The right combination of niche products and a comprehensive strategy to market them will get more prospective patients through the door now and position your practice for even greater success as the economy gets into full swing.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) recently released some concerning statistics about the cosmetic plastic surgery business. In 2009, spending on plastic surgery services fell 20% to $10.5 billion, and the number of cosmetic surgical procedures dropped by 17% to 1.47 million.
Certainly the worst economy since the Great Depression played a major role in the decrease. Unfortunately, it’s likely to remain as such through the next several quarters. Aesthetic medicine practices of all sizes now must work even harder in a competitive industry to win their piece of what for the time being is a diminishing market.
Despite the downturn in cosmetic surgery procedures, nearly 1.5 million were still performed in 2009, a number roughly equal to 0.5% of the total US population. That means for every metropolitan area with a population of at least 250,000, on average about 1,250 cosmetic surgery procedures were performed in each of those markets.
These numbers prove that even in a slow economy, men and women are undergoing cosmetic surgery in larger numbers than you might think, begging the question, “What was your share of the total procedures performed in your market?”
Because no one practice can single-handedly create cosmetic surgery demand in its market, the challenge becomes diverting more of these patients from your competitors’ door to yours.
In the world of retail aesthetic medicine, it is easy for small and large practices to get lost in the marketing jungle. As the cosmetic plastic surgery market becomes increasingly competitive and a soft market makes new patients even more precious, it seems at times almost impossible to stand out from competitors in the consumer’s mind.
It is possible, though. A targeted strategy that includes branded, niche products and services, and also clearly defines them in the market’s mind, will differentiate your practice and lead to success.
ESTABLISH A NICHE
With current economic trends and the ever-evolving aesthetic landscape, new technologies come to market just about every year. Some are a flash in the pan, but some have merit and years of longevity in the business. In many cases, timing is everything since every novel marketing idea has a life cycle.
Consumer branding has become a staple for many top health care and beauty companies to differentiate their products as they market them directly to consumers. In this instance, the old question, “What’s in a name?” can be answered easily as, “A lot,” especially if it defines unique value exclusive to your practice.
Botox, Latisse, PowerPeel, Fraxel, Thermage, Thread Lift, SmartLipo, and the QuickLift have all come on the scene as successful niche procedures or products. All of these trade names offer an identity and the perception of offering something exclusive. In addition, with some procedures the exclusivity is more than perception; it is real in that they offer geographic market ownership. Branded procedures also create the consumer buzz for which each cosmetic and plastic surgery practice should be looking.
In general, practices that offer or affiliate themselves with niche products or services that provide good exclusivity rights can separate themselves from their competitors, particularly in online search rankings. Conversely, opting to advertise a laundry list of standard procedures is by and large a “plain vanilla” approach, and typically does not pay big dividends. It also requires a long time to mature.
Numerous top-level aesthetic product manufacturers, such as Allergan, have undertaken large, national direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising campaigns. Partnering or strategically aligning your business with one or more of these manufacturers is a sound way to share their success, especially because no individual practice has the resources to create the dynamic impact that these well-funded, glitzy campaigns offer.
Jumping into the hotly contested neurotoxin environment, for example, can pay big dividends, as Allergan and Medicis offer cosmetic practices tantalizing and creative incentives to switch to or stick with their respective Botox or Dysport products.
Additionally, for savvy practitioners who embrace it, offering the lash-enhancement product Latisse is an effective strategy to get new patient prospects to your practice. Allergan reportedly has allocated tens of millions of national DTC advertising dollars to be spent over the next 12 months in order to grow Latisse into a mainstream product.
Linking your Web site to the Latisse site and taking advantage of the increased search traffic for this product can be a successful online initiative, if done correctly.
Although these products won’t create an exclusive niche, it makes good sense to take advantage of the wave of positive consumer interest generated by these manufacturing heavyweights. It doesn’t cost anything to jump on board, and the return on the effort can be substantial.
MAKING THE COMMITMENT
In a down economy, many investors stop investing. Don’t make the same mistake with your business. Making a sizeable investment to differentiate your practice during a sluggish economy is nerve-racking. However, because it is likely the most valuable revenue-producing asset you own, it requires your total commitment to build and maintain success.
SmartLipo (from Cynosure Inc, Westford, Mass), introduced in 2007, was one of the more effective new technologies in creating consumer buzz. It is the redesign of a procedure that was developed more than 20 years ago. When it was introduced, SmartLipo met the market’s demand for a procedure that was less invasive, less expensive, and necessitated less downtime.
SmartLipo has proven to be a huge marketing success, particularly for early adopters of the brand. In terms of long-term differentiation, however, market exclusivity was compromised when too many laser units were sold, oversaturating the market in a number of geographic areas.
The QuickLift and the Liftstyle Lift are examples of new, successful niche products. Like SmartLipo, they offer a quicker, less expensive, and less invasive alternative.
In the consumer’s mind, it creates an entirely new procedure that produces effective results. This is the real secret to achieving marketing success.
Branded procedures such as these, even in a down economy, can help your practice by luring away competitors’ patients. These new products and branded technologies may provide a faster and less expensive alternative for the consumer over traditional procedures. More than practically any other approach, these branded solutions can be used to successfully divert new business to your office.
Jerry Brandy is president of MD Communications Inc, a medical marketing firm in Pittsburgh. He can be reached at (800) 344-1151.