Sham Surgery: A Look at Placebo’s with Seth Godin

Today’s post comes after a great piece by the best selling author, Seth Godin and surgeon Ian Harris. In his groundbreaking book, “Surgery, the Ultimate Placebo“, Harris finds that sham surgeries have been proven to show benefits. A 2014 review showed that of 53 trials, 74% of sham surgeries provide some benefit while 50% worked as well as an actual surgery.

What is a Sham Surgery?

These are fake operations where patients are led to believe they are having a real surgical procedure done. This means they are taken through all the regular pre-and post- surgical operations. This includes fasting, anesthesia and even have incisions made in the skin. The Five Thirty Eight article even cites that in some cases, the patient is awake during the “sham surgery” and is shown a video of someone’s else procedure as if it was their own.

If your thinking these sound super unethical, you are right to believe so. The name pretty much has the word, sham. But surprisingly their done with the patients’ consent when trials are done.

Findings of the Study and What it Means

To understand the topic more thoroughly, I encourage you to read the Five Thirty Eight article. I’ve summarized the findings quickly below.

  • There’s an effective placebo when it comes to believing that you’re having a surgery to cure pain or sickness
  • A surgery’s invasiveness can also explain the strength of the placebo. The more invasive, the strong the placebo
  • Even an ineffective surgery may seem helpful as chronic pain can peak and wanes

What If Your Patient Isn’t Human

The ritual and promise of a surgery is a huge placebo when it comes to making one feel better. For pet owners who are concerned about their loved ones getting better, its just as important to create that sense of healing and pain relief.

Though in this case the patient is not the client, but rather their pet, there still is a lot that goes into creating the impression that a high quality of medical work is being done.

In our study of 1 star Yelp reviews, we found many 1 star reviews about physical exams.

Many users complained that they waited for an extended period of time. Once they finally got into the examination room, the veterinarian came in and didn’t even touch their pet.

Though physical exams may be one of the most routine, minor activities, to many owners, it is the pinnacle of ensuring their pet’s health. You need to create the impression that an intense, thorough job has been done.

In his book, The Art of Veterinary Practice Management, Mark Opperman writes to use an exam-room report card. The report card “outlines the steps the veterinarian took during the physical exam and emphasizes that the pet received thorough medical attention.

It’s just like wearing the white coat. The second it is on, the respect and attention of the patient is at 100%

Creating that Placebo for a Better Customer Experience

Just like the sham surgery, all the rituals and operations before and after the surgery are just as important as the surgery itself. This is especially true when it comes to creating that impression with the patient.

Consumers want to know that whatever they are paying for, they are getting the full experience.

This is especially true for medical treatment. Of course, there are many consumers who want to pay the absolute bare minimum, however that does not change the fact that the product/service you give must seem complete.

Those who want to bargain and penny pinch want to do so with a complete product/service. But I don’t want to pay too much attention to those money grabbing patients. Let’s discuss those who are ready and willing to invest in their pet’s health.

A Better Customer Experience Brings Better Customers

A better product brings more customers who are willing to pay. Look no further than Coach, Tiffany’s and Apple and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Customers of these brands want these products because of the quality of the products, the status that comes with these brands and also the overall experience of having the product.

Thus, you never see anyone trying to haggle with any of these brands about price. And if you try, good luck with that.

In the same fashion, your clinic must command that same kind of brand if you want to be attracting the best customers who are ready and willing to invest whatever is needed for the best care.

But before you can start bumping up prices and expect everyone to be ready and willing, you need to first ensure that your clinic is providing the best service in the area.

This also means, the placebo of your customer experience has to be there as well.

If you do honestly provide the best medical care and your team is unrivaled when it comes to expertise and care, it doesn’t mean diddly squat if your consumers don’t perceive it.

Thus its important to analyze every touch point with the consumer and identify if your practice is staying on top. These include:

  • Practice website
  • Waiting room
  • Examination Room
  • Look and friendliness of the staff
  • Exterior and Signage of the practice
  • Literature going home, etc.

