Running an aesthetics business is hard enough without becoming a marketing specialist, too. With automation, marketing and patient on-boarding can be more effective and eat up less time, too.
Aesthetics practitioners already have to spend hours on CPD to stay on top of clinical developments. Working on the business is an extra burden, and marketing and software can be particularly challenging. Today, there are over 9000 pieces of marketing software: even professional marketers don’t have time to understand the whole landscape. And yet, it’s a crucial discipline for building a healthy flow of customers. That’s why the marketing buzzword of 2022 is automation: ways to get those big marketing jobs done, in less time and even keeping the business moving while you’re asleep. In this article, we’ll look at the software and strategies even the smallest practice can put in place to unlock more sales with less effort.
Automation is a catch-all term for a raft of technologies which are united by the fact that they reduce the need for human intervention in getting everyday jobs done.
Once upon a time, that automation meant robots in factories. That is, unsurprisingly, expensive – and not particularly useful for aestheticians. In future, it will mean technologies right at the cutting edge, like Artificial Intelligence. Right now, that, too, is expensive and complicated (although it won’t be forever).
Today, though, there is an easier middle-ground. We are in a perfect moment where technology has advanced enough to make a range of essential activities simpler at an exceptionally low cost – the sorts of activities which aesthetics professionals need to do on a regular basis: finding customers and marketing to them, categorising your relationships with customers, taking bookings and payments etc.
There are no less than eight (fairly interrelated) good reasons for automation and the value it can bring to your business:
- It saves time. And that’s the one commodity that aesthetics practitioners constantly tell us they don’t have.
- It cuts errors. Everyone makes mistakes, and we all know what it’s like to take a double booking, for example. Automated systems reduce errors like this.
- It means you can do more of the things you’re good at. Aesthetic Practitioners are trained professionals. You became an Aesthetic Practitioners to practice your expertise, not to be an accountant, marketer or customer service agent (although most of us enjoy some of these aspects of the job, too). Automations buy you back time to do the parts of the job which most appeals to you.
- It improves the patient experience. Today, we all expect to be able to make bookings and understand the services on offer online from our phones, for example. If you can’t offer that, then you’re not looking after your patients – and probably losing business too.
- It promotes consistency. A brand (which is what you’ve created in launching your clinic, and your personal profile) is all about providing a consistent service. The first growth attempted by an aesthetics practice is usually to employ a front-of-house employee. Even the best employee isn’t going to be as committed as an owner, so automated processes enforce a greater degree of consistency to your patient-facing offer, bringing up standards in every customer interaction.
- It cuts repetition. The most soul-destroying tasks are the repetitive manual ones which eat up time. They’re also the most error-prone. Automations minimise these tasks – freeing you up for more high-value activities which will move the needle on your profitability. In the words of business consultants PwC, “By automating mundane and repetitive tasks, workers can focus on higher value-add work and increase their overall work capacity.”
- It extends your skills. Following on from the previous point, given that time is what we all lack, buying it back with automation means you can get round to some of the jobs that would otherwise simply always drop off the end of your to-do list.
- It works when you’re asleep. You can’t send out marketing emails or appointment confirmations by hand at 2am (and if you do, you’re headed for burnout…). Automated systems can.
Discovering automation opportunities
All of this then begs the question: what should I aim to automate?
Automation isn’t always a good thing. Last time you visited your doctor’s surgery, for example, you might have been pointed to a terminal in order to register your arrival. This is useful for the GP practice – it allows them to manage scarce resources around appointments. But the personal service and warm welcome at the reception desk is a crucial part of the customer experience in aesthetics. Digital tools are powerful – but not always the answer.
Following on from the above list, take a little time to audit your typical activities across a day (e.g. appointments), week (e.g. marketing) and month (e.g. accounting reconciliations) and look for activities which are repetitive, error-prone, wasteful, boring, or which deliver a patient experience which is below that which you would like to offer. As the Automation Academy points out, “Humans are good at working with analogue and unstructured data, whereas computers need digital and structured data. Humans are less capable in consistent execution of the same processes. Repetition of routine tasks hinders concentration, resulting in errors. Computers, on the other hand, excel here. Also, tasks performed by computers can scale massively, which is not easily achieved with human workers. These differences define the factors to be considered when selecting the right process for automation.”
The automation services which will solve these challenges are almost all:
- Digital: managed and delivered online.
- Pay-as-you-go: available for a reasonable monthly fee, so that you can budget predictably and assess the value to your business when compared to the cost of your time.
Automate marketing for more leads and more profits
Marketing is a particularly fertile ground for automation. Here are just some of the options on offer, broadly in the order of the sales process
You have many other options including pieces of software for every conceivable marketing need, and whilst getting to grips with software might not be your top priority, it’s one of the few remaining low-cost ways to genuinely buy back time without employing more people.
Marketing is also essential. Aesthetics is a competitive business, and with most customers making a purchase decision on their perception of your online brand and local convenience as well as the services you offer, finding and nurturing those relationships is crucial. Automation will help you manage this essential function and power up your business: 80% of automation users see their leads increase, directly improving profitability.
Rick O’Neill, FRSA, is a Digital Consultant to the Medical Aesthetics industry, working with brands such as Merz Aesthetics, Lumenis, Crown and many more. Rick is also Co-Founder of The Aesthetic Entrepreneurs (a community and business support platform for Medical Aesthetic Practitioners), and Founder and Owner of LTF Digital, an award winning Digital Agency focused on supporting Medical Aesthetics brands and clinics in the UK and Internationally. Find him at www.rickyoneill.co.uk