If you listen to the media, you would think the sky is falling—the airwaves are filled with reports of doom and gloom about home foreclosures, layoffs, and high oil prices.
It does not matter if these claims are unfounded and exaggerated. Your patients will most likely believe what they see and hear.
In response, they will likely pull back on their disposable income purchases.
Now—more than ever before—you must market your practice more strategically so that you don’t feel a slump in your aesthetic practice revenues.
The good news is there is much you can do to survive and even flourish during this shaky time.
Mind-set is important. Have you heard the saying, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”? If you buy into the negativity of the media and the markets, then you may not remain open to new opportunities and possibilities.
Don’t allow highly publicized pessimism stop you from being excited and enthusiastic about your practice’s future.
VANITY IS A STRONG MOTIVATOR
Regardless of how much the media scares the general public, the good news is that vanity knows no bounds.
Many aesthetic patients will do whatever is necessary to look and feel better. For now, they may withhold plans to complete the more extreme and expensive procedures; however, they will do something to regain what they believe they have lost to look as good as they feel.
So, for now, they may settle for lasers and injectables rather than more expensive surgery. Or, they may use financing programs to pay for their surgery over time.
There are 76 million Baby Boomers who are not looking forward to getting old, and they still have the disposable income to slow the aging process.
Consider the psychology of the aesthetic patient. He or she comes to you to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. When things are good and the economy is booming, they come to you and gladly spend their disposable income on your products and services.
However, when times are tough and finances are stretched, they need to dig deeper for a reason to see you as well as a reason to give up their money—especially if they’re not sure they will have any left to spend in the near future.
NOW IS THE TIME TO MARKET
You may feel the urge to cut down on your marketing and advertising efforts and lay low while the economy is looking gloomy. Resist that urge!
If you notice advertising is way down in your local publications, keep in mind that now would be a good time to place ads, as your ad has a better chance to be seen without so much clutter.
In reality, now is the best time for you to step up your promotional efforts to avoid dips and inconsistencies in your patient flow.
Let your competitors lay low while you actively engage in attracting new patients and re-engage with old ones.
PATIENT TRACKING IS KEY
Focus on your current patient database. You could be sitting on a gold mine and don’t even know it.
If you have invested in practice software that tracks patient behavior and you have been inputting the information correctly, your database contains a wealth of information for you to leverage.
If you use a Rolodex, you still could be sitting on a gold mine. You are looking for the pearls—the most likely patients who will respond to your promotional efforts.
Good-quality patient tracking will allow you to do the following:
- Welcome back long-lost patients who would return to you if given a chance;
- Motivate current patients to refer their friends, family, and colleagues; and,
- Encourage your patients to visit more often and to purchase products, procedures, and treatments.
The most strategic way for you to market right now is to look at your past successes and attempt to repeat them.
This will take some detective work and time; however, it is worth it to know statistics such as:
- What products and services are your patients buying, and what are your best-selling items?
- How are they hearing about you?
- Who are they referring to you?
- What is your most prominent patient demographics, and how can you find more of those patients?
Using the stats from above, develop marketing campaigns specific to certain patient groups.
Not only will it enable you to get better results, it will also be so much more cost-effective for you to target your market versus throwing out a net of your laundry list of services to see who responds.
For example, let’s say you have 300 patients who visited you for collagen wrinkle filler, and 150 of them have never returned. Perhaps they moved, went to a competitor, or maybe they didn’t like the short duration the filler lasted so they have never invested in it again.
This is the perfect opportunity to educate them on the advancements of longer-lasting fillers and the remarkable results you can obtain with them.
Simply educating them on what’s new can awaken their interest in cosmetic enhancement and in your practice as well.
Staying in touch with your current patients will help keep them loyal to you.
Use newsletters, invitations to events, and in-house signage to educate your patients about what’s new and to remind them to come see you when they’re ready for aesthetic enhancement.
By the way, next to e-mail-based marketing, direct mail is still the cheapest form of advertising today because it is so targeted.
You are sending a message of interest to people who already know, like, and trust you. These are the people who are much more apt to respond to your promotional efforts.
During questionable economic times, two marketing strategies are bound to help your practice.
To take advantage of the available free public relations (PR) opportunities, you have to do some work for the media to get your PR placed.
- Understand your target market, how it gets its information, and whom to contact.
- Send the media announcements, invitations, and press releases.
- Be sure the announcements are professionally written.
- Dedicate a staff member to keep your public relations on track.
- Use industry buzzwords to capture the media’s attention.
- Most media outlets need at least a 3-week lead time for placement of your press release or announcement.
- Highlight your expertise when warranted.
- You may choose to put on a “media night” to introduce your services and products to local newspapers and television stations.
- Be certain to publish your press releases and event announcements on your practice’s Web site.
- Your target market for local media should be around a 30-mile radius of your practice.
- Take the time to seriously evaluate—or reevaluate—your marketing efforts and set new goals.
Birthday cards. There is something about a looming birthday that will send the aesthetic patient into a tailspin—and that makes sense.
The aesthetic patient who cares about their looks will really care when their birthday is approaching.
To take advantage of this special time of the year, send them a fun birthday card that says, “Come celebrate with us,” and offer $50 off any rejuvenation procedure listed in your menu.
This is important: Handwrite your signature and the address on the outside envelope. Use a stamp on a plain white envelope with no return address. You want this to look like very personal mail so it is well received and opened.
Be sure to send the upcoming birthday card on the 15th of the previous month. Let the recipient know that the $50-off special offer will expire 2 weeks after their birthday—this adds a sense of urgency, which may inspire them to pick up the telephone the minute they receive your card.
Refer-a-friend. This is another promo tool that can yield high response rates.
Can you imagine what would happen if every one of your patients referred just one of their family members, friends, or colleagues? Your practice would double in size overnight.
A large majority of your patients would refer others to you if they knew you were interested.
It’s as simple as saying to the patient, “We would love other patients just like you, so please refer your friends and we’ll take good care of them.”
Put together a more structured program as well—for example, a “Buddy Beauty” program that features a two-for-one deal—one for them and one for a friend—and then encourage them to come to your office together.
While you’re at it, be sure to include a “Bring a Friend” request on your invitations, a “Send this to a friend” on your Web site, include a relevant announcement in your office PBX’s on-hold messaging, and mention all promotions in your newsletter.
See also “Tracking Your Patients” by Lesley Ranft in the November 2005 issue of PSP.
Spread the word to your patients so they will spread the word to their friends, family, and colleagues.
Your continued success or newfound success is as close to you as your keyboard and computer monitor.
Patient tracking and strategic messaging is the secret to prospering during this shaky economic time.
The good news is that success is in the details. Pay particular attention to certain aspects of your practice, and there is a good chance the work will pay off handsomely and doesn’t need to cost a fortune.
Catherine Maley is the author of Your Aesthetic Practice/What Your Patients are Saying (CIM, 2008). Her firm, Cosmetic Image Marketing, specializes in growing aesthetic practices using PR, advertising, and marketing strategies and tools. Contact her at (877) 339-8833.