The iconic phrase, ‘think globally, act locally’, refers to the concept that global environmental problems can turn into action only by considering ecological, economic, and cultural differences of our local surroundings. The term has come to be widely used in business strategy, suggesting that global corporations should endeavour to build local roots.

The truth is that for aesthetic clinics, thinking globally is a luxury, whereas acting locally is a virtual necessity. In this crowded market, consumers are more likely to travel far and wide for big-ticket procedures, such as major face and body surgeries, rather than smaller, repetitive filler and laser procedures. Therefore, for most aesthetic clinics, their immediate customer base tends to be within reasonable driving distance. There are some exceptions, however; particularly if you offer something that consumers cannot get elsewhere. One example might be if your clinic is the only facility in a 300 kilometre radius offering the newest energy-based skin tightening system. Or if your clinic is in a particularly unique location that attracts a high-end clientele.

Big business branding principles

In some cases, adopting big business branding tactics could actually have a negative impact on your small business. A brand and its ability to drive consumer spending behaviour is mostly based on the customer experience. By following the tactics of an elite group of mega consumer companies that have highly‑recognisable brand names and an entire marketing team supporting them, you may be blowing your budget on strategies that do not work for a solo clinic or small group of practitioners.

The implication that smaller firms should spend big money on branding and marketing in the hope of replicating the success of these huge firms is flawed. This way of thinking tends to focus on large consumer brands that have big budgets and cast a wide net. The playing field is just not equal. The fallacy with this thought process is that the best practices of large service brands, such as McDonald’s, Starbucks or Virgin Atlantic, underestimate the differences between small businesses that cater to a unique and mainly local clientele, and brands that have customers across a wide
range of consumer segments and geographical regions.

Another intrinsic disconnect is that it is far easier to duplicate the customer experience of these large brands than it is to recreate the culture, staff, and expertise at a group of aesthetic clinics in different geographic regions. More and more cities and villages are literally dotted with aesthetic clinics, medispas and hospitals offering some selection of injectable wrinkle relaxers, dermal fillers, and laser and light-based treatments.

Therefore, small businesses cannot learn a lot by studying the behaviour of global companies and well-established household brand names. The rules under which these businesses operate are simply not applicable to smaller companies that tend to be privately owned and managed. Big brands tend to have similar corporate structures and are typically public companies. They also tend to have sales and marketing models that are far beyond the reach of any entrepreneur.

Consider chains such as Boots and Superdrug, Tony & Guy and Saks Hair & Beauty Salons, which operate in a similar manner with regard to their marketing strategies. Their individual branding plays a huge role in differentiating between these offerings that tend to be rather similar in nature.

Solo aesthetic clinics or medispas face a unique set of challenges when it comes to differentiation. If they feature a commodity offering that is just like everyone else’s offering, it is quite difficult for them to compete on the basis of their branding tactics alone. By creating differentiation through print advertising, web marketing, and daily deals, small businesses end up competing in the same territory as large national chains, which have deeper pockets, external agency support, and much greater reach.

Some examples of expensive marketing tactics that are not cost-effective are television adverts, bus stop adverts and billboards. In the author’s experience, these are rarely successful for small aesthetic clinics because they are not targeted to reach the right clientele who are both motivated to have cosmetic procedures and can afford the spend. It is extremely difficult and costly for a clinic with one location, or even a few satellite locations, to stand out and compete effectively against large clinic organisations or private hospital chains that feature cosmetic treatments. That capital may be better spent in another direction, such as open houses, seminars and events in the clinic or at a nearby facility that will attract a local clientele who are interested in the offers and may bring their friends and family.