Sometimes your success in terms of steering clear of common pitfalls is measured by knowing what not to do. Here are six frequent mistakes that clinic owners and managers often make, and tips for avoiding these traps.
Not looking at marketing as an investment
Marketing should be viewed as an investment in your practice, rather than merely a line item under your clinic’s operating expenses. When executed properly, and with a sufficient budget in mind, marketing can reliably produce favourable returns on investment and pay long-term dividends. Marketing professionals influence and enhance the outcomes by creating a unique, unified brand through consistent messaging, the right vehicles, and flawless execution.
As with any other investment, results from your marketing efforts will be built by using multiple strategies, and can be adjusted as needed to maximise effectiveness. The success of strategic marketing gets compounded over time; therefore, it is counter-productive to cut back your marketing expenses when patient flow slows down or your clinic is not busy enough. In fact, one could argue that it is the perfect time to respond more aggressively with your marketing efforts. Pulling back on getting your name out there and failing to communicate with existing patients to encourage referrals will only hurt your clinic’s chances of success in the future.
Promoting services instead of solutions to problems
Aesthetic medicine is a service, not a product. A product can easily be duplicated or copied, but a service culture that delivers results and makes an effort to take good care of patients is much harder to replicate.
Think of the services featured in your clinic as solutions to the problems that patients present with. For example, patients may seek you out to address the problem of acne and oily skin eruptions. The best solution may be prescription drugs, topical agents, chemical peels, light‑based technologies, or a combination of some or all of these. Some patients go to your clinic to look younger: you can offer neurotoxins and dermal fillers, resurfacing lasers and skin tightening systems, as well as advanced skincare.
Another solution you may offer is cosmetic surgery of the face and eyelids. The key message that should be conveyed to patients is that your clinic offers comprehensive solutions to their problems or concerns.
It is well documented that most people first seek information and solutions online, rather than from practitioners or clinics. Most searches conducted are for information on a specific condition, such as wrinkles, brown spots, hair loss, or loose skin. Consumers may search for a practitioner who specialises in solutions to these conditions later in the process, usually once they have determined what treatment they may need or want.
The goal is to drive traffic first, then convert the clicks and calls into patients, and then to retain them as patients. The final accomplishment is to encourage these patients to refer their friends and family.
Not communicating with patients consistently
Communicating with patients is a vital factor in the success of an aesthetic clinic. Why is this so important? If you do not remain visible and relevant to consumers who already know you and (hopefully) think highly of you, the chances of them returning for more services considerably decreases. Consumers are bombarded with mixed messages from a myriad of sources — online, television, magazines, newspapers, radio, friends, and celebrities. They have a short attention span and tend to forget the names of products they have used or treatments they have had done, and even where they had them if too much time has passed.
A common lament from aesthetic practitioners when asked about the specifics of their internal marketing programme is, ‘We tried that but it didn’t work’. On further investigation, it is often revealed that they once tried something a long time ago and never tracked the actual results. That perception is flawed because they do not have the information to make a judgment as to whether the tactic used delivered results.
[pull_quote align=”right” ]Developing a solid email database of your patients who have opted in is one of the most valuable marketing assets of any clinic.[/pull_quote] Research has shown that consumers need to see an advert at least three times to recall the product and brand. Therefore, communicating with patients must be done consistently to keep your clinic top of mind for when they are ready to make a purchasing decision. However, there is a fine line between not communicating enough and communicating or promoting your clinic so often that patients opt out of your mailing list. Developing a solid email database of patients who have opted in is one of the most valuable marketing assets of any clinic.
Although the ideal frequency of communicating differs from clinic to clinic and geographic area, suggested frequency might be:
- Eblasts: monthly
- Print newsletters: 2–4 times per year
- Open-house seminars: every 2 months
- Blog: 2–3 times per week
- Facebook: daily
- Twitter: daily.
Maximum capacity: marketing freeze
Before you enhance your marketing budget, make sure that you have sufficient staff and infrastructure to handle more phone calls, inquiries, and patient flow. If your clinic is not prepared to manage the increased volume correctly, this can damage your brand indelibly.
If your clinic is maxed-out with regard to staff, waiting room space, consulting rooms, and long lead times for appointments, it is time to take a step back and analyse the reasons; a number of things may be causing such issues. For example, you may simply need more staff, or you may need better staff who can work harder, faster and more efficiently. If your waiting room is full most days, you may be keeping patients waiting too long and need to review the methods used for scheduling follow-up appointments and treatments. If your rooms are constantly filled, it may be owing to the fact that too much time is being devoted to each patient, or you need more rooms. You may need additional staff, a larger facility, or perhaps a satellite clinic in another location to manage the additional patient flow.
The reverse may also be that your fees are set too low so that you are seeing too many patients, but not generating enough profit. Patient flow or the number of treatments performed is not the best indicator of success. It is less important than the average revenue generated by each treatment, and the profit margin.
No clinic can ever be too busy to take on new patients. Patients move, lose their jobs and/or homes, and switch to another practitioner for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Therefore, every business is always in need of new customers and more revenue.