Aesthetic medicine is a lucrative business that’s created a fiercely competitive industry. Clinicians in core and non-core specialties, as well as corporations, want to capitalize on the growing demand for cosmetic enhancement. This means patients have more choices now than ever. So what would make them come to you and stay with you? It begins with marketing.
Various marketing methods exist. No one method works all the time, and all the methods work some of the time. Therefore, you need to develop the right marketing mix, which is defined as the methods you use to promote your services and products. This consists of using different long- and short-term messages and avenues, until you get the results you’re looking for. The methods must work synergistically.
Marketing your aesthetic practice starts with defining your preferred patients. You then have to be where they are consistently so that when they’re ready for cosmetic enhancements, they think of you—not your competitor.
Defining Your Preferred Patient
When it comes to your patients, keep in mind the importance of target marketing. You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t be everything to everybody.” There’s great truth to that. So cater to the group you consider your perfect patients. Learn their demographics and needs. This is important because only a certain percentage of the population will purchase cosmetic enhancement procedures, products or treatments. By promoting your marketing efforts to the right niche market, you’ll be more productive. You won’t waste your effort, time or money by throwing out your message to just anyone.
Marketing strategies are also becoming more individually oriented. Using a sophisticated software program, practices can develop a database that allows them to individually approach prospective and existing patients. This approach provides a solution to a specific concern they may have and relays that information in the format the patient wants to receive that information. An example is the cosmetic patient who has had a wrinkle filler treatment from you and who has agreed to receive email messages from your office so you send his/her your e-newsletter tellimg them about the latest FDA-approved wrinkle filler that lasts longer. Successful practices realize relationship marketing is much more important than transaction marketing. Therefore, keeping current patients is more important, and cheaper, than trying to attract new ones.
Long-term strategies build your brand awareness and your practice. Short-term strategies create a temporary, immediate revenue boost by giving patients an incentive to purchase now. By implementing long- and short-term marketing strategies, you can gain immediate revenues while building your reputation and practice.
Branding. Thisis your image. It’s everything patients see, hear or read about you from your advertising, public relations, printed materials, office, staff or any other detail about you and your practice. It’s the “feeling” patients get about you. Take an objective look at every detail of your practice to make sure you’re giving out the right message to your prospective and current patients.
Internal Image. Be sure your office ambience is inviting, comfortable and clean. If you haven’t updated your practice in three years, it’s time to paint and redecorate with new colors and textures. Include soft lighting, music and art to portray your aesthetic interest. This is also a good place to show off your work. Display your credentials, testimonials and photo albums so patients feel as if they know you even before you’ve met.
And be sure your staff is friendly, professional and caring to every patient, every time. Nothing is more important than patient relations, and a great staff is crucial to your success. Be sure they’re properly trained on your procedures, credentials and patient relations. Hold regular staff meetings so everyone is on the same page, and offer them complementary procedures so they can relay first-hand experience to your patients.
In addition, look at your patients’ experiences from their point of view. Be sure there’s a smooth transition from each step in the patient flow process. This includes greeting patients, ushering them into an exam room, having them speak first with the staff, then the doctor, then back to the staff to discuss next steps. It takes training and conscientiousness on everyone’s part to make this smooth and effortless.
External image. To ensure your message is on target, review your current advertisements and other high-profile projects, such as your Web site and public relations efforts. Be sure it portrays you as the expert in your field and the No. 1 choice for them. Moreover, make sure your photo and contact information are up to date. Have your Web site URL address printed on everything—brochures and patient information packets–so people can easily find you on the Internet. All of these tools help, or hurt, the image you’re trying to portray. So be sure they’re top quality, positioning you as successful and experienced.
Public relations. You want to establish yourself as the industry expert who knows the latest technology and procedures. However, keep in mind that public relations can be time-consuming and costly if you go through a PR agency. It can take months to get any coverage, but it can pay off. Not only can good PR bring you new patients, but it also can reinforce your patients’ decision to choose you and stay with you.
Community Outreach. Getting involved in your community can give you tremendous exposure. Every community has its “movers and shakers,” so get to know them by attending their events and offering to speak. Get involved in local charities and fundraising events by offering gift baskets and other support. You can get some great PR out of it and be seen as caring and committed to your community.
