PR and communications consultant Julia Kendrick explains how can you effectively translate clinical data into compelling clinic marketing materials.
In the highly competitive aesthetic specialty, multiple devices, brands, medicines and other treatments all jostle for attention; and, for many practitioners, the critical differentiating factor is the clinical data and compelling results. The question is, if clinical data can convince you, can you, in turn, use it to convince your patients? The answer is a resounding yes! However, this only works if you can translate the data into a more palatable marketing format. Clinical studies can be a goldmine of marketing information to inform and persuade prospective patients; however, if not handled correctly they can result in information overload, acronyms and a missed opportunity. This article explores how to leverage clinical data for marketing and adapt your tone effectively from clinical to consumer positioning.
Before we get into whether to explain p-values and placebo groups to the public, think back to the last time you read a clinical paper that really impressed you. If it related to a device or product that you now use in clinic, chances are that it hit some, if not all, of the following key criteria for a convincing study:
As clinicians, a one-off trial would sometimes not be enough to persuade you. Ideally you would look for a series of trials, or even a meta-analysis to inform and guide your product use. The point is, many of the above criteria are exactly what potential patients want to know – you just need to adapt the tone and frame the messages within an accessible ‘flow’ that takes the patient on a journey from ‘ignorance’, to understanding, to wanting!
Whilst this statistical shorthand is second nature to the clinical community, you need to spell things out simply for the average patient – better yet – tell them what this means for them.
According to OMICS International, an open access publisher and international conference organiser, there are 62 journals, 39 conferences and 148 workshops presently dedicated exclusively to aesthetic medicine training. They also indicate that there are about 880 articles published on the current trends in medical aesthetic training.1 Given that aesthetic medicine represents an overlap of several fields including dermatology, cosmetic and plastic surgery, this could well be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information available.
When looking for studies to base your marketing material from, the easiest and quickest option you might want to first explore is your existing clinic suppliers and brands. They should all be able to provide clinical studies or clinical summary documents from which you can cherry pick and adapt messages for your own marketing materials.
Some may question whether it’s ok to simply use a manufacturer or distributor’s marketing materials rather than creating their own clinic marketing materials, and of course, there’s nothing wrong with this choice. However, if you are looking to build more of a bespoke clinic brand you will want to keep all materials aligned with your particular branding, style and tone to give patients a highly consistent experience. You will also know that other clinics will have received this same marketing material from their supplier, so creating your own will help you stand out. Also, if you have a unique combination treatment approach or ‘method’ it makes sense to create your own marketing materials from the component parts that are specific to your clinic brand.
If you’re looking more broadly for clinical studies to lend support and credibility to your marketing messages, the main hub of choice is PubMed,2 which is a free search engine accessing primarily the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. On this platform, you can search for clinical trials, reviews and view abstracts for free – of course, there are usually fees to pay to access newer papers in full. Bear in mind that the results and conclusions in these summaries are necessarily brief, so do your due diligence when it comes to drawing conclusions if you choose not to read the full paper. Also, don’t forget the dermatology, surgery and medical aesthetics journals that are both peer-reviewed and general, as these also include very useful run-downs of hot topics, latest research and in-depth articles.
Firstly, most of your patients will not appreciate a lengthy, complex and ‘clinical’ message when it comes to exploring a new treatment option. P-values, statistical significance and confidence intervals are similarly no-go’s when it comes to patient information leaflets or marketing materials.
Whilst this statistical shorthand is second nature to the clinical community, you need to spell things out simply for the average patient – better yet – tell them what this means for them. This involves plucking out and polishing the ‘nuggets’ of critical information from the clinical paper and packaging them in a way which flows seamlessly within a broader message. What does the product/treatment really boil down to? What do people really need to understand, in layman’s terms?
Generally, in my experience, patients follow a predictable pattern when it comes to the information required to make an aesthetic treatment decision. They want to know:
When it comes to weaving in clinical data, this means patients are interested in the overall efficacy, method of action, safety and side-effect profile. Be selective about which percentages to include – stick with the ‘big’ results and understand that you won’t be able to provide reams of additional points about comparator percentages, p-values, or confidence intervals.
Also, it’s important to reiterate that this is the factual, logical information that patients need to receive. What’s critical to remember is that we often don’t make decisions with our head, but with our heart. So, the more powerful (and persuasive) messaging often relates to the emotional impact of the treatment.3 Make sure that you balance out clinical and factual information with a corresponding emotional benefit – think about how they will feel afterwards, what will this experience enable them to do differently?
In June 2016, the GMC released its updated aesthetic guidance, which included key points on marketing, including the need for it to be accurate, responsible and not misleading.5 It states, “Market your services responsibly, without making unjustifiable claims about interventions, trivialising the risks involved, or using promotional tactics that might encourage people to make ill-considered decisions.”6
As a rapidly evolving and relatively ‘young’ field, aesthetics often doesn’t have the same robust clinical trials as pharmaceuticals, or the wealth of long-term data and meta-analyses for many core clinic treatments. One of the most common mistakes I see in clinic materials is the use of the ‘best’ results in a trial, rather than the average result which could be expected. For example, using the ‘best’ patient result from a chemical peel or skincare regime with a dramatic before and after image, rather than showing what the average patient could expect to achieve from treatment.
Managing patients’ expectations is essential, and as ethical practitioners there is a responsibility to be clear about the quality of the data behind any particular treatment or product, and never to mislead – actively or by omission – about the safety, efficacy or side effects. On the other hand, it is of course not practical to include all the relevant corroborating information as a sizeable chunk of ‘small print’ on your marketing materials, but just ensure that you don’t lose critical perspective in the effort to distil the key points. You can always direct patients to other materials, or to a page on your website where the full information is available.As with other types of marketing, adhere to the advertising code of practice by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).4,5
Now comes the tricky part – writing the messages and weaving these into everything else you’re trying to get across! A critical factor to consider here is your tone. Remember, these are generally patients with no medical background, so steer clear of technical or medical terms and any jargon. Imagine you’re speaking one-to-one with a patient – keep it friendly, personable and accessible. As an example, see Figure 1.
Remember to weave in with the emotional messages to tie back to the key motivators and barriers that the patient is thinking about pre-treatment. For example, you could state the following: “Wrinkles tell our life story, but some don’t reflect how we feel inside – sometimes making us look tired or angry. MAGICEYES is our latest eye rejuvenation product, delivering a safe, effective way to reduce crow’s feet and eye wrinkles. In clinical studies, MAGICEYES reduced eye wrinkles by an average of 40%, in just four weeks.* The treatment was reported to be comfortable, easy to apply and there were no reports of redness, swelling or downtime. MAGICEYES works by re-hydrating the delicate skin around the eyes, helping you look more rested and refreshed.”
*MAGICEYES data on file. Full information available here.
“My advice on using clinical trial information within marketing is to keep things simple and use the data as a supporting point to your main message, rather than as the main feature itself. Patients need clear, bitesize points which link back to their questions and concerns. So, I recommend sharing a point on efficacy, perhaps noting the performance versus a well-known comparator treatment1 (ideally one referenced in the original literature) and provide a reference for further information. I always reassure my patients on how patients in the trial or my own clinical practice have found the pain, side effects and recovery.” Dr Benji Dhillon
Clinical studies can provide a wealth of valuable information to inform and educate prospective patients and support their decision-making process. By adapting the content and tone, powerful and persuasive clinical insights can be effectively woven into your broader marketing messages, to help takes the patient through the consideration cycle, increasing understanding and building greater trust in both the practitioner and clinic.
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