The evolution of business in aesthetics

By Pam Underdown / 01 Dec 2014

Pam Underdown highlights the importance of adapting to change in order for your clinic to thrive in the ever-changing aesthetics industry

For the aesthetic businesses that were established before the global recession, memories of the marketplace being ‘easier’ in those days frequently spring to mind. A decade ago you really didn’t have to try too hard to fill up your appointment book with high-spend patients. You opened your doors and the patients really did come flooding in. Credit was readily available, consumers were spending, and increased curiosity about the celebrity lifestyle and reality TV made it possible for everyone to believe that they could have a new life with cosmetic enhancement. Having been involved in the medical aesthetics business for nearly a decade, I have seen first-hand how the industry has evolved. When I opened my first aesthetic business in 2005, things were very different. Today it’s certainly not easy; business owners are frequently contending with increased public scrutiny and changing consumer behaviours. Competition is everywhere, with deals and discounts flooding the high street. Changes in legislation have affected the livelihood of many practitioners and a growing number of business owners feel like their business is running them, instead of the other way around. The pace of change also seems to be ever quickening. Despite this, there continues to be a growing number of health professionals quitting their day job and setting up their dream anti-ageing business. And who can blame them? For many, the appeal of the aesthetics industry can be glamorous and far more exciting than shift work, sickness and death. Health professionals can combine their keen judgment, with their clinical skills and creative eye. All they need to do is learn facial aesthetics, practice on some friends then go and get a logo and a website – right? Well no, it is not that easy. This is a highly competitive and demanding industry and just having great clinical skills does not guarantee success. So is the “dream” a good enough reason to risk everything and start again as you hope to claim your slice of the aesthetics pie??What about those established businesses, the ones who did survive the global recession? Whilst we should never underestimate the power of being first, that power only helps you if you have continued to evolve, innovate and change. Regrettably a number of businesses did not evolve; they played it safe, remaining comfortable and complacent. However, they are now starting to learn the hard way that playing it safe is a dying strategy. The world is changing, business is changing and change really is essential if you want to progress in medical aesthetics. So, how can businesses thrive when faced with these challenges? Certainly not by doing nothing, or ‘playing’ at change. The world has turned upside down, you can’t hide and you can’t keep repeating the things you’ve been doing, hoping that it will be sufficient to cope in the future. Whilst most people are determined to avoid change, it’s key to remember that change and evolution are the very essence of life. So for those business owners who wish to not only survive, but also thrive, there is no option to ignore change. However, change on its own is insufficient; continuous improvement, innovation and on- going education are essential. Successfully running and operating a small business in today’s dynamic world is not easy. Aesthetic business owners really do have to do it all. Delivering treatments, dealing with day-to- day operations, staffing issues, finances, marketing, and keeping up to date with the latest techniques and technologies can be hectic and overwhelming. As time goes on, the growing realisation of what it takes to make a business run can shatter many dreams and bring reality crashing down. As the global economy continues to improve, the business of aesthetics continues to be flourishing, with no end in sight. Cosmetic intervention is fast becoming a cultural norm, however, the expectations and demands of patients are on the rise and the perception of aesthetic medicine among the general population has changed. Today, we see more and more young patients in consultation rooms wanting to hold back the ageing process, just like their favourite celebrities and just like their parents. So what can you do to stay one step ahead? For a start, it’s time to throw away any old rules or beliefs that won’t help you in today’s evolving marketplace. What worked six years ago, or even six months ago, won’t necessarily work today. Resourcefulness and innovation combined with continuous evaluation and improvement will enable you to stay one step ahead.

Consistently educate yourself

In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world”. Our growth, evolution and happiness depend upon the continued development of our knowledge and skills. Keeping up to date with both clinical and business skills is essential. For better or worse, both sets of knowledge and skills are measured in our bottom line results.

Disrupt or be disrupted

Leaders disrupt because they continually innovate. If you are not innovating, if you don’t keep asking yourself, “How do I differentiate myself?” there is very little chance you will ever succeed. If you don’t disrupt the market, you will eventually be surpassed by someone who will. Apple disrupted Microsoft. Apple made a larger screen on their iPhone, now Samsung are disrupting them. Netflix disrupted Blockbuster. Amazon disrupted traditional bookshops.

