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Personal Branding: Why Is it Important?

February 19, 2024 in Content Marketing, Plastic Surgery Studios

Part 1: Why Every Doctor in the Aesthetic Industry Needs a Killer Brand

By Dana Fox, Director of Client Strategies

Like it or not, you’re in the retail medical business. 

Retail Medicine has created new challenges for plastic and cosmetic surgeons that their predecessors never had to deal with: Branding, Marketing, Advertising, and Sales Management, to name a few. Today, we are discussing why you may need a personal brand to stand out in the crowd.

In recent years, thousands of books have been written about branding and how to create your brand. Under normal circumstances, the terms branding, advertising, and marketing are widely understood as necessary by most businesses. However, as a physician, I would expect your first question to be, “Why do I need a brand?” And your second question, “How do I get one?” 

If you are a plastic surgeon under the age of 50 and you’ve already started your MBA program, then you will have gone through some marketing courses and will probably be teaching this next year at ASAPS or ASPS.  However, for the purposes of this blog, please bear with me while I share 30 years of experience in the marketing trenches and everything I learned outside of a textbook.

Here we are in 2024, with an all-time high number of aesthetic practices in the United States. Plastic surgeons represent approximately 11,000 individual practices, dermatologists represent roughly 12,000 in individual practices, and all the other aesthetic medical practices represent an additional 10,000, give or take a few thousand. Our total number of competitors land somewhere around 33,000 practices between Alaska and Maine, plus Hawaii. When I look at it this way, it doesn’t seem too daunting to become known.

Don’t Let the Comparatively Small Numbers Deceive You 

35,000 aesthetic providers spread across 50 states doesn’t seem like such a huge number when you consider as of 2021, there are 332,278,200 people living in the United States. However, the aesthetic retail market is huge by any standard; according to Statista, over 1.87 million cosmetic surgical procedures were completed last year. Nonsurgical procedures have considerably outrun surgical procedures, and in 2022, just over 7.3 million procedures involving toxins and fillers were performed in the US. 

So, doctor, where did you land? How many procedures did you do last year?

The Competition Is Steep

Aesthetic physicians are not just competing with other surgeons but with all things beauty-related, including med spas and the skincare industry as a whole.

Beauty companies spent an estimated $7.7 billion on advertising in 2022. But it was well worth it, as per studies; US consumers spent a whopping $89.7 billion on beauty products annually. The largest age groups were Gen Z (41%) and Millennials (40%), and these numbers directly align with who buys BOTOX® and Injectables.

The Results: Our Customer’s Brains Are on Overload

image of brain in background

The average person today, regardless of age, is exposed to over 10,000 ad impressions daily, and our brains must turn off most of this exterior noise just to maintain some level of sanity. How do we do that? We discard all messages that are not relevant to us right now.  Now is the important issue here because, at some point, a particular message might be of value later, and then we allow it into our brains. It’s called the reticular activating system, and it’s what makes you unaware of when a single hair falls on your neck or why you can tune out white noise.

As a marketer, it’s my favorite part of the brain because I know I must write relevant ads that will affect the right person at the exact right time. Easy right?

The Reticular Activating (RA) System

I promise this is my only science attempt in this blog. The Reticular Activating (RA) System is a bundle of nerves in your brain stem. Its purpose is to look for information that validates your beliefs, and it uses this to filter the information coming into your brain from the world around you. How the parameters are established for your RA System starts with your core beliefs and goals—I would also say your desires and the things you hope for. Whatever these are, this part of the brain will look for evidence of it, and it will stop you from seeing anything that doesn’t support these core beliefs and goals.

As funny an example as this is, I remember a college girlfriend of mine was only attracted to blonde-haired, blue-eyed men over 6 feet tall. No one outside that parameter was ever on the radar, so she missed many great opportunities. She never saw anyone who failed to meet that description. On the other hand, I had no parameters other than they had to be friendly and smart, so guess who had way more dates? The point is that consumers are essentially dating and looking for very specifically defined things, and if your product doesn’t fall into any of those categories, chances are those consumers will not see you.

