Pearls of Practice: A Brand Apart
Written by Dana Fox and edited by John Everson. Pp. 226. American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Arlington Heights, Ill. 2008. Price: $55.
In today's challenging economic times, many plastic surgeons are re-evaluating their practices to see how they can improve their position in the plastic surgery marketplace. A Brand Apart by Dana Fox attempts to provide a “how-to” on marketing the plastic surgery practice. The premise of the book is that in the modern, highly competitive marketplace clinical excellence alone is not enough to guarantee a highly successful practice. The marketplace for cosmetic medicine is crowded with both physicians and nonphysicians offering their services. The plastic surgeon must differentiate himself from the others with a targeted cohesive message that is focused on well-researched marketing, using all media outlets available.
The book is divided into 12 chapters that serve to demonstrate the importance of marketing and advertising in developing the modern cosmetic surgery practice. The book also contains appendices that contain a marketing term glossary and American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) code of ethics and symbol use guidelines. The ASPS has also endorsed the book. The initial two chapters serve to provide the necessary background on the changes in the cosmetic surgery marketplace and the need for advertising and marketing. She states that as insurance pay for common procedures diminished, the nonplastic surgeons looked to find ways to replace their lost income. Many of these other specialists targeted cosmetic surgery. These outside specialists often banded together to break into a field that had been considered the domain of plastic surgery. Ultimately, this led to the production of a negative brand identity for plastic surgeons as they resisted the incursion of outside groups. This, combined with the prohibition of advertising, allowed many of these outside groups to gain more market share.
The book then provides the necessary steps for developing a successful marketing plan. The term “marketing” is defined quite broadly in this book and covers the obvious things such as print advertising, but it also includes the way the office looks and how the staff behaves. The modern plastic surgeon must deliver, in the author's opinion, a consistent message. Great marketing programs will fall flat if they do not match what really goes on in the practice. Thus, one of the central goals of the book is to help the surgeon develop a marketing strategy that is tailored to the surgeon's values and practice philosophy, all the while working to differentiate him or her from the competition.
In chapter 3, the author describes what the surgeon must have to enter the game of marketing. Fox first outlines what the surgeon must have to start successfully using marketing. These include clearly defined goals, brand focus, well-trained sales staff, a comfortable environment for the cosmetic patient, a well-developed consultation with examples of the surgeon's work, and a method for tracking results. In the following chapter the author describes the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. After this analysis is complete, the surgeon is ready to start to build a brand. The techniques outlined in these two chapters can be applied to all plastic surgery practices (not just the cosmetic surgery practice), even those that are not interested in creating a brand but would like to ensure quality service to the patient.
Later chapters analyze in detail how to build a brand that attracts patients and establishes a unique identity for the surgeon. Again, the successful brand is based on understanding the surgeon's core competencies, unique selling proposition, and potential customers, and an awareness of word of mouth. Once these facts are known, then the surgeon can apply the “pearls” provided in the chapters regarding the use of print advertising, establishing a Web-based presence, and the use of seminars and networking.
The book is successful as an introduction to the marketing of a plastic surgery practice. It is very focused on the creation of a purely cosmetic practice, and those who have blended or primarily reconstructive practices may feel a bit left out. It is also interesting to note whether the recent economic downturn will lead to changes to any of the marketing recommendations in the book. Ultimately, all plastic surgeons in practice could benefit from the application of the information-gathering phase of building a brand, even if they are not planning on unleashing a marketing blitz focused on building a breast augmentation empire. A better understanding of his or her own “brand” can help the modern plastic surgeon refine his or her practice and maintain the quality care people expect from a board-certified plastic surgeon.
David W. Mathes, M.D.
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