Knowing Your Competition

By Kerri Lewis / 08 Mar 2019

Clinic owner Kerri Lewis discusses the benefits of knowing your competition and how to act upon this to improve your business

Having grown 200% since 2000,1 it’s fair to say that the aesthetics industry is bursting with competition and the range of skills, offerings and ethics is diverse. From experience, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own business, expertise and services, and not pay attention to what your competitors are doing, as those are of course very important aspects to you.

Personally, I put a lot of emphasis on listening to patients and treating them well; I don’t let myself become too distracted by competition, however, I believe there is real merit in having a look at what your competition is and isn’t doing. By analysing your competition, your business can benefit by filling the gaps in their services and you can find ways to stand out from competitors. Healthy competition is positive, especially in an over-crowded industry as it keeps both you and your employees on your toes.2 Quite simply, competition forces you to assess what reasons you give patients to pick you over a competing clinic or practitioner and allows you to amend your offering and services accordingly. When analysing your competition, it’s best not to simply look at your perceived competitors in isolation. There are three main areas of focus you should evaluate if you want to use this activity to better your business; you, your patient and your competitors. The idea is not to emulate your competitors but to use this information to stand out from them.

1. What do you offer?

When distinguishing yourself from your competition you must first define your unique selling points (USPs); a fundamental, key exercise as this will allow you to market your offerings and set yourself apart from any competition. Start by listing points about you and your business which motivate your patients to come to you, for example, good transport links to your premises, discreet or easily-found location, your specific qualifications and experience, so that you can start effectively selling yourself and your services.3 

I know that medical professionals occasionally find it difficult to ‘sell’ themselves but it is important to get to grips with this skill. If you don’t give your potential patients strong enough reasons why they should use your services over others – your competitors will. If you are struggling to find your USPs go straight to your patients. Ask them why they first came to you and why they keep visiting you; you could do this either verbally or you may consider sending a survey to your patients. These are your strengths, use them. When defining your USPs, I would strongly discourage you to use cheap prices4 as one of your selling points because it not only cheapens your skills, experience and service, but gives you little flexibility with pricing your services in the future and can be easily matched by your competition.

2. Identifying your ideal patient

It’s not enough to say that your target patient is anyone who is interested in the services you offer.5 Narrow your view and be specific in identifying who your ideal patient is so you’re able to target them with your marketing efforts; this will save you money and give you a better return on your investment. Ask yourself, what’s going to be most cost and time effective? Will it be shouting your message about treating ‘mummy tummies’ into a room of people of all ages, sexes, incomes and aesthetic needs? Or targeting a room of people who are mothers or soon-to-be mothers with an income that would allow them access to your services?

Who will use your services?

Start by asking yourself who will be using your service. If you’re not sure where to start, describe your ideal patient(s); perhaps they already come to you and you would like more of the same. This will generally be the patients who bring in the most business. This is an important step as it helps you to understand if you are dipping into the same pool of patients as other practitioners in a similar location. Define their sex, location, age, income, lifestyle, hobbies and services they’d benefit from. For example, female, aged between 45 and 55, located in Chelmsford or close surrounding area, ABC demographic, plays sports such as tennis and golf, socialises frequently with friends at local restaurants, non-smoker, goes on holiday at least once a year, has adult children and will be interested in rejuvenation treatments for the face and body. 

The more detailed your definition, the better, as we are currently living in an age where we can target potential customers online using these exact details, like Facebook advertising for example.6 Having a detailed image of your ideal patient should also help you keep on track with business decisions outside of marketing, such as what new treatments and products to bring into your business. If you’re not able to get into this level of detail, you may consider surveying your ideal patients and finding out these details directly from them; even if you think you know these answers, there’s no harm in doing this as well as there may be things that surprise you. Google Forms7 and Survey Monkey8 are useful tools to help you do this.

Why do your patients come to you?

