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Marketing Choices Depend on Objectives

A practice’s marketing choices could change on a day-to-day basis depending on the objective at hand. Common objectives include:

• Creating and maintaining visibility for the practice, providers, and procedures.
• Educating the public in order to generate qualified traffic.
• Reaching patients as a community or target population.
• Maintaining and maximizing relationships with active and potentially inactive patients.

Marketing is a challenge, even for big, national companies. Kraft Foods, one of America’s top 10 advertisers, spent almost $40 million on digital advertising in 2013, according to AdAge Datacenter. Yet, with all their marketing resources and intelligence, the company reported that 75–85 percent of that data was “fraudulent, unsafe, nonviewable, or unknown.” Julie Fleisher, Kraft’s director of data, states they now review all bids for advertising and reject the vast majority if they don’t have valid data on the end-user or information that specifically defines where that impression is going to be visible.

Your practice may not be buying the huge volumes of digital advertising that Kraft Foods does, however the notion of vetting all your marketing efforts to define your audience and identify your end-user is key. This article discusses the various opportunities that exist to connect with current and prospective patients and what you need to know to validate your marketing spend.


A practice is better equipped to reach current patients, prospective customers, and referral sources when it understands the dynamics of today’s marketing and messaging opportunities. These include: Advertising, Digital networking, Face-to-face networking, Media relations, and Digital directories.


Advertising is a form of communication that maintains a practice’s visibility to an outside audience. It is a valid source of marketing, although some aesthetic medicine providers feel it is unnecessary. That is a mistake. Without advertising, a practice is not visible to everyone who is potentially or fully interested in its offerings. Paid advertising efforts disseminate a practice’s message to those the practice cannot reach one-to-one.

A variety of advertising vehicles exist for disseminating a practice’s message. Most of these vehicles allow total control of all the elements that make advertising an extension of practice. Advertising objectives can be general; for example, a practice may simply aim for visibility. Or, it can target an audience that is known to be interested and responsive.

A successful advertising message provides credentialing and offers information. Additionally, it has a goal or a call to action (i.e., how, where, and why consumers should reply). Messages should concisely tie together all of its elements with impact so that it commands and maintains attention. The quality, tone, and context of words, pictures, video, and comments can lose a prospective audience member in a the blink of an eye, the turn of a page, or the click of a mouse, making the advertising investment a total loss—no matter how strategic or effective the delivery of the message.

Generally, a practice’s website accounts for the largest part of its marketing/advertising budget. A website is an essential hub to convey everything about the practice, its providers and services, procedures, and offerings. Facts show that a website is the first point of contact a prospective patient has with a practice. A practice website needs to include all of the key elements of successful advertising described above—otherwise it’s pointless. To truly be effective, a practice’s website should include, link to, or link from, all of the other marketing opportunities it employs.

Digital Networking

Today’s digital network is vast. One primary vehicle for digital networking is viral marketing. This is considered an organic method of networking/advertising. A viral message is created with the goal of engaging and motivating consumers to share or forward the message so it is “organically” passed on from person to person through their social networks. Essentially, it is a vehicle for getting others interested in, talking about, or listening to a practice’s message.

An example of an aesthetic practice’s use of viral marketing is creating a Facebook posting encouraging consumers to bring a friend to an event. For the message to reach many people it must be engaging enough to inspire consumers to share it with others. Some of the most successful viral messages may seem unrelated to the originating organization. For instance, the 2014 ALS “bucket challenge” on Facebook had little to do with educating others on ALS, but it raised $100 million dollars in funding for the cause, according to Forbes. Practices should keep in mind that digital networking isn’t limited to Facebook. It can include numerous networks, sharing, blogs, reviews, and wikis. Please note, however, that some of these outlets offer little control over a message once it is posted or shared.

So, does viral marketing have a place in aesthetic medicine? If it follows the rules of defining a goal, having a purpose, sharing the right tone, and calling for the right response, all within ethics and good taste—the answer is maybe.

Face-to-Face Networking

Face-to-face networking is crucial, no matter how much a practice engages in other marketing efforts. Whether practice leaders are at the hospital visiting with other physicians or on the golf course with friends or colleagues, it is important to network and talk about business. For example, physicians might ask other providers what is new in their specialty and share news about their own experiences and knowledge.

It is often challenging for physicians to find the time and place to connect with referring physicians or other service providers. This is because today’s aesthetic providers generally don’t spend time at the hospital. As an alternative, physicians may consider hosting one or more of the following activities: Social event, Seminar, Lecture, Expo, Trade show, Philanthropic event, and/or Treatment event.

