Dr Uche Aniagwu outlines his four steps to success
As human beings, our brains are conditioned to spot those things that stand out in a crowd; it is an important survival instinct we all share. But while our days as predator-or-prey are long behind us, we’ve continued developing this knack for noticing outliers and have even learnt how to use others’ skills of perception to our advantage. Survival on the modern savannah – our global economy – is predicated upon a business’s ability to stand out amongst the competition. This market force holds especially true in the world of aesthetics, where the difference between thriving enterprise and withering on the vine often comes down to distinguishing yourself from the competition.
But for many of us with medical backgrounds, the practice of standing out goes against the grain in which we were trained, and for good reason: the standardisation of our training is meant to ensure replicable quality of service. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that many aesthetic practitioners are struggling to lean into what sets them apart. Our colleagues’ responses to a recent questionnaire truly highlighted these struggles:1
• 60% of the 350 practitioners questioned felt their greatest challenge was increased competition within the aesthetics industry
• 54% of practitioners believed marketing was their greatest struggle The fascinating, and revealing, thing about those two statistics is their inextricable link.
Fear of increased competition is directly correlated with a lack of confidence in effectively marketing oneself. But should we practitioners be more confident? The answer is no, for most, often because we make a crucial mistake. Many practitioners market themselves as businesses would, when our true value proposition lies almost entirely with our medical skills and knowledge. So, in order to effectively market, and thus distinguish, yourself, you must apply strategies that play to those strengths and cement your status as a person of influence: someone with a transformational idea in their field of expertise. In doing so, you will separate yourself from other offerings and break competition-driven price resistance, increase foot traffic, and open opportunities for multiple income streams.
Distinguishing oneself successfully as an aesthetic practitioner may come naturally to some, but for those of us where it doesn’t, there is a method that can be replicated to near certainty: put simply, divide and conquer your target audience. Once you have partitioned your audience, these new sects will be looking for leadership – that’s where you come in.
Modern-day marketing and influence building really are that simple! By supplementing the knowledge you already possess with an effective, straightforward guide to build influence, you’ll be well on your way. Now, let’s have a look at the four key steps to distinguishing yourself as an aesthetic practitioner.
This step is number one for a reason. Finding your niche is crucial for identifying the subgroups that you are most likely to attract, with an ultimate goal of shaping the identity of this group and its consumption habits. For example, at some point nonsurgical aesthetics existed within the broader cosmetics group, until someone decided that these people needed their own sect. Nowadays we see more of this funnelling happening and even within subgroups – like the lip ‘Kings and Queens’ of non-surgical cosmetics, or to go another step deeper, those focussed on natural lip results. Drilling down to your core niche will help you distinguish yourself in two very important ways.
First, it helps define who you are and what your sphere of influence is, just as you’ve done with your audience. A welldefined niche should be self-explanatory, thus making your marketing as organic as possible. Secondly, your niche will attract those who have long been grouped with others similar to them, but who have yearned for a community more focused on their (and your!) specific interest. By helping to create this space, you will be well-positioned to lead and establish your authority.
Invariably the toughest part of finding this niche is actually finding it. But the most straightforward way I’ve found to approach it is by listing all the different types of patients you have and analysing some of their distinguishing features: treatment type, presentation or specific demographic are all great starting points. From there, choose one of those subgroups and ask yourself, ‘how can I best serve them?’ It’s worth noting that your niche of choice should be an area where you are already professionally comfortable.
For some of you that maybe a type of skin treatment or a subset of filler patients. However, if you find you are drawn to niche where you do not feel you have total command then it is sensible to focus solely on enriching your knowledge in the area, be that through research or training. Oh, and if you’re afraid of alienating other existing patients, consider creating new social media accounts and patient-facing platforms that demonstrate your new focus.
You’ll know that you’ve nailed your niche when your influence in the space begins to expand and your message begins to resonate with those whom you’ve attracted. You also now know where to focus the majority of your attention.
Once you have discovered your niche, you’ll now need to communicate your value and vision to the group. Straightforward right? Actually, no. The challenge here is to succinctly state what you can do for your target audience, but with an eye for what distinguishes you from other practitioners vying for their attention. There are multiple places where you can pitch that allow you to distinguish yourself from your competitors.
