Alan S. Adams explains his simple strategies to make your practice more profitable
Many of the cosmetic and aesthetic clinic owners I meet are so busy working in their business that they rarely find the time to work on it. They’re quite often technically excellent — outstanding, in some cases, and they rightly focus on staying at the very forefront of their niche and specialism.
Yet, their clinics are not always the most profitable, nor are they as busy as they could be in terms of patients coming through the door. Why? Because they’re so embroiled in the day-to-day running of their practice, such as taking phone calls, bookings, doing treatments and managing operations, that they have no time left to focus on the commercial side of their business. Plus, they often have a limited sales and marketing strategy to help grow their brand, or if they do, it’s often simplistic, due to their lack of expertise in this area.
In this article, I will share with you some simple and straightforward strategies that can help you to make your clinic more profitable. This can be done without making major changes, as we’ll be focusing instead on the power of minor changes made over time. By making just a small improvement in each of the areas detailed below, you can hugely enhance your business — even double its turnover — with very little additional resources needed. So how do we make a start?
Data is your best friend
Today, data is one of the most expensive things you can buy. And its importance in your clinic shouldn’t be underestimated. It doesn’t matter if you record your patients’ details on a simple Excel spreadsheet or a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) system. What is vital is that it works for you, and is kept meticulously up-to-date. This data can then be used to target your existing and potential clients, as well as past clients (do bear in mind GDPR and Data Protection regulations).
"The other way to add value whilst showcasing your credibility as a leader in your field, as well as build trust, is to share your expertise using more dynamic audio-visual content across various platforms, such as videos and podcasts on LinkedIn and Facebook"
If you’re late to this data game, there’s no time like the present. So who exactly should you be adding to your database? Quite simply, anyone that you and your team have ever engaged with. It may be people who visit your website and download a resource you’re providing for free (gated, so that they have to enter their details to receive said resource). It might be someone you met at an event, someone who’s made an enquiry about a service, or someone you had an initial consultation with.
You should capture all the data that’s relevant to you and your business, including the patient’s full name, email address, date of birth, previous services used and phone number. If you market to them, you’ll also need to give them the opportunity to opt-in and out of any communications at any time for GDPR purposes — for example, a clear ‘unsubscribe’ button under each newsletter or mailshot you share.
Communication is key
The second area you should consider is communication. You now have an expanded, up-to-date and comprehensive list of contacts on your database and will need to decide how to communicate with all the contacts on it. The key here is to communicate often enough that you are on their mind, but not so often that it feels pressured and overloaded. This is very much down to you and your own individual clinic, and how often you feel your contacts would prefer to be communicated with — whether by text, phone, email or post. Again, you can find out what they prefer simply by asking them.
For example, if you’re an aesthetic practitioner offering a more accessible and repeatable treatment, it’s probably appropriate for you to communicate more frequently than someone in a specialist area of surgery. And don’t forget that you won’t know what works best until you test and measure the results. If you find that you’re getting a lot of unsubscribes for weekly emails, try sending them fortnightly instead and compare numbers until you get very few people unsubscribing, and lots of positive enquiries coming through.
The customer journey is really important, and you should make a note of all the useful ‘touchpoints’. These are opportunities in which you can contact them at every ‘core’ stage of their buying journey — what they receive after they first enquire, once they’ve booked an appointment, after their treatment, and a reminder if you haven’t seen them in over six months.
It’s about thinking outside the box when it comes to nurturing your relationships with your contacts too. For example, finding out when a client’s birthday is gives you an opportunity to send them a little added ‘extra’, whether it’s a personal birthday card or a discounted offer for their special day.
Before any potential (or past) patient becomes a current patient, there are a few important things that need to happen. First, they need to like and trust you. To help develop this trust, your communication should focus on stories and topics that showcase your credentials, training, expertise, ability and personality.
Good examples include award-wins, PR articles in newspapers and magazines about new product launches and successful case studies, and industry accolades. In addition, referrals from existing patients are extremely valuable, as are Star Ratings on social media. So, if you are not already asking for referrals in a formal way, such as including space for a quote at the end of a treatment form, then this is certainly something to think about next time you speak to any of your current patients.
The other way to add value whilst showcasing your credibility as a leader in your field, as well as build trust, is to share your expertise using more dynamic audio-visual content across various platforms, such as videos and podcasts on the social platforms you use.
Any potential patient needs to understand how you can help them. Bear in mind that we can all be motivated by either the fear of something (for example, it could be the fear of ‘looking old’ or having wrinkles) or an opportunity (for example, the desire to be more physically attractive). For the former group of individuals, you need to demonstrate how you can help them avoid or reduce signs of ageing, whilst for the latter you should talk about your expertise in, say, lip enhancements or browlifts, which can help these individuals gain something.
The big power of small change
So, once you have done all the above — the next stage is to turn all of these potential clients into existing ones. I would suggest that you have a timeline worked out which details: when each individual contact was communicated with, when and how they were followed up, and by whom. You should avoid any potential confusion or inconsistency by developing scripts for your team and formalising the words for emails, phone calls, and letters wherever possible.
I advise clients to give specific thought to their potential clients’ issues and opportunities. This is an extension of the work I explained previously, which was focused on what motivates individuals. By identifying people’s motivations, you are in a much stronger position to be able to offer them what they are looking for. To provide further credibility for your service, you could share more in-depth insights into what the end result will look like, such as case studies, testimonials, FAQs, photos and videos, and allow them to speak with past clients who have been thrilled with their results.
Developing an overview might make this easier to plan your content, and allow you to maintain a steady flow of your expertise to would-be clients. This overview can allow you to answer any questions they might have before they commit, such as details about treatment costs, the regularity of treatments, the time involved in each, or the end results that can be expected.
If customers are reluctant to commit due to financial reasons, in such a case, it may be that your solution is making a payment plan or scheme available. Only you know what is possible for your clinic, and what makes sense commercially for you, but I would urge you to have a completely open mind here and give genuine thought to everything — whether you’ve tried it before or not.
The next step is to give some thought to how often people use your services and look at what you can do to increase this number. I understand that for some clinics this is easier than others, but remember that you are aiming for just a small increase here. The work you have already done will have helped you to understand why your clients come to you in the first place, so use that knowledge to encourage them to come back more often.
Talk to your own team about communicating with clients about the additional services and products you have within your clinic. It could be offering add-on services, or creating bespoke packages such as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Experience shows that around one in five people will go for an added value package if there is one on offer.
While I know this all sounds great in theory, it also sounds like a lot of work. However, it is quite minimal (honestly) as I am not asking you to implement all of the ideas I have shared with you straightaway. I am not even asking you to do part of it. I am suggesting you do enough in each area — number of clients, number of new contacts, lead conversion, average spend — and increase your current figures by 10%. For example, look at what this may mean for your own business (Table 1).
If you’re looking to start by increasing the number of patients you have by 10%, you could look at the communication methods I mentioned above and run some offers, promotions, advertisements, issue a press release, and so on. Or if you wanted to increase the spend of current patients, you could look at encouraging them to consider other add-on services or packages.
A simple 10% increase across all of the above areas adds over 50% on the amount of sales for the fictional clinic above. If this same clinic was to undertake a subsequent phase of activity, again just adding 10% to each of the areas, total sales could rise further another 134%.
So, in summary:
Work on your data
Understand your audience’s concerns
Answer their questions with expertise
Offer added value
Remove potential barriers to buying
We are in a truly beautiful business, and with a few ‘nips and tucks’, your clinic can offer the service to your clients, and you the lifestyle that you desire. Whatever you do, keep focusing on sculpting your ultimate clinic, and good luck!