There are many decisions that need to be made on the business front in the face of the COVID-19 shut-down. And, while this is a seemingly unprecedented time, we can gain insight from looking at our history and create new adaptive strategies for the modern times we’re now facing. Here are our recommendations:
DON’T STOP MARKETING
While it may be tempting to put an axe to your marketing budget, DON’T DO IT! If history has taught us anything it’s that the businesses who stop their marketing during the tough times, don’t have a pipeline to come back to later. In fact, a 2015 Cornell titled, “Winners and Losers during the Great Recession: The Positive Impact of Marketing Expenditures” looked the hotel industry following the 2008 downturn. It found that hotels that performed significantly worse than their competitors made one major change that sealed their fate: “a significantly greater reduction in total marketing expenses than winners.” There are quite a few studies in marketing during uncertain times that draw the same conclusion – there are undeniable long-term advantages of staying the course.
You may not have the means to keep full scale marketing efforts going right now and that’s okay. Sit down with your marketing partner and prioritize what’s most important in your specific situation. We’re advising our clients who can’t maintain ad spend to prioritize SEO, social and email marketing services. If you have money available for ad spend, great! As long as you are thoughtful with your images and ad copy there are some opportunities to be had out there right now as a lot of your competitors are pulling out of the market.
SET UP VIRTUAL CONSULTS STAT
Plastic surgeons, cosmetic dentists and other aesthetic providers across the nation are facing mandatory office closures and restrictions on elective procedures. The silver lining? This shutdown doesn’t mean providers can’t consult with patients virtually—and set up appointments and/or waiting lists for in-person bookings for when the restrictions are lifted.
On March 17, 2020, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) announced that it will waive potential HIPAA penalties for good faith use of telemedicine for at least as long as this public health emergency persists.
Covered health care providers are now allowed to use non-public facing audio and video conferencing technology including FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Zoom, etc., to consult with current and potential patients. Public facing technology like Facebook Live and TikTok are not permitted as they are not private. You can read the full details of the announcement here.
We recommend getting virtual consultations set up immediately. If you are currently charging for consults, you can continue to do so as a way to inject a small amount of cash flow into your practice. If you are still offering free consults, we recommend that you begin charging ASAP. Between $100 – $250 is fair for surgical procedures. Doing so will ensure that your time is well spent and those booking time on your schedule are serious about their procedure.
And of course, you should treat virtual consults with the same level of sensitivity you do for in-office consults. Make sure you do your end of a virtual consult from a private place. Remember to enable any available encryption and privacy modes offered by the tool you are using.
GET ACTIVE ON SOCIAL
Now more than ever, your patients and potential patients need to hear from you! They are all stuck at home and are likely glued to their phones and laptops. There’s no better time to reach them. Let them know you are not shuttering your doors forever and that you will be there to serve them when we all come out on the other side. Remain positive and speak from a place of authority as a medical professional. Post tips on staying healthy and self-care. Give them a glimpse of what your work from home life looks like. They’ll appreciate getting a behind the scenes look and it will help them develop a connection with you.
EXPLORE OPTIONS FOR FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
There are many new options for financial assistance popping up every day. The Small Business Association is offering special loan assistance programs to help you stay above water. You can find information about their programs here. Interestingly, Facebook is preparing a program that will offer grants and ad credits to small businesses. There may be additional programs available if you are located in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland or New York. Other states have already announced assistance programs on the way and it’s likely there will be more to come. Several banks and credit card companies are offering deferred payment options. Check out our blog on the topic here.
KEEP UP TEAM MORALE
As much as you are overwhelmed and stressed trying to navigate these treacherous seas, remember that your team is also feeling frightened. It’s important to be honest with your team, but also to try to stay positive. Be flexible and realistic about what your team can accomplish during this time. Hopefully, you’ve assembled a team of truly stellar individuals. If that’s the case, don’t let social distancing stop you from staying connected. Plan some office zoom socials! Virtual happy hour anyone?