Marketing treatments for intimate areas
Caitlin Farrell discusses how to introduce women’s sexual wellness into your practice, and build a strong foundation for long-term success
Whether you’re a gynaecologist or an aesthetic physician, you have patients to see and a business to run so putting together a marketing plan is understandably the last thing on your mind. It may seem especially daunting when it means developing a plan to introduce a new treatment, particularly one that caters to such a private and intimate concern as sexual function. Neglect usually leads to a marketing plan comprised of a long list of tactics with no long-term strategy. Regardless of the nature of the treatment, building a strong foundation with clear, strategic goals is critical. The good news is that sexual wellness isn’t necessarily more difficult to build a plan around, it’s just different.
Building a strong foundation
Imagine you’re building a house. You map out your floor plan and then construction starts with the foundation (framing, concrete, insulation, etc.) before you move on to build the second floor. As you go, you would have key inspection points to ensure your house won’t collapse later on. The same rules apply when you’re introducing a new service to your practice. If you skip the foundational work and dive right into building your rooftop pool, you’re bound to have some issues along the way. It seems obvious, but it’s amazing how often it gets overlooked. Think of your staff, your office and your marketing plan as the foundational pillars that will support your overall success with your current business and your new investment in women’s sexual wellness.
It’s not difficult to recognise the symptoms of impulse marketing when you see them: the reactionary whim that leads to a high-end marketing spending spree. A national PR campaign, a hefty pay-per-click initiative and giant billboards everywhere! The only thing any of this really guarantees is that the budget for introducing the new treatment will be spent before anyone’s even had a chance to treat a patient. Beyond their high price, these activities can be incredibly time-consuming and their success relies heavily on experienced, dedicated resources.
It’s also very execution-driven, which means planning always takes a backseat. Imagine deciding to run an advertising campaign, but without doing the budget or monthly plan, or even having put an editorial calendar together. That nightmare is impulse marketing.
Many overlook the value of focusing on their existing patients with an integrated plan comprised of clear, strategic goals. Take social media as an example. There’s a big difference between updating your existing social media pages with an interesting announcement about a new treatment and investing in a social media ad campaign across multiple channels, like Facebook and Twitter, as well as some you’ve never considered before. If promotion through Instagram and Pinterest is new to you and your team, a new treatment launch is not the time to start getting familiar with the platform.
In general, the cost of acquiring new patients requires a significant investment in time and budget. The bigger, overriding problem with impulse marketing is that it focuses on acquiring new customers instead of leveraging relationships with existing patients, whose trust and loyalty you’ve already earned. When it comes to starting a conversation about sexual wellness, trust will play a significant role in whether or not the patient is eager, or even willing, to open up to you.
As an integral part of building a strong foundation, strategic marketing takes a proactive approach instead of a reactive one. It involves the simultaneous planning and execution of initiatives to reach attainable goals and ensure long-term success. The benefit of stopping to think about your plan is that it won’t really slow you down and you’ll actually have better results with less need to clean up any messes later on.
With a strategic approach, you’re thinking about leveraging your existing opportunities. Within your existing database of patients, lets assume that 70% are women and 50% of these women are good candidates for this new treatment. The first step is making contact with a few of them via phone or email. You can put together a list of 10 – 15 qualified “VIP” patients who you know really well and who are always interested in the latest and greatest treatments you offer. In the short time it took to create this list, you’ll have already completed some of the initial evaluation work—work that would usually require more of your time when dealing with a new patient.
You should also consider if any of those patients would be willing to openly discuss their experience with others. One of the primary ways women are talking about treatments for sexual wellness is with each other. While they’re waiting for their doctor to bring it up, they’re review-searching, interacting with other patients online, or talking to other people they know. Starting with a select group of influential clients who will speak openly about such an intimate subject is a great way to spread awareness about a new treatment for sexual wellness—and best of all, it’s free!
Eventually, once you’ve built your foundation through strategic marketing and preparing your practice, you’re going to expand your reach to new patients through a sensibly planned commercial event that can include local media, or even guest speakers who specialise in sexual wellness. Your time, energy, and money will be wisely spent at this time to secure everything you’ve been working towards.
It’s vital to ensure that all client-facing parts of the business are in line, and not just on the clinical side but also on the administrative, sales and marketing side.
Let’s say that the expensive marketing activities worked to gain awareness and attract some new patients. The phones start ringing off the hook and emails are flooding your inbox from potential patients inquiring about this new treatment. As a few weeks go by, the traffic starts to slow down a bit and, strangely, not one of those inquiries resulted in an appointment for a treatment. Upon closer evaluation, talking to the staff and asking a few basic questions about patients and the treatment, it quickly becomes obvious where things went wrong. They clearly weren’t ready to work with sexual wellness patients. In fact, they were barely able to say the word “vagina” without giggling or avoiding eye contact. Whether dealing with medical aesthetics or sexual wellness, this happens in many clinics where the office hasn’t been sufficiently prepped to talk about a new treatment, and patient-conversion suffers.
To really understand the problem, let’s go back to our home-building analogy. In the simplest of terms, this practice jumped right into building the roof before the foundation was set and the structure was slowly caving in on itself. Everyone in the office should take a moment to ask themselves how comfortable they are talking about the intimate details of their own sex lives before they start speaking with patients about theirs. Not because they have to talk about their personal lives, but if they are uncomfortable just thinking about it, it will be very obvious to the patient—a patient who is probably already nervous about the conversation to begin with. It is worth considering that clinics where the physician and their staff have either had or performed a treatment have had the easiest time integrating sexual wellness into their practice, and have done so with great success.
