By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, CEO of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
In 2019, it seems that people have subscriptions to everything. When they shop, they go to Costco or use their Amazon Prime membership. When they eat, they prepare a meal kit that was shipped to them by a Blue Apron or HelloFresh. When they want entertainment, they watch movies or television from Netflix or Hulu.
Now medical spas are getting in on the act by offering patients subscriptions for their services, and while practices are still feeling their way around the specifics of what can make a successful membership program, the experiences of early adopters suggest that the subscription model has legs, as it can build loyalty for your practice and provide the customer with consistent results.
“You want your patients to come back, on average, 3.5 times a year,” said Dr. A. Jay Burns, senior partner at Dallas Plastic Surgery Institute and board member of HintMD, a cloud-based patient engagement and commerce platform. “When we go into every practice, we will pull their data, and the average number of visits per year is 1.44, not 3.5. If they join the subscription model, they come 2.9 times a year, they spend 35% more—so it’s good for a run rate—and they come back more loyal, so it’s good for the doctor.”
There are two major types of membership models: static and dynamic. Static models typically feature the client paying a monthly fee for either a certain number of treatments per month or a percentage off of those treatments. Dynamic models are much more complex and are tailored around a patient’s usage patterns. Companies such as HintMD are working to develop dynamic models for their clients, but early results are extremely encouraging.
Regardless of their type, membership programs provide customers with cost benefits beyond what they experience as a normal patient.
“Something I always stress whenever anyone sets up a membership program is value for the customer,” said Brandon H. Robinson, founder of Skin Body Soul Spa of Ankeny and West Des Moines, Iowa. “If your medical spa sells Botox at $14 per unit, then your membership should give your members Botox at a value far exceeding the monthly fee, based on the average number of units that member would utilize. It needs to be substantial. Another example is a ‘Kiss Club’ for perfect lips. The membership is $19 per month, and the filler is over $200 off. This makes the membership valuable for that client and will make them want to come back for more filler every nine months.”
While this might make it seem that medical aesthetics practices might lose money on these programs, the loyalty these memberships build more than pays for the initial losses over the life of the program.
“We pulled all of our data for the last [American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS)] meeting, and at that time in April —I had started in September —I had 377 members,” Burns said. “The average increase in run rate, or spend, per patient was $1,196. My patients went from coming 1.7 times a year to 3.03 times a year. They spent 35% more per visit. It wasn’t just the run rate, either. I had a 33% increase rate in people using filler who had never used filler, so they get used to their subscription, and then they make an additional purchase because they’re comfortable with that level.”
If you feel your patient base could be more engaged with your practice and you have the logistical infrastructure to handle it, a membership program might prove very beneficial.