Michelle Boxall looks at strategies to ensure you get the most value when marketing your clinic
For most businesses, the New Year brings renewed efforts and inspiration to make improvements and grow sales. Planning for the year ahead can be an exciting activity; but new ideas, unfortunately, often have to be tempered by the constraints of a small budget. Many clinics have modest marketing budgets, and even the larger chains and services within the aesthetics industry have to look for good return on investment (ROI) in the current economic climate.
Marketing budgets are often the first cost to be cut in times of austerity. The short-term gain, however, can often deliver long term pain when it impacts on sales further down the road. When businesses finally come back round to the idea that ‘something’ has to be done in order to grow or maintain revenue, the question over what that ‘something’ should be can be challenging.
Clinic owners may find themselves trapped in a cycle of indecision, running in circles looking for that something that will transform their business, but never making any long-term commitment. Decision makers can be frozen by the fear of investing in a strategy that doesn’t work, trying to avoid wasting money that they simply cannot afford to lose. This vicious cycle may actually precipitate poor decision-making; where clinic owners will only trial a marketing activity for a short period, with minimum financial investment alongside little or no personal investment of time. It is not surprising then, that these marketing quick-fixes don’t usually work and only add fuel to the fire of marketing uncertainty. You should recognise that while it is easier to swallow small budget losses, these can quickly add up to significant financial losses when considered over a number of years.
The first place to start when considering any marketing activity is in understanding and/or establishing your business goals and objectives. It is the time to look closely at your business and devise a clear business strategy, then the scattergun approach to marketing will likely lead to failures within any outcomes.
Your business plan should provide the structure for your marketing plan. The more detailed your business objectives, the more accurate you can be in your promotional planning. For example, when looking at sales objectives, you should clarify the value of any increase in sales; what treatments or product lines will provide this increase and which type of customer.
If you have decided that your increase in sales is going to come from a new body-contouring treatment, when most of your clientele only buy in to facial anti-ageing, then an exercise in targeting your current customers could be worthwhile. However, if you have already sold body-contouring treatments to your customer base and are looking for a 100% increase in sales, then it is obvious that you need to find brand new customers. If you then look to explore where these customers can be found and who they are, you are more likely to predetermine improved marketing accuracy.
The importance of business planning is paramount. It is still surprising to me, how many aesthetic companies look to promote their treatments with no fixed decisions on which treatments, market segments and points of differentiation to target.
Once you have your business objectives, you can start to plan your marketing programme. It is usually impossible to promote every aspect of your product portfolio and, therefore, deciding on which products should take priority is key. If your business objectives lie in differentiating your business from your key competitors, then choosing products that do this could be important. If, however, your sales targets are paramount, choosing to push your best-selling hero products could be a good strategy.
Take some time to analyse your sales data from the previous year. Which treatments made you the most money; if you want improved profitability? Which treatments and products sold the most and when; if you want increased revenue? Where are you losing clients to your competitors? Any activity that can help you to avoid the scattergun approach to marketing will improve your chances of success. Here we will explore various marketing tools and look at different ways to approach maximising your budget and ROI.
Take a look at everything you are already doing. Consider marketing materials such as leaflets, your website and social media, and see how you can improve. Do an assessment to find out what is actually working and what is not. Ask your clientele how and why they buy from you, and assess whether there are any inconsistencies in their perceptions and your communication aims.
Look at what you are doing in-house and what activities you are outsourcing. If there are tasks you can do internally, leave the expensive consultants to activities that really require their expertise. Get the most out of your content and printed collateral: This can include anything from posters, leaflets, business cards and invites to events. Be sure that all your collateral is brand coherent and keep to the same style, use of logos, tone of voice and key messages. Your marketing materials can work harder for you when they present a brand, and not just information. Furthermore, clients can be confused by too much information, and therefore excellence in copywriting is equally as important as design and style.
Content should include case studies, alongside before and after photos, and up-to- date prices. Technical and medical information should be short and concise, with a focus on service and customer care. Maximise any creation of content and images by using them across all relevant activities. Content for a press release can also be used in a blog and newsletter.
Social media is increasingly offering cost effective tools that can raise consumer awareness and even drive customer enquiries. Building a Facebook and Twitter group can be a powerful tool to interact with your customer base. A business can engage with people online, with whom ordinarily they could not have access to.
Bear in mind that social media can be time consuming; especially if you are creating original and informative content. To maximise cost benefits, you should try to use this content across all your marketing platforms, and vice versa. In particular, your PR campaigns should provide engaging material for your social conversations.
Ensuring that your content reflects the message you want to promote, correlates with your brand, and is current and engaging, is important. Outsourcing the social media activity alongside PR or advertising is therefore becoming commonplace. A more cost effective exercise, however, might be to send an administrative member of staff on a short social media course, and then ask any outsourced agencies to contribute extra content from activities they are already undertaking, preferably without extra charge. Free treatments and competition prizes or half price offers are a few atypical ideas, but can work to engage potential customers, increasing their motivation to interact with your clinic. Furthermore, extracting client data can be likened to finding pots of gold, and if your audience feel they are getting something they want for free this can often provide the motivation for them to positively engage with your promotion.
Database management: newsletters, texts and email campaigns Once you have built a client database, you can communicate with them through newsletters and texts etc. Information can include promotions and offers, and this activity can be relatively inexpensive. Weekly or monthly newsletters are a great way to showcase new treatments, products and services, as well as being another way to engage with your customers on trends and case studies. Events to promote new treatments will also utilise your database. Quarterly or seasonal invites to clients for clinic events can be a very cost-effective way of marketing and interacting with new and loyal customers. Wherever possible include a call to action that links to your website.
Networking with health and beauty professionals outside of your business can be effective to gain mutual clients. If you have colleagues that offer complementary services such as holistic practices, dentistry etc., sharing client promotions can offer greater scope for growth and reach of audience. Smaller towns can especially benefit through not competing but joining forces.
In addition, local businesses can provide a low-cost route for new business. Local offices and shops near your premises can be targeted through flyers, leaflets, email campaigns and social media.
PR is a marketing activity that can cost a lot of money, without delivering any return, and can have a bad reputation in terms of ROI. When it is done correctly, however, the results can be fantastic – delivering huge uplifts in sales and new enquiries. In my experience, the relationship, co-ordination and actions of the aesthetics business has as much to do with any successful outcome as the skills of the agency. Clients on small retainers can produce high-value and high-impact press coverage when they work well with their agency. Similarly, clients on huge retainers can drive poor outcomes. So, how do you get the most value from your PR agency? A good working relationship goes a long way. In my experience, team members work hard for clients that apply pressure, but not so much that the work is no longer enjoyable. Providing case studies, exclusive angles on products and treatments, alongside charismatic and credible spokespeople with expertise, will help your PR campaign deliver a return. Undertaking some of the work will also benefit a small PR budget; particularly when it comes to ideas generation.
When you find a marketing activity that works, then stick with it
When you find a marketing activity that works, then stick with it. A common mistake can come from changing working practises for the sake of trying to find improvements or just for a change. Realistic expectations and targets are important to ensure a programme is not thrown out in pursuit of the impossible.
The year ahead is exciting. According to the review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions in 2013 by the Department of Health1, the value of UK cosmetic procedures was set to rise to £3.6 billion in 2015, with non-surgical procedures accounting for 75% of the market value. Take the time to plan now. Any investment of time will pay dividends later.
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