Speaking Opportunities. Offer to speak in your community, as well as at your industry medical meetings and your local media on topics you know well. This will help brand you as “the go-to” physician in your specialty. Prepare an informational media packet that includes any articles you’ve written, past PR you’ve received, your credentials, your photo and anything else that sets you apart from your competition.
Search Engine Optimization. Internet marketing and pay-per-click search engines are another way to become visible to new patients. To get the Internet exposure you want, use professionals who understand the intrinsic world of meta tags and page positioning. This is the opposite of what you would normally do in marketing, which is to determine your target market and then communicate with them.
With Internet marketing, you’re displaying your practice and then learning who’s interested and what they’re interested in. Because this large net is being thrown out about your practice, you may need to sift through those just surfing the Internet vs. those who are truly serious about considering your services. You want to review your Website performance monthly reports to see how many hits you are getting and you also want to review the email messages you get directly from your Website from your “Contact Us” link. If you are getting too many “tire-kickers” and not enough qualified leads, you may want to set up an automatic response to answer general questions about you and your practice and then have the prospective patient call your office to schedule a consultation.
Mass Media. Youcannot enter this marketing arena lightly, whether it’s print, television, radio or cable TV. It takes substantial time, resources and patience to see this marketing channel work for you. A typical American sees more than 3,000 messages a day. Therefore, your message must talk to that perfect patient who’s ready to listen. That takes creativity, repetition and persistence. If you want the telephone to ring, you must offer an irresistible special patients can’t refuse. If your goal is to build your brand awareness, you need a tastefully crafted message that explains why you’re the best.
Start with Your Current Patients. While you’re waiting for your long-term marketing strategies to take hold, implement some “fast-acting” marketing projects that give you revenues now. Start with your current patient base. They already know and trust you. Therefore, they’re much more apt to respond to your marketing efforts. So use the marketing mix to cross-promote comparable procedures and treatments and encourage patient referrals.
If your patient is interested in photorejuvenation, there’s a good chance she’s also interested in vein therapy, soft tissue augmentation and medical-strength retail products. Be sure to check with your individual society by-laws to learn the dos and don’ts of marketing your services. Depending on the specialty, it can be either products or services.
Newsletter. Send a quarterly newsletter to your database to educate them on the latest news in the cosmetic enhancement world. You also may want to include a special offer.
Direct Mail. Work with your vendors to sponsor a comarketed piece that promotes yourself and them. Vendors are usually happy to help you promote their products and services, and they can help you offset your marketing costs.
Internet Marketing. Have a graphic designer create an html message with a special offer that can be e-mailed to your patient database monthly. Be sure you have permission to send e-mail to your patients, and they must be able to opt out if they want. This is, by far, the cheapest and fastest way to communicate with your patients. It’s well worth the time to collect e-mails at every opportunity. Make the messages short and newsworthy so patients look forward to the next one.
Word-of-mouth Referral Program. Offer some incentive for your patients to refer friends or family. The best referrals will come from satisfied patients who were treated well and got a great result. Thank them with a personal phone call and/or note each time they send someone to your practice. VIP Cards. Americans love frequent buyer programs. So take care of patients who regularly see you for cosmetic enhancement. They will want, and perhaps even expect, some incentive for being loyal to your practice. Talk with your vendors, since they may be able to help you with a VIP program. For example, the manufacturers of Botox® Cosmetic and Restylane® offer a frequent user VIP card that offers a discount on your next treatment. Gift Certificates. Be sure to display eye-catching gift certificates your patients will see. If they’re happy with your services, they’ll buy them for friends, family and colleagues. In-House Events. Invite your patients and their friends, as well as neighboring spas, salons and retail shop personnel, to your office for an evening of education. Present what’s new in cosmetic enhancement and sell products.
Make sure your staff asks every new patient how they heard of the physician. They must know how patients are finding their way to your office. The easiest way to track results is a log near the telephones to remind the receptionist to ask. She can then enter that information into a software program. You’ll be able to pull up reports periodically to track trends and marketing results. You also can code your ads, use a special telephone line or have them present a coupon for the special price you mentioned in your ad.
Remember, it takes different messages and different avenues to connect with your preferred target market. If aesthetic patients aren’t ready today for your services, they will be three, six, nine months from now. Be sure you’re there to address their needs.