The Consumer Decision Journey: 5 Contact Points for Doctors

consumer decision journeyUnless you’re a student of marketing in your spare time — Spare time? What’s that? — you’ve probably never heard of David Edelman. However, if you’re a doctor hoping to connect with today’s aesthetic consumers, you might want to listen to what he has to say.

As a partner at McKinsey & Co., Edelman is part of the team that developed the concept of the “consumer decision journey,” the innovative approach to marketing that’s upending the old and increasingly obsolete concept of the “sales funnel.” As he explains it:

 Today’s consumer takes a much more complex iterative path thru and beyond purchase. The classic funnel shows an ever-narrowing array of decisions and choices until purchase, when in fact the channel-surfing customer today often is expanding the set of choices and decisions after consideration. Just as importantly, [they] treat the post-purchase process with the same level of importance as the pre-purchase journey.

At RealSelf, we’ve seen aesthetic consumers take the same journey. For many, it’s a trip that can take months or years, a timeframe that provides multiple touchpoints for doctors to introduce themselves to potential patients. Even more important, perhaps, once you factor in post-purchase advocacy, the journey can become a virtuous circle that builds on itself, starts the process all over again and looks something like this:

Consideration: The triggers that prompt someone to pursue cosmetic surgery are as varied as the people that experience them. A life-changing event, a career move, the steady stream of images in the media of models, actors and celebrities who serve as de facto advertisements for the industry. Whatever the trigger, it’s like flipping a switch and marketing messages that were previously overlooked suddenly become relevant.

Evaluation: Relevant, yes. Convincing, not necessarily. Under the funnel model, consumers would talk to friends, collect brochures and peruse the Yellow Pages as they narrowed their search for their ultimate provider. Not anymore. The Internet has completely upended the evaluation process, allowing consumers to gather detailed information, hear about other patients’ experiences and interact with those doctors who understand that this stage represents the last, best chance to connect with patients before they…

Purchase: Pretty much speaks for itself, right? Except for the fact that what was once considered the end of the story is now also the prologue for…

Post-purchase Experience: While traditional marketing suggests the purchase is the end of the process, McKinsey’s analysis suggests it’s actually the beginning as a patient’s post-procedure experience will shape their opinion of every subsequent aesthetic decision they make. Doctors who continue to engage with them — through timely reminders, special offers, email newsletters, etc. — can benefit as they go from passively satisfied customers to agents of…

Advocacy: Just as today’s aesthetic consumers use the Internet to research their decisions, they also use it to share their experiences after the fact. At RealSelf, that translates into a “pay it forward” sense of community in which patients become advocates for their providers — 87% of the reviews on the site are positive — and start the cycle all over again.

In other words, no one makes the journey alone, which, in turn, provides an unsurpassed opportunity for doctors to reap the benefits of going along.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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