Gut-based decisions

Every leader makes decisions fast. In my opinion, there are three ways to think: mind, heart and gut. The more you think about doing something, the more reasons you are going to find not to do it. This is commonly known as analysis by paralysis, which can often be the killer of budding entrepreneurs. The second way is to think with the heart. In my experience, many people have been burned doing this because their emotions get in the way and they start to ask the ‘what if’ scenarios: ‘what if it doesn’t work?’ ‘What if I fail?’ or even, ‘What if I succeed, how will I cope?’ However, in my experience, when you make a decision with your gut, you are usually right. So the key is to make a quick decision and then re-evaluate it. If it’s right – great, if not – learn from it and move on.

Master marketing

If you really want to stay ahead of the pack, marketing is a critical piece of the puzzle. I have spoken to a number of clinic owners who have outsourced their marketing or social media production to someone else, paid them a lot of money but had little results in return. So, why is this? There are possibly many reasons: Perhaps the marketing person has not been given clear guidelines, expectations, branding information, ideal patient profile, unique selling proposition or other useful information. They therefore may end up second- guessing the requirements and not really understanding the individual business needs or the aesthetic marketplace. Perhaps they didn’t grasp the business vision, so they couldn’t get the messaging right. Or maybe the clinic owner found it difficult to explain what they were looking for and assumed the marketing person would create something wonderful that would solve all of their marketing challenges. In reality it is usually a lack of clear communications, expectations and detailed marketing knowledge – all of which are the responsibility of the business owner. The key is to master the marketing and understand it before you outsource or delegate it – even when you know you won’t be carrying out the day-to- day actions yourself – you must take the time to really understand exactly what the marketer is doing with your money. Every skill is learnable, so take the necessary time to truly understand marketing, learn how to articulate what you want and then outsource or delegate the day-to- day ‘doing’ of it to someone who clearly understands your vision, your needs and your expectations. Trust me, it will be worth it in the long run.?If you are not getting the results you expect, think: are you still marketing the same way you did a decade ago? If so, it is time to launch yourself into modern-day transparent and authentic social media marketing. Without a doubt, social media provides everyone with a phenomenal capacity for interacting and engaging with existing patients, whilst at the same time, reaching out to prospective patients. With social medial we are all living in the public eye, so don’t forget: if you don’t manage your online brand and reputation, someone else will take it away from you.

Be unique

How many times have you visited somebody else’s website or seen another practice’s marketing and thought to yourself – that looks just like my marketing? The infamous stock models are everywhere. So, do you want the same images that everybody else uses to represent your brand? If not, then use real patients to brand your business. Use their pictures, their results and their stories. There is nothing more powerful than the word of the patient.

Keep your patients at the forefront of your mind

In too many cases, marketing efforts fail because businesses identify themselves as the “beneficiary” of the end goal. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your patient in mind. What is it that the patient wants? Will they benefit from your promotion? Does it appeal to them? Always make sure to identify these things and speak their language. Constantly put yourself in your patients’ shoes and keep asking, “WIIFT – what’s in it for them?”

Use visual content

A great way for your prospective patients to feel connected to you before they even meet you is by using video. According to an article in Forbes Magazine,1 people are more likely to watch a video than they are to read an article. Use videos for testimonials, to breakdown complicated surgical procedures, and to introduce you and your team when you are marketing your business. It is not only a great way of building trust, but as YouTube is the number two search engine in the world – it can also help to drive new patients to your website.

Stay current

Responding to changing demands will grow your business and keep it current. Helping your patients to reach their goals requires you to be up to date with the latest products, the latest devices, and the latest technologies.

Protect your patients and your business

Client information is no longer stuck in the computer locked in your office, but accessible on your smartphone or tablet, enabling you to take a call about your patients’ concerns no matter where you are. While technology provides ease and convenience however, it also adds to your exposure and can become a double-edged sword. Your online payment account or tablet could be hacked and all of your patients’ medical history information obtained. As your business evolves, your insurance coverage must keep up with it and continued compliance with the Data Protection Act and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is essential.
The good news is that the clinic owners who take all of this on board will ensure that their business not only survives, but thrives. They’ll be the ones who attract the best staff and have their appointment book consistently packed with top patients. 

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