Marketing and PR professional James Dempster explores the importance of creative exercises to help practitioners produce innovative content for their marketing
As the business aspect of aesthetics can be such a competitive field, practitioners and clinics have a need to show their patients that they stand out and are providers of safe, effective, quality treatments. To send the right messages to patients in an effective way, you need to do more than provide basic information on your website and create an attractive advertisement or printed marketing materials.
But with so many clinics trying to get your potential patients’ attention, how can you come up with unique, interesting messaging? The answer, I believe, is through creative strategy exercises. These exercises are more than just an opportunity to generate ideas for creative campaigns; they provide the opportunity to re-evaluate your brand’s mission and values to underpin your marketing output and communicate meaningfully with your audience (and yes, if you are a practitioner you are still a brand). Creative strategy exercises can also help you to assess the appropriate marketing channels that you should utilise in order to deliver these campaigns to your audience, ensuring your message is heard by the right people at the right time. In this article, I’m going to break down one creative strategy exercise (I call it a creative workshop) that I use time and time again with clients in the healthcare and aesthetics industries to help shape a long-term creative strategy.
If you would like to try this exercise to help you come up with creative ideas for your marketing strategy, I suggest that you find private environment and set aside a day or so with your clinic manager, marketing manager, shareholders and other relevant team members. You could do this exercise any time, whether you are just opening your first clinic, or if you currently have a clinic and want to revise your marketing strategy. I recommend doing this twice a year, although after the first time you may not need an entire day.
No matter how long you’ve been in practice, a creative strategy is best achieved by stripping your business back to its very foundation. Ask yourself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ The majority of professionals I meet within the aesthetics specialty started their practice to provide patients with safe and effective results that are natural in appearance, predominantly to help restore confidence and improve quality of life.
So, think about the reasons for your brand or clinic’s existence and write a list of your values. What do you want to be known for? I recommend that your team individually write a list as large as possible and then come together and whittle this down to three or four that you want to concentrate on. For example, do you want people to think you and your procedures are: Trustworthy? Safe? Professional? Effective? Authoritative? Compliant? Caring?
A key factor for achieving an engaged audience is by being unique in your offering. So, your next step in this exercise is to ask yourself, what is it that makes your clinic or practice unique? What is it about you that makes your patients come back? Within the aesthetics specialty, this will almost certainly run deeper than monetary value or convenience alone, as your patients are buying into a service that, whilst not as invasive as a cosmetic procedure, is nonetheless crossing a particular personal boundary. By asking yourself the above questions, you can write another list, but this time you will uncover what your unique selling points (USPs) are. If you’re still stuck, ask your key clients why they come back to you, look at competitors or think about your favourite (non-industry) brands. For example, maybe your USPs are:
During this exercise, my clients often find that some of their USPs link directly to the values that underpin the reason for being in business. Try to aim for between three and five.
Who is your target patient? It sounds like the most basic question; shouldn’t it be everyone? The simple answer is no. Even the biggest businesses simply cannot choose ‘everyone’ as their target audience; you cannot be everything to everyone. Moreover, whilst ‘everyone’ and ‘anyone’ seems like a wide pool of potential patients to reach, how can you possibly begin to target your messaging to speak to them individually? The key to effective marketing and devising a creative strategy is to understand your key patient segments, not just in terms of their demographics, but their own values, behaviour and interests. Don’t be afraid to be bold – sometimes turning the wrong audience away is needed, especially in this specialty. Even if you feel confident that your offering appeals to several broad audiences, it’s important to note that these groups will be interested in very different things and, similarly, motivated in different ways. This should help clarify which messages you deliver to each of the target groups – messages should be personal and clear. For this part of the exercise, I advise that you create a table such as Figure 1 that you can use to create separate lists to help you understand who your current patients are, or who you aspire them to be. You can use a combination of mind maps to help do this. You need to determine the following:
If stuck, look at your clinic’s data to see how much of the above data you have. If you’re still stuck, consider a survey.
Figure 1 is an example of something that you might produce for one type of audience – ideally you want between one and three. By identifying this group of women as a primary audience and analysing their values and interests, this provides a steer on the tone of voice used within content and gives you a clue as to what marketing channels would be most effective at targeting this group, which is discussed below.
Utilising various channels for marketing purposes is worthless without the insight gleaned from audience analysis, and ineffective if you haven’t established – or even just realigned yourself with – your values and USPs. How do you know what to say if you don’t know what your audience is looking for, and how do you know where to say it if you don’t know where they spend their time? Something I tell my clients is to ‘follow the data’. Even as a professional in your field, you cannot instinctively know everything about your primary audience. Take the assumption that older demographics consume mostly print materials, for instance. Despite many thinking that social media platforms are a grey area for marketing to mature audiences, Facebook has recently experienced a surge in users over 50, soon to make them the second largest demographic using the platform.1 The type of channels you might consider could include Facebook, Instagram, Google – paid and organic, email; and don’t forget word of mouth. I advise to use post-it notes for this section of the exercise. Give everyone a different colour and ask individuals to write down their ideas of a channel they could use on their post-its, as well as an idea of how to utilise it well. Make it clear to them that these can be both online or offline marketing channels. The rules for this part of the exercise are simple; number one is that no answer is a bad answer, and number two is there are no budget limitations so not to restrict creative flare. Use your clinic’s values, USPs and target audience lists, as well as your imagination, to generate ideas on how these channels could be used. For example, you may come up with types of channels and ideas of how to use them like the below:
You might not have the budget or the know-how to make a lot of these ideas happen, but the exercise aims to help you understand how you can utilise your most important channels to engage your audience. Additionally, you can select a couple of the best ideas and start to whittle them into something that is more realistic, measurable and that aligns with your budget.
So how do you formulate everything you have learnt about your values, USPs, target patients and their most effective marketing channels into a creative strategy? Following a branding or creative workshop, you should take these findings away and convey them into a more digestible format that you can use to refer to and build upon this in future. This can be a simple brand guideline document; first outlining your business’s vision, mission and values to determine a brand tone, then progressing into short analyses for each key target audience. Take your defined channels and create a short description as to why you will use them, how you will use them and what activity this will achieve. Think carefully about what it is that you want your audience to do. Is it to book a consultation? Or read more about a certain treatment? Set clear calls to action so you have an idea of what you are measuring, whether that is an increase in calls or emails to your clinic, or a higher volume of traffic to your website.
You don’t have to be a marketing expert to know your business, audience and goals, and there are hundreds of different creative strategy exercises that you can use to streamline your marketing, which will help you to reach your target patients and effectively get you more business. Hopefully, you now understand why these kinds of basic exercises are so important for determining a strategic approach to your marketing and how to go about doing one effectively. As long as you have reinforced the fundamentals of your brand and your creative ideas are underpinned by a sense of rationality, there is no reason why you cannot formulate a sound creative strategy.
1. Guardian, 2018. <https://www.theguardian.com/ technology/2018/feb/12/is-facebook-for-old-people-over-55s-flock-in-as-the-young-leave>