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Medspa Advertising: White space & upscale.

c1672.gifAdvertising is a common concern for cosmetic physicians and medispas. (Medspa Advertising & Marketing Discussions l Advertising & PR Category)

One of my businesses is an advertising agency and I understate the situation to the extreme when I say that the discussion of what constitutes good design and what clients think is effective is something of a joke in the industry. Clients see white space and instantly want to put something in it which aggravates designers to no end. First, because it really does look ugly, and second, because it makes it look cheap (and more than anything else, creatives hate cheap).

You can see that the Surface print ads we run have a fair amount of white space. Some of them are almost completely free of copy. We do this because it's effective and it speaks to our target audience.

I acknowledge of course that this site is not a blazing example of the use of white space or fantastic design skills. Why? Information is a tricky thing on line. I've opted to use the 'find it now' strategy of keeping the most used links readily available.

A list Aparts post on white space is spot on. The excerpt below is discussing a direct mail piece.

Take the following example.

Examples of direct mail vs. luxury brand design

Figure 3. Examples of direct mail vs. luxury brand design

The content is the same on both designs, as are the other elements, such as photography. Yet the two designs stand at opposite ends of the brand spectrum. Less whitespace = cheap; more whitespace = luxury.

A lot more goes into brand positioning than just whitespace, but as a brief lands on your desk for a luxury brand, it’s very likely that the client—and their target audience—expects whitespace and plenty of it to align the product with its competitors.

If your ads look like the first example, you're shooting yourself in the foot. There has never been a woman (and our patients are 93% female) that has ever wanted to have any medical treatment on her face performed by a medspa because it was the cheapest.

If you're in need of better advertising, you can contact Wild Blue Creative here

Reader Comments (16)

General marketing question for all of you who have been around the block a few times - Jeff, Dexter, Midwest, Pro Docs, et al: what is your take on YellowPages/YellowBook advertising? Cost effective? Good leads?

Thanks for the input.
04.9 | Unregistered CommenterDermaDoc

Thumbs down all the way based on my three years of experience.
You need to be present under the headings but do not waste your money on large adds. People who tell us they found us in the yelloew pages etc have also seen us other places and mostly are using the yellow pages to find out phone number.

We spend about $700 to $1000 per year on them.
04.9 | Unregistered CommenterLH

I tend to agree with LH. It certainly isn't necessary to place larger ads but I do believe you need to be listed. You will build name recognition over time and there are too many people who will fail to find you on the internet. I absolutely wanted to eliminate yellow page ads until we tracked it and found that 20% of our clients contacted us one way or another through the yellow pages. They may have seen our billboards, mailers etc. but when it came time to book an appointment they went to the yellow pages. Prospective clients may see or hear about you but it is certainly apparent to me that when it comes time for action a considerble number of clients 'let their fingers do the walking'.
04.10 | Unregistered CommenterDexter

I tend to agree with LH. It certainly isn't necessary to place larger ads but I do believe you need to be listed. You will build name recognition over time and there are too many people who will fail to find you on the internet. I absolutely wanted to eliminate yellow page ads until we tracked it and found that 20% of our clients contacted us one way or another through the yellow pages. They may have seen our billboards, mailers etc. but when it came time to book an appointment they went to the yellow pages. Prospective clients may see or hear about you but it is certainly apparent to me that when it comes time for action a considerble number of clients 'let their fingers do the walking'.
04.10 | Unregistered CommenterDexter

What timing...welcome to Midwest's personal hell of the last two months! I have been working incessantly on new brochure copy, layout, graphic design. Web design... We have hired a marketing/ad firm, but this project is my baby and of course I need to get my hands in (Amazing how women make business a personal extension of themselves...leads to so much stress...argh...) This has been such a process. We are NOT advertising in Yellowpages...but just as LH said, we are under a few headings. We will be pushing radio spots, direct flyer that mimics our in house brochure, newspaper, and oh my god..(this is the 'Chief' or head doc's idea) a billboard... I'm a bit of a shy bookworm, so the idea of this petrifies me!

