Would you pay a doctor a yearly convenience fee?

SUMMARY: Some doctors have now started charging their patients up to $120 per year just the for the just for the privilege of being a patient in their office. Who do they think they are—Ticketmaster? Would you pay this fee?

There was an article on the front page of USA Today that said, “Doctors Tack On Fees For Patients.” And the first paragraph continued: “A growing number of doctors across the country are boosting revenue by asking patients to pay new fees for services they say that insurance doesn’t cover.

“The extra payments include no-show fees of $30 to $50 for missed appointments or they charge annual administrative fees of $35 to $120 just for the privilege of being a patient in that doctor’s office.”

The article continues by saying a doctor in the state of Washington sent a letter to seven thousand of his patients asking for a voluntary $35 annual administrative fee to cover costs that the insurance companies don’t cover. He claimed that he got only two angry letters and dozens paid the extra fee.

Nobody likes to pay more for no value

Yeah, I bet he only got two angry letters. But I’m sure the rest of his patients are like me: fed up with companies charging more money but adding no value.

I not only think it’s a rip-off, I think these doctors are very short-sited. In marketing there are what I call the 6Ms in marketing that you must master. And one of the 6Ms happens to be M2, which is message.

Meaning: your message should always be geared around what the customer wants to hear and not what you want to say… even if it’s bad news. Customers read between the lines on these kind of messages and they know that what you are saying is…. give me more money.

Be like Southwest Airlines

I am surprised that more companies and these doctors are not copying my favorite airline of all time, Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines does the exact opposite. They do not charge extra fees. I will fly on no other airline if I can help it. One of the reasons that I like Southwest Airlines is because they do not nickel-and-dime me to death and it pays off for them.

I have flown on Southwest Airlines no less than 120 times in the last 18 years. And I’ve never ever been charged a baggage fee.

Is Southwest Airlines profitable? At the end of 2009, Southwest Airlines increased their share of the domestic airline market by only 1% but that represents 800 to 900 million dollars.

Mmmm, I wonder why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because they realize fliers like me will come back again and again.

And we’ll tell all of our friends like I’m telling you.

Let me give advice to the doctor that’s tacking on extra fees: don’t do it. People don’t like it. You aren’t the only game in town. If I were your patient I would do the worst thing I could do to you: I would quietly and silently find another doctor who did not charge this fee… and take my friends with me.

Don’t add price unless you add value

Here’s my marketing advice to you today: don’t look for ways to gouge your customers. If you must increase your prices or charge extra fees, please, I beg of you, add value.

The problem with the doctors who are charging new fees is that they are not adding any extra value. They are just taking more money.

As a small business owner, you must be very careful when you raise prices or charge new fees. Make sure you have a long-term view of business. You may be able to get extra money out of me in the short run. But in the long run, some competitor is going to put you out of business.

People are not dumb. They know when they are being ripped off. As for Southwest, they are going to continue to make money because they realize this paramount rule of marketing: the customer is right.

I realize that doctors and airlines must make money. And I realize you want to make a profit. But if you are going to nickle and dime me to death, I will take my business elsewhere. I know the difference between paying for value and padding your pocketbook. And I won’t stand for it,

THINK ABOUT IT: Do you nickle and dime your customers to death, or do you add value when you increase your fees? ✦

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A famous ad with few words

Sir Ernest Shackleton led three expeditions to the Antarctic. He ran this ad in 1900: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”

After the ad ran, he said, “It seemed as though all the men in Great Britain were determined to accompany me, the response was so overwhelming.”

• • •

Would you ever read an ad with 6,540 words?

Would you read this ad? The answer is easy: yes—but only if you had an interest in the stock and bond business.

If you did not have an interest in that topic, you would do what 99.9% of the readers do: ignore it.

When this ad ran, it pulled 10,000 responses to an offer buried near the end.

Is that a good response? Right now, the circulation of the Times is 2,322,429. That means that .0043 responded.

The small number is meaningless. What matters is that the right people responded.

Do people read ads with long copy any more?

Yes. In fact, if I were going to give you advice it would be this: use as many words as it takes to move your prospect to the next level in your sales process.

I have had the most success with long-copy ads.

I believe that long copy conveys the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.

Warning: if you want your long copy to be read, it had better be written well. You can’t bore people into buying from you.







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