Your staff know your patients, sometimes better than you do, because they’re talking to them every day on the phone, at the reception desk, in the waiting room and even in the treatment room. With their frequent exposure to your patients and the familiar relationships they create with them, they’re in the best position to start a conversation about a new treatment. You just have to make sure they’re ready to start that conversation, especially when it involves such an intimate and private concern. So in addition to being comfortable with their own intimacy and the treatment they’re representing for you, your staff should also be encouraged to do some research in the broader field of sexual wellness.
Investing in your employees for long-term success means empowering them with all the information they need and making sure that they’re comfortable talking about issues related to sexual wellness with your patients.
Vaginal rejuvenation vs female sexual function and wellness
Unfortunately, we have not come very far in regards to women’s health, particularly with matters of sexual sensation and intimacy. Viagra and a long list of other sexual function options for men have been available for some time, but until very recently there hasn’t been much out there for women dealing with loss of sexual sensation due to childbirth or other natural causes.
While vaginal rejuvenation helped to spark interest in women’s health, the treatments have been mainly focused on cosmetic concerns. At the same time, other treatments have surfaced to address issues with discomfort during sex for postmenopausal women, like atrophy and lubrication. Now we’re seeing the shift into female sexual function, and while it may seem similar to what has already been happening in the market, it’s actually quite different—especially for the patient.
There are a lot of treatments available and this is causing a great deal of confusion among patients and even the media. This is why it’s important that your staff takes the time to familiarise themselves with sexual wellness—not only with the clinical aspects of the treatment you offer, but on what’s happening in the marketplace in general so they know how to discuss it with patients. Your staff should be researching relevant resources in both the professional and the consumer space, making sure they’re up to speed on the current state of sexual wellness. Staying on top of what your patients are talking about and where they’re going to get their information about sexual wellness is critical.
Preparing the clinic
As you would with the launch of any other product, it’s important to regularly take an honest look at the current condition of your clinic. I’m sure for the most part it’s clean, and things are up to par, but there may also be little things that you’ve missed when the clinic has been very busy. Knowing that women are coming in for such an intimate treatment, it’s important to really take a look at some things that might make her question whether or not she wants to expose herself to anyone, or anything, in that clinic. Is there any dust in the corner that was overlooked? Is the furniture outdated? Does your office create the appropriate ambiance to make her confortable during treatment?
Placement of marketing materials
On the marketing side, consider looking around and thinking about where the promotional materials are and whether they are visible. Are they clearly visible? Are they also in a place where she can access and review them privately? Let’s say that in a particular office the only place pamphlets for a vaginal laxity treatment are available is at the reception desk. In this situation a potential patient would have to get up and walk over to the reception desk to pick up a pamphlet—all in front of a room full of strangers. You might as well just ask her to get up and announce to everyone that she has vaginal laxity. Consider putting marketing material in private areas like the treatment room or the bathroom, where she can read in private.
You can do all the research on the topic, you can know the product in and out, but when it comes to creating awareness about a treatment in your practice it’s really just about using common-sense tactics to guide your approach.
This is important, but it doesn’t have to involve a huge spend. Start by updating your website, making sure the new treatment is easy to find from your navigation bar, and then creating a new dedicated page with all of the relevant information about the treatment. Check to make sure your website is responsive so that patients can easily find you and access your website from their mobile devices. Don’t forget your social media pages, updating any menu of services your have and creating a brief announcement post to introduce the treatment on your page.
Patient tracking is key with these treatments. Unfortunately, happy patients are quiet patients. Quite different from an unhappy patient, if they’re satisfied with their results, a happy patient will go on with their lives and you probably won’t hear from them again until they’re ready for something else. You won’t always have before-and-after photos, and even if you do, your options for where you can promote pictures of a patient’s genitalia may be limited.
Many actually see this as a benefit to treatments for intimate areas. If you are an aesthetic practice, you’re probably familiar with patients who complain about subtle or gradual results. They quickly forget where they started and sometimes you have to sit down with them to pinpoint their progress on their before and afters. In contrast, a patient who has had a treatment for sexual function, for example, will be able to feel their results. You can’t ask for a better testimonial than, “I feel incredible”, or “I haven’t felt like that in a long time!” Happy patients won’t always come running to thank you and share their results with you so you have to make patient tracking an integral part of your patient care process.
Check in with your happy patients at the one-month, three-month, and six-month mark to see how they’re doing and keep a record of their progress. For certain devices, there may only be one treatment, and then there’s no need to return for a while, so it’s even more important to make sure you follow up on their progress. By the six month mark, if they are still happy they’ll probably be willing to give you a good review—or even better, they’ll let you record or film their testimonial. It’s the best piece of promotional material you can get at a fraction of the price!
Caitlin Farrell is the Senior Global Director of Business Development for VIVEVE Medical. Ms Farrell helps practices throughout the world initiate and implement the tactics and strategies that empower patients to seek out treatments for intimate areas. With her in-depth understanding of marketing strategy, combined with a compassionate approach to patients’ interests, concerns and aspirations, Ms Farrell offers essential guidance designed to expand the reach of medical practices everywhere.