We are a community of around 70,000. We budgeted for $40,000 for ad/marketing development, and $10,000 a month the first year. If we want to talk more specifics I got '

I would absolutley love it if anyone else is interested in talking more ad/marketing this week. I'm in the thick of it and would love to use some of you as a springboard.

I did NOT count on this aspect of the business to be so stressful! So if anyone wants to sit back and cry with me and pull our hair out for a while too you've got a date! LOL!

Why does it sometimes feel that the more people you hire to diminish your workload, the more questions and work are generated?!

04.11 | Unregistered CommenterMidwest
I would put our yellow pages at less than 10% but you must be present.
04.11 | Unregistered CommenterLH
Midwest -

You have a greta head on your shoulders and I am sur eyou have done your homework, but let me fly a couple of ideas past you.

One of the significant issues we have found in marketing is figuring out who our audience is going to be for our services, price-point, location, etc. Do we want the top income folks or the blue-collar or somewhere in between. The marketing vehicles vary greatly between the strata. We did fine with direct mail for larger packages, but the newspaper was a great source for smaller sales. Same geographic area covered but we targeted a slightly higher income demographic with the mailer than the average newspaper subscriber. We are not trying to exclude any segment specifically. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE OFFENSE AT THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT ANYONE! IT IS STRICTLY A STATISTICAL FACT IN OUR AREA!!! The African-American population has a slightly lower average income in our region, but they get fantastic results in the hair removal and resurfacing procedures. Same goes for the Latino population.
We don't particularly want the Dr 90210 crowd because they are usually really hard to please and pinch a penny until Abe's eyes bleed despite having more money than God / Yahweh / Buddha / Muhammed.

Do some research on targeting demographics by vehicle and get a feel for response rates in your area. The PR firm should have good data on that - it's their job. We did a mailer that had a .01% response rate, and one that had a 1-2% response rate. Same demographic. Go figure.

I can tell you that marketing is going to be a lot of trial and error. You will make mistakes and invest money in methods that will have no return. You gather the data, track the responses obsessively and make more informed decisions at each successive step.

The biggest ROI in the long term is going to be word-of-mouth. A satisfied patient may only tell a few people, but an unsatisfied one will tell everyone that will listen. Or possibly post a blog entry.

I hope this is somewhat helpful, I know I tend to ramble at times.
04.11 | Unregistered CommenterDermaDoc
Spending $120k a year on advertising? You'd better be able to pick pockets if your target market is only 70k. I'd take Jeffs advice and try to keep a rein on your expenditures. It's easy to try to 'grow your way out of a hole' but it appears you're headed for a huge debt load. $40k for 'development'? Hire whoever got you to go for that... they're the ones you want selling for you. I just hope the physicians putting up the money have a sense of humor and deep pockets.
04.11 | Unregistered CommenterVexedMD

I agree with many of the comments on trial and error and watching the expenses. Things change, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. 5 years ago radio worked well for us, we tried again recently with little response. TV and internet work the best for us currently. Don't forget to look for any PR opportunity you can participate in. Make a list of the health & beauty writers for the local paper and all of the tv anchors for the local television stations. Offer them sample treatments and get them to feature you or write about you. PR is probably worth 10x your advertising dollar.
04.13 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

I would really appreciate the input of those who have been at this awhile and enjoy (and have had success with) the advertising and PR aspect of the medical spa industry. I'm focusing in on our new Medspa's referral system. I am among those that believe that 'in house' referrals are some of the most successful strategies. I have worked in establishments in which there is a system as simple as giving a new patient 3 cards. If one of their friends returns the card and becomes a patient the original person recieves 25% off a treatment etc...

I'm bored with those sorts of promotions! I would like to do something really different that truly shows the original patient how much we value their business and support. Something a little more 'personal'. Or am I just digging myself a whole here by worrying about this?! lol...

Is anyone doing anything, or have tried something that has been a little more edgy and sincere than handing out three cards, but has also been a sound business investment?

Also, I've been reading that quantifying something in a percentage form is not as effective as a solid numerical value. (ie.. 25% off versus $15 off your next treatment) What do you guys think?

