Using free consults to your advantage

September 1, 2007

The cosmetic consultation is a one-on-one opportunity to present your practice as the resource for cosmetic dermatology and associated products. These meetings are a podium for dermatologists to cross sell services and cosmeceuticals. Done right, they can be the beginning of long, trusting and financially fruitful relationships.

Key Points

Medina, Ohio - The cosmetic consultation is a one-on-one opportunity to present your practice as the resource for cosmetic dermatology and associated products.

These meetings are opportunities for dermatologists to cross-sell services and cosmeceuticals. Done right, they can be the beginning of long, trusting and financially fruitful relationships.

But gone awry, the cosmetic consult can leave people with negative impressions of your practice or rob you of precious time with a person whose only intent is to get everything, including the kitchen sink, for free.

The big picture

According to Dr. Torok, people who come in looking for age management advice usually are candidates for many of the procedures that dermatologists offer, such as lasers, fillers, neurotoxins and chemical peels.

"You would address all those options with the patient," Dr. Torok tells Dermatology Times. "But at the same time, you would promote sunblocks, as well as Retin-A (Ortho Neutrogena), tretinoin, hydroxy acids, cosmeceuticals and peptides."

This holistic approach is not only in the best interest of patients who want to achieve optimum results, but it's also favorable to the dermatologist's bottom line.

In most cases, the goal of offering free consultations is to entice patients to your office.

"For a dermatologist who is just getting into the cosmetic arena or somebody who is starting a new practice, a free consultation is an excellent promotional tool," Dr. Torok says.

Dermatologists can capitalize more by promoting free consultations in their newsletters, by e-mail blasts and by print advertising. While the general media does not always print or cover such news, it does not hurt to inform them, she says.

Dr. Torok, who has an established cosmetic dermatology practice, offers free consultations during office hours when patients have their procedures performed that day. For those patients who do not have a procedure, as well as those who are better candidates for procedures outside the realm of dermatology, Dr. Torok charges $60 for a 15-minute consultation.

Free consultations do not have to be during regular business hours, Dr. Torok says. In fact, she consults one-on-one with would-be patients and shows "befores" and "afters" during scheduled "Diva Nights." During these evening educational sessions, which she promotes as free to the public, people who attend can mingle and talk with staff, including the dermatologists, at their leisure.

Be clear, be reasonable

Dr. Torok charges for most consultations to identify those who are more serious and to weed out people looking for a free ride.

Some people come to the free consultation expecting everything to be free and asking for skin examinations, when they have no intention of having cosmetic procedures.

"If they want to get a free body examination or a mole examination, that is a different appointment," she says. "Rather than address that during the free consult, people should know what is included in the free consultation before they arrive."

The dermatologist's job during a free cosmetic consultation is to discuss a patient's options.

There is not enough time in a dermatologist's day, according to Dr. Torok, to also show "befores" and "afters," go through statistics and side effects and all the nuances of the procedures.

The dermatologist's cosmetic coordinator or an adjunct person should take over after the dermatologist spends about 15 minutes for the consultation, to go over the fine points and close the deal.