When analysing why your patients come to you, break it down into two segments; the tangible reasons and the emotional reasons. These all make up the value in your offering.9 The tangible reasons should be reasonably clear to you and may include elements such as qualifications, amount of experience, ease of location, devices/treatments offered, customer service. Evaluating the emotional aspect of what drives your patients to use your services will allow you to talk to them in a meaningful way rather than simply telling them about a device you have; in marketing the idea of describing the benefits, not the features of whatever it is you’re selling is a well-known concept and it’s important not to overlook the ‘emotional benefits’10 of your offering. Charles Revson, founder of cosmetic brand Revlon is well documented as saying, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.”11 Ask your patients why they come to you and what they’ve gained from the treatments you’ve performed on them and/ or have a look at your patient reviews; the emotive reasons behind their visits and loyalty should become clear. When I look at the patient reviews for my business, roughly eight to nine out of 10 won’t even mention the treatment or the results they’ve achieved, they focus on how we’ve made them feel during their visits and the feelings associated with their results, for example, they feel they can now go out without makeup on. Speak to your target market in a way that they can identify with, so that they understand that by seeing you they’ll be moving away from the pain they’re experiencing and towards pleasure.12

By identifying and talking about the emotional benefits of your service you’ll also be able to try to overcome some of the preconceived ideas and hurdles about your services, such as controversial press coverage on dermal fillers.13 Once you have a solid definition of what makes you and your business special, you’ll be able to look at your competitors and make a direct comparison to help refine this further and give your business a competitive edge.

Scoping out your perceived competitors

I believe that by following the above steps you will have a better judgement on whether someone else is even a competitor in the first place; then you can define what it is you are competing on. I say ‘perceived’ here because the aim is to position yourself so that you have no real head-to-head competition by making yourself stand out to those in a similar location to you, those who attract similar patients and those who have a similar treatment offering. In order to do this, you need to analyse your competition. I find listing competitors side-by-side is helpful, but I’ll discuss that later. First, figure out how you’d like to research your competitors:

  • Internet search: you may be able to get much of the information you are looking for on your competitors’ website and social media.
  • Mystery shop: pay your competitors a visit as a patient, you’ll be able to get a lot of information about their offering and customer service. You may wish to do this over the phone or in person. What was your journey like and is there anything you can learn from this experience, both positive and negative? It almost goes without saying that you should conduct yourself in a respectful manner whilst doing this. If you think that you may be recognised, it could be uncomfortable for both parties, so task a colleague with this visit instead and give them a comprehensive list of what you’d like them to ask and pay attention to. I would strongly advise doing both; a bare minimum of internet research and mystery-shopper phone calls. You’ll probably know the relevant competitors you want to research, and I would put a limit on the amount you want to look at otherwise it may become very time consuming; I don’t tend to look at more than five or six.

Before you start your research, make a list of what exactly your ideal patients, as mentioned above, want and/or need and mark your competitors out of five for each of those points, one showing that you think that this aspect of their offering/service is very poor. I’ve found using this chart (Figure 1) from D. Edwards et al.14 simple and easy.

To help you understand further, examples of things you may want to measure as suggested in the above table’s left hand column could include; non-surgical rejuvenation treatment options, female-only practitioner, dermatologist on site, weekend availability. As previously mentioned, you may find it useful to directly ask your patients why they use your business to help you define these points. Once you’ve conducted your research, tally up each competitors’ score at the end of the row and you should get good idea of how well patient needs and wants are being addressed. Those needs/wants that tally the lowest scores give you an idea of the weakness in your overall competition and these are aspects that you should consider filling within your own business. It is important to note, this is not a one-time activity and should be part of an annual routine; your competitors’ businesses will be evolving and you’ll need to be aware of this as it will impact on yours.

Embrace the competition

In conclusion, healthy competition should be embraced because it forces your business to perform at its best. Rather than be overly concerned and preoccupied by your competitors, a simple, regular analysis of them can help you refocus and re-evaluate your business and patients, thus using your competitors’ weaknesses to strengthen your business offering. 

Upgrade to become a Full Member to read all of this article.