Your clinic’s #1
Your existing database of patients.
Getting your current patients to come into the clinic just once or twice more a year can have a dramatic effect on your practice’s revenue.
And because those patients already know, like and trust you, it is much easier to sell treatments to them than to brand-new leads, who have no prior relationship with you.
But what’s the best way to generate more repeat business from your patients?
We asked 11 owners of aesthetic practices, med spas, laser clinics and plastic surgery offices from across 3 continents for their best tips and techniques. Here’s what they said
1. Have an appropriate mix of treatments
If your core services are surgical treatments which patients will require only infrequently, you can’t rely on patient loyalty, says Dr Jhonny Salomon, an eminent plastic surgeon from Miami.
“If they come to you for a facelift, then 10 years later they want their nose done, they may or may not remember you,” he says.
Offer a careful mix of treatments, with plenty of “smaller” options like fillers, anti-wrinkle injections and non-invasive procedures which will keep patients coming back to the clinic regularly, in between surgeries.
“When people remember you for the small things, they’ll remember you for the big things too,” says Dr Salomon.
2. Get patients onto long-term plans
Don’t just treat the initial issue that your patients come in with.
Instead, get them onto long-term care plans, says Dr Shobhan Manoharan, owner of Brisbane Skin.
This ‘locks in’ their business and provides predictable, regular income for you.
Just as importantly, it allows you to deliver a better service, looking at patients’ needs holistically and making sure that the results you achieve for them are maintained.
“Skin never ends,” says Dr Manoharan, whose four clinics specialize in dermatology. “Our maintenance plans include skin care, in-house services, skin cancer checks, low-level and high-level aesthetic treatments and medical care.”
The key for patients
is to set expectations early.
“When they come in for their first treatment, we discuss their initial plan,” says Dr Manoharan. “But we always add that once they are healed up or the initial issue is sorted out, they will need maintenance, and we’ll be discussing that a few weeks or months down the line.”
Getting your doctors and other clinicians on board. If they are not business-oriented, they may not fully understand that this is a priority. So educate them, and teach them to build a great long-term plan, as well.
Dr Vincent Wong also gets patients on a long-term treatment plan.
He gets their buy-in early on by asking them to fill in a questionnaire before they see him, explaining the main issue they would like to address, but also outlining their general goals for their skin and for their appearance.
The form includes a box they can tick, giving him permission to discuss everything they would like to achieve – not just the primary issue they originally intended to discuss.
“This way, we can explore all their issues and formulate a long-term plan – because they’ve given me permission,” he says.
Dr Martyn King, owner of Cosmedic Clinic and Chair of the Aesthetic Complications Expert Group, takes a similar approach.
He has a pre-payment plan, which allows patients to pay a monthly fee, and get core skin like anti-wrinkle injections and skin peels “whenever they’re ready”.
“People don’t abuse it,” he says. “Maybe they come in every three months for their next treatment rather than every four, but if you do a good treatment, it will last.”
It’s very popular with patients, accounting for around 25% of the clinic’s revenue.
3. Monitor your customer service
Almost every owner we spoke to emphasised the need for outstanding customer service.
“If you consistently greet your patients warmly, share your knowledge, provide a great treatment, give them reassurance and follow-up frequently, they’ll have no reason to go anywhere else,” says Deb Farnworth-Wood, founder of the Australian Skin Clinics franchise, which she grew to over 60 locations before selling.
To make sure that your team delivers this standard of care with every single patient, every time.
protocols of how to treat the client every step of the way,” says
Then check to ensure that the systems you have set up are being followed.
“Managers can’t see half the process because it’s behind closed doors,” she says. “You need to measure it. Phone up and ask patients what their experience was really like. Did the aesthetician do X, Y and Z?”
Jan Birch, owner of Blemish Clinic, agrees the systems need to be transparent and with an audit trail.
“It’s really important that your clinic works well operationally,” she says. If it doesn’t, patients can be put off and you will lose out on repeat business.
Even small details – like an appointment system which doesn’t work smoothly, or a wrong greeting in an email – can annoy and alienate patients.
“We audit regularly to know where we are, surveying patients twice a year. It’s important for us to know all feedback, otherwise how can we turn negatives into positives, and improve?”
In fact, says Dr Paul Baguley of Define Cosmetic Surgery, most clinics do well on customer service, so it is these little details that make the difference.