No matter where physicians go or what event they host, they must always be actively networking.

Media Relations

Publicity—bona fide, unpaid editorial coverage—is not for every practice. Pursuing it, though, could be fruitful for a strong, dedicated, and articulate person who is:

• Active in research.
• Teaching in a specialty.
• Active in local, regional, national, and international professional organizations.
• Involved with companies who manufacture or supply the treatments the practice administers, prescribes, or sells.

Providers may be able to garner media attention through their contributions to the groups listed above, either by driving their own media relations efforts, partnering with an organization, or acting as a spokesperson for the represented group.

It is important that providers understand how media relations efforts are driven. Providers must adhere to the principles of ethical media (and adhere to their own principles as well) if they want reputable media coverage through channels that have value to their target populations. Specifically, interested providers need to:

• Make certain a media outlet or organization has integrity, and that it will fairly and accurately transmit the intended message.
• Thoroughly prepare for any meeting or interview.
• Ask for the opportunity to fact-check any portion of their contribution to a media effort for clinical accuracy.
• Be careful of patient privacy when media representatives are on their premises or when speaking with the media.
• Communicate articulately and consistently with any media organization.
• Maintain the media relationships they develop with verbal and written appreciation. This will help preserve the professional nature of the relationship.

How aggressively a practice wishes to engage in media relations is defined by the value it brings to the individual and the practice. The costs of expended time and effort are factors to consider.

Commenting on and sharing (through social networks) pertinent and relevant articles and information that appears in authoritative, unbiased media is an effective way to allow media to influence a practice, even if the practice’s physician isn’t the spokesperson. For example, if Allure, Women’s Health, CNN, or any other credible media organization feature something that relates to the practice’s offerings, consider commenting on it authoritatively and sharing it on social media. This is a powerful and cost-effective tactic that provides the audience information with more value than simply the practice’s opinion or point of view.

Digital Directories

Equally important to where a practice is listed, reviewed, and engaged in online directories and communities, is where it is not listed, reviewed, and engaged. New directories crop up every day. Many of them “buy” a practice’s information and create online visibility for it—without the practice even knowing. The value of this kind of exposure can be negative. For example, the information may be dated or incorrect, or the reviews and rankings may be dated, incorrect, or inflammatory.

Conducting a regular (weekly is optimal; monthly is a minimal must) search for the practice and provider names should be part of a practice’s regular marketing plan. This research should be performed through at least two or three online search engines. During the search, it is important to examine all the pages where the practice ranks. Look for practice directories and listings that are not engaged. If information is incorrect, contact the webmaster of the site and “claim” the listing. If they say there is a fee is involved, don’t pay it—yet. First, require the site to post accurate information; then consider if it has value to the practice.

Conversely, a practice should consider where it is not listed. Nearly every aesthetic device, drug, and skincare brand has its own physician finders. Is the practice listed? Is the information current? Also, consider the professional organizations to which the practice and its physicians belong, including national and local societies. These are important credentials, so it makes sense to keep these profiles current. Equally, practices should consider the value of contact that is local, including commerce-driven or social directories like alumni associations, local booster organizations, PTA, or places of worship. Someone in those organizations may be looking for the practice or its providers, so make sure practice information is current and visible.

It’s All Strategic

Does all this messaging and marketing work? Are companies actually using these techniques and methods? The answer is yes. Let me relate what happened to me while I was writing this article:

• I received an email blast from Allure, a recognized powerhouse in beauty media.
• I opened an email from my local grocer, featuring a recipe using Kraft brands.
• There was an email from Neiman Marcus, with “editor’s picks of hottest trends” (and surprisingly, it featured outfits I had looked at that very morning).
• My Facebook page had a posting from my bank about saving for college (my sons are 15 and 17).
• On Facebook, I noticed a featured link from Cabela’s for sporting dog equipment (I bought a few dog toys there recently).

None of this is random. It’s all strategic marketing, and while an aesthetic practice may not play in the same sandbox as Kraft, Cabela’s, Neiman Marcus, or Allure, the reality is there is much to learn in the dynamic and changing world of marketing. Employing best practices with simple targeted strategies is an important marketing driver—because it is never the wrong time to try the right marketing. n

Marie Czenko is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group of Allergan, Inc. Ms. Czenko consults with dermatology and plastic surgery practices in the areas of financial analysis, practice valuations, human resource issues, internal and external marketing, leadership training and team building, sales training, compensation, and cosmetic practice development. Ms. Czenko has more than 20 years of consulting and training experience.

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