Patients on a budget: How to meet their needs without cutting prices
The news is currently full of phrases like ‘recession’, ‘inflation’, and ‘cost of living crisis’; this can be a worry for any business, and you may well be concerned when your aesthetic patients try to save money.
In this blog, Dr Tim Pearce looks at the current financial climate and the likelihood of recession. He shares his expert advice on how you can meet the needs of your patients who are on a budget, continue to retain business, and why the last thing you should consider doing is cutting your prices.
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Why you should not worry about any talk of recession
When it comes to things that people spend their money on, medical aesthetics is very different – it is called the lipstick effect.
This is a phenomenon that can be traced back to the Second World War in Europe and the Great Depression in the USA, when lipstick sales were maintained even whilst people were struggling to support and feed themselves, highlighting how important appearance is to survival.
Dr Tim regularly discusses this on his educational videos explaining that appearance is not superficial, but a very important mechanism by which we engage with others, and people do value their appearance highly, even if they do not admit to it out loud. Correspondingly, people will continue to maintain their appearance throughout a recession, however, affordability and value are two distinct things. They may not be able to afford some, or all the things they want, but they will still want to maintain their appearance and value the spend they make, but do so on a budget.
A paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called Boosting Beauty in an Economic Decline: Mating, Spending, and the Lipstick Effect notes that,
“Although consumer spending typically declines in economic recessions, some observers have noted that recessions appear to increase women’s spending on beauty products—the so-called lipstick effect…Findings revealed that recessionary cues…decreased desire for most products (e.g., electronics, household items). However, these cues consistently increased women’s desire for products that increase attractiveness to mates…this effect is driven by women’s desire to attract mates with resources…”
Patient needs are not the same as treatment requests
You must develop strategies to help you to manage patients who are on a budget. The aim is to meet your patients’ needs to the highest level possible whilst still fitting within the limitations of their affordability.
Starting with a thorough consultation will help you to elucidate both your patients’ requirements and what they can afford. Remember, needs are not the same as treatment requests.
Understand their emotional necessities and what they are hoping to achieve from any treatment you may perform, rather than simply listening to their menu-style treatment request, which they may not require, and which may blow their budget. Do they want to feel more confident in certain situations? Do they want to achieve a change or difference in their appearance, to stand-out perhaps? Or are they looking to get rid of something that is holding them back? Then you can work out what is affordable and meets those emotional needs.
Why you should not cut your prices
This may well be the first thing you consider doing when recession bites, it tends to be the most obvious business move, often done in a panic, but as Dr Tim notes, cutting prices is not a good strategic move. It creates a bad result for your business for one important reason – you will be cutting your profit no matter what. You may assume that you will get more patients as a result but that is not always true, however, you will instantly undermine the amount of profit you make.
Of course, to many independent practitioners, profit is a dirty word, they think it is something that is slightly greedy, something to feel guilty about if they make too much profit. In fact, all businesses need profit to survive. It is there to protect you from the days when things slow down, when you have not got as many patients coming in, or to reinvest in research and development for new treatments or new training that you need to keep up to date with the continuously moving field of medical aesthetics, or to cover an unexpected or unanticipated bill; you must have some profit retained to protect your business. If you cut your prices, you will need to do a lot more work to generate the same levels of profit and protection, and that is not a good strategy for any business.
Therefore, you need to work towards meeting your patients’ needs for less money, but for the same profit margins.
8 steps for consulting patients who are on a budget
- Articulate with your patients their underlying emotional requirements and how they think treatment will meet those needs.
Get some top tips for managing a proper consultation by reading, treating a patient with a medical aesthetic intervention, how to manage patient expectations and avoid complaints like a pro, and how to say “no” to an aesthetic patient without making them angry.
- Understand their aesthetic focus.
What do they see in the mirror – after much reflection – that really bugs them, or what it is that they believe will make them look more attractive.
- Offer a facial assessment.
Look for ways to maximise their emotional needs whilst explaining what might be associated with the words that they have used to describe their problem. Use your facial assessment to make them conscious of the things that you can improve whilst observing what piques their interest and makes them inclined to want that treatment.
- Make it clear that this is a relative improvement.
We are not aiming for perfection with the treatment but are making a step in that direction.
- Tell them how much it would cost to do everything you have suggested as if the budget was unlimited.
It is helpful for patients to understand the cost of the full spectrum of treatments; if you start by focusing only on what you think they can afford, you quite often give them the impression that they have bought the best thing for the solution to their problem. This way they will know that there are additional treatment options on top of what you may choose to recommend that might provide a better or augmented solution.
- Help them to choose a budget that makes them feel comfortable.
This includes reassuring them that you understand that there are many financial pressures and worries in the current climate, but that you are aiming to work towards an affordable treatment plan that will allow you to meet realistic expectations together to achieve a happy outcome.
- Discuss the problems they have relayed to you, in order of priority to them, alongside the treatments that you recommend as a solution within their affordability.
Be mindful to ensure that you do not give them the idea that this is a complete solution, have them validate their understanding. For example, if they are looking for cheek augmentation but cannot afford the quantity of dermal filler required, you can explain that you can increase definition of the area, but without the fullness that a larger volume would provide. As well as explanations in words, remember to use visual tools like mirrors and photographs to get your point across. If they fail to response positively, understand the difference the affordable treatment will make to them, or validate its worth, you should not do the treatment to avoid future disappointment.
- Never carry out an aesthetic treatment that you do not think will provide a psychological benefit to the patient.
The real outcome from treatment is an internal transformation, the patient must feel differently after treatment.
Read part two of our blog to find out ways that you can adjust your treatments and techniques to meet the needs of patients on lower budgets.
You can find Dr Tim Pearce on Instagram if you have a question that you want him to answer on running an aesthetic practice.
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Aesthetics Mastery Show
For more insight, watch the latest episode of the Aesthetics Mastery Show, where Dr Tim shares his expert advice on how you can meet the needs of your patients on a budget, retain business, and why cutting your prices is the WORST move strategically..
Aesthetics marketing and business resources
You may find the following resources helpful – they’re free to download on our website
- 5 Steps to Create a Successful Aesthetics Business
- Annual Profit Calculator
- Value Audit Template: Price-per-1ml
Dr Tim Pearce eLearning
Dr Tim Pearce MBChB BSc (Hons) MRCGP founded his eLearning concept in 2016 in order to provide readily accessible BOTOX® and dermal filler online courses for fellow Medical Aesthetics practitioners. His objective was to raise standards within the industry – a principle which remains just as relevant today.
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