PR consultant Julia Kendrick outlines how waitlist marketing can improve business resilience during lockdown dry spells
Creating and managing customer demand is a critical element of good marketing and, if carefully activated, it can help increase revenue and create opportunities for months in advance. With COVID-19 lockdowns affecting customer footfall and in-person appointments across many aesthetic clinics, effective waitlist strategies are a valuable tool which can help make up for the months of inactivity and ensure bookings are lined up for when you throw open your doors again.
In this article, I will outline how to use a waitlist marketing strategy to drive demand, keep customers engaged and even how to turn demand into a PR opportunity.
What is a waitlist marketing strategy?
We all understand the principle of supply and demand, and when a commodity or service is restricted but demand is maintained we see an increased perception of value, exclusivity and sometimes a spike in cost, i.e. people are willing to pay more for a limited resource. A waitlist strategy simply creates a sense of exclusivity and urgency about a product or service – without relying on other methods, such as discounts.
A recent example of a well-known waitlist campaign from the consumer beauty space would be The Ordinary, the high street skincare brand that regularly boasts waitlists of more than 25,000 for its new product launches, which have been covered in national news outlets such as the Daily Mail.1
Of course, the complexity and suitability of certain aesthetic treatments means that clinic waitlist campaigns should be responsible and focus on the availability of consultations and appointments, or broadly accessible items like skincare products – rather than injectable or invasive procedures. As always, careful attention should be paid to the CAP guidance for any clinic marketing activities.2
Getting started with your waitlist marketing campaign
The key components of a waitlist campaign are regular announcements on all marketing channels (website, newsletters, social media, blog, clinic signage) before and during the campaign, each matched with a clear call to action – underpinned by a structured approach to triage and manage enquiries. The idea is to create momentum and a sense of scarcity among your customers to motivate people to take ACTION quickly – be that to secure a booking, make a purchase or be the first to get access to a limited supply.
A critical success factor is ensuring the clinic is equipped to deal with a potential flood of bookings or requests quickly and easily – if people spend forever on hold, or don’t get a prompt response via email or social media direct messages, they will quickly lose interest and go to a competitor.
Limited supply can be a good thing for business
If there is a very limited window of availability for appointments, or your best-selling products are down to the last few, you might be worried about customers being disappointed and even venting their frustration. The key is to get ahead of the perceived problem with clear lines of communication and pivot to a solution – preferably one that keeps the customer coming back to you, rather than trying to find the item elsewhere – keep reading for some ways to achieve this!
Your first priority for a waitlist campaign are your VIP customers – the most loyal, repeat customers, the highest spenders, those star patients on the database. If you’re not sure who these prospects are, spend some time looking through your records to segment these VIPs. Send out a personalised email to this group informing them that as a clinic VIP, they get first priority on the new batch of booking slots (or low stock products). Ensure there is a quick and easy process for your VIPs to book in and be clear that this priority booking window will only be available for 48 hours, before you open the opportunity to more people. The idea is to create urgency and, hopefully, prompt action among your most likely customers.
Second priority is your next tier down customers – the less regular visitors. Be systematic in your database; find who was missed, cancelled or rescheduled during the lockdown periods or should now be due them with a personalised email to invite them to re-book their treatment (or purchase their product online) ahead of the general access, for an exclusive 72-hour period. Finally, once these categories have been prioritised, you can publicise the general booking slots or product promotions to new patients and your general audiences – this is a great way to further increase your marketing database. As always, do ensure you comply with the rules on GDPR – for a refresher, the General Medical Council has some good summary articles.3 Make sure you follow up with any non-responders from the first two groups on a once-weekly basis as well.
Work the waitlist!
Don’t forget, it’s important to take an active approach to promoting and managing your waitlist. You can issue regular social media posts and reminders on your website about the status of the waitlist – whether slots are booking up fast, how many are left, or whether you’ve had some extra slots open up. You need to keep the buzz and energy going as much as possible to continue driving people to take action.
If the waitlist gets to be a certain size, this can be newsworthy in itself – for example, if a few hundred people are waiting, or if your clinic appointments are fully booked for the next three months. Of course, always ensure you put a positive spin on this news and offer direction for how people can get in there quickly in future!
Introducing to your clinic
Waitlist marketing can be a valuable tool for reigniting customer interest and sales momentum – particularly after the slow periods caused by lockdowns. By creating a strategic approach across key clinic marketing channels, including websites, social media and email databases, practitioners can boost demand and create urgency for certain products and services to help drive sales and bookings. However, business owners should be mindful not to overuse this high urgency marketing strategy in order to avoid creating ‘fatigue’ among the target audiences, who will quickly discern if a company is always pushing a scarcity message which is evidently not the case in reality. This ‘act now, act fast’ tactic is best employed within a blended marketing programme or regular communication, promotions, education and service provision in order to maintain authenticity and build trusting relationships with customers.
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