Apply the secrets of successful dating to LASIK marketing

Laura Livesey (00:09):

Today, we’re talking about a really fun subject that I think you’ll really enjoy, and it’s surprisingly:

How do you apply the secrets of successful dating to your practice?

So, Rod, how is this possible? This sounds a little absurd, but I think it’s quite fun and I want you to take us through it.

Rod Solar (00:28):

Okay. First of all, I want to let the public know that I’m not a professional dating coach, even though I might sound like that during this podcast. I mean, what it’s all based on is the fact that we’re primates, right? Like all of us, all human beings are primates, and primates observe stages of intimacy.

NOTE: The best way to answer that nagging question about practice growth or marketing or patient volume in the back of your mind is to book a free 15-minute compatibility call. Get some options and go away with a clear idea of what’s possible.

Back in 1997, Desmond Morris, the naturalist, identified that primates operate on a process level of getting more and more intimate with each other over time. They don’t immediately jump right to the final step.

They go through a series of steps to get more intimate, and he observed that in human beings. Essentially, what this is, what he’s describing is the mating process, which we all really know for more it’s common vernacular, dating.

Stage 1 – Aware

Rod Solar (01:22):

So, how does it work? I want you to think about one of the early times you went out to find a significant other, whether it was a girlfriend or a boyfriend or something. Or, you just wanted to meet somebody, right?

This is NOT the first step

The very first thing you do is you need to become aware. You need to become aware of them, and they need to become aware of you, right? So you go to where they are. That’s the very first step.

After that, once you’ve gone to where they are, trust me, all of this will make sense in the marketing context very soon; you need to engage them. You need to find a way to get their attention and to get them to become interested in you because you’ve either identified that’s the kind of person that I’m looking for, or I’m the kind of person that they might be looking for.

So, therefore, we’re going to strike up a conversation, right?

Stage 2 – Engage

Rod Solar (02:17):

That’s important, and you have to strike up that conversation, and usually the best conversationalists are people who talk about the other person. They’re not people who talk about themselves, right?

So the very best way to get somebody interested in you is to talk about them. It sounds completely hard to understand perhaps, but that is effectively how you get somebody interested in you.

Stage 3 – Subscribe

Laura Livesey (02:39):

Yeah, and next, you have to figure out, okay, great, this conversation was fun, but this will never happen again unless I get your number. What do you normally have to do?

You usually have to have some kind of reason for that, and it’s not going to be marriage. You’re not going to say, “Hey, I really enjoyed this conversation. Let’s talk about what we’re going to name our children.”

Rod Solar (03:01):

Yeah. That’s unlikely to work.

Laura Livesey (03:03):

That would be really creepy and awful. And so really, what you’re going to do is you want to go for coffee. So, “Can I get your number and go for coffee?” So there’s a very, very small next step that you want to establish.

Rod Solar (03:16):

Now, I want to make it really clear why Laura mentioned that idea, that you don’t want to go out there and say,

“Hey, I just met you five minutes ago. What shall we name our kids?”

But that’s exactly what most marketers are doing out there. What they’re doing is they’re going out there and saying,

“Look, I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but come in and have surgery.”

Laura Livesey (03:33):


Rod Solar (03:33):

I mean, that is so quick.

Laura Livesey (03:36):

And it so goes against our human instinct.

Rod Solar (03:38):

Exactly, and it skips all those fundamental stages of intimacy that we as primates are all conditioned to follow through years and years, and years and millennia, if you will, of evolution.

So what we need to do is we need to take the people through a journey that slowly moves them past the stages. So we’re now at the subscribe stage if you like, and so essentially, you’ve got the person’s number. Yay, step one, right?

Stage 4 – Convert

Rod Solar (04:01):

Now at this stage, you need to go to the next step, and as Laura said, it’s typically not let’s go out on holiday together, even let’s not go out to an intimate dinner for two at the most romantic restaurant in town.

What it’s usually about, it’s let’s do something safe. Let’s meet for coffee during the day. There’s an easy way to get out. You might have other things to do at one or two o’clock that you can say, if this isn’t going so well, you have an exit clause.

