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Market Your Aesthetic Practice Without Costly Advertising

August 11, 2008 |

Today’s consumer is inundated with advertising messages like never before. Open your local newspaper, listen to your local radio stations and watch your local TV news stations and I’ll bet you see your colleagues promoting themselves as the best, the cheapest or the most up-to-date. Surf the Internet as well. “Google” a procedure and see thousands of choices pop up.

Just know, that kind of exposure is probably not free. Most likely, those PR media spots came from a PR agency that works with physicians for thousands of dollars per month and that Internet positioning came from a SEO-savvy group that charges anywhere from $500-$5,000 per month to get them the exposure they wanted. And, they might not even know if it’s paying for itself if they don’t have a perfected internal tracking system telling them how many telephone calls were generated and, of those, how many actually performed procedures.

Advertising can absolutely build awareness about you and your practice or medical spa. You can get that, “hey, this doctor looks familiar” response so it can work hand in hand with your other marketing efforts. Also, your current patients who see it may see it as affirmation that they are going to the right physician.

On the other hand, mass advertising can have the reverse affect you are looking for. Your patients and prospective patients may wonder why you are advertising at all and if, perhaps, you are forced to advertise to find new patients.

The Challenges of Mass Advertising

We see more than 3,000 advertising messages per day. How in the world do you rise above the clutter and be heard? You need the right message to the right audience with the right amount of times. The right amounts of times are usually many more than you thought because it takes consistent and persistent exposure to be heard and then responded to.

Also, when you cast a huge net out to the public, you need to be prepared for anything. Since your message is not targeted to a very specific group of consumers, you will receive calls from just about anybody. Some people will call because that’s just what they do. They watch, read and listen and then call for free things such as information, consultations, etc. You may not be staffed to take long-winded, “tire-kicker” telephone calls from the public who will tie up your telephones with repetitive questions about your prices, etc. Tying up the telephone and your staff with pointless calls from the public hurts your day-to-day operation with your current paying patients. You already have them and don’t want to lose them to inefficiency and apathy because you are busy tending to others whom you may never meet. You also don’t want your staff stressed with a busy practice that doesn’t get results because your schedule is filled with those shopping around for the best price.

Because you typically need to advertise price when you mass advertise, that can draw in the type of aesthetic patient you really don’t want. If they come for price – they will leave for price. You don’t grow an aesthetic practice by churning over patients; rather, you grow a practice by developing a relationship with a patient who stays with your for years to come and refers their family, friends and colleagues. Mixing your current patients in with the patients who are shopping around can wreak havoc on your branding. If you are known for your high-end clientele who wants exceptional service, you don’t want to have a crowded waiting room with folks who are there for the free consultation but have no intentions of booking a procedure.

Rather than spend thousands of dollars per month on advertising, take those resources and put them to better use. Here are some great ideas that work and can be much more cost effective:

Your Internal Image

Start with your own image. Before a prospective patient even meets you, be sure your telephones are answered in a friendly, professional way and that the caller’s questions are answered. Your receptionist should be skilled enough to build rapport and close the appointment. You then need to have quality materials such as a patient information packet containing your credentials, your photo, any articles you’ve written, information about the procedure and your Website address. Your Website should be full of information and graphics of you, your staff, your office and your patient photos so the prospective patient gets a feeling for who you are and your personality. You want them to feel as if you’ve already met.

When they arrive at your office, they should be greeted in a friendly way and made to feel at home in your aesthetically pleasing office. They should be given procedure information to read while they are waiting for you (no more than 15 minutes) and you should display anything about you that is helpful for them to know such as a “Meet Dr. Smith” handout with your photo and credentials and any PR you’ve gotten should be displayed on the walls so they know you are the expert in your field.

Your Patient’s Experience

Now you want to be sure every patient who telephones and walks through your door is happy to be there, treated like they are special and enjoy the experience – every time. Your staff should make them feel cared for and comfortable. They should be escorted personally through your process so they know what the next step is and are comfortable throughout.

And be sure they get a good result. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it must be consistent. They need to know they can expect the same result every time if its something you do regularly like injectables and that must carry over when they come back for more invasive procedures. If you do a good job with the little stuff, they will assume you’ll do a good job with the bigger stuff.

Build Rapport With Your Patient

A patient needs to feel bonded to you and secure knowing that you are the right physician who can address their concerns and give them what they want. The best way to build rapport is to:

show interest in the patient as a person first – patient second

ask them what they want

listen to their answer

repeat it back so they know you heard them

ask questions

Internal Marketing

You always want to target your messages to your own database. They are your low-hanging fruit since they already know you, they like you and, hopefully, they trust you. They are also more apt to respond to your marketing efforts since they are familiar with you and your practice. Incorporate these following efforts into your yearly marketing plan:

In-House Signage

Be sure every single patient who walks through your door knows every single procedure, treatment and product you offer. Have you ever heard, “If I had known you did that, I wouldn’t have gone somewhere else”? Display a menu of your services and products, beautifully designed and framed, in each exam room as well as the reception area.


In-House Seminars

Market your practice through education. Today’s aesthetic consumer is flooded with information on the latest and greatest cosmetic procedures available. It’s not necessarily the best but it is new and news so helping your patient decipher what’s hot and what’s not helps to build your credibility.


Again, give your patients what they want – information and a reason to call you. Explain what’s new in your practice. Introduce a new staff member, a new procedure, whatever. Then attach a time-limited special offer so they call now rather than wait.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the cheapest form of advertising today and it’s fast. Be sure you are collecting email messages from your patients and getting their permission to receive email messages from your practice. And, be sure the message is short, newsy and contains a very special Web offer. You also want to include a “Send to a Friend” link to help spread your word-of-mouth referrals.

Open House

Work with your vendors to help you promote their products and services, as well as offset your costs of having an Open House. Let the vendors talk directly with your patients, serve refreshments, invite the neighborhood salons and spas and make it an event of fun and education.

Refer-a-Friend Program

Developing a program for your patients to refer their friends and family is always a good idea. If they like you and get a good result, they will tell people. Give them their before and after photos to show their friends, send a thank you note when they refer someone, give them a personal call and invite them in for complimentary services when they refer often. They are your advocates and should be shown appreciation and encouragement for continuing to refer to you.

VIP Cards

It is very competitive in the world of cosmetic enhancement. So, even though your patient may love you, they may be enticed to try another office that is offering an attractive discounted price on the minimally invasive procedures they regularly get from your office. You can avoid much of the “straying” if your patient feels like they are getting a “break” for staying loyal to you. Talk to your vendors since they can help you with VIP cards and offers.

Special Mailings

There are specific times of the year when we want to look especially good. Those are birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, the Holidays, Summer, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, etc. Timing is important. Develop an eye-catching, colorful postcard with a limited-time, special offer that goes to your patients throughout the year.


If you consistently communicate with your patients, and treat them well, they will feel like family and continue to see you for all of their cosmetic enhancement needs. I assure you, if you don’t keep your patients informed and happy, your competitors will. Once you have the patient in your office – keep them. It’s so much cheaper than constantly pooling for new ones.


Authored by Catherine Maley, MBA

President and Strategic Marketing Strategist

Cosmetic Image Marketing

Her firm specializes in growing aesthetic practices using advertising, PR and customized marketing strategies.

For more free tips, resources and strategies, visit Catherine online at or call her at (877)339-8833.

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