It is time to shake up and dismantle the current paradigm from which dermatologists define effective websites and online marketing. Medical aesthetics lags well behind other industries and market segments when it comes to effective utilization of online tools. The following is an informal critique of the average medical aesthetic website today based on professional website assessments.

Most websites suffer from “brochure-itis.” Practices feature brochures in their waiting rooms that show very little difference between brochure information and what is featured on the practice website. This is unfortunate, because there are so many different media available for delivering content via the web. These media include (but are not limited to) blogs, newsletters, videos, pictures, whitepapers, press releases, e-books, and more. It goes beyond simply utilizing some of these mediums to deliver content; the content must be outstanding material that patients want to share with friends.

Missed Opportunities

Most “newsletters” actually contain very little “news.” Usually, they are promotional leaflets or flyers disguised as newsletters, which render useless one of a practice's most valuable tools for gaining potential patients.

Many blogs for dermatology practices are started because it is recommended. Unfortunately, most blog content is pulled from other sources on the web through an RSS feed or is written by individuals who have little or no insight about the actual practice and its providers. Again, a huge opportunity missed to provide patients with information about the practice and its employees, including thoughts, feelings, and philosophy.

Create blogs written in a personal voice that are topical, relevant, and interesting in order to connect with a patient. Just by its nature, the blog is one of the most personal platforms available and provides dermatologists with a huge opportunity to start developing trust within a potential client base.

A Vehicle for Consumables

The author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, Shama Hyder Kabani, does a great job of placing potential patients into three distinct groups, shown in the figure above. On the far left are Strangers, who are potential clients that know absolutely nothing about the practice. On the far right are Customers, or those that actually come into the business and spend money. In the middle is the most important group for marketing purposes called Consumers. Kabani makes a point to differentiate the Consumer from the Customer. She says, “A Consumer may take your information or even sample your product, but he or she may not always buy.” Furthermore, a Consumer can consume different things related to a practice other than products and services. They can consume expertise, philosophy, training, results, passion, and personality. The Internet offers wonderful vehicles to provide this consumable information.

Take for instance, from the plastic surgery arena, a typical breast augmentation patient. Depending on the statistics, there is about a two-year window between the time a woman initially thinks about getting a breast augmentation and the time she actually goes in for surgery. That is two years a surgeon has to convince her that he or she is the one to perform her surgery. The potential customer will spend most of her time in the Consumers area, consuming information on the Internet. Therefore, a welloptimized website will appear in her search engine results, and it should definitely look different than a practice's brochure. The website should be memorable and give her reasons to return for more consumable information before she makes her decision.

Stretch the Marketing Efforts

The online marketing attempts of a practice must stretch beyond the current effort. Differentiating a practice online does not mean coming up with a cool logo and spending hours debating over color schemes and models on the website. Potential customers want to know about the practice, the dermatologists, and how they can help them solve their needs. If a website is filled with generic information— most of which is lifted directly from vendor websites— and sounds like it is written by some corporate-type individual, then the consumer will not be engaged nor will the practice be seen as different from any other practice.

The Future

Clearly, websites need some change moving forward. However, there is not just one prescription to cure a website from “brochure-itis.”

The concepts needed to resolve some of the issues mentioned in this article are referred to by many different names—inbound marketing, content marketing, integrated marketing, to name a few. Basically all of these concepts and the thought leaders that champion them state that creating valuable content will drive new business. Work on meeting patients' needs even before they get to the practice's front door.

Jonathan Montoya is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group.