Laura Livesey (04:28):

Call me.

Rod Solar (04:29):

Right. So, the idea here is to really give something that people can find safe to do without much risk but still offer some value, right?

So when you’re at that date, that very first date over coffee, do you want to go into all about yourself again and talk about how good looking you are or how you have a great car or how your job is so great?

Here’s how much money I make, here’s all my friends and all the things that they love about me. No, no, that’s absolutely not what you do. So what do you do instead?

Laura Livesey (05:00):

You ask questions.

Rod Solar (05:02):

You ask questions.

Laura Livesey (05:02):

You get to know them. You get to understand what they’re about, what they want, how they tick, and you take a bit of a leadership role, especially often if you are the guy or the person trying to form the relationship. So you take the lead leadership role, and you end up, and I shouldn’t say that it could be either.

Rod Solar (05:25):


Laura Livesey (05:26):

Yeah, that’s very, very non-

Rod Solar (05:28):

Controversy. Controversy.

Laura Livesey (05:29):

Yes, of course, of course. What am I saying? Yes, this applies to all genders and interests. So I think whoever the person who wants to form the relationship needs to take a leadership role and ask questions and get to know what the motivations are is.

And again, we keep saying this, but it really is about establishing if there is a fit, because that’s what dating’s all about. It’s sorting. It’s not really like,

“Okay. I’m on a date; let’s get married.” Again it’s, “Is this person somebody I just want to hang out with a little bit more? Do I want to spend more time with them? Is it interesting?”

Stage 5 – Excite

Rod Solar (06:07):

Yeah, and Laura’s absolutely right. I mean, she made such a good point. It’s about one person taking the leadership role, and in any two-person discussion, and this may change from time to time, one person might take the leadership role in one instance, and the other person might take the leadership role in the other instance.

Still, in the context of a patient and consultant relationship or a patient liaison and a patient relationship, the person taking the leadership role is the person who’s offering the service. I mean, that really has to be in place, because people abhor a leadership vacuum, and what you often have is if people don’t see that there’s a natural leader in place, they assume they have to take the leadership role.

Rod Solar (06:47):

Those willing to do so will take it, and then they’ll actually drive the whole consultation in places where you don’t necessarily want it to go. Alternatively, those stressed out about taking the leadership role will have a passive role, and they essentially will turn off and move on and look for another leader who can guide them.

So, after you’ve really excited them, and that’s the idea here, you don’t take somebody out to a date to bore them. You take them out to excite them. The next natural state that you want to get into is called ascension. The idea here is you want to ascend from the excite stage to the next stage of the relationship.

Stage 6 – Ascend

Rod Solar (07:24):

Now, that can take lots of different forms in a romantic relationship. It could mean, well, we had coffee, now we’re going out for dinner. Right? We have a second date. We have a third date potentially. After we’ve gone out for dinner a couple of times, maybe we’ll spend the whole day together.

NOTE: The best way to answer that nagging question about practice growth or marketing or patient volume in the back of your mind is to book a free 15-minute compatibility call. Get some options and go away with a clear idea of what’s possible.

We’ll go on a big, long hike, or maybe we’ll spend a weekend together, and eventually, weekends turn into repeated outings and potentially moving in together. Once you move in together, then potentially one day you might escalate the relationship to the point of marriage. Who knows, right? And then eventually you might even have kids, and then finally, at the final stages, you might decide, okay, what shall we name our kids?

Rod Solar (08:04):
So we’ve taken a long time to get from just going out and meeting people, becoming aware and making yourself be aware of, for others to be aware of you, to the point where you’re naming your kids.

So, we can’t short circuit this process, and if we do try to short circuit that process, like many marketers do all the time, they try to short circuit that process, they end up leaving a lot of people behind and turning a lot of people off.

The Customer Value Journey, Again

Back to Stage 1 – Make the prospective patient aware of you

Laura Livesey (08:31):
So, let’s go back to the beginning of that and think about our practice. In the awareness stage, so in the dating analogy, you figured out I hope who you want to date. So, who do you want to serve as a patient? It’s very, very similar.

