From web building and public relations to search engine optimization and lead retrieval, today's aesthetic practices must consider multiple services to reach patients and grow their base in the face of increasing competition. But what happens when the counsel is flawed? Modern Aesthetics® marketing pros share the worst practice management advice someone ever gave one of their clients and how they helped undo any damage. These cautionary tales may save your practice a lot of aggravation and money.
High Price Doesn't Mean High Quality
A dermatology practice we were talking to about handling their marketing was referred by a colleague to a high-priced ad agency that had no experience in working with physicians (huge red flag). They claimed to have “beauty” experience, as in they had worked with some cosmetics and skincare companies, which is not relevant to a busy dermatology practice. It was obvious that the person who referred this agency had some ulterior motive. The practice went along and chose this agency based on the referral. Quite a while later, they called us to talk again and came clean that they chose the other group under pressure and asked if we would look at what they had done and consider working with them.
The first thing we did was to tell the doctor to check the contract they had signed. He did and it was for one year (ouch!) requiring 30 days written notice to cancel before it autorenewed for another year. They were dangerously close to the 11-month mark, and the doctor did not realize what he had signed.
We reviewed the work the agency had done for the practice and submitted a report to the now-angry doctor. The agency only did Instagram for the practice and although the follower count was substantial, engagement was quite low and content was underwhelming. The agency in question had never shared a content strategy with the practice or submitted a calendar for approvals and input.
Our digital team also analyzed their website's structure, navigation, and performance, none of which were optimal. Navigation was very outdated and the only photos on the site were thumbnails. The blog the agency was commissioned to write was not a blog, but posts containing articles the doctors were quoted in and content lifted from the American Academy of Dermatology website. The site's content was poorly written and showed a lack of understanding of the nature of the services offered and the words and phrases that resonate with the practice's target audiences. In short, it was one big mess.
We opted not to work with the practice. The doctor had been badly burned and was already in an understandably hostile state. The practice was also out of money to put toward a suitable marketing budget, having spent so much for the previous contract. We calculated how many hours it would take to revise everything the previous agency had done, as most of their work was not really salvageable. This would be a costly and labor intensive undertaking, and the practice didn't have the budget or bandwidth to do it justice at the time.
We suggested that they cancel their contract and hire a marketing coordinator with web experience to take some of the work in-house, such as content writing, Google ad words, and social media. They liked that plan as a workaround and we helped them prioritize what needed to be done and in what order.
The moral of this story is threefold:
1. Don't sign contracts without reading them and having a business advisor or attorney review the terms.
2. Don't hire anyone without checking their references and seeing their work.
3. Don't enlist vendors for your practice who do not have direct expertise in your field: healthcare, medical practices, dermatology, cosmetic surgery, etc. Why should they learn on your dime?
• Founder/President of Wendy Lewis & Co. Ltd., a marketing communication and social media boutique in New York City.
• Founder/Editor-in-Chief of beautyinthebag.com.
• Author of 12 books including Aesthetic Clinic Marketing in the Digital Age
One and Done
“Doctor, all you need is X for your practice marketing.” Wrong!
Study after study shows that the best marketing strategies and the ones the build the most revenue growth are those that target a range of touch points, particularly online touch points. Care Credit's “Path to Purchase Survey” data show that prospective patients view your practice website, social media, medical advice websites, search engines, and review sites when choosing a procedure and selecting a surgeon. Often aesthetic practices are lured into the idea that a one-sided strategy will win because it sounds good. This marketing approach is used by some companies because they are one-trick ponies and only offer one service.
Instead, create a strategy that builds value in all the major touch points online and don't forget that even the best word-of-mouth referrals must be backed up with a great online presence. About 12 to 15 years ago, a patient would receive a word-of-mouth recommendation or see an advertisement and he or she would directly contact the practice. Now, the prospective patient jumps online, checks out your website, reviews, social media, rankings on Google, among other facets, and then they do the same thing for your competitors. If they like what they see online, then and only then, will they contact the practice. But, if your competitors show up in a better way than you do online, then you will likely lose out on the lead.
If your strategy only focuses on one or a limited number of touch points, you can forget about prospective patients contacting your practice. Don't be lured into the idea that one type of service actually hits multiple touch points. For example, some common misconceptions are “all you have to do is add video to your site to make it convert” or “social media can boost your rankings on Google” or “reviews drive your SEO.” These are falsehoods. Diversification is the key to marketing success!
David Evans, PhD, MBA
• CEO of Ceatus Media Group, based in San Diego.
Not Reading the Fine Print
One of the worst pieces of advice that anyone has ever given our client is to not bother negotiating a contract or to not “waste their time” reading the fine print. Here's the thing: the devil is in the details, and our clients have come to us after the fact begging us to help them find a way out of an agreement they have already executed.
Of course, the best thing is to read the contract thoroughly the first time around: scour the paperwork for autorenewal clauses, circumstances that will void warranties, and customer service details. (These are often the top complaints and reasons for wanting to cancel contracts.)
However, if the time comes that it makes sense to end a contract early, there are certain steps to take, including:
Early cancellation of the contract. Legally, you have a certain period of time to cancel the contract after executing it. Knowing that period of time is key to a successful cancellation. Check your state law, as these vary from state to state.
Logging the issues ahead of time, including any steps that you attempted to take with the company to correct it. If they didn't live up to their end of the deal, that speaks volumes and may be a legal cause for cancellation under a breach of contract regulation.
Connect with the company's leadership. Although we always start with the proper channels and hope to work out the discrepancies between both parties in a successful manner, sometimes you need to go up the food chain, and talk to the boss's boss.
Jay A. Shorr, BA, MBM-C, CAC XIV
• Founder and managing partner, Shorr Solutions, assisting medical practices with the operational, financial, and administrative health of their business.
• Professional motivational speaker, advisor to the Certified Aesthetic Consultant Program, and certified medical business manager from Florida Atlantic University.
Mara Shorr, BS, CAC XIV
• Partner and vice president of marketing and business development for Shorr Solutions.
• Level II-XI certified aesthetic consultant, utilizing her knowledge and experience to help clients achieve their potential. She is also a national speaker and writer.