Grab a list together and start tracking all the other practices in the area. Ensure that you at each touch point your clinic is providing a superior experience. Of course, there are some things you can’t readily change, for example your real estate. However, you want to address everything that you can.

Being Original Is Overated

There’s nothing like being inspired to maintain a blog. If you have ever dabbled in marketing or websites, you probably have had some motivation or goal to keep up a blog.

I’ve been there too. I’ve had numerous blogs that I’ve had the ultimate goal of contributing to every single day.

In most cases, I’ve failed miserably.

Recently I did some reading though and I think I came across the main deterrent to having a consistent blog.

Trying to be Original is Your Problem

There is this goal that we all have to create new content and ideas the world has never seen before. With the world at our fingertips and the internet is an equal playing field, I think we start to romanticize the opportunity.

What this ends up looking like is you sitting in front of a computer, trying to think of a whole new blog post idea that’s funny, new, and never been seen before.

This is the equivalent to trying to come up with a new invention every single day, its nearly impossible, especially when you have a bajillion other things to do during your day.

Before you know it, you have 2 – 3 blog posts published over a year ago.

Understand that Creativity is Not What You Think it is

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” — Steve Jobs

I wanted to start off this section with a quote I found from a great post that helped motivate me to write more.

Steve Jobs to many people is seen as the human embodiment of creativity. However, with this quote, I think it starts to bring the bar of creativity much lower.

Not to say that creativity is easy, but as we’ve discussed before, people seem to think of creativity as this super high bar that only years of pain can attain.

Change Your Frame of Mind

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be creative. You can simply just make improvements and combine different things to make something new.

So how do you translate this creativity into your business and blog?

A piece of great advice that I read from the post I cited earlier is to combine aspects of your professional life and happenings in your daily life.

For example, if you went to a coffee shop and had terrible service, you can relate that to your own clinic in a blog post. You can write about how your clinic takes certain steps to make sure that what happened to you, doesn’t happen to your customers.

Leverage What You Already Read & Consume On A Daily Basis

There is a lot of great content out there. Whether it be books, articles, TV shows, or podcasts. You most likely partake in this content as well.

Many of these pieces of content deal with the same thing that you are trying to accomplish.

They’re trying to create great content so that their users can engage and form a deeper bond with the brand. Much in the same way your veterinary clinic would like to engage more with the community and your current clientele.

This is where you truly have to be creative.

Don’t be creative in the sense that you need to think of something entirely new. Be creative in how you connect 2 different topics.

How I Connected My Favorite TV Show with my Profession

If you’d like an example, here is a running series I just started about The Simpsons and how it relates to Digital Marketing and Business.

How I was creative with it was not by trying to teach boring marketing and business lessons through clips of the Simpsons. Rather I found areas of the show that highlight everyday struggles and frustrations of marketers and entrepreneurs.

It’s much more of an amusing series than it is educational.

Alright, I’ll finish my shameless plug. But if you ever want to take a look, you are more than welcome to give it a read 🙂

Which brings us to the last point.

You Miss 100% of the Shots You Don’t Take

Creativity is all about being vulnerable. You cannot wait to come up with the perfect ideas. Because they never come and before you know it, months pass by and nothing has been done.

The only way to get your marketing efforts off the ground is to put yourself out there. Write posts. Some will be corny. Many won’t even be looked at. The point is that you have to keep doing it.

Once you continue producing content you will have attained a great level of experience and have a huge bank of content to show for it.

Specials and Deals Are a Terrible Marketing Strategy

A marketing campaign based on specials is not a marketing campaign. It definitely isn’t something that builds a brand either.

I have had the great fortune of working with clients for a number of years. In this time, I have run a variety of marketing campaigns and deals. This is what I have learned.

Building a Brand Isn’t About Price

Giving discounts or lowered prices on your products/services will never differentiate you. That’s something that they taught us in business school.

If you think your going to beat your competitors on price, you will not last long.

