Patient Motivation for Scheduling Facial Plastic Surgery – What Works Best?

patient motivation, facial plastic surgery, practice marketing, marketing strategiesAs every doctor knows, patient motivation can be a real challenge.  If you’re a facial plastic surgeon, practice manager or patient consultant, finding the right marketing strategies to encourage patients to get procedures they clearly need is not always easy.  As this article will demonstrate, psychology based marketing strategies can really help.  Well-established social psychology principles taught by experts like Dr. Elliot Aronson and Dr. Robert Cialdini work well in encouraging prospective facial plastic surgery patients to move forward with procedures that can improve both their looks and their lives.

Patients benefit a lot from improving their appearance – especially their facial appearance.  Both day to day experience and scientific research bear this out. Dateline NBC interviewed Dr. Gordon Patzer, Dean of the College of Business Administration at Roosevelt University. He summed up 30 years of research results on the social impact of appearance:

People are valued more who are higher in physical attractiveness.

As highlighted in the LookYounger.News article, “Improving your Appearance – Could It Improve your Income?good-looking people enjoy substantial advantages in hiring for most jobs as well as in sales performance.  Clearly, those who can afford a facial rejuvenation procedure do themselves a favor by consulting with a qualified facial plastic surgeon.

Larry Rondeau, Principal at Rondeau Resources, is also Publisher and Managing Editor of LookYounger.News.  His research-based strategies increased sales closing rates by up to 83% at a large nationwide facial plastic surgery practice. Arizona State University Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Psychology Dr. Robert Cialdini, a world renowned expert, wrote:  “I have been impressed in our previous correspondence with the depth of insight Larry Rondeau demonstrated in the arena of persuasion/social influence.”

patient motivation, facial plastic surgery, medical practice marketing, marketing strategies

Unfortunately, a number of skilled facial plastic surgeons are not reaping the benefits of providing members of their communities with a much needed service.    They deserve to have waiting rooms full of eager patients.  This, however, is not always the case.

Facial plastic surgeons and practice managers alike may wonder, “How can I motivate more patients to schedule procedures they clearly need?”  Fortunately, highly qualified social psychologists have worked for 50 years to understand the factors that move people to make decisions and take action.  We’ll discuss one of the most powerful here.

What moves people to action?

We all have things we know we need to do – lose weight, save more for retirement, improve our diet, and the list goes on.  But knowing we need to do something and actually doing it are often two very different things.  What can motivate people to do something they clearly need to do?

energy audit, patient motivation, marketing strategiesThe answer was demonstrated years ago during an energy crisis in California.  Energy audits revealed that many homeowners had failed to weatherize their homes.  This resulted, not only in heat leaking out of the house during the winter, but air conditioning in the summer as well.  Wasted electricity drove up usage and contributed significantly to the state’s energy crisis.  Energy auditors speaking to homeowners emphasized the substantial savings weatherizing their homes could bring.  But only a small percentage of homeowners actually insulated and weatherstripped their houses.

Eminent social psychologist Dr. Elliot Aronson stepped in.  This Stanford and University of California professor used the results of previous studies to improve homeowner participation in the state’s weatherizing incentive programs.  A renowned researcher , Dr. Aronson set up a controlled study to test the power of Loss Framing, vivid communication and the Consistency Principle* to move homeowners to action.  While half of the energy auditors continued to emphasize what homeowners could gain by weatherizing, the other half were trained to stress– in very vivid terms – what they were losing by not doing it.   They were instructed to tell homeowners something like this:

Look at all the cracks around that door!  It may not seem like much to you, but if you were to add up all the cracks around each of these doors, you’d have the equivalent of a hole the size of a basketball.  Suppose someone poked a hole the size of a basketball in your living room wall.  Think of all the heat you’d be losing from a hole that size – you’d want to patch that hole in your wall, wouldn’t you?  That’s exactly what weatherstripping does.

And your attic totally lacks insulation.  We professionals call that a “naked” attic.  It’s as if your home is facing winter not just without an overcoat, but without any clothing at all!  You wouldn’t let your young kids run around outside in the wintertime without clothes on, would you?  It’s the same with your attic.

The results?  The vivid negative message was four times more effective.  Here are the final numbers:

          Standard Positive Message                         15% weatherized their houses

          Vivid Negative Message                                61% weatherized their houses

Psychologists refer to negative messaging that tells people what they’re going to lose as Loss Framing (framing a message to emphasize the actual or potential loss).  This technique has been effectively employed in the medical field as well.

Renowned influence expert and researcher Dr. Robert Cialdini, my personal mentor, stated in his classic, Influence: Science and Practice:

patient motivation, smoking, wrinkles, facial plastic surgery, marketing strategiesPamphlets advising young women to check for breast cancer through self-examination are significantly more successful if they state their case in terms of what stands to be lost rather than gained (Meyerwitz & Chaiken, 1987).

In a similar vein, physicians’ letters to smokers describing the number of years of life that will be lost if they don’t quit are more effective than letters describing the number of years that will be gained if they do quit (Wilson, Kaplan, & Schneiderman, 1987; Wilson, Purdon, & Wallston, 1988).

Loss Framing in Facial Plastic Surgery practice marketing

Telling someone what they’re going to lose if they don’t do something necessary is obviously effective. But even a valuable tool like Loss Framing must be used very carefully in a facial plastic surgery setting.

patient motivation, marketing strategies, facial plastic surgery, practice marketingClearly, no doctor, practice manager or sales consultant should use Loss Framing to denigrate prospective patients, telling them how old or homely aging has made them look.

However, what they can do is to ask the patient what they’d like to change about their face or neck.  Then they can ask them how seeing their face or neck aging makes them feel.  Showing genuine concern, draw them out.  Ask them if they feel that anyone has treated them differently because they’re looking older.  Then ask them to describe a typical situation like that.  Finally, show them how a procedure can help them look and feel better.

At the large facial plastic surgery practice where I worked teaching ethical, psychology-based sales techniques, one particular Loss Framing tool got excellent results.  It is totally ethical and acceptable to patients.  And it worked outstandingly well in moving prospective patients to schedule procedures.

Like to know what worked so well?  Contact me to set up a time to seriously discuss LookYounger.News membership or working together on other projects and I’ll be happy to share it with you.


Please share this article with colleagues at your or other facial plastic surgery practices.           

*See “The Psychology of Patient Referrals – Part Two” on this site.

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