With the dating analogy, maybe you’re interested in fitness. Maybe you like to go on long hikes on the weekends, so you’re looking for somebody active. So then maybe you decide, okay, I’m going to go and I’m going to join a meetup group,

I’m going to join these hiking groups, because I want to meet more people. I’m not meeting these people at the bars I go to or whatever. I’m going to go in this meetup group, because I want to meet somebody who’s interested in hiking specifically. So you do, and you meet some people, and that’s how they become aware of you.

Laura Livesey (09:11):
Well, similarly with your practice, you need to decide, okay, my ideal patients, they make more than £50,000 a year, they have professional jobs. Based on where they live, for example, in Berkshire for example, for some of the hotspots in the UK. Places that get a little bit more sun than others, tend to be attractive targets for dermatologists because you tend to get a little bit more skin cancer, things like that.

Finding your geographic target and really understanding where to look. That’s really awareness, is like where do I first meet somebody? That’s really how awareness applies to a practice.

Stage 2 – Engage the prospective patient

Rod Solar (09:52):
And then after that, once they’ve become aware of you, because you’re putting yourself in the places where they hang out, and we’re talking patients again, right, is how do you get them engaged with your brand? How do you do that?

Well, similarly to the way we discussed how to start a conversation with somebody, you ask about them and you try to empathise with them, right?

Rod Solar (10:15):
Fortunately, in your situation, you kind of tend to know the people who are already going to be probably interested in your brand. And if you’ve done the work in the foundation stage, you really should know that by then.

And then you start appealing and empathising with their needs so that they can see that, oh, okay, this person has an interest in me, gets me, sees me and is open to getting me to what I might be looking for. In a treatment context, that’s getting to the after.

Stage 3 – Subscribe the prospective patient

Laura Livesey (10:42):
And so then we move to the third stage, which is called subscribe. So they’re aware of you, now you’ve engaged them, you have an interesting blog post or a free video. They’ve gotten some free content from you. They’re excited. They’re like,

“Okay, these guys, they know what they’re talking about. I trust them.”

So now what? The subscribe stage with dating is that first little step. So you get the number, you go out for coffee.

Laura Livesey (11:06):
In a practice perspective, the subscribe is where you offer them something very specific that will allow them to take the next step on their fact-finding journey.

And usually for example, here’s an example with chiropractic, it may something about back pain. That’s a really common concern with patients going for a body care. So you would have something really specific about the top seven things you need to know to deal with back pain in the UK, in your region.

And then, you need to have really valuable content in a guide or an online quiz or something like that, where they can engage with that and get that question answered.

Laura Livesey (11:48):
Because if they’re coming in with back pain, that’s going to be really exciting for them to know. They’re going to want to get that answer, because they’re in pain.

So you want to provide them with a piece of information that they will really get a lot of value from, and that will excite them to take more steps with you.

Rod Solar (12:04):
And this is what’s known as a lead magnet. A lot of the things that we do for our customers is we make lead magnets for them. So not only do we build their ability to get awareness by doing digital marketing and things like that, we also put together their websites so that they can engage their customers and their brand.

And then, most importantly, we put together lead magnets to compel visitors to their websites and give them contact information. Why? So that you can provide some value, earn some trust in the relationship, get further down the customer journey, but most importantly, so you can get their contact information because you’re not going to go anywhere, they’re going to forget all about you unless you can follow up with them.

Laura Livesey (12:44):
That’s so, so critical. That subscribe stage and that lead magnet really gets them out of that 95% bucket of people that, they come to your website or you produce all this amazing content, they come to your website and they disappear. They just go away forever more.

So really, you allow yourself the opportunity to build trust slowly, as Rod said, over time with the subscribe, because you’ve got their email. GDPR compliant email, you’ve let them know that you’re subscribing them in and you tell them exactly what’s going to happen. That you’re going to send them useful content from time to time or every week or every month, or whenever you’re going to do it, we suggest at least once a week, and then you do it, and then you send them content with the goal of, what’s the next step?

