Marketing for aesthetic practitioners

As the booming aesthetics market shows no signs of slowing, competition to attract and retain customers is often fierce. In this climate, you cannot afford to fall behind with your marketing efforts. Yet this can happen all too easily when you are juggling the day to day running of your business with your clinical work.

Here, we offer guidance and advice to help you market yourself successfully and stand out from the competition in an increasingly saturated market.

What is marketing and why do you need it?

Marketing is about persuading customers that they should buy your product or service over your competitors’. The key to successful marketing is therefore to identify your target customer and meet their needs better than the competition. Understanding and relating to your audience is crucial to successful marketing and public relations (PR). The prevalence of social media has had a huge impact on the aesthetics industry for both customers and practitioners. Customers can now compare notes and gain inspiration from social media and practitioners meanwhile can connect more easily with them and keep up to speed with the latest developments in aesthetics.

For today’s practitioner operating in the digital world, developing a marketing and PR strategy need not cost the earth, but it does require effective planning.

1. Market research and analysis

The marketing process starts with assessing your current situation through market research and analysis and involves all aspects of your aesthetics business, from the products and procedures you offer to where and when you provide them, to how much they cost and how you present and promote them to customers.

Know your market

Thorough market research will help you understand your customers, familiarise yourself with the competition and gain insights into what treatments people are looking for, how they would like to experience them and what they are prepared to pay for them.

Research the industry

Growth in the global aesthetics market is mainly being driven by the development of minimally invasive procedures, the increasing take-up of aesthetic treatments amongst older patients, men and the growing public awareness about cosmetic procedures. What are the current trends in the aesthetic industry in your geographic area?

Research your competitors

Even established practitioners should carry out continual competitor research. Understanding the key players in your local area will help you to identify any gaps in the market, inform your pricing strategy and highlight anything that you could improve upon. What are competitors doing that you could do better? What treatments do they offer? How do they set their prices and promote their services?

Research your customers

The key to successful marketing is understanding who your customers are so that you can craft targeted marketing messages at them effectively. At this stage in your research, buyer personas are a very useful device for helping to ensure that you are addressing the specific needs of your target customer as you develop your marketing strategy. The idea of a buyer
persona is to create a profile of your ideal customer to help visualise your audience and inform your strategy.

Create your buyer personas

You will need to create more than one buyer persona depending on your business, but you can start with a few and build them up. Some key characteristics you should include are personal demographics, educational background, job role, behaviours, goals, pain points and buying patterns. You are aiming for your persona to seem like a real person but without being too specific.

You can base your personas on market research through online surveys and interviews with a mix of customers and prospects, as well as insights gathered from your existing customer base. Improve your response rate by using incentives such as a gift card and being flexible with the timing of interviews.

Your aim is to understand your customers’ goals and motivations so that you can tailor your marketing to meet their needs more effectively.

Once you have gathered your customer data, you need to identify patterns and commonalities that customers share in order to develop your personas.

For example, you might notice that a core customer group of women in their 40s work part-time in professional roles in the city, live in the suburbs, enjoy practising yoga, dog walking with friends and gardening and are married with two to three children. Rather than listing these characteristics randomly, next you need to bring your persona to life – give them (and their dog) a name, a home and a job – make them seem like a real person who represents one segment of your customer base.

Thinking about who your persona is and who they want to be will help you to understand and relate to your customer, in order to help them meet their aspirations.

2. Plan your marketing strategy

Consider your business objectives

In order for your marketing strategy deliver results, it must be linked to your broader business strategy and associated objectives, which you should have outlined in your business plan. The first step of your marketing strategy is therefore to go back to the bigger picture and identify your business objectives. You can then plan how your marketing and promotional activities will help you to achieve them.

Identify your marketing objectives

Set marketing objectives that will help you to achieve the broader business objectives. For example, if your business
objective is to maintain or increase market share, your supporting marketing objectives might be:

• Achieve revenue growth of 15% each year for the next three years
• Increase market share in your geographical area by 6% in the next three years
• Add 50 new customer accounts generating at least £500 per account per year for the next three years

Ensure that your objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based).

Identify your unique selling point (USP)

Having carried out your research, you should have a clear sense of the dynamics of the aesthetics industry in your geographical area as well as a solid understanding of your competitors and customers, including some distinct customer personas.

This should help you to identify your niche and any opportunities to differentiate yourself to your target customers, for example by launching a new technique or service into your local market or working with a complimentary service provider to your mutual advantage.

In an increasingly crowded market, the quest for creating a USP becomes harder but also more necessary. Ask yourself what you can offer that others don’t. Your USP could relate to any aspect of your business so long as it is compelling to your customer. It could be about your innovative products and services, your natural ability to build rapport with patients, your luxurious premises or your presence and reputation on social media as an established leading light in your area. Identify what makes your service special, and be sure that this selling point is aligned with your customer needs and is clearly articulated in all your communications and branding.

3. Write your marketing plan

Armed with your market research, marketing objectives and a clear sense of your USPs, you can now begin mapping out your marketing plan on a monthly basis.

The aim of developing a marketing plan is to identify marketing strategies and tactics that will help to achieve your objectives; for example to gain more customers, sell more to existing customers, or perhaps a combination of the two.

