Abstract: With the state of the economy only slowly coming around, medical aesthetic practices need to engage both new and old patients, and one of the best ways to bring them in is through promotional efforts. Package deals, incentives, cross promotions, referral programs, e-mail marketing packages, treatment bundles and other basic promotional programs have a long history of helping to keep businesses thriving, and putting together your own particular options can lead to increased loyalty and even new patients.
You survived the downturn of 2008 and made it through 2009. Your next challenge is recapturing the momentum for 2010 and beyond. But consumer spending is still in a holding pattern in many markets, forcing those in the medical aesthetic industry to think more closely about what patients really want, as well as how to give it to them.
A stand-out business
To establish a strong point of difference, one effective promotional strategy that works in any economic climate is to enhance customer service. Rather than hastily reacting to an onslaught of discounted treatments and aggressive product promotions, consider reworking your service offerings to add more value.
Many practices, clinics and medical spas have turned their sales volume around by giving patients more for their money. Whether it is through vouchers for future treatments, a series of two-for-one specials or holding 10% off Botox days, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. And a gesture doesn’t even have to be grand to be effective. Something as simple as offering a complimentary hand massage with a skin treatment or a trial size of a new eye cream can go a long way to enhance customer loyalty.
It’s also important to keep your business at your patients’ top-of-mind. According to Janice Worth, owner of Anushka Spa and Cosmedical Centre in Palm Beach, Florida, “We try to communicate to our 15,000 patients approximately eight times a year by sending beautifully designed 6-by-8-inch mailers to their homes. Our September and October pieces accounted for driving about 15% of overall revenue in those months in actual advertised promotions, and the dollar volume generated amounts of about $45,000–60,000 in revenue. However, we also see there is approximately a 15–20% uptick in patients that have been dormant for three to six months. Just putting our face in front of them reminds them to make an appointment.”
What to try
There are a myriad of creative options available when trying to appeal to the new reality of consumer belt-tightening, and cross promotions can offer many benefits to patients while also introducing them to new services. Typically, promotions should also only be offered for a limited time, and they should be changed frequently to avoid getting stale. If you offer the same promotion for months on end, you are essentially lowering your fees rather than using the special promotion as a way to generate new interest. Consider adding something into the treatment fee to entice patients, such as a complimentary lash enhancer with every facial peel or 30 units of Botox as a bonus with two syringes of Juvederm. The additional service will likely not end up costing you more, and it serves to build goodwill with your patients.
Treatment-bundling is another proven method that can be implemented to benefit loyal patients and keepschedules full. You can start by identifying which services are the least profitable. For example, a light-based treatment for redness that takes 15 minutes to perform may bring in much more revenue than cellulite therapy that ties up a treatment room for 90 minutes. Therefore, you may want to bundle less profitable services with more time-compact offerings, such as laser or light treatments or dermal fillers. Also, have them booked together or paid for at the same time.
You can bundle treatments with products, too. As retail falls under the category of passive income, offering patients a complimentary product as a bonus with a full-priced treatment is an ideal way to maximize their experiences. For example, including a broad-spectrum sunscreen with high SPF with every fractional resurfacing treatment serves the dual purpose of emphasizing the need for sun protection post-laser treatment and improving compliance.
Worth comments, “Even in Palm Beach, patients love to get something extra. We recently offered a special microdermabrasion manicure bundled with every laser treatment. And another very successful promotion we’ve used is to have patients bring in their old eye cream and then upgrade them to a more advanced eye product by offering 10% off the retail price. This allows us to introduce them to our skin care brands.” It also generates retail sales.
Though the luxury concept may conjure up images of the conspicuous consumption and out-of-control self-indulgence that landed the economy in this global crisis, skin maintenance therapies aren’t only about pampering anymore. Consumers buy into the concept that taking care of their skin and appearance goes hand in hand with an integrative approach to health and wellness. By raising the awareness of the long-term benefits of the therapeutic services you offer, patients will be encouraged to invest in preventive and maintenance treatments even if they’re cutting back on discretionary spending.
Aesthetic physicians and medical spas can remain relevant to their clientele by adding introductory services at lower price points and refocusing on results-oriented treatments for patients who may have less money to spend. And to get the most out of these new offerings, it helps to modify your marketing and promotions to adapt to new consumer concerns and priorities.
