“Coronavirus. The Economy. What do we do now?!”

It’s the question that’s been flooding my inbox for several weeks now, and especially this past week in the midst of a global pandemic (as declared by the WHO), a ban on European travel in the United States, and an anxiety-inducing 24/7 news cycle. It pervades every news alert, every headline, and quite frankly, it’s the topic on everyone’s mind across the globe, among turbulent markets and abnormal community health conditions. This is indeed a conversation I’ve been having privately with my clients, and frankly one we have prepared for since late 2019, when experts began to forecast a recession (albeit not due the coronavirus).

However, that was then. This is now.

Now is entire sectors all but suspending operations (as with today’s announcement from Princess Cruises).

Now is shaken consumer confidence, with “social distancing” at an all-time high.

Now is chaos in the markets and uncertainty among consumers.

Let me begin by stating the obvious - I am not an economist, an epidemiologist, or a physician. I am, however, a brand marketing and strategy development expert in the aesthetic industry. Although this situation is in constant flux and very fluid, it will have far-reaching effects. Here is my best advice and best practices to ensure your practice endures the current COVID-19 consumer climate – and perhaps emerge stronger than ever.

Let’s Start With A Quick Reality Check

Politicians, pundits in the media and panels of physicians alike are in agreement – although the duration of this current climate is unknown, it is indeed temporary. As governments work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, we can rest assured that the circumstances and economics surrounding this pandemic will be far-reaching, but not permanent. As such, the first piece of advice I have given my clients is that although we may adapt our strategy in light of developments, we are not scrapping our marketing or growth strategies altogether – only to find ourselves behind the curve and scrambling to get on track when a more typical market climate returns. In short, this is a detour rather than a derailment. It is indeed possible to “stay the course” while making a detour and adjustment.

So, what does that mean for your marketing?

If you are in the midst of planning an expansion, don’t cancel it – although the timeline may need to be amended. If you are currently planning your marketing budget – I would not advise scrapping or reducing it, but instead changing which channels and campaigns become a focus (more on that in a moment). If you are considering a new website or a new marketing vendor – don’t abandon this plan, but instead get clarity around what needs to happen first and most urgently to keep revenue stable while remaining attractive to patients in a turbulent market climate.

With me so far?

With those two key considerations out of the way, I’d like to share strategies and approaches that will serve practices of all sizes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. With each, I’ll share tangible examples and action items that you can utilize. Let’s jump right in, with some of my favorite tactics to thrive in a market downturn:

Coronavirus Med Spa Marketing Tactics

#1 – Focus on Accessible, Affordable "Tweakments"

Even in the worst market climate, although spending habits and budgets among consumers may change – their emotional desire for aesthetic procedures likely hasn’t. What that means for you is that people will still desire what you have to offer – if you can package and price it in a way that suits their current circumstances. Perhaps the perfect solution to address this discrepancy between discretionary income and desire is the “tweakment” – a tiny treatment generally priced below $500 (or even $300, in some markets) – that offer your patients a sense of instant gratification, without a big-ticket price. A lower-ticket treatment empowers patients to feel the joy in doing “that little something for themselves” without breaking the bank. Offering skin tightening and injectables for smaller areas, esthetician services, and services where your practice has no consumables can all work exceptionally well here.

#2 – Consumers are in "Bargain Hunting Mode," So Focus on Value

Similar to the concept above, in this climate, consumers recognize that there are indeed savings to be had. A quick look on any travel website will show rock-bottom pricing that certain consumer segments, such as younger individuals, are all too happy to take advantage of (as bad of an idea as that might be, that’s another conversation for another day!) The point is that if you can showcase the savings on a standard price your promotion offers, you can make the case for value.

The beauty here is that you can look at your costs for different procedures, and create something that offers exceptional perceived value without causing a burden to your practice. As an example, one of my clients is now offering complimentary RF skin tightening in the neck area with all new Ultherapy bookings. Because this client’s device is paid off and they do not have consumables, this allows them to extend an outstanding perceived value while absorbing only the expense of their provider’s time.

