How to Fight Against Becoming a Medical Commodity

A little while ago, I was driving to visit with a client and heard an ad on the radio that I could scarcely believe. A new plastic surgery practice had recently opened its doors and now they were going for the jugular. “Board-certified physicians offering breast augmentations for $1500 and Botox for $50! We also offer 100% financing plans… so stop putting off looking great any longer!” The ad sounded exactly like a used car salesman’s pitch. In my mind I imagined some of those women who appeared on the Jerry Springer show — the ones with blue eye shadow and three-year-old perms — clawing at each other and yanking each other’s hair to make a beeline for this doctor’s office. Let them. Surely anyone with half a brain would realize one of two things:

  1. This offer was a complete scam. They’d be lured in there on price, but the reality is the actual price would of course be much higher, or,
  2. The physician(s) performing the surgery were completely unqualified which, sadly, would be evident in the results or in complications from the procedures, or both.

Or maybe people wouldn’t realize either of these sad facts at all. Instead, they’d go ahead and book a consult with these doctors and maybe a couple others — pitting the more qualified ones against each other to get them to reduce their prices. Meanwhile, these people have just wasted the valuable time of the other aesthetic physicians in town who are extremely skilled and, instead of wasting their precious time with “tire kickers”, could have been seeing a patient who understood and appreciated their skill and dedication to their profession.

Is it such a stretch to think that companies like Costco or even Walmart might soon be throwing their hats into the aesthetic medicine ring? Costco already sells burial caskets, health insurance, travel adventures and $50,000 diamond rings.

Could fillers, Botox and rhinoplasty be next?

It’s certainly possible, which is why it’s more important than ever to distinguish your practice from those of your peers, as quickly and as effectively as possible.

My experience shows that people don’t understand what “board-certified” actually means, or the difference between a cosmetic surgeon and a plastic surgeon, or even that anyone in a white coat and a medical degree is legally “qualified” to perform any kind of cosmetic procedure.

In other words, people view aesthetic procedures as just another commodity. One that should be “price-shopped” for the best deal. The good news is that, of course, not everyone buys on price. However, unless your marketing is doing an excellent job of positioning your practice and showing people why you are the best at what you do, you’re going to keep coming up against price resistance.

So how can you change this? By following these 5 simple rules when it comes to marketing your medical practice:

  1. Understand that the strength and power of your marketing message is king. Words are the most powerful weapons we have. If you don’t have a compelling marketing message and clearly worded unique selling proposition, it doesn’t matter how “pretty” or technically savvy your website is, people are going to view your services as completely interchangeable with that cheaper doctor down the road. It’s far more effective to have a powerful marketing message with an average website, than a “powerful” website with an average message.
  2. Stop using any marketing that is “cookie cutter” and makes you look the same as your competition. If your practice brochures or your website could have your logo switched out for someone else’s and no one would be any the wiser, your practice is being marketed like a medical commodity. Please know this is not your fault. It’s because the approach of many marketing agencies is basically “template-based” — they sign up new clients and cut-and-paste the content almost verbatim.
  3. Get very clear about what makes your practice better and different. If you can’t come up with anything, then get some help and hire a consultant. Chances are you’ve got diamonds in your own backyard that you didn’t even realize you had!
  4. If you end up with an extremely price-aggressive competitor, there are many ways that you can combat their advertising effectively, without having to reduce your own prices. One of the best ways is to launch your own campaign — one that doesn’t openly refer to your competitors but educates people about the perils of making a bad decision, and positions your practice as being the solution. (This has to be done carefully to ensure your messaging doesn’t sound like empty rhetoric — you want to build rapport and trust with prospective patients.)
  5. Another way to prevent your practice from being viewed as a medical commodity is to start doing things differently with your marketing. Use ads that look completely different than your competitors’. Give your patients a completely unique (surprise) experience when they visit. Have a website that is story-based instead of fact-based, that helps people feel like they already know you before they’ve even set foot in your practice.

Marketing today is about setting yourself apart from the crowd and creating relationships. The more you can build trust and rapport with your patients and prospective patients, the more you can position yourself as the expert in your field — the more your target market will actually start coming to you, and happily pay more for your services!