New, new, new — that is what consumers are clamouring for. But the decision to add new technology to your clinic should not be taken lightly. It can represent a huge investment with regard to capital equipment, staffing, training time, and marketing budget. And if you have not done your homework before making the purchase and it goes wrong, you risk having unhappy, dissatisfied and angry customers who will post negative reviews about your clinic online, and poison your reputation and image in the community.
The key to successfully branding your clinic is to communicate a consistent message about the products or services you offer in all advertising, promotions, and marketing. For example, if you position your clinic as offering only the best in non-invasive therapies, adding cosmetic surgery to your clinic dilutes its brand and potentially confuses consumers as to what your clinic really stands for. If your customers know your clinic for offering safe and gentle treatments, be wary about adding anything that may be perceived as having a greater risk or increased downtime, unless your customers are asking for more invasive options.
Your clinic does not have to add every new device or product on the market as soon as it launches. Rather, it is wise to properly evaluate every treatment you bring into your clinic carefully, have it done on yourself or staff members, and ask the right questions prior to making a long-term financial commitment.
Prior to investment in new technology or product, you must do some research to learn how this will fit into your existing menu of services. In the first place, determine whether your intention is for it to replace something else or enhance what you already have. Before jumping into bed with a new manufacturer that may be unfamiliar to your clinic, take some time to do you due diligence. Find out what the manufacturer or distributor is willing to do for you in terms of training, marketing support, and direct consumer programmes to drive patients to your clinic.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask to speak to existing users of the technology — who are not direct competitors — to find out about important issues such as learning curve, patient acceptance, downtime and discomfort, results and the best applications of the technology. Ask to see a selection of before and after photographs, review the clinical data available, and look for double‑blind studies published in peer‑reviewed journals. This will give you the evidence, or lack thereof, that you need to make an informed decision.
Consider asking your existing patients whether they would be interested in the type of treatments you are looking at. Checking out online forums for consumer reviews and commentary can also shed light on whether the device lives up to the claims made by the manufacturer. If you see numerous posts about the device that include comments such as ‘overpriced’, ‘didn’t work’, or ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’, or ‘the pain was unbearable’, you may think twice about bringing it to your clinic.
It is also important to find out how many of your competitors have the device in question in your geographic region, and what they are charging for treatments. If you are in an area where there is no other clinic within a reasonable driving distance, there may be a big opportunity for you to dominate that market.
On the other hand, if you are in a densely populated area where many clinics within walking distance are already flogging the treatment, you will need to set your expectations accordingly. Furthermore, if many of your competitors offer systems for popular treatments such as skin tightening or non-surgical body shaping, and you do not, you may feel more pressure to add this new technology to remain relevant to your customer base.
Lastly, being impressed with the results a technology can achieve, is not sufficient rationale for adding it to your practice without further investigation. Most devices on the market do, at least to some degree and some of the time. The bigger questions are all about the business model. For example, you need to know whether this really is something patients want. Are they willing to undergo the treatment and pay a reasonable fee for the service? What are your costs to administer the treatment in terms of disposables, time, staffing, and aftercare? Who will be able to carry out the treatment?
Clearly, if a technician or aesthetician can use the device safely, the costs to the clinic will be far less than if the treatment must be relegated only to registered nurses or doctors. In some cases, the business model does not make sense on paper for small, privately-owned clinics that are notoriously understaffed or have no room to bring in another system that takes up precious floor space. For example, if the device itself is oversized and cumbersome, it may not be possible to move it from room to room. Consider how much time the treatment will take up valuable clinic space to perform. You should think of your business in terns of how many rooms you have available, how many treatments can be performed per hour, and how much revenue can be achieved per room, per hour, and per day.
Bear in mind that it is very hard to pass on the fees for disposables to a patient. Your choices are to add it as a line item, or adjust your global fee to offset any additional costs. If you are forced to charge more for the treatment, you should be armed with a series of key messages to defend why it is worth the extra spend to a patient. Some of these messages may include: it is faster, better results, less pain, less downtime, more precise outcomes, single versus multiple treatment sessions, works on all skin types, safer, longer duration of results, or celebrity endorsement..
Similarly, if you do not already have the customer base to which to market the new technology you want to bring in, you will need to factor in the costs of targeting a whole new segment of consumers, which can be substantial. In this market, adopting the theory of ‘if you buy it, they will come’ can be a precarious way to think about adding new products. Neither new patients nor existing patients will come unless they know about it; therefore, marketing a new technology takes on new importance.