There’s nothing more useless to the business of plastic surgery than the practice of narcissism. Self-adoration only leads to misinterpretation. The fact of the matter is that no matter how well you know your market, you are NOT your client. You don’t think like her, you don’t behave like her and you don’t have the same preferences as her; and that’s why you should not make decisions as if you were her.

Indulge me in telling you a couple of stories first.

I was sitting with a prospective client—a plastic surgeon who was in the middle of opening up a new surgical suite and setting up his business identity. He showed me a logo design and website layout. I looked at it and could see, from a technical standpoint, where they had failed. The logo was ugly, but that really has little importance at the end of the day. The bigger problem was that it would reproduce poorly and be hard to work with on business cards and his website. His website was nothing special and was completely centered on him. The color was unremarkable, and the layout was not conducive to pulling the reader through to a logical conclusion. I mentioned these to him and told him that he should hire someone to do it properly for him, to which he replied, “Well, I like them” (implying that he had no intention of changing them).

What a stupid answer that was.

Another time, I had a client who was convinced that his office staff knew what products to buy and services to add to the practice because they were young girls and users of the services themselves, things like laser treatments, eyelash products and skin creams. On the face of it, that seems logical, right? Not exactly. I’ll explain why it’s not later. First let me tell you what happened in that practice.

In spite of my repeated objections, the practice continued this way for years. I finally ended up severing that client relationship out of frustration; but, of course, he kept his office manager and receptionists. Things went relatively okay while the economy was good and sales came easily, but that didn’t last long.

A couple of years after we parted ways, and in the middle of a recession, I happened to be invited to an industry event for the launch of a new skin line. His office manager and staff were also attending, by coincidence. The presentation went off without a hitch, and the big-name dermatologist that was presenting his line did an excellent job of selling the crowd on the merits of it. About two weeks later, my former client had removed all the previous products from his website and exclusively carried the new line.

Now, he isn’t the only one in the city that sells it or anything; it had nothing to do with any business advantage. What happened was that his office manager is in her twenties and not too bright. She’s very impressionable and it doesn’t take much to wow her. She attended the event and was sold on the products and that doctor’s celebrity, and then convinced the owner, who trusts her because of her loyalty, to scrap the old lines and bring in the new. What a horrible move that was. You should never make a decision on completely switching up your line on the whim of a twenty-year-old airhead.

That practice is still in business, but it’s a fraction of what it used to be. While I was there, we dominated the market; now they have fallen far behind.

There are several problems with making these kinds of myopic business practices. 

1. What your staff likes isn’t necessarily what will sell. And your staff is not qualified to set strategy for your practice.

Your staff has certain preferences and biases. They may like a product because the rep is extra nice from that company and rude from the other. They might use a laser service because you offer it to them at a steep staff discount. Even if it works for them, it may not be the thing the public buys. After all, the public doesn’t get staff discounts. A funny thing happens when something goes from free to $400 a session. No matter how much someone loves a FREE thing, they won’t necessarily pay for it when it comes out of their own pocket.

Your staff is also IN the business, so they know, and see, things that get them to make decisions differently than your prospective patients. They’re simply too close to things to be objective or behave like your consumer. Just because they use a $200 eyelash lengthener because they get one every month for free from the maker, is not an indication that your patients will be willing to fork out $200 for longer lashes every couple of months. Relying on your staff to tell you what to do with your practice is irresponsible and just plain wrong. YOU have to be in charge of strategy, not them. And you can’t do it by the seat of your pants. You need to do what actually works, not what you think will work. And please, please, please don’t rely on their over-exaggerated opinions. If you hear “A lot of” before any statement from your staff, it’s almost certainly only one or two at the most. I’ve heard one incident get stretched to “A lot of” far too many times in cosmetic practices. If there’s one thing staff love, it’s unnecessary drama.

2. Just because you’re the doctor, it doesn’t mean you’re the expert on everything.

You have a certain set of skills and you should stick to them. Just because you made it through medical school and are very intelligent, it doesn’t mean you can pick up a welding torch and turn your car into a convertible. (Unless you’re into that kind of thing, of course. To each his own. And if you can convert your car, you probably suck big time at something else unrelated.)

What you focus on is what you’ll be good at—and you’re good at medical aesthetics. Unless you’re in the business of designing logos on a regular basis, don’t. If you’re not a web developer, don’t try to code your site. If you’re not a marketer, stop trying to market, and get help. Not only is it a stupendous misuse of your time, but you could also be WAY off the mark with what you’re doing.

Your opinion is not the market opinion. You know far too much about what you do to be objective. You’ve attended dozens of lectures and talked to countless colleagues about your techniques. You perform surgery or injections for profit, and to satisfy your own desires for perfection and status. Your patient is not there for YOUR reasons. She’s buying your services for HER reason, and you cannot guess at them from your side of the table. If you do something because YOU think it’s right, it’s probably not. It’s not because you’re dumb and incompetent, it’s because you’re not a buyer of your services. You’re just to close to it all. You’re on the inside looking out.

These are the only valid ways to make a decision on what to do.

1. Listen to the market.

Listening to the market is the golden rule for business. Marketers can tell you, until they’re blue in the face, that they know what’s going to work; and they’d be lying. As a marketer, I know where the starting line is. I know where to stand to give you an advantage in the race and make sure you’re not running in the opposite direction. But even I can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen once you start running. That’s why we test.

Everything from your ads to your position needs to be tested. Once your strategy is in place, it’s the only way to know if things are working and getting better. It’s the only way to continuously improve.

You can’t make arbitrary decisions based on personal opinion. Your opinion doesn’t matter! The only thing that matters is the MARKET’S opinion. What the buyer does is the only thing of importance. She votes with her wallet, and that’s all that matters. Stroking your ego, or that of your staff, is not the way to grow a practice. Learn to put your opinion aside and observe what the consumer does instead.

2. Use a proven system.

There is one exception to rule #1: when you have access to insider information that’s already been tested in other markets, with the same kinds of business as your own. In my marketing book, I disclose our proven formula for growing practices. It’s based on years of finding out what works through testing and observing what the consumer reacts to.

This kind of insider system is the only exception to rule number one, but it’s not a substitute. It gives you a distinct advantage over your competitors because you’re plugging into something that’s proven to work across multiple practices.

Even with our system, however, we still test. We’re constantly working to improve and then move the learning across our other clients’ businesses. Because we only take on one client per area exclusively, there is no downside to our approach. Your competitor never gets access to the same system while you work with us.

You’re not the patient. If you’re not testing and doing what actually works, you’ll just be feeding your ego, not your bank account.

“There is nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency something that should not be done at all.” 
―Peter F. Drucker