Rod Solar (13:25):
Well, now you’ve got to convert them.

Laura Livesey (13:27):

Stage 4 – Convert the Prospective Patient

Rod Solar (13:28):
The point here is you’ve got to turn them into a mini-customer, right? So what does that mean? Well, a mini-customer is a level of the relationship that goes beyond anonymity. They’ve provided you their name and their contact information, and you send them some information, you follow up with them.

But still, a name and contact information, that’s not that personal. So what needs to happen next is we need to get into who they are, and beyond that, what they want. The most common tripwire, is what we call this stage really, is in the conversion stage, we’re looking to offer tripwires.

A tripwire, a very common one is a phone call, right? As long as that phone call is something that provides a lot of value, and it’s got to be pitched in that way. It’s not like call me so I can sell you an appointment.

Rod Solar (14:15):
Unfortunately, that’s not actually how direct people want be. Just like, for example, in the dating context, you’re not going to say, “I want your number so that I can call you and ask you for a date.” That would just be a little bit, I don’t know, it’s just way too direct.

I think the idea here is you want to get somebody to call you to understand more about them and see whether or not the two of you are a good fit. That is in part, a phone call. It could be something like a webinar. It could be a seminar where people come to your practice, or a hotel, to attend a talk.

Potentially, it could also be what you really want, which is an initial consultation. That initial assessment might be the next step you need to take people towards the excite stage. So, the excite stage, what’s that all about?

Stage 5 – Excite the Prospective Patient

Laura Livesey (15:08):
Yeah. So excite is an interesting stage. It’s actually, I don’t like just to talk about excite in this linear order. I like to excite the potential patient at every part of the journey. So you really have to think this is not just an isolated, like bore, bore, bore, oh, excite! And then bore, bore, bore.

Rod Solar (15:24):
You like to be excited.

Laura Livesey (15:25):
Yeah, you need to really excite them at every stage in every and every touchpoint. But at this stage particularly, once they’ve converted, the thing is it’s a big deal for somebody to say yes.

Rod Solar (15:36):

Laura Livesey (15:36):
Yes, to your website. Yes, to giving you their email. That’s trust. They know they’re going to get marketed to, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They are signing up for that, so don’t feel bad about that at all.

They know that they want more information, and they know that you will sell them. Let’s be upfront about that. There is nothing wrong with that. This is very well known and understood, and you need to do your job and do the selling.

But when you do that at the conversion stage, which is at the consultation at the initial stage, whatever it is, whether it’s a webinar or a consultation, that first real chance to prove yourself.

Laura Livesey (16:11):
You need to think about every step of that process, so that everything you do from the flowers that greet people, from the sign outside, from the rubbish where they park. Whatever it is, you need to tidy all of that up, make it really easy to do business with you.

Make the people that you’re working with have the skills, confidence, and training to really treat people excellently, so that when they come through, they’re excited. They think, wow, these guys really get it. Not only do they understand me, but they’ve put a lot of thought and time into making the environment suitable for me.

And they may not actually see that, but you want that feeling where they’re like, “Oh, I feel good here. I feel like they get me, and this is for me. This place is for me. I will stay.” That’s really what the excite is about. It’s about getting them to move to the next level because they trust you and feel like you’ve done a great job of furthering the relationship.

Rod Solar (17:01):

So it’s all about value, right? It’s like, how can I…

  • offer more value in my website?
  • offer more value in my lead magnet?
  • offer more value in my trip wire, whether a phone call, a webinar, or a seminar.
  • give them the information they need?
  • make them feel reassured?
  • provide them with the value that will excite them to trust me enough to get them over the next level?

Stage 6 – Ascend the Prospective Patient

Rod Solar (17:25):
Now, what’s the next stage? Is ascend. Ascend is where, all of a sudden, you are in the money, if you will, because that is what separates the mini-customer from a customer.

