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Differentiation: The key to generating more business in a soft market

April 23, 2010 |

The economy has the cosmetic plastic surgery business sagging and in need of a real lift.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) recently released some concerning statistics about the cosmetic plastic surgery business. In 2009, according to ASAPS, spending on plastic surgery services fell 20 percent to $10.5 billion. Further, the number of cosmetic surgical procedures  dropped by 17 percent to 1.47 million.
Certainly the worst economy since the Great Depression played a major role in the decrease. Unfortunately, it’s likely to remain as such at least through the next several quarters. Aesthetic medicine practices of all sizes now must work even harder in a competitive industry to win their piece of a diminishing – at least for the time being – market.
The Good News

Despite the downturn in cosmetic surgery procedures, nearly 1.5 million were still performed in 2009, a number roughly equal to 0.5 percent of the total U.S. population. That means for every metropolitan area with a population of at least 250,000, there were on average about 1,250 cosmetic surgery procedures performed in each of those markets.
These numbers prove that, even in a slow economy, men and women are undergoing cosmetic surgery in larger numbers than you might think, begging the question, “What was your share of the total procedures performed in your market?”
Because no one practice can single-handedly create cosmetic surgery demand in its market, the challenge becomes diverting more of these patients from your competitors’ door to yours.
In the world of retail aesthetic medicine, it is easy for small and large practices to get lost in the marketing jungle. As the cosmetic plastic surgery market becomes increasingly competitive and a soft market makes new patients even more precious, it seems at times almost impossible to stand out from competitors in the consumer’s mind.
It is possible, though. A targeted strategy that includes branded, niche products and services and clearly defines them in the market’s mind will differentiate your practice and lead to success.
Establish a Niche
With current economic trends and the ever evolving aesthetic landscape, new technologies come to market just about every year. Some of them are flashes in the pan, but some have merit and years of longevity in the business. In many cases, timing is everything since every novel marketing idea has a life cycle.
Consumer branding has become a staple for many top healthcare and beauty companies to differentiate their products as they market them directly to consumers. In this instance, the old question, “What’s in a name?” can be answered easily: a lot, especially if it defines unique value exclusive to your practice. 
Botox, Latisse, PowerPeel, Fraxel, Thermage, Thread Lift, SmartLipo and The QuickLiftÒ have all come on the scene as successful niche procedures or products. All of these trade names offer an identity and the perception of offering something exclusive. And with some procedures, the exclusivity is more than perception; it is reality, given that they offer geographic market ownership. Branded procedures also create the consumer buzz for which each cosmetic plastic surgery practice should be looking.
In general, practices that offer or affiliate themselves with niche products or services that provide good exclusivity rights can separate themselves from their competitors, particularly in online search rankings. Conversely, opting to advertise a laundry list of standard procedures is by and large vanilla, typically does not pay big dividends and requires a long time to mature.
Making the Commitment

In a down economy, many investors stop investing. Don’t make the same mistake with your business. Making a sizeable investment to differentiate your practice during a sluggish economy is nerve-racking. However, because it is likely the most valuable revenue-producing asset you own, it requires your total commitment to build and maintain success.
SmartLipo, introduced in 2007, was one of the more effective new technologies in creating consumer buzz. It is the redesign of a procedure that was developed more than 20 years ago. When it was introduced, SmartLipo met the market’s demand for a procedure that was less invasive, less expensive, and necessitated less downtime. SmartLipo has proven to be a huge marketing success, particularly for early adopters of the brand. In terms of long-term differentiation, however, market exclusivity was compromised when too many laser units were sold, over-saturating the market in a number of geographic areas.
The QuickLift is another example of a new, successful niche product. Like SmartLipo, it offers a quicker, less expensive and less invasive alternative. The QuickLift procedure is a take on a traditional cosmetic staple – the facelift – and, with an innovative twist, creates in the consumer’s mind an entirely new procedure that produces effective results. This is the real secret to achieving marketing success.
Branded procedures like these, even in a down economy, can help your practice by funneling the prospects in your market who had already decided to have a procedure away from your competitors’ office and toward yours. These new products and branded technologies provide a faster and less expensive alternative to the consumer and are a better way to divert new business to your office than virtually anything else you can do.
The right combination of niche products and a comprehensive strategy to market them will not only get more prospective patients through the door now but will also position a practice for even greater success as the economy gets into full swing.
By Jerry Brandy

Jerry Brandy is president of MD Communications, Inc.

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