This is where your brand becomes so important. You cannot be everything to everybody, so identifying exactly who you are is critical to you being seen by those looking for what you are that matches their ideal. What do you stand for, why are you the right surgeon, and why do you have the correct procedures and services? You do not need every cosmetic procedure buyer; you just need your fair share to be highly successful.

Now that I’ve got your attention let’s talk about you.

Showcase Design
View The Branding and Website Project

Your Personal Brand

Personal branding is how you describe yourself based on your beliefs about your skills, experiences, core values, and key differentiators. It is the kind of thing that no one else can say because these are things personal to you. It’s a lot like storytelling for the consumer you don’t yet know but want to. You could also call this staged relationship building, starting when someone comes to your website. For example, do they see pictures that any other doctor in town can show? Does it use trite language like Dr. Jones or Smith aims to make all his or her patients happy with their results? Or your safety and satisfaction are our number one priority. Personally, we don’t even read these tag lines when we visit a website anymore; we’ve seen the same ones so many times we simply discount them and go right to the procedure gallery. That is if the visitor finds the website beautiful, well-designed, and easy to navigate. If it doesn’t meet the visual requirement, they bounce right off and cross you off the list.

For content to stir up action, I think it must be real. I think it needs to be in the doctor’s or provider’s first-person voice. This is how we build trust with people because we feel like we know them. If I’m going to click to make an appointment for you to cut into my body, first, I better like you and, secondly, have a pretty good idea of who you are and why I am going to you instead of the doctor next door. This is one of the reasons videos are so powerful; if done right, videos allow the consumer to see what their experience will be like once they sit in the exam chair. If I feel comfortable with you on the screen, chances are good I received the subliminal message of trust, even if I can’t put my finger on why.

One of my favorite old-time comedians was George Burns, and he had a great line that sums up what public perception is when it comes to what they believe. He said, “The two most important things in life are honesty and sincerity, and if you can learn to fake those, you’ve got it made.” It is certainly humorous, but this perception has a sense of truth when it comes to marketing being believed. 

Most of us aren’t good at faking that we are something different than what we are, which is why conversational videos give people a glimpse into your personality. Are you warm, fun-loving, serious, or thoughtful? Are you interested in people, and does this come across? Any of these fundamental personality traits are acceptable if they are real. This comes across visually and vocally on screen.

Visual and verbal communication are vital to establishing trust, much more so than the words being said. The best-known breakdown on this subject comes from the mid-1950s when psychology researcher Albert Mehrabian discovered that people develop confidence and believability 55% visually (what we see), 38% vocally (tone of voice), and only 7% verbally (what is being said). Remember this as you think about developing your marketing and branding strategy. It is a visual perception that makes the most points.

How do people establish trust?

0 %

(what we see)

0 %

(tone of voice)

0 %

(what is being said)

Who Needs Personal Branding?

Anyone seeking to build consumer trust, grow their practice, attract new clients or patients, or cultivate social media followers will benefit from personal branding.

Why Is Having a Personal Brand Important?

We don’t buy cosmetic surgical treatments in bulk or at low-budget strip malls, and it’s hard for consumers to tell the difference between a great surgeon and a mediocre one by simply looking at before and after photos. Most decisions are made in the gut. How does the person feel at the time they are evaluating cosmetic options? What emotions are raised when they encounter your marketing? Or your brand, if you will?

We cannot escape the attention economy because, in one way or another, you are competing continuously—competing to be found, to be seen, and to have someone act upon taking notice of you. When combined with the vast amount of digital information available across multiple platforms, you don’t have to be an SEO genius to run algorithms to understand that capturing and keeping limited audience attention is more complex than ever.

Therefore, your brand is how, what, and why you will be found. Stay tuned…

Part 2: How Your Personal Brand Provides a Critical Advantage to Your Success

In our March blog, we’ll discuss whether you should do your own brand audit or if having an outsider may be more valuable. We’ll also show you how to use your personal brand to leverage your competitive advantage.

You’ll learn how to develop a brand strategy and how to execute it.

SIDE NOTE: States with the highest number of plastic surgeon businesses in the US: California (943 businesses), Texas (598 businesses), and Florida (577 firms)

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