Brand Building for Medical Spas

Although they sell microchips rather than mommy makeovers, the technology startups of Silicon Valley provide lessons for dermatologists and other core aesthetic specialists, according to an expert. As a Silicon Valley resident and serial startup company investor, Scott W. Mosser, M.D., says he pays attention to startup technology companies’ business plans and progress—or lack thereof. As a plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, he adds, he has gleaned the following lessons for core aesthetic specialists:

1. Know your brand. Physicians often claim to know what branding is, he says, “But they don’t properly respect the extreme value that a brand has.” Mosser defines a brand as the additional value an entity possesses purely because of the way people perceive it. Although Coca-Cola may cost twice as much as off-brand competitors, he explains, people gladly pay the premium because “Coca-Cola has successfully communicated brand value to us, and we receive genuine pleasure from experiencing the brand that we don’t experience from other brands. A brand is really a public mindset.”

Creating such value requires thoroughly knowing what brand one wants to create, and meticulously crafting a customer experience that is extremely consistent with that brand, he says. The process begins with creating a mission statement. “Be honest with yourself, because it’s much easier to create a brand that’s genuinely consistent with who you are and the way you view the world. Think of how you want the world to see you—your very best traits—and how to communicate that through a patient experience,” he says. “Write down nouns, adjectives, verbs and even short phrases that very concisely describe different elements of your brand.” Examples include words such as authority, safety and compassion.

“Once you have this list of approximately 20 core concepts, string them together in the form of a mission statement,” using as many of the terms as possible. This statement should describe who you are, why you do what you do and how you want the world to see you, he adds. Then, Mosser says, building a brand requires making every business-related decision consistent with the mission statement. “As long as you use that mission statement to guide all process decisions regarding the patient experience, over a period of years your brand will essentially build itself based on those concepts,” he says. Conversely, one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is allowing their brand to create itself through sheer happenstance.

2. Understand luxury customer service. In aesthetic medicine, Dr. Mosser says, “We’re not just in the service industry—we’re in the luxury service industry.” Luxury service providers charge more, he says, because they are extremely good at anticipating customers’ needs. “The core of luxury service is that through your approach, actions and philosophy, you’re communicating to patients in many verbal and nonverbal ways that their priorities are at least as important to you as they are to them,” he says.

When the iPhone debuted it was an extremely expensive device. But it was quickly justifiable tp buyers because the device seemed to be designed in concert with their priorities, and to fulfill needs they often didn't know they had. “If you can effectively communicate to patients that you take their priorities to heart to the point that they feel they can offload their worries to you, that’s what people pay for in luxury service,” says Mosser.

3. Spend wisely. It’s rare for a medical practice to run out of money, as many tech startups do, Mosser says. But medical practices commonly hamper their own health by ignoring basic concepts such as overhead and margins. Because physicians often lack training regarding these business basics, he says, “Maybe take a bookkeeping course; learn to read a balance sheet; understand that there’s often a big difference between a sales representative’s claims” and the profitability of a device or treatment once one has factored in all costs—such as advertising to acquire new patients, and training staff to perform the procedure.