When they’re buying your core product, your core offering, and that could be surgery, or a treatment plan where you sell them 12 or 24 sessions over an extended period, or it could be the first step over a series of different treatments over time.

That is your core offering, and you’ve got to define what that core offering is and make sure that your prospective patient now trusts you sufficiently to take that next step and ascend.

Like in the dating example, your core offering is who you are. They’ve accepted you now, and they’ve made the emotional transaction to be yours. That’s the whole idea behind ascend.

Stage 7 – Turn your patient into an advocate

Laura Livesey (18:25):
And after they ascend, then you want, as a patient, what do you want them to do? You want them to tell people about you. So there are a couple of stages here, and we don’t want to split hairs too finely, but we do see a very different type of referral pattern depending on who the patients are and how they’ve been treated.

But you’ll generally have what we call advocates, which are people that, when asked, will say great things about you and will even send people your way if asked. But they won’t do it on their own.

So we have the advocate stage, which is really going to drive down your cost per lead, because you’re going to be sending new potential patients straight down to the aware and engage, and they kind of bypass all of that.

Laura Livesey (19:05):
So you don’t have to do the marketing, and they’re basically becoming subscribed, and sometimes even converted, because they’ll just book right in to have an initial consultation.

You’re not having to market, you’re not having to pay for those leads, so you’re driving down your overall cost per lead, because all of a sudden, your inquiries go up, but your marketing costs stay the same.

Advocate is really what we see a lot in practices, and if you’re really, really good, and also so this comes with volume as well, because not everybody’s going to do the final stage, which is called promote. But how do we get sort of to the promote stage? What’s that final stage about?

Stage 8 – Turn your advocate into a promoter

Rod Solar (19:40):
I mean, first of all, we got to get people obviously responding to our request to say good things about us. So, number one is you have to have a systematic approach at generating patient reviews that consistently involve every patient that walks through your door. It doesn’t even have to be after your core offering, it can be after they call.

Do you sometimes notice when you make a phone call that you interact with somebody who you mainly, like say your mobile phone provider or your IT provider, they’ll give you a survey right after and ask you would you rate this call? How good was it?

Rod Solar (20:16):
I suggest that we focus on the number one question that links up with growth, which is the net promoter score question. The ultimate question is, on a scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to recommend me to a friend or family member?

And if you get nice high numbers, like say seven or eight, that’s great, and those people are most likely to advocate on your behalf if they’re asked. Now, if you start getting people who are nines and tens, then you’re really in business, because at this stage, those are the folks who are most likely to go out on a limb and promote on your behalf without anybody asking them to do so.

Rod Solar (20:56):
So, first of all, advocate, right? Get people to give you reviews at every stage. Send them a review request after the phone call. Send them a review request after the initial screening. Send them a review request after the treatment, and every subsequent aftercare appointment after that. That’s how you get lots and lots of good reviews, right?

I mean, you might as well. If somebody’s happy to review you, they’re going to review you more and more times. You might think, oh my goodness, they’re really going to get tired of me asking for their opinion all the time.

No, they won’t. They really want to know that you care about their opinion, and if you frame it in such a way that you want to improve on the basis of that feedback, they’ll give you their opinion until the cows come home.

Rod Solar (21:33):
Now, in promote, these are folks who, like I said, are giving you nines and tens and they’re so happy to tell the world about you that they don’t need any incentive whatsoever. However, what they do need is praise. They do need appreciation. They do need recognition.

So, you’ve got to go out of your way to identify those who are talking about you and reward that behavior, so that you can get them classically conditioned to repeat it again and again and again.

It’s those folks, I’ve seen them, I’ve been involved with practices for over 20 years, and I see folks who were treated in year one still going out to the patient parties in year 20, telling the world about how wonderful the surgeon is.

It’s unbelievable, but every single practice has a few of these. The more you can identify, the more you reward, the more you compel to continue doing the good work they’re doing, the better it’s going to be for all of you.

Laura Livesey (22:29):
Yeah. Good summary. That’s just a little tidbit there that that’s an excite stage that has been tacked onto the advocate and promote stage.

