Brand marketing strategist Adam Haroun explores the ways in which you can utilise the current period of uncertainty to your clinic’s advantage and attract more patients
At the outset, 2020 brought much excitement about the possibilities of a new decade – only to become the most challenging year clinics have likely ever faced.
Looking back, almost nobody – in or out of the world of aesthetics – was familiar with the expressions, ‘social distancing’, ‘reopening in phases’ or ‘COVID-19’ – yet they are now all but engrained into our everyday lexicon.
Perhaps more than in any market circumstance prior, promoting an aesthetic clinic is an ever-changing, fluid and incredibly uncertain endeavour. While we may indeed find ourselves amid a chaotic climate – I am a firm believer that in business, the best way to predict the future is by envisioning it. This begs the question – how can you plan your marketing and communications, when none of us know what tomorrow will bring?
The good news is that you can still plan much of your clinic’s marketing even with an uncertain future. In working closely with clients – clinics large and small, across numerous regions of the US, Canada, and the EU – I have come to notice several key market trends which we have been able to successfully capitalise on in our current climate. These concepts, when put into action, can empower your clinic heading into quarter four and beyond – even as the world around us presents more unanswered questions.
These may help you to ‘re-introduce’ your clinic to the marketplace, and now is the perfect time to do so. In a global survey by consulting firm McKinsey, 71% of 1,000 UK consumers indicated they tried a new brand or shopping experience since the start of the pandemic.1 You should be taking a closer look at your marketing positioning, the messaging you use across your promotional channels, the market segments and audience(s) you serve – and refine each of these facets to emerge stronger and more distinguished from competitors than ever.
While considering how to rise above competitors in the current climate is of the utmost importance, it is also crucial to be mindful of your new main competitor – your patient’s budget. At every level of personal income, many consumers have felt the impact of COVID-19 on their finances. According to the McKinsey survey, 44% of 1,000 UK consumers indicated they are now more mindful of where they spend their money.1 More than ever, patients are increasingly concerned with value for every discretionary purchase they make; and are actively seeking out brands that make their offerings accessible, attainable and available to consumers at a wider range of price points. While it can be tempting to slash prices in an attempt to drive new patient enquiries, this can often be detrimental in the long-term. Once patients are used to a reduced fee for your treatments and procedures, they will rarely accept a standard price point upon return to a more typical economic climate.
One of my favourite strategies in this pursuit is what I refer to as a ‘diffusion offering’ (also known as downmarket offering) – which strikes a perfect harmony between offering an accessible price point without devaluing your skillset (or that of your providers) or the reputation you have built over time.2 In an aesthetic clinic setting, you can do this by bringing together several of your most affordable treatments (as an example, a chemical peel and dermaplaning treatment; or perhaps combining a medical facial with several skincare products) and giving this package a unique name. By doing this you avoid detracting from the price point of your clinic’s signature offerings, while still welcoming patients who may be more price-conscious than ever and give them that ‘little something special’ they can enjoy straight away. Be sure to promote this package as a ‘downsell’ across your social channels to patients who may be averse to higher-priced offerings, through your e-mail communications and at your reception desk to everyone who walks through your doors.
Almost every negative situation comes with a silver lining, and in our current pandemic a much-awaited change is the return to recognising expertise and credentials.
In its most recent survey of international internet users by global communications firm Edelman, 57% of consumers reported that they felt the media they consumed was contaminated with untrustworthy information.3 What’s more, even as early as late 2019 we saw the returns brands were realising from their influencer marketing efforts had declined 1.7%.4 This is potentially suggesting that the general public are starting to recognise influencers may not share the most trustworthy information.
I am known for saying that serious problems require serious expertise – and the COVID-19 crisis once again elevated credible experts to command respect and authority which they were always due. This trend has echoed into our industry and resonated with consumers. I am finding that consumers are less likely to be taking health advice from the ‘natural lifestyle blogger’ – nor are they valuing advice to turn back the clock and achieve their ideal appearance from those who are not credentialed cosmetic medical practitioners.
More than ever, your marketing must serve as a platform to credential providers, emphasise the expertise the patient receives with their treatments at your clinic, and underscore the value this presents to the patient. Besides focusing on treatments and devices alone, showcase your unique approaches and/or protocols, as well as your notable training or academic experience you bring to your patients via your website and on social media. While a competing clinic can easily promote the same injectable or laser, there are a myriad of elements only your clinic can offer – and this is where your marketing is best focused. This can make the world of difference between justifying a premium price point (even in our current market climate) and struggling to compete with lower-end clinics. Patients are not simply purchasing your ‘tangible product’ – an injectable, a laser treatment or a surgical procedure – they are investing in your ‘offered product’, which encompasses all of the intangible (and distinct) elements that accompany the treatment; and which only your provider(s) and clinic can offer.
Whether on social media, through a print advert, or inside your clinic – it is also of the utmost importance to reorient your marketing ethos.
In recent years, many clinics chose to focus their marketing around promotional offers, highlighting the latest and greatest devices available to patients, and showcasing results. While there is still value to each of these approaches, the COVID-19 consumer seeks something more from the brands with whom they engage. Market research by global consulting leader Bain & Company anticipates that consumer concern about sustainability and social issues is set to continue, consolidating the importance of environmental and social governance. Bain & Company suggests that ethics will become as important as aesthetics as consumers prioritise purposeful brands.5 No longer is it sufficient to simply ‘blast’ the marketplace with promotional messages – your clinic’s marketing ethos must evolve to foster goodwill and demonstrate omnipresence.
The current pandemic has driven consumers to actively seek out brands that are a part of their community, supporting those in need, and are in business for the ‘greater good’. In its research of global markets recovering from the pandemic, global consulting firm Bain & Company found the rise of the ‘post-aspirational’ mindset among the primary consumer trends emerging.5 From donating to organisations that assist those in need, to honouring healthcare heroes on the frontlines – there are a myriad of ways your business can reach out and let patients know that you are looking to accomplish far more than a quick sale.
While it is simple and cost-effective to post a special offer on your social channels, too many providers find themselves caught in an endless cycle of taking marketing action without providing real value or insight to their audience. Being omnipresent means that your clinic is not simply ‘hiding’ behind a social media profile – but instead, is actively leveraging public relations, traditional media, digital marketing and retention campaigns to capture patients’ attention and keep them engaged. Leading with education and creativity can ensure that your clinic’s marketing does not find itself lost among countless mediocre messages and advertisements. Think outside the ‘before and after’ – and draw inspiration from brands you love in other industries. Remember, marketing that looks and sounds like ‘just another clinic’ will easily be tuned out by the prospective patient – don’t be afraid of trying something new and unique. As a best practice, with my private clients we aim to make 75% of their marketing content educational and informative in nature, whereas only 25% would be more promotional in nature.
Despite the difficulties, the COVID-19 pandemic also presents opportunities. It can give you the unique chance to define the next phase of your clinic’s trajectory and emerge stronger than ever before. As many businesses retract, pull back on marketing, slash pricing and find themselves in ‘panic mode’ – there is indeed another option. Providers who see the unexpected opportunities presented by our current market, dedicate time and resources to evolution, and take strategic action now will be those who endure. The right decisions today can allow a clinic to emerge as market leaders when we gradually return to normalcy.
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