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    Cut your fees to retain patients who may steer clear of expensive procedures otherwise


    Wendy Lewis
    Cosmetic practice marketing experts are hesitant to use the term "price reductions," but they're quick to point out that, in today's economy "value" is key, and recommend that cosmetic surgeons find creative ways to retain patients who are shying away from the big ticket procedures — whether by cutting fees, offering alternatives, bundling services, offering volume discounts or providing incentives with coupons.

    BE STRATEGIC "I think everybody is hurting [financially]; it's just a matter of degree," says Wendy Lewis, president, Wendy Lewis & Co., Ltd., global consultants, based in New York City. "I've heard [cosmetic surgeons' business is down] from 10 percent to 45 percent in some markets."

    Cosmetic surgeons, in particular, have to tread lightly when it comes to reducing their fees to stir business, cautions Cheryl Whitman, CEO, Beautiful Forever Medical Spa Aesthetic Business Consulting, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, and Boca Raton, Fla.

    Cheryl Whitman
    "The truth of the matter is that cosmetic surgeons have to be careful about dropping prices. What's important is that the patient has a high-quality outcome and, sometimes, dropping the prices will actually cause the loss of the sale. Many patients equate quality and price and feel that you get what you pay for," Ms. Whitman says.

    Surgeons, these experts tell Cosmetic Surgery Times, should be sensitive to cost concerns without cheapening their services. When it comes to the bigger surgeries, such as facelifts, they say that you still cannot put a price tag on experience. Surgeons who have built their reputations on surgical excellence generally have fees that reflect their expertise and should keep those fees where they are.

    BE CREATIVE Ms. Lewis suggests that cosmetic surgeons should instead become more competitive on the noninvasive procedures, such as injections, fillers, laser treatments and peels. "For example, Botox may not be the treatment that gives you the most profit, but it is getting people in the door," Ms. Lewis says. "Why not have a lost leader? And I'm not saying to slash prices, but maybe instead of doing three areas of Botox for $1,400, make it more competitive and start the first area at $400, the second at $300 and offer a little more sensitivity to volume discounts."

    Angela O'Mara
    Creativity aside, Angela O'Mara, president of The Professional Image, says the bulk of cosmetic surgeons — 90 percent — should not lower prices even in this market. "I think we have 90 percent of surgeons who have prices that they feel are fair prices and they practice at profit level. I think that we have 10 percent of surgeons who are charging astronomical prices to begin with and they may need to come down and be more realistic with the economy," Ms. O'Mara says. "But I think, overall, currently doctors are charging what they think is fair market value for their level of expertise."

    Ms. O'Mara also makes the point that food prices are going up and that Fed Ex and UPS have increased prices. Something as serious as surgery should not be discounted, she says. Instead, Ms. O'Mara says surgeons should be sensitive to meeting patients' needs for the short-term, until they are willing to pay for the invasive surgeries. Instead of a facelift, for example, a cosmetic surgeon might suggest fillers and Botox. "There's a short-term fix for your patient's current concern. [Surgeons should tell patients]...why not look at the six-month picture until the economy stabilizes and puts you in a position where you are more comfortable spending the money," she suggests.


    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton is a writer in Boca Raton, Fla., who heads up her company, Words Come Alive.


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