Price is an overrated. It does not have as strong a hold on our day to day decisions as we think. Now, this may sound contradictory to everything you know, but it really does make sense.

Money has been shown to not be a great motivator in the workplace. It doesn’t motivate creativity and it certainly does not dictate our purchasing habits.

To punch the point home, how many times have you gone to Starbucks to buy a coffee that is 5x more expensive than buying a black coffee from your local donut shop.

Your Marketing Needs to Go Beyond Price

Saying that, your marketing cannot be all about price. There has to be much more. What does your clinic/brand stand for. What words or message does your brand send with your marketing.

When your creating your marketing strategy, think about what you will represent. To belabor a company that is always used in every case study, we will use Apple.

Apple stands for innovation and superior design.

They don’t give try to out price their competition, but rather beat their competition through their brand.

For your business you have to determine what attributes you would like to stand for. Does your clinic want to represent itself as the most technological savvy clinic for the most tech savvy pet owners?

Or maybe you want to be more of a family clinic where the whole family comes in together.

Stand for Something

One of the hardest parts of digital marketing is standing for something. This is because you will have to eventually siphon off certain parts of the market.

Think about Apple. Their brand alienates those who do not like technology and want simple, easy to use tech.

Your own clinic needs to stand for a certain brand and then understand that the implications will not outweigh the major benefits of having a strong brand that represents a concept or attribute.

Excellence in Marketing is Doing the Small Things Everyday

I have this joke. When the moon comes up, some people turn into werewolves. For me, when night falls I don’t turn into a mythical beast. I turn into a pig. A big, fat pig.

What I mean is I eat everything in site.

A sample of what I can chomp through on cheat days are:

  • medium pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut
  • milkshake from Baskin Robbins
  • Tacos from a local hole in the wall
  • Hot Cheeto Fries
  • Pieces of Milk Chocolate
  • Drumsticks from Costco

My problem? I’m a guy of extremes. If I have pizza one day, I can easily have it every single day.

So why am I going into detail about my disgusting habits with junk food?

It’s because I always tried to fight it with these big proclamations. You know, those times when you say your never going to eat ice cream again. Your not going to drink again.

You might say it with complete earnest at the moment, but after a good night’s sleep you know that it will wear off.

I Got Over My Craving By Doing the Small Things

After years of messing up, I just decided that I would take small steps/goals:

Goal 1: Only consume junk food at the end of the day

Goal 2: Junk food only on Friday, Saturday and Sundays

Goal 3: Junk food only on Friday & Saturday nights

Final Result: One cheat day every Sunday

The point is, big goals don’t happen overnight. They happen when you make small changes every single day.

How to Commit to Marketing

Sit down and decide what is the first step that you can take every single day to do marketing. For me, its always been to write. If I write every single day then I feel like I accomplished so much.

For you it doesn’t have to be abut writing. You could decide to take a picture with a client every day or maybe to save the best article about pet health every day

Just Pick One Small Activity That you can Repeat Every Day.

The key to success is to not add layers. For example, when I write I do not edit, I do not publish. I don’t do anything like that. All I do is I write continuously even if I feel like the piece is terrible.

Whenever you start adding too may layers, things get complicated and overwhelming.

If you have too many layers, the simple, repetitive task becomes too much. You have to spend too much energy and before you know it, your exhausted.

Add the Extra Steps/Layers Later

So if you are taking a photo with a client a day, only do that! Do not post it on Facebook. You’ll find yourself stuck with trying to write a good caption or debating when the best time is to post.

Get rid of all the extra stuff. Just focus on taking the picture.

At the end of the day, your just trying to develop the habit and the skill. Once you get used to taking the photo a day, it will become 2nd nature. Then you can add the habit of writing a caption.

Before you know it, you can create an entire post in one day or post engaging content on social media with ease.

In the same way you don’t do an entire body workout in one day, you got to think the same with your marketing. Don’t try to do it all at once, especially if your not use to it.

Start small, and you’ll develop a strong marketing channel for your clinic over time.