For example, if your monthly facial and micro-dermabrasion patients cannot afford to keep up with a $250-plus service, consider ways to incentivize them in order to make the treatments more budget-friendly. Most medical spas and clinics offer substantial price breaks for those who sign on for a series of repetitive treatments and pay for the package in advance. So, the popular strategy of including a free treatment with every package of four purchased, offering a complimentary manicure or makeup application with every series, or including a free home care product can really aid in boosting business.
And although everyone is clamoring for new patients, it is equally important to take extra special care of your loyal customers who have been faithful throughout the years. Customer referral cards are a tried-and-true way to reward loyal patients. For example, giving current customers 20% off a facial service for every patient referral they bring in can help drive new business into your practice. With today’s atmosphere, you cannot wait for people to come to you—you need to reach out to them.
And again, to generate excitement among patients and incentivize them to come in, a call to action has to have a specified time period. Open house events offering a 20% courtesy discount on all treatments booked at the event can be very effective during slow periods, or you may also consider offering a complimentary skin care product to every patient who brings a friend to an event. “We always include ‘Bring a Friend’ on all our invitations to encourage patients to come in with their girlfriends for our special Saturday champagne brunch events,” says Worth. “The secret to success is to keep it interesting, fun and teach them something new.”
Practices and medical spas also are having to come up with other creative ways to fill empty appointment schedules and slow periods, and one of the most cost-effective marketing channels is e-mail marketing. Many have seen great success with e-blasts designed to drive traffic to a well-designed Web site, which ideally includes a facility’s complete menu of services, online scheduling capability and a shopping cart of the products it sells.
Worth notes that many of her business mailers are also e-mailed to patients who have opted in to learn about the medical spa’s newest deals via the Web, and oftentimes, the e-mails generate quite a response. “The e-blast that was sent for our most recent medical event was extremely successful,” she explains. “We hosted an event to launch Sculptra Aesthetic, which had just gotten FDA approval. We had about 30 women join us for a featured presentation by our medical director and our aesthetic director. Five of the attendees brought five new patients, and we prebooked approximately $11,000 in treatments, which were then administered over the next week. We also booked two cosmetic surgery procedures with Dr. Daniel Morello and sold approximately $1,000 in retail at the event.”
Additionally, by utilizing Twitter and Facebook as part of an integrated marketing campaign, practices and medical spas can generate buzz for their facility and increase the uptake on special offers. There is no denying the reach that social media has anymore. Every day there are more practices offering last-minute deals on open appointments and treatments, promoting discounts for gift certificates and product promotions via posts on Twitter and through Facebook ads, pages and groups.
But these kinds of promotions have to be compelling to resonate with this audience. For example, free shipping is probably not exciting enough to generate interest. However, 15–20% discounts on products or services, free samples, seminars and open house events tend to create the greatest pick-up.
Listen to customers
Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business. Promoting special offers to bring in new patients is not enough to grow a thriving aesthetic practice unless you can get some of those patients to come back to you. Aesthetic medicine is a repetitive service business, and without a loyal clientele, your facility might not be profitable for very long. If you’re not seeing patients coming back, you may have a service disconnect.
The impression patients have about your practice may begin when they click on your Web site, flip past an advertisement in the local paper, or when they call in to book an appointment. Many practices are understaffed, especially in light of overhead reductions, and that means the team on board may be overburdened. The end result of not having enough staff is not serving patients appropriately, including long waiting times and inconsistent care. Make sure that a well-trained staffer is picking up the phone when new customers call to inquire about a treatment or make an appointment, as well as to greet them when they come to your business.
A steady flow
To maintain a steady patient flow, maximize every opportunity you have to impress them and exceed their expectations. It is arguably easier to get patients to come to your practice or medical spa once than it is to sustain them, especially when you are faced with increased competition. The best way to distinguish your business from all of the others is to have an exhaustive approach to customer service that aids you in forming a close bond with patients. The goal is happy patients who are eager to tell their friends about you and send referrals.
They may not always tell you, but people notice when you make an extra effort, and they will tell other people about your facility. In the end, delivering good quality service is likely to bring in more new customers than even clever promotions and price slashing.