Advertising 101

September 1, 2007

Advertising can pay big benefits, from helping to brand a dermatologist and practice, to driving would-be patients in the door. But without guidance, dermatologists who embark on what can be expensive campaigns might also find they get nothing, or, worse, tarnish their reputations.

San Francisco - Advertising can pay big dividends, from helping to brand a dermatologist and practice to driving would-be patients to the door.

But without guidance, dermatologists who embark on what can be expensive campaigns might also find they get nothing, or - worse - tarnish their reputations.

Catherine Maley, president and senior marketing strategist of San Francisco-based Cosmetic Image Marketing, says dermatologists who understand the elements of successful advertising and marketing are most likely to spend the least and get the most bang for their bucks.

Go in with a plan

"Before you do anything, determine who it is you want to reach.

"Who is your preferred patient? Think about age, gender, demographics and even psychographics: Is that person a stay-at-home mom, professional woman, retired woman, gay man?" Ms. Maley tells Dermatology Times.

Once you know your market, then pick the media outlets, including local television, radio, newspaper, etc., that speak to your audience.

The people whom you are trying to reach with your advertising and marketing messages are only interested in how your services benefit them, according to Ms. Maley. Ego-driven advertising might help build your brand in an image campaign, but it will not get people through the door.

She also advises: Don't blow the whole budget on one glossy ad.

"You have to hit people with your messages at the right time and right place, consistently and persistently," Ms. Maley says.

Take the high road

While your competitors might resort to over-promising in their advertising to lure patients, realize that they are only setting themselves up for disaster.

Patients who expect one thing and get another (which is not as good as what they hoped for) will tell their friends for years to come. And their friends will tell friends.

Have your finger on the pulse of patient demand.

Today's patients get their information from sources, including Oprah and Vogue magazine. Know the trends and, if you are an expert in a high-demand procedure, make sure to tell patients and would-be patients.

Think about what makes a good ad. A catchy headline and subhead, copy chock-full of patient benefits, a special offer and a tight deadline are compelling reasons for patients to call you.

Piggyback, when possible, on corporate ad campaigns.

If Allergan Medical is doing a big push for Botox, come up with creative ways to advertise Botox.

For instance, in the months leading up to summer, advertise how Botox injections offered through your practice are the ideal solution for nervous and sweating summer brides.

Use key words in your messages.

According to Ms. Maley, keywords in advertising are "free," "announcing," "discovering" and "learning." These pull in the reader.

You also should have a Web site that complements your marketing strategy.

"A Web site today is not a nicety; it is a necessity. It is the business card of yesterday," Ms. Maley says.

It doesn't have to be the all-time best Web site ever designed; however, it shouldn't be designed by your nephew who's taken one computer course.