The first place that this should happen is your website or your shop front if you like. Besides that, everywhere you interact with the public, especially your potential audience, is an opportunity to pitch yourself. That could be in magazines, professional events, LinkedIn and other forms of social media.
The aim here is to become known for your area of expertise and be the at the forefront of people’s mind when they consider your niche. The underwhelming reality is that if you browse the Instagram bios of most aesthetic practitioners, you’ll find nothing that communicates how what they do is any different from the rest. In fact, without the photo, most profiles would come off exactly the same. How then can you be at the forefront of anybody’s mind in a hyper competitive market.
Furthermore, your customer acquisition cost will be far higher than the practitioner who is well distinguished and has customers approaching them. Use the following pitch formula in all scenarios to leave a lasting impression:
A good pitch combines what + how + who; for example:
What = under-eye enhancement
How = non-surgical
Who = people with puffy eyes
Publishing in the world of aesthetics serves the very important purposes of expanding your reach and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your newfound niche. Putting your ideas to paper will boost what I like to call your ‘trust score’, like a credit score for your professional credibility. And as your trust score grows, so too does your influence and marketability within the space. More often than not, practitioners fail to publish because they have no area of focus; they’re generalists who rarely possess a sub-topic on which they feel like an authority. But if you’ve mastered the previous two steps, you already possess the focus and confidence required to transition from a consumer to a sharer of knowledge.
Publishing in this sense can mean anything from articles in a magazine to releasing a book. I advise practitioners to publish books where possible as this is the most credibility-enhancing type of publication. I can appreciate that releasing a book may seem daunting, but it really comes down to the message you want to communicate and to whom. The beauty of writing is that there is no right or wrong way of doing it. Furthermore, publishing a book today is straightforward; Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing allows for writers to self-publish with all the required guidance provided. Remember the content of your book can take any format from ‘tips and tricks’ to even a picture book.
In the case of magazine articles, ensure you stay focused and specific in your written pieces, and be sure to have your pitch at the forefront when you approach the editors. While you may have less creative expression in what you produce, the only true way to tailor your content appropriately is to have a conversation with the editors of your chosen magazine.
Always remember your audience. These original pieces will further distinguish you from the pack and help to begin turning the tides of competitive market pricing in your favour. Most of us know celebrated aesthetic practitioners; they are often the ones publishing books and articles, because they know just how important thought leadership is for building a brand. And while their service prices are always far-higher than the industry average, their businesses will continue to thrive.
The final step in distinguishing yourself as an aesthetic practitioner is to create a product that leverages your knowledge and services a specific need of individuals in your niche. As with the target audience itself, there are boundless possibilities for the size, scope and purpose of your creation; successful products can come in the form of treatment instruments for other practitioners, skincare products sold directly to the consumer and even online courses for colleagues and laypeople alike. A product speaks directly to your authority and expertise in an area, so make it personal, and, if applicable, something you yourself would use. Building a successful line of products will bring you into the coveted realm of multiple income streams, but more importantly, it will further establish your brand and continue to distinguish you amongst your peers.
Surely, launching a product must be massively time consuming and expensive? Well, on the contrary, it can be relatively fast and cheap depending on your approach. There are many white label products that can be customised to meet your needs and often these production centres provide the guidance to ensure your product meets all the necessary standards to be sold. Furthermore, depending on your aspirations, I suggest producing only 250 or fewer units of your chosen product and using the data from those sales to drive investment externally into your product. This allows you to scale faster and without too much cost. This stage of your career is best executed when you have successfully completed the other steps and distinguished yourself enough such that you have a dedicated following within your target audience.
So to the majority of aesthetic practitioners – those who say they are struggling to stand out – rather than fear growing competition in the industry, see it as the opportunity that I believe it is. If you follow the steps that I’ve laid out, you will have no problem distinguishing yourself, even as more practitioners enter the field. You see, as an established authority in your space, two sets of patients will begin to emerge: the general public who want to purchase your products and your peers who will be keen to learn from you. For those who invest in their influence, the possibilities are endless.
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