Gary Conroy looks at the power of branding in a clinical setting
Communicating the value of the service you offer to your clients or patients is important—but it’s equally important to highlight what differentiates you from your local, or national competition in the medical aesthetics market.
With consumer culture changing over the past ten years, medical aesthetic treatments have become much more acceptable. People are far more willing to discuss them openly and this rapidly growing market is now expanding from a number of different avenues.
Examining new initiatives by companies—such as Galderma collaborating with Sharon Stone recently—show that medical aesthetics are becoming a much more accepted option for people to look more attractive, stay younger, be more competitive, and more successful in life. So there are many more patients moving into the market.
Alongside a great number of treatment options, patients can undergo multiple treatments to achieve the results they want, or opt for less invasive or more invasive treatment options. There are also a plethora of different price points that patients can now access, meaning patients of all levels of affluence can now access some form of medical aesthetic treatments.
10 or 12 years ago, few practitioners were advertising medical aesthetics in the UK. However, as the growth of events like the FACE Conference are testament to, we’ve seen a huge growth in the number of practitioners who offer treatment. The promotional activity directed to patients to recruit them and educate them has also increased.
This is driving growth of the market, but it’s also driving competition in the market. We are now in a competitive world of pop up clinics and people advertising on price reductions. When the price falls and margins fall, everybody starts competing.
To be successful, it’s important to know how to become separate from this downward spiral where market prices are being cut but the service isn’t necessarily increasing.
Differentiation beyond price point
A clinic with 100 patients this year will be able to keep somewhere between 70 and 90 of those patients into next year as this competition continues to grow. The market is growing at an estimated 7.5% per year, so unless your clinic is doing something different, the number of patients will slowly be eroded as new clinics open up within your area. Certainly this will be the case if you behave like they do—just on a price point.
Understand how patients differentiate
Search for a wrinkle treatment clinic using Google and then try to differentiate the results—it isn’t easy. Clinics seem to differentiate on price and often on free consultation, or by showing off about their Harley Street location, but what Patients want is to know you can identify what their problem is and find a solution to their problem. If you can start to think from a patient’s perspective as opposed to your own, you’re on the right path to differentiating yourself within a very crowded market space.
Branding is far more than just a logo or a trademark and developing a brand really does carry value in a service-based clinical environment. There is value not only in recruiting patients or retaining current patients, but as your business evolves and as the market evolves, a brand can ensure that your business becomes more viable and more secure.
Brands have come along way since the beginning of the last century in the USA where a brand was essentially a mark applied to something that people could affirm ownership. As we moved into the 1950s and ‘60s, brands took on a much greater tangible value and started to become a hallmark of quality and brand value. If you start applying that mentality to medical aesthetics, a hallmark means that people are getting a good quality of treatment, that you understand their needs and you can give solutions and really care about what their outcomes are going to be. Bearing this in mind your brand will suddenly become something that they trust and can rely on and it will carry a lot of value.
The current interpretation of branding has moved on forward. Today branding really is the junction between making a promise to your clients, how you can deliver that, meet their expectation and then grow your brand.
Why do we buy Starbucks coffee rather than a cheaper cup? Starbucks promise us that we’re going to get a half-decent cup of coffee, in a nice environment, with a friendly member of staff. They aren’t just offering coffee, they’re saying—we know you need a break, you need time out your life—why not come here and charge your phone, catch up with your emails and have a nice cup of coffee while you’re doing it? So actually their promise to you is very different from the café on the street that’s selling the 99p coffee. The 99p coffee is like your £99 pop up toxins clinic.
External service proposition
If your promise meets expectation, your brand suddenly takes on additional value. One problem with the information that clients get from google searches is that nobody is telling anybody that they understand their problem and they’re certainly not giving them a solution.
Clinics are taking an industry perspective as opposed to a patient’s perspective on what might be worrying patients—caught up in concerns over unqualified practitioners, safety, costs. Whereas our patients actually want different things and have different problems. Understanding what the patient’s problems are allows you then to develop your skill set to say, this is how I can help those patients achieve what it is they’re after.
Your external service proposition is the promise that you understand your patient’s concerns and their needs and how you communicate how you’re going to meet those expectations or needs, and then what you actually do within the clinic in order to do that. A strong visual identity or logo is important but it’s also vital to recognise that the logo is only one part of your external service proposition. It may be a stamp of authority, but the rest of your brand is much deeper.
Creating customer loyalty
The service-profit chain is Harvard Business School’s basis on how to build a sustainable business. Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty—so how do we get to a point of customer loyalty through the element of developing a brand?
Starting within is key. Every single aspect of your business must focus on the customers’ needs. Does the receptionist understand what the customers’ needs are? Does the person who answers the phone understand what they think? Does every single piece of literature within your clinic communicate to the patient about what their needs are and how you’re going to solve them? Is everybody’s raison d’être for their job to be there to satisfy the customer’s needs and deliver those solutions?
At the most basic level of building your brand everybody in the clinic needs to understand what it is you’re trying to do to meet your customers’ needs. Every part of your business plan is aimed at meeting your customers’ needs as opposed to selling your services. So it’s really customer needs first. Once you’ve got the internal structure, you can then start to develop your external service value and communicate that to your patients. And that becomes your promise. When you start to meet that promise with the current clients you have, you’ll get customer satisfaction. When expectation meets promise, then you’ve got a brand. The minute you’ve got a brand, you’ve got customer loyalty. And the minute you’ve got customer loyalty, you’ve got renewable revenue and growth because you’ve got referral.
Loyal customers are going to do all the advertising and promotional work for you because they’re going to recommend your clinic, because you understand their needs, care about what they want and fix problems.
Move with the market
Once your brand is established if you can build that brand to promise people a solution to something that they’re concerned about and you can deliver that solution, they’ll be quite happy to buy that brand again for future treatments, wellbeing or anything they might need as things change.
The message here is it’s worth developing your brand, it’s worth looking at your external service proposition, understanding your patient better, understanding their needs and building your brand around that, not around you.
Gary Conroy is the co-founder and director of Five Squirrels. He’s got over 12 years’ experience in the aesthetics industry, having previously been head of medical aesthetics at Sanofi-Aventis and laterally sales and marketing director at Ambicare Health. Gary has extensive knowledge of market research, consumer behaviour and strategic marketing planning. With 5 Squirrels he hopes to support clinic owners to realise the power of their own brands and offer some protection to the many customers he has worked with over the years from online erosion of their client base by mainstream skincare brands with the companies mantra: build your own brand, not someone else’s.