I always feel like there is that dangerous gray area of being pushy or tacky with these sorts of referral systems and I want to avoid that at all costs! I'd like to get the edge on that respectful advertising/in house referral system that doesn't discredit the intelligence of the patient.

I've eaten up all the valuable info this site has offered in this category (which, by the priceless) but would really appreciate anything else anyone has to offer. I need a fresh pair of eyes!

Thanks much for the time/input/expertise.

07.9 | Unregistered CommenterMidwest

And one more

Please God...someone post a clip of a classy radio ad! The docs I'm working with are all about radio and I'm digging my heels.

If I could just hear something medical spa oriented that I thought was clever or tactful I'd be less gun shy!

Radio makes me cringe!

I think it's completely justified for a special event, new product/procedure, new staff member...but man... I don't want the personality of our business to be defined by some smoozy, 'trying to sound sultry' voice over artist!

Why is radio such fickle advertising? Some say it works...others get no returns from it. argh...

Thanks again!

07.9 | Unregistered CommenterMidwest


I would talk to your state medical association and medical board as there are some laws that forbid any form of payment for referrals including from patients. We talked to our state medical association and board and they were not too hip on the idea. We also talked to the AMA and they do not feel it is a good choice to pay referrals although they did not say it is illegal unless it is for insurance/medicaid/medicare.

I had planned to do a referral plan similar to what you were talking about but have canned the idea for now until I am 100% sure it is not a problem. Just because others do it does not mean it is legal. I will likely have my lawyers look at it and see what they think.

07.9 | Unregistered CommenterLH

Ads for the cheapest eye surgery available are all over the place so they must be working and that means people are attracted to cheapo medical stuff. Therefore this statement:

"There has never been a woman (and our patients are 93% female) that has ever wanted to have any medical treatment on her face performed by a medspa because it was the cheapest."

is probably pure bunk.

Have you actually tested those two ads or are you just theorizing? I'd bet the 'ugly/cheap' one outpolls the supposedly upscale one and it would probably outpoll even farther if you added lot more copy to it with handwriting scribbles and 'ACT NOW!' calls to action.

09.9 | Unregistered Commenternick

Certainly bad advertising sells as well, but you've missed the point. "Cheap" is not the way you want to position your business and the busy ads look most obviously cheap.

Someone who will come to you for price will leave you for price just as fast... and there can only ever be one lowest price. If you're fantastic at it you can make a business on volume (Wal-Mart). But if you're not quite as good you end up K-Mart. If you want to bottom feed as the cheaper alternative that's a legitimate business tactic. But patients are going to choose the 'best' that they can afford.

Quality businesses are able to charge a premium (Apple). Shitty ads do nothing to help you address this.

Jeff, I was doing some research and couldn't help but poke my nose in here, having read all the comments above.

You're right when you say 'cheap' is not a good way to position a business. But there's a lot ot talk at cross-purposes here, so as a direct response marketing specialist who does nothing but advise and write copy for the spa niche, I may be able to help clarify some questions and issues raised in this thread with the following:

First, the 'look' of the ad isn't the point. 'Branding' is something big, dumb companies do, with millions of dollars of other people's money. But small businesses, like spas, don't generally have millions of dollars of other people's money to play with.
So for small businesses, dollars spent on ANY advertising need to pay their way, and that means it has to be measurable. You can't measure 'brand' marketing accurately. You can only measure 'direct response' marketing.

So for spas, it's all about a compelling HEADLINE, PROOF that what you're selling works (TESTIMONIALS - ever seen a weight-loss ad without 'em?) a CALL TO ACTION, and the most important thing of all, the OFFER. And that doesn't mean discounting, which DOES cheapen. it means value-adding. There is art and science to value-adding, entire books have been written about it, so I won't go into it here, but it is THE crucial thing that sets one business apart from a competitor.

Then there's the 'story' - and that comes down to the copy.

To paraphrase Dan Kennedy in his book 'The No BS Guide to Marketing to the Affluent', a visit to a spa can just be a visit to a spa. Or it can mean being picked up at your home by the spa's gleaming white limo, brought to the elegantly-