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Combat commoditization


The problem in the aesthetic marketplace is everyone offers the same thing, in the same way and says the same things, says one expert.

Why do people stand in line -sometimes all night - to buy an iPhone?

It’s not the product they’re buying, according to Robert Rullo, cofounder of The Aesthetic Blueprint.

People stand in line for the experience and the identity associated with Apple, he says.

Mr. Rullo, who was part of a panel discussion on practice benchmarking, performance, marketing and the customer experience at the May 2017 Aesthetics and Medical Dermatology symposia in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, says he refers to the iPhone analogy to make a point to dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.

“People don’t buy products. They buy emotions; they buy an identity; they buy an experience,” he says.

The phone analogy shows that people are willing to wait in line all night and pay a premium - not for the phone, but for a great experience. They can easily buy the phone the next day with no lines or have the same phone delivered to their homes, he says.

“If aesthetic practitioners can grasp this concept, it’ll be a game-changer for them,” Rullo says. “The message to the aesthetic community is that if they truly want to charge a premium for their services which they should, then they [have] to figure out ways to create a greater personal connection with their customers.”

The same old isn’t memorable

The problem in the aesthetic marketplace is everyone offers the same thing, in the same way and says the same things, Mr. Rullo says.

“In the absence of anything truly different, consumers are naturally going to make selections based on the cheapest. Practices have then marketed themselves on low price, which is how the marketplace is becoming commoditized,” he says.

Standing out

The antidote to commoditization is designing an offering that is different than what others are doing - not different for the sake of being different, but different for the sake of being better. 

“And it starts with making a personal connection with each potential patient,” he says. 

Consumers, ultimately patients, are looking for what’s real and authentic. For the cosmetic practice, being authentic is not about the services or products it is marketing; rather, it’s about what the practitioners believe, and why they do what they do, he says. 

Physicians add value to patients’ lives by solving problems that they have in a manner that goes beyond patients’ expectations, or making patients feel good about themselves.

“For the most part, no one is doing this in aesthetics,” Mr. Rullo says. “Nor are they willing to take risks to differentiate themselves for fear of failure. …if you seriously want to take your practice to the next level - to do what the upper 1% are doing in aesthetics - you have to get out of your comfort zone and think of ways to differentiate your practice via connecting with patients.”

Back to Apple, people will pay handsomely for a great experience. Disney is the master of creating a great experience and charging top dollar for it. What these companies do is much bigger than simply good customer service, Mr. Rullo says.

“Create a great experience for your patients and then, and only then, can you charge the premium you deserve,” he says.

Authenticity creates connections

Creating a great experience is about being authentic, according to Mr. Rullo.

“There’s so much noise in the marketplace right now, nothing is authentic,” he says.

A fancy website filled with stock photographs of a beautiful women, befores and afters and promotional content is meaningless unless the practice physician has shared his or her purpose.

“The point is, today’s consumer is first interested in why you do what you do. You need to connect with them in a manner that serves their needs; not yours,” he says. “And if you connect with them in a personal way, then you can talk about what you offer. Unfortunately most aesthetic practices have websites that focus on themselves and their interests--not the patients’.”

The first thing that comes up on the webpage should be a picture of the doctor and the staff. And that shouldn’t be followed by a CV; rather, the content should reveal things, such as the doctor’s professional purpose and why he or she gets up in the morning to go to work. The words should make a connection.

“That’s being authentic,” Mr. Rullo says. “Use that same approach with other ways that you communicate and you will connect with people on a personal level. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. Rather be true to who you are and what you believe, and you’ll attract patients with similar beliefs who will become incredibly loyal to you, and will refer their friends.” ƒ 

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