Rod mentioned patient partners. There’s something else you could do, where somebody’s already in the promotion stage, but you can excite them more by having things like patient parties, which we see clinics do. They have great results in pushing and sort of encouraging people to invite friends and family and get them involved in a really, really fun way.


Laura Livesey (22:55):
I think that that sums up our dating to practice building approach. I think that we’ve hopefully convinced you that you can apply the secrets of successful dating through human emotions into the practice growth phase. And did you have anything else to add, Rod?

Rod Solar (23:21):
Yeah. I mean, just like there are professional dating coaches, if you like, you need to find a marketer who understands relationship building.

Laura Livesey (23:26):

Rod Solar (23:26):
Because they can be your professional patient development coach, right? And so essentially, what they’re doing, is they understand human relationships and human dynamics so well that they can tell you at every stage of this journey of intimacy what to do specifically, tactically wise.

What to say on the website, what to say in your emails, what to say on the phone, how to couch your initial appointment.

How to write those text messages that you send out to get reviews, how to treat people at the ascension stage. All of those things.

That’s who you want to find in your collective team to help you do this well, and it’s those who get patients through this journey are the ones who are going to win.

Laura Livesey (24:13):
Absolutely. I’m Laura Livesey.

Rod Solar (24:16):
And I’m Rod Solar.

Laura Livesey (24:18):
And we hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. The next step as always is to let us know what you think, and to really take out a pad of paper and think about this. Think about your patient journey.

  • How are people going through your journey now? How are they becoming aware of you?
  • How do you engage them? How do you subscribe them, giving them that little piece of value?
  • How can you convert them to the next step or the first step?
  • How do you excite them enough so that they buy that very first thing?
  • And then, how do you continually do that? Upsell and upsell, if you have the upper in something like a chiropractic practice, or maybe if it’s a one-off procedure, like a large surgical procedure, how do you excite them enough to buy that £5,000, £6,000 procedure?
  • Then after that, how do you stimulate a really positive community of people advocating and promoting you?

Laura Livesey (25:00):
So, get out your pad of paper, think about this and write this down because that’s really what you need to bring to that marketing partner or marketing coach so that they can work with you to fine-tune that system that you need to grow your practice consistently.

Rod Solar (25:15):
Good luck on the dating scene.

Laura Livesey (25:17):
Bye, everybody.

Rod Solar (25:18):

About the author


LiveseySolar’s mission is to double the size of 150 cataract and refractive surgery practices. Using our proven marketing frameworks and deep market knowledge, our customers can predictably and sustainably grow their practices so that they can enjoy a healthy balance between both worlds – a successful private practice and a happy life.

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Meet our Founders

We’re passionate about helping leaders of high-quality, growth-minded practice owners double their practice revenue

Rod Solar

Founder & Scalable Business Advisor

Rod co-founded LiveseySolar and acts as a Fractional CMO and Scalable Business Advisor for our customers. He’s on a mission to help transform the lives of 10,000 people with vision correction surgery by 2024. To achieve that, he inspires his customers to make confident decisions that will help 50,000 people take the first step towards vision correction.

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LiveseySolar completely transformed the way we were approaching this… We’ve gone from having just the dream of having a practice to having a practice up and running with people making inquiries and booking for procedures… It’s extremely pleasing. We feel lucky we connected with LiveseySolar.

— Dr Matthew Russell, MBChB, FRANZCO, specialist ophthalmic surgeon and founder of VSON and OKKO

Laura Livesey

Founder & CEO

Laura Livesey is the co-founder & CEO of LiveseySolar. She has developed powerful refractive surgery marketing systems that increase patient volumes and profits for doctors, clinics, and hospitals, since 1997.

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Rod and Laura know as much about marketing surgery to patients as I know about performing it. They are an expert in the field of laser eye surgery marketing. They know this industry inside out. I believe that they could help many companies in a variety of areas including marketing materials, sales training and marketing support for doctors.

— Prof. Dan Reinstein, MD MA FRSC DABO, founder of the London Vision Clinic, UK