Identify specific campaigns

These could be based around seasonal trends such as Christmas parties, summer holidays and New Year resolutions, the launch of a new product or treatment,
a special promotion or winning an industry award.

Timing of campaigns is critical and requires forward planning. For example, for a ‘get summer holiday ready’ campaign you need to launch in the spring when patients are thinking about ‘bikini-body’ season. Bundle ‘essential summer treatments’ together and promote them to your relevant customer personas across multiple channels.

Don’t forget to link campaigns back to your broader marketing and business objectives.

Develop a content and communications plan

It is important to be clear and consistent with content, customer communications and PR. Patients may be tempted to drift towards a competitor if they don’t hear from you in a while. It is therefore important to manage customer expectations proactively by developing a pipeline of content and communications so that they expect to hear from you and look forward to receiving your content.

Having identified your key campaigns, you can map out your monthly marketing content across the key channels. It is important to be consistent across all channels and link your content to as many channels as possible. This could include:

Events – whether you are attending an aesthetics conference as a delegate or speaker, listening to a seminar or hosting a launch party, events bring people together and offer the opportunity to network and develop relationships, promote your business and learn about the latest developments in aesthetics.
Website – there is lots of support available online to help with creating a website, or you may enlist the services of a professional. Having an online presence helps establish your credibility and supports your marketing campaigns, customer engagement and brand recognition.
Blog posts – blogs are a great way to drive traffic to your website, showcase your knowledge and assert yourself as a thought leader in the aesthetics industry. Ensure your blogs are fully optimised for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
Newsletters – a regular newsletter is a useful way to communicate with your customers and provide them with content that resonates with them. You can tailor your newsletter to your customer personas to build loyalty and ensure that the content and any promotions you include meet their specific needs.
Social media – aesthetics is a very active industry on social media, so ensure that you have a strong and regular presence across a range of platforms.
Celebrity culture and social media now influence many of the trends in aesthetic procedures, which often translate into patient demands. You can use this to your advantage by identifying the type of celebrity that appeals to your customer personas and keeping them updated with the latest cosmetic treatments that celebrity has undertaken. You can then link relevant celebrity endorsed trends to your treatments. You can also aim to generate support for your business by building up relationships with social media influencers.
Video – don’t forget to include video content as well as written blogs – they get the highest engagement on social channels. Thanks to the internet and smartphones, video marketing is now responsible for the majority of all internet traffic. Videos up to two minutes long get the most engagement. Use it for anything from customer testimonials to top tips and infographics.
Complimentary providers – identify opportunities to partner up with local businesses such as gyms or health cafés to promote to your mutual advantage.
PR – effective public relations can help you make the most out of an awards win, a product launch, or the results of a survey. By developing a relationship with industry journalists you can become one of their ‘go-to’ practitioners for advice on the latest industry developments.

Your content must of course be relevant to your customers and consistent in terms of branding and tone of voice across all platforms.

Aim for a mix of content such as:

Educational content – tips, advice and fact sheets will help to promote your services without the ‘hardsell’ which can turn people off. For example, you could include articles on themes linking into your seasonal calendar such as ‘getting Christmas party ready’ and general interest topics such as ‘the best volumising lipstick colours’, ‘top 10 biggest tattoo regrets’ or
‘essential skin care tips’.
Practical information – guidelines such as ‘post skin peel care advice’, including inspirational before and after images, case studies and details of your services are all useful for customers considering going ahead with a treatment.
Patient testimonials – customer feedback is likely to be just as important as price for those deciding whether to undergo cosmetic procedures. Ask your loyal clients to fill out a form in the clinic or send them an email asking them to give you their feedback. Positive testimonials can then be added to your website and will
help to enhance and promote your brand.
Promotional content – this could be tied to specific events or promotions you are running such as a live demonstration to promote a new treatment or highlighting that you will be hosting a stand or seminar at an upcoming event.
You can also link targeted promotional content to specific customer needs based on your customer personas. This could include:
Reminders – give your patients prompts to remind them when they are due to come in for a follow-up treatment, such as a 40-minute touch-up of micro-bladed brows one month after the initial session.
Incentives – if you are seeing a lot of one time patients who come in with a discount code and then vanish, look into a loyalty scheme to give them money off in the future.
Cross-promotion –had someone in for teeth whitening? Offer some suggestions of other procedures they may be interested in, such as laser hair removal.

Identify how you are going to measure the effectiveness of your marketing:

While marketing needn’t cost the earth, particularly if you focus primarily on digital rather than traditional methods, it does take time. And time is money. You need to understand what is working and what is not by carrying out regular reviews into analytics such as: click through rates from your blog posts, newsletter open rates, the number of social media followers, website traffic, bounce rates and other measures of customer engagement. Ultimately you need to know whether your marketing is translating into revenue.

Customer satisfaction surveys can also give you a good understanding of what you are doing right and what could be done better.

Constantly review your market and marketing

In today’s fast moving digital world, fashions come and go within a matter of weeks, often impacting upon trends in the aesthetic treatments customers are seeking. Keep track by paying attention to which procedures are popular online and monitoring your own internal trends. Don’t be afraid to review your plan where required.

It can be difficult to find the time for marketing your business, but invest time planning and following these steps and you are far more likely to be rewarded further down the line with a loyal patient following.

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