Bernie Madoff Got One Thing Right


Since you are reading this article, I’m guessing my headline got your attention. So what did Bernie Madoff get right, considering all of his flaws and sins and how does that apply to your healthcare practice?

The Power of Reverse Selling

Almost from the beginning, Bernie used reverse psychology to attract clients by turning them away.

“Sorry, I know you’d like to invest in my fund, and I’d like to help you out, but unfortunately, the fund is closed at this time.”

“Can’t you make an exception for me?”

“Well, the problem is that I’ve turned others way so I don’t know how I could make an exception for you. The word is sure to get out and then everyone will be hounding me.”

“I won’t tell a soul…I swear!”

“Well, let me think about it.”

Bernie didn’t invent this technique but he really perfected it. The late David Sandler created a sales system in the late Sixties based on reverse selling, take-aways and establishing strict qualification criteria for determining the right client vs. the wrong client.

Unfortunately, Bernie didn’t use reverse selling to the benefit of his clients. He used it to manipulate and defraud his clients. That’s obviously terrible, but Bernie’s deplorable application of this powerful technique doesn’t negate the effectiveness of reverse selling.

The Appeal of Exclusivity

It’s basic human nature to want to have something good or valuable that others don’t or can’t have. The more limited and exclusive the value is, the more appealing it becomes to many people. We almost always want what we can’t have. And if someone else is in on a good thing (particularly if we know them), we want to get in on it, too.

Qualifying Your Ideal Customers

Exclusive appeal means you can’t and don’t want to be “everything to everyone.” You want to appear extra special to a select group of people who represent your ideal customer (patient) profile.

This also means that you have to target those who want to be in your exclusive “club” and can afford to and are willing to pay extra for the privilege and special status. Some refer to this as the “velvet rope” strategy.

Does this seem discriminatory to those who can’t afford to pay more for exclusive value?

In healthcare, you can’t necessarily apply this principle to certain patients depending on whether and what kind of health insurance they may have. For example, you can’t create multi-tier status for some Medicare patients and not others – but that doesn’t mean that Medicare Advantage companies don’t package extra services to create a greater appeal to Medicare recipients.

Which kinds of healthcare services are appropriate for reverse selling and exclusivity?

  • Cash-pay, non-insured elective services, including
    • cosmetic surgery
    • high-end hearing aids
    • cosmetic dentistry
    • non-surgical aesthetic services
    • fitness programs
  • Concierge medicine for primary care
  • Donors for hospitals and other not-for-profit healthcare organizations

Highly Enthusiastic Word-of-Mouth — delivered discreetly — is  KEY to Success in Exclusivity Marketing

A big part of what makes exclusivity appealing is that it’s perceived almost as a secret. You need to know someone who can get you in.

That’s why building positive word-of-mouth from these patients is so vital. And it’s not just general positive feedback. These patients need to be made to feel special enough to want to tell their friends, family and colleagues that they can try to get them in to see you.

Online reviews are hit-and-miss at best. Yes, you still want to make it easy for your happy patients to write positive reviews about your value. But the feeling of real exclusivity – where they want you much more than you want them – and you both know it, everything gets much better…and easier.