In any type of business, generating more business – whether it is new or repeat – is the only way to survive. For some very lucky members of TSLMS, the business is generated almost automatically. Their practices have clients that love them so much that they tell all of their friends about them, those friends tell their friends, and so on – providing an endless opportunity for new clients. Add in those clients repeatedly and routinely getting more and more work done over time, making for a very full schedule and a very successful practice. The alternative to a good business development strategy lies with marketing.
We can see the benefits and virtues of both of these tactics and hope that this piece can help you sort out the best way to build, grow and maintain your business.
Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Success Stories
Otherwise known as consumer-to-consumer interaction, many of these cases happen organically. However, every so often a business becomes adept at influencing consumers to really talk them up, making them even more successful. When this happens the business literature and publications take note and tout their successes. Examples abound.
Econsultancy’s Favorite Word Of Mouth Success Brands
Econsultancy wrote a piece about brands that have succeeded with word-of-mouth marketing, pointing out that 92% of consumers will buy something that comes heavily recommended by a trusted friend or colleague. (Source). They point to the roaring success of brands such as Chipotle, which had a food safety issue that ironically almost destroyed it due to the same word- of-mouth power that is now driving its success. They also point out the power of word-of-mouth advertising, largely in social media, is driving the success of the powerhouse media brand Netflix. Netflix growth has much to do with the buzz that it receives around its original movie and show content. Almost everyone has heard of these brands and almost none of us see billboards, advertisements or other traditional marketing around them. Granted these are giant companies, but so too are some of the brands that we use in our field.
Word-of-Mouth In the Medical Field
Any time it comes to something that impacts people’s health, reputation is significantly important. Reputation is largely built from consumer reviews. Reviews are what people are saying about the brand. In the case of medicine, the brand can be the specific medication or product, device or procedure that is being utilized – or it can be the business or even the medical personnel that is providing the service of delivering that medication, product, device or procedure. Springer Press published, “Word-of-mouth in the health care sector: a literature analysis of the current state of research and future perspectives” two years ago, and while that leaves some of the facts and figures slightly out of date in this era of rapidly exploding social media, the bulk of their analysis holds in pointing out the raw importance of word-of-mouth:
In a highly competitive market such as the health care sector, stakeholder management might even gain importance (Otani et al. 2009). As one important group of stakeholders, patients are increasingly demanding to be integrated into both the choice of a health care provider as well as the treatment (Liang and Scammon 2011; Niehues et al. 2012). Such patient participation, for example, might take place in the case of elective surgery, but is of course in the case of urgent care limited (Hinz et al. 2012). In order to make a sound health decision, patients need information such as possible health care providers, quality of the providers’ services, treatment options, treatment risks and costs (Niehues et al. 2012). Even though patients are nowadays better educated and have improved access to various online information than a decade ago, seeking health information is still a complex process (Otani et al. 2009; Gaglioa et al. 2012). “Patients must know the topic of interest, where to look or ask, how to assess and comprehend, and how to evaluate the credibility and trustworthiness of the sources.” (Gaglioa et al. 2012, p. 109). In this context, Hinz et al. (2012, p. 3) point out that the “most important sources of information include personal experience, referrals, health care provider information, public reporting, and recommendations in the form of (e)WOM.” Also Streuf et al. (2007) highlight the important role of WOM for patients in obtaining health information. Another important group of stakeholders is the actual providers of healthcare services. In an increasingly competitive market, these health care providers “continually seek new ways to achieve competitive advantage and word of mouth (WOM) represents such an opportunity because it has a powerful influence on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors” (Mazzarol et al 2007, p. 1475).
Granted this is specific to the healthcare industry, but it is an important reflection on the entire aesthetic marketplace – as there is not a single thing we do for clients that does not intersect with the healthcare industry, from our basic lunchtime laser treatments to our more comprehensive cosmetic surgery overhauls. Without good reviews from folks, and worse, in the event of bad reviews, our businesses can literally crash. This doesn’t just mean focusing on building your business through referrals, but it means focusing on making sure that the consumers – your clients – are happy and will proudly tell people that they are happy.
Marketing Alternatives to Word-of-Mouth
All the paid media in the world is not going to save a business that is inundated with negative reviews. Thus, regardless of whether you invest your time and resources in encouraging word-of-mouth or you decide to invest it in paid marketing to grow your brand, you still owe it to yourself to make sure you have satisfied clients. That said, sometimes it is a simpler strategy to invest in traditional marketing.
There is a reason why there is so much advertising for cosmetic and aesthetic procedures in magazines, on TV, in newspapers, on the radio, and even on billboards. This is the same reason that social media influencers command so much money to partner with a brand. That reason is because marketing works.
Choosing just cosmetic surgery, for the moment, Google pulls up 120,000,000 hits on the search “why marketing works for cosmetic surgeons.” The top 10 results are all firms that dedicate themselves to providing marketing services, and you have to go pages deep to find a result that is not one. That is some very big business with some big business opportunities. Suffice to say that if traditional marketing did not work, these firms would not be in business. Our advice, use marketing. We do. But also focus on making sure that your business will grow due to great word-of-mouth.