#3 – Plan for Longer Sales Cycles

In any market downturn, and indeed with the current coronavirus outbreak – understand that sales cycles will be longer than usual. We know that even in a normal market, only about 3% of the audience viewing your marketing is ready to buy right now. The other 97% ranges from “thinking about it” to “not even realizing they need it yet." Understanding this, it becomes crucial to do everything possible to effectively nurture and educate prospective patients who are not ready to buy. These unsure patients will typically take longer to make a purchase decision in an atypical market climate – meaning more touch points are the best way to shorten this cycle.

A few of the best ways to accomplish this goal? Fresh, relevant, and timely website content, actively educating across your social channels with video content, e-mail “drip campaigns," and of course, good-old-fashioned courtesy calls to your prospects all play a key role in helping expedite these sales cycles. In short, in times of economic uncertainty, it’s crucial to keep “warm” leads from turning “stone cold."

#4 - Step Up Standards & Keep Patients Informed

It goes without saying, but perhaps one of the most crucial tactics to execute in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic is to keep your patients reassured and up-to-date bout how you are elevating standards to keep them safe, and maintaining their experience and health as top priorities. Outlining your standards both via e-mail and on your social channels is fundamental. One of our clients did an excellent job of re-explaining their daily best practices, as well as additional measures in the midst of coronavirus, on their Instagram story. This was then posted to a “highlight reel” such that it can be easily accessible for all visitors to their profile for the time being.

#5 - Know Your Marketing Numbers. Focus on Channels with the Best Cost Per Lead

It never ceases to surprise me how many aesthetic practices are “doing” marketing but have few or no analytics on how cost effective each of their marketing avenues is. While that laissez-faire attitude may not be detrimental in a good market, in a downturn it can mean the difference between marketing that can sustain itself in any consumer climate and one that burns money and leaves a practice without leads in challenging economic circumstances – a “perfect storm” for financial disaster.

Right now, perhaps the most important marketing metric to be aware of is your cost per lead across marketing channels. For example, if you spent $100 on Facebook advertising and got 10 new patient inquiries, your cost per lead would be $10. When you know this metric across multiple marketing campaigns and channels, you can then divert ad spend (which, by the way, you should not change or only very slightly adjust) to those efforts that deliver the best value for your advertising dollar.

#6 - Empowered with the Right Knowledge, Your Practice Can Prepare for the Long-Term

The best time to mitigate the effects of unforeseen economic turbulence isn’t in the midst of it – but rather, well beforehand. In marketing, there are what I refer to as “short game” tactics and “long game” tactics. Those tactics shared above are short game, but the most astute practices have been executing “long game” tactics for some time now that are serving them well in the midst of this knee-jerk economy.

Just a few examples of tactics that, when executed with 6-12 months of lead time, that are serving a select few aesthetic providers with foresight very well…

  • Membership programs that ensure consistent and continuing revenue.
  • Planning ad spend for Q4 of last year in accordance with an expected drop in leads during Q1 and Q2 of this year.
  • Developing a brand to attract affluent consumers who are less price-sensitive in challenging market conditions. (I won’t lie, this is my unrivaled personal favorite “long game” tactic, because I have seen it work time and time again. As an example, one of my clients, who serves Asian-Canadian patients, has seen no downturn in her patient flow, despite having among the most premium pricing in her market, because her brand and positioning, along with her marketing efforts, were correctly executed from the outset)

So, where do we go from here?

It’s my sincere hope that you can use this article as a tool to inspire conversation and planning among your internal team and perhaps stakeholders. As I stated at the beginning of this article – although it requires adaptation to endure the chaos that has accompanied COVID-19, it is indeed possible. Rest assured that a detour is perfectly acceptable as part of “staying the course”. This period may even serve as an opportunity to get much more serious and strategic about your marketing, in ways that “coasting” in a more typical consumer climate could never provide. Keep safe, keep taking precautions, and keep positive!

Does your practice need urgent marketing advice in this economic climate?! In addition, for those practices who are in expedited need of strategic guidance in the midst of this consumer climate, I have opened up a small number of affordable, virtual “Marketing Fast Track” consulting and advisory sessions for practices outside my retainer client roster. Schedule a call with us today to learn more.