“For me, it was about being approachable. I trained in Canada, where surgeons are called ‘doctor’, but practice in the UK where we’re called ‘Mr’. I thought patients could relate better to ‘doctor’ so I use that title. It’s a small change in focus, but you have to find the small gains.”
4. Stay in touch between treatments
Patients need to feel that you care and are thinking of them, not just when they’re in the clinic, but in between as well.
“I check up on my patients even once I’ve finished their treatments, not necessarily to say ‘come back in’, but to genuinely care and to genuinely reach out,” she says.
“If they comment on social media, I’ll drop a comment back to them, asking how they’re getting on. I like emailing people if I haven’t heard from them for a while. Some people might find this tedious but it’s my secret sauce!”
Not only does this keep you ‘top of mind’, but the outreach often prompts business directly.
“Quite often, I’ll reach out to someone and say I hope they’re well, and they’ll get back to me asking for an appointment for themselves – or even for their partner,” she laughs…
5. Market heavily to your existing patients
Most clinics are focused on bringing in new leads, and don’t market intensely enough to their existing leads.
The best and easiest way to reach them?
Your email database. It’s likely that you have 5,000….. 15,000… or even 25,000 or more names of patients, former patients and other contacts, who can be reached without spending an extra cent on advertising.
If you’re not using this database to communicate regularly, you’re leaving tens or even hundreds of dollars on the table.
Focus on this, before investing heavy resources in online advertising. It might mean shifting your thinking around what “marketing” really means, but ultimately, generating repeat business from existing patients will always be a faster, easier and cheaper way to raise your revenue than targeting new patients.
Editor’s note: To see how one clinic generated an additional $183,000 using this strategy, click here.
6. Perfect your consultation process
“A comprehensive assessment and consultation is a magic thing,” says Constance Campion, founder of the London Wellness Centre in the exclusive Kensington neighborhood.
Done right, it is an opportunity to build an unrivalled relationship with your patients – one which will turn them into your patients for life.
“Everything starts with this,” she says.
“In just a few minutes, you can connect
with each other. You need to build an environment where the patients will not
be intimidated, and will feel safe exploring whether they want to change
“And you need to make sure they feel they are in the safe hands of medical practitioner, so don’t dumb down the medical side of any procedure.”
Gradually, says Campion, they’ll open up and share details of their life, creating intimacy between you.
“I’ll know if people are pregnant, if they are thinking of emigrating and if they’re having 30 people round that weekend. And I’ll ask them about it, next time I see them.
“You need to show your patients that you see them as a person, beyond the procedure they came in to discuss – that’s the strongest element patients pick up on.”
To build up this trust, Campion encourages patients to come in for as many consults as they feel are necessary, before committing to a procedure.
Many clinics rush their consultations for financial reasons, or put patients under pressure to buy products, says Florina Borsan of Eve Clinics. This undermines the long-term relationship with your patients.
You need to give your staff enough time to run an effective consult.
“The key is to make patients feel unique,” she says. “That means really listening to them – and that takes time.
“I allot between 30 minutes and 1 hour per consultation. You can’t do it in less and I would never ask staff to. This isn’t a car-engine check-up, it’s a person!”
7. Say ‘no’ to patients when necessary
Honesty is the best policy – and when it comes to your patients, it can lead to repeat business.
“Never, ever tell them anything that isn’t
in their best interests,” says Dr Gavin
Chan of Victorian
Cosmetic Institute. “You have to be 100% honest, frank and transparent in
all your advice to them.”
Often, he says, this means telling them the opposite of what they wanted or were expecting to hear. And it can also mean refusing to give them the treatments which they came in for, and really want, if it will harm their appearance.
“I recently had a patient asking for huge lips, when it would have been out of all proportion to the rest of her face,” he explains. “I wouldn’t do it, and explained why in a nice way. On her next visit, she asked me to dissolve her lip filler entirely.
“It sounds counter-intuitive, but when you say ‘no’, it builds trust because the patient knows that you have their best interests at heart. I hope that patient will be returning to us for many years.”
8. Last but not least…. Offer great results
This one goes without saying, because it is the most basic, important principle of them all – but we’ll say it anyway.
If you want your patients to come back time and again, you need to offer high-quality results.
And stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques. There is higher awareness amongst patients than ever before, says Dr Baguley, and they will expect you to be at the forefront of the industry.
Miriam Shaviv helps aesthetic clinics get your patients through your doors again and again, so you can quickly grow your revenue without the headache of online advertising. Check out this video case study to learn about the 3-step system that helped one practice generate an additional $183,000 from a patient database of just 3,000 people.