products for them.  

You will need to decide how broad a range of services you will offer. You may decide to offer all the popular services so your med spa will appeal to a diverse, market-driven client base. Or you may decide to carve out a more specialized niche. You will need to decide your basic positioning before you formalize your menu. One of the key factors will be to find the best service mix that matches your professional expertise. If you are a dermatologist, for example, you may wish to offer a range of specialized services for treating acne. If your background is OB/GYN, you may want to develop a specialty for the treatment of leg veins. Another key factor which you may determine from your research is your best estimate of the profitability of offering a wide variety of the most popular services compared with a more specialized approach. Heavy competition in some areas has driven fees for basic services such as laser hair removal to such low levels that such services must be evaluated merely as  "loss leaders" to help build traffic for your more profitable services.

In any event, you will need to keep current with rapidly growing technology and clinical applications by attending trade shows and workshops, subscribing to industry publications, joining various associations, and opening channels of communication between your medical and spa resources. Many practitioners pondering the question of what aesthetic services to offer have come to the realization that emphasizing treatments that require a high level of skill and/or experience is perhaps the best way to differentiate your clinic from the garden variety “medical spa” offering only “basic” treatments like laser hair removal that are available on every street corner. An excerpt from the 2007 national average fee schedule published by ASAPS clearly illustrates this point: 

Cosmetic Procedures        National Average Fee

Abdominoplasty     $ 5,350.00

Blepharoplasty                  2,840.00

Breast aug. (silicone)                 4,087.00

Breast aug. (saline)        3,690.00    

Facelift                   6,792.00

Hair transplantation                  5,874.00

Lipoplasty (suction)        2,920.00

Rhinoplasty                   4,357.00 

Non-Surgical Procedures      National Average Fee

Botox injection     $    380.00

Chemical peel           718.00

Fraxel          1,130.00

IPL Treatment           411.00

Noninvasive tightening       1,194.00

Injection lipolysis           905.00

Laser hair removal           387.00

Laser skin resurfacing- ablative      2,418.00

Laser skin resurfacing- non-ablative        580.00

Laser treatment leg veins          462.00

Microdermabrasion           130.00

Sclerotherapy           377.00

Collagen (Bovine)           397.00

Collagen (Human)           542.00

Hyaluronic acid (i.e., Restylane)         576.00

Sculptra         1,027.00

Srtecoll, Artefill        1,180.00 

Food for thought.

Medspa Specialist

medspa_medical_spa_specialistIf the world is really bigger, if you can find the best in the world to do what you want, no matter what it is you want, does that change things?

If I need heart surgery, I can find the world's best heart surgon. If I need an actinic keratosis looked at, I can find the best dermatologist. If I need SEO help, get me the world's best SEO person. If I need breast implants, I can find the best breast implanter in my area. Not the second-best or someone who will try really hard or someone who is pretty good at that and also good at other things. Sure, there are times when a diagnostician with wide-ranging experience is important (but I'd argue that that's a specialty in and of itself).

When choice is limited, you want a generalist. When selection is difficult, a jack of all trades is just fine.

But whenever possible, you will choose a brilliant specialist.

If you're shaking your head in agreement with this obvious point, then the question is: tell me again why you're a generalist?

Medspa MD: 9 Rules for Setting Your Prices




Setting prices for your medical spa or laser center?

Part guesswork, part experience, part number crunching - how ever you look at it, determining how much you're going to charge is a difficult task. Here are nine factors to take into consideration:


1. Your Costs
If your prices don't include enough just to break-even, you’re heading for trouble. Medical businesses are expensive to run. The best thing to do is add up all your costs so that you absolutely know how much you need to make each month. If you've made the mistake of paying your staff on commission, you'll need to figure all of this out as well.

Also make sure you factor in all the hidden costs of your business like insurance, services that never get paid for one reason or another, and everyone’s favourite - taxes.

2. Your Profit
Somewhat related to your costs, you should always consider how much money you are trying to make above breaking even. This is business after all. You will actually need to decide how much money you want to make.

3. Market Demand
Cosmetic medicine is in high demand, but the markets getting more and more competitive as well. You should be aiming to make your services more expensive. Conversely if there’s hardly any work around, you’ll need to cheapen up if you hope to compete. You're fortunate here in some respects. There are ways of maximizing physician time for where it's most needed, physician treatments and consultations.

4. Market Standards
It’s hard to know what others are charging, but try asking around. Find out what all the spas, medical spas, plastic surgeons, and dermatologists charge. The more you know about what others are charging and what services they provide for the money, the better you’ll know how you fit in to the market.

5. Demand level
If you're a plastic surgeon to the stars, you're going to be able to charge more. If you're a GP that's offering Botox twice a month, you're going to be charging less. You need to be realistic, not about what you think, but about what the marketing thinks. We all know that injecting Botox is not that hard, but the truth is that the market doesn't know that. You'll need to come to grips with what demand you can expect.

6. Experience
Although often bundled with skill, experience is a different factor altogether. You may have two very talented doctors, but one with more experience might have better client skills, be able to foresee problems (and thus save the client time and money), intuitively know what’s going to work for a certain audience and so on. Experience doesn't mean medical experience but a combination of medical and business experience. The markets acceptance of how much experience you have should affect how much you charge.

7. Your Business Strategy
Your strategy or your angle will make a huge difference to how you price yourself. Think about the difference between Revlon and Chanel, the two could make the same perfume but you would never expect to pay the same for both. Figure out how you are pitching yourself and use that to help determine if you are cheap’n'cheerful, high end or somewhere in between. (More on this in future posts.)

8. Your Services
What you provide for your clients will also make a big difference to your price tag. For example you might be a touchy-feely doc who will do whatever it takes to get a job just right, or perhaps you are on call 24-7, or perhaps you provide the minimum amount of communication to cut costs. Whatever the case, adjusting your pricing to the type and level of service you provide is a must. Surface charges a premium since we specialize. Generalists tend to have less pricing pull.

9. Who is Your Client
Your price will often vary for different clients. This happens for a few reasons. Some clients require more effort, some are riskier, some are repeat clients, some you'd do for free since they know everyone, some you wouldn’t want to go near with a stick. You should vary your price to account for these sorts of factors. While it's often assumed that only the rich are cosmetic patients, we all know that's not true. We have patients arrive in both limos and busses.

Give it lots of thought
Your pricing needs to be carefully thought out. I see a lot of physicians who set their prices on what the doc down the street is charging. There are a lot of docs who continually try to undercut the prices of everyone, exactly where you don't want to be. There can always be only one lowest price and the patient who will come to you based on price, will leave you just as fast.

Pricing isn't simple. You should keep an open mind about your ability to charge a premium. If you're charging too much or to little the market will tell you. Be receptive.