With the most romantic day of the year just a few days away, it’s worth asking: Are you feeling the love from aesthetic consumers? It’s not an esoteric question, suggests Tim Halloran, president of Atlanta-based Brand Illumination, because, just as with people, businesses that foster love from their customers tend to be “happier” than those that don’t.
How do you achieve and keep the love of potential patients? Adapted from an article Halloran wrote for the Harvard Business Review, here’s a look at the eight stages of brand love for aesthetic practices:
Know yourself: What is your practice really about? Your medical expertise? Fixing physical problems? Helping people feel better about themselves? The better you can articulate what you’re really all about (your brand), the easier it is for potential patients to determine if you’re right for them. As Halloran puts it, “If you don’t know who you are as a brand, and what makes you different, better, and special, how do you expect a consumer to?”
Know your type: Aesthetic consumers are as varied as the procedures they seek but there are patterns: The woman recovering from a double mastectomy. The man who has never liked his spare tire. The mom who wants her body back after two or three kids. Creating patient personas, for example, does more than simply identify their needs — it also provides insights on how you can tailor your messaging to demonstrate that you’re the doctor to satisfy them.
Meet memorably: The Internet means that aesthetic consumers can “meet” a nearly infinite array of doctors. In fact, it’s where many of them decide whether a relationship is worth pursuing in the first place or not at all. Just as in real life, first impressions matter, so it’s important to go to the places they go, listen to what they have to say and make the effort to connect.
Make it mutual: When people are excited about their personal relationships, they want to tell the world. It’s the same with the companies they form a connection with, says Halloran, which is why providing positive experiences is so important. The resulting word of mouth carries far more weight than more passive engagements such as advertising or Facebook posts.
Deepen the connection: This, says Halloran, is the commitment stage, where the brand and consumer relationship has hit its peak — the brand continues to romance the consumer and the consumer stays loyal to the brand. Big-time companies like Disney or Harley Davidson do it by fostering their own brand communities; doctors can do so by continuing to participate in the online communities where aesthetic consumers gather.
Keep love alive: It’s easy in any relationship to get complacent and assume your partner will be there forever. Such complacency, however, leads to boredom and, perhaps, a breakup. Keep the spark by keeping in touch, sharing news, offering exclusive discounts and letting patients know you still care long after their last follow-up appointment.
Make up: Even the healthiest relationships hit rough patches — what really matters is how you handle them. Responding quickly, remaining professional, admitting fault when appropriate (long wait times, for example), etc., will dictate whether you reenergize the relationship or make things worse.
…Or break up: One way or another, relationships end. Maybe your efforts cured your patient’s acne or the rhinoplasty you performed resolved her aesthetic concerns. Make the effort to part amicably — with an opt-out email letting them know you’re there if they want to get reacquainted, for example. Then, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, apply what you’ve learned to start building new relationships.