We commonly are asked by plastic surgeons: “What should I charge?” This is a valid question that certainly warrants careful consideration, but a more important question must first be answered: Who are you?
You see, before you can consider your pricing and other details about your practice, you must first establish your brand identity. Then, use your brand to drive the other decisions.
When talking about brand in our Aesthetic Surgery Workshops, we find that using retail analogies are quite helpful, so let’s start there. Let me tell you about the shopping experience of Anna and Debbie.
Anna and Debbie are close friends, both in their 30’s, divorced, and figuring out together how to be single again. Each are well-established business professionals with thriving careers who also care about their aesthetic appearance.
Debbie has a penchant for luxury brand clothing, and she spent several months working a second job to save for a Burberry trench coat she’s seen in the window. The coat cost around $2,000. When she had the money saved, Debbie and Anna headed to the Burberry store to make the purchase.
They walked into the store and were immediately greeted by an elegantly dressed sales associate. Looking around, they saw purses carefully displayed under spotlights, as though they were art exhibits. Small racks of clothing were strategically positioned around the store in a way that gave the room an open, uncrowded feel.
Debbie told the sales associate that she was there to purchase a classic trench coat, and the associate immediately took them the carefully staged area for trying on coats. There was a full length mirror with “just-right” lighting and a comfortable sofa for guest seating. After a few short questions, the sales associate brought Debbie three coats to try for style and size. While Debbie tried on the coats, the sales associated engaged her in friendly conversation and learned about her recent divorce and that Debbie had been saving for the coat for a few months.
When Debbie made her selection, the sales associate took the coat to the back to have it wrapped. She returned with a bottle of champagne and two glasses for Debbie and Anna. You see, the sales associate recognized that this was more than a coat purchase; it was Debbie’s way of stepping back into her independence. And that was something to be celebrated. The coat was carefully wrapped in tissue paper, placed in an elegant box, and then in a shopping bag. A short while later, Debbie and Anna left the store smiling from ear to ear and feeling like royalty.
The experience was so exciting that Anna was inspired to also purchase a trench coat but acknowledged that Burberry was out of her budget. So the two made their way through the mall to Nordstrom. They walked into the large, multi-level store filled with racks of clothing. After wandering through the fluorescent lit store looking for the right department, they found where the coats were located.
Anna shuffled through the racks of jackets, tried on a few in front of the small mirror hanging on the end of the rack, and finally selected a $200 London Fog trench coat. Though it was more than she had ever spent on a jacket, it was within her budget and she felt confident wearing it. It fit her well and would serve her purpose. She carried it to the register where a bored sales associate processed the transaction and quickly folded the coat and shoved it into a shopping bag. There was no champagne, no sense of excitement.
Both Debbie and Anna left the mall that day happy with their purchases. Their coats were functionally and even stylistically similar, but the price they paid and the shopping experiences were vastly different.
You see, both Burberry and London Fog trench coats have a place in the market and a target customer. Neither brand is “right” or “wrong” about how they priced their product or where and how they sell it. Burberry can sell $2,000 trench coats because they built a luxurious experience around it. London Fog will sell a higher volume of their more affordable coats in stores like Nordstrom coat without the pomp and circumstance. Both retailers have been around for decades and have loyal customers.
So I return to the question: Who are you? If you don’t like or know the answer, then ask yourself: Who do you want to be? There is a place in the aesthetic market for low priced, high volume plastic surgeons, as there is for premium priced surgeons. But you cannot be both. As Karen Zupko often reminds surgeons: You are not everyone’s plastic surgeon.
In an Entrepreneur magazine article, contributing author John Williams said, “Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’.”
Establish your brand identity first and then set your prices, determine how and where to promote your services, and create an office culture and patient experience that matches. Know thy brand and remain true to it. Don’t fret about what your perceived competitors are doing or not doing. Be confident and purposeful in exactly who you are.