February 1, 2023
The Spiegel Center, a plastic surgery practice run by husband-and-wife team Jeffrey and Onir Spiegel, has built a worldwide clientele, serving thousands of patients from all 50 states and dozens of countries over almost two decades.
Dr. Spiegel is an expert in head and neck surgery and a specialist in facial feminization surgery, helping thousands of transgender women make the transition. Dr. Onir, as she is called, is an international expert in facial aesthetics. Together, they have created a boutique practice with massive reach.
More than 70% of Spiegel Center patients fly in for procedures in the 9,000-square-foot facility in Newtown, Massachusetts, which has its own three-room surgical suite—enough so that the practice offers concierge services.
Yet a look inside The Spiegel Center reveals more than just two doctors at the top of their game. The practice is also extremely deliberate about how it courts patients and responds to the market, blending niche specialty and professional renown with advanced marketing and analytics to create a sophisticated approach to business development.
To learn more, we spoke with Brian Miller, director of operations and business development at the practice and a 25-year veteran in the healthcare industry. Here are some lessons that emerged.
Spiegel is a well-recognized expert in his field, and his reputation draws patients. But, that did not come without hard work. Spiegel is active in his specialty, chairing medical meetings and committees, and serving as Professor and Chief of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Boston University’s medical school. With more than 100 medical publications to date, Spiegel continues to be active in cutting-edge research, publish his work, and train young doctors through a highly competitive fellowship at The Spiegel Center. He even holds a U.S. patent.
Spiegel also communicates actively. He appears in videos that fuel the practice’s social channels and he writes blog posts. When Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transgender woman, Spiegel wrote a series of articles in The Daily Beast explaining the physical transformation and some of the concepts behind gender recognition. This type of work builds name recognition.
The practice also works hard on the backend. Miller says The Spiegel Center is devoted to taking an analytic approach to its market. “The trick with any practice or any business is understanding the data,” he said. “If you don't do that, then you can't make a strategy for your path forward. The foundation is the analytics behind the work you are doing.”
Miller tracks impressions, likes and shares on channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. But most important are the number of inquiries that come from those channels, the number of consults that result and how much revenue comes in from those consults. He then matches that against the activity and spending on those same channels, yielding a full picture of the market and what procedures draw the most interest.
“My bottom-line goal is double-digit growth, year-over-year,” he said. “I want lots of patients coming in the door, and I want to cater to our strengths and audience interest.”
Marketing at The Spiegel Center is aimed at very specific audiences. For example, in the spring, Miller knows that belly tightening, fat freezing and similar procedures will be popular among 40-something women who want to shape up for summer. The practice will reach out on the social channels most likely to reach those women, with content that is heavy on visuals.
“Direct marketing is much more effective than broad marketing,” Miller said. “It’s money better spent. We spend less than other organizations by being more analytical with our data, and doing direct marketing initiatives, as opposed to just telling the whole world that we do.”
One unique aspect of Miller’s program is that his team is set up to respond to any inquiry in just 15 minutes. The Spiegel Center has three full-time and one part-time specialist on its business development team, and part of their job is real-time response on the channel chosen by the prospect. For example, if the patient sent a text, the team will respond via text and initiate a call.
The strategy is born of what marketers call “the buyer’s journey,” meaning that Miller and his team understand how their customers shop for services and have responded with a system that is designed to meet patient needs.
“They're researching healthcare providers in the aesthetics field and the plastic surgery field,” Miller said. “So, you're one of maybe five people that they've chosen to reach out to. They sat down at a computer or with their phone, and they typed something up to send to you. That means they're interested right now. And that means that, in 15 minutes, they're going to find somebody else. So if you respond right now, you're going to keep the lead warm. If you wait two days, and they've had a chance to talk to one or two or three other providers, now you're one of many.”
While The Spiegel Center gains plenty of business via physician referral, it puts more energy into highlighting testimonials from patients. “This is a much more lucrative scenario, because we are actively going to get business, as opposed to the business being referred,” Miller said. “We are promoting, ‘hey, we do this thing. We do it well. And this patient says we do it well.’ That drives interest in the organization, and people will inquire.”
In today’s world, marketing technology has exploded with applications that provide a bevy of services. Chat bots, social tools, retargeting, direct mail, gifting, automated response, reputation management and a great deal more are available. But Miller said developing a sound marketing culture and straightforward systems has taken the practice a lot farther than fancy tech.
“I spent less money on tools and more money on simple processes and analysis to create simple responses,” he said. “Before investing in a bunch of tools, make sure your practice is in a good foundational space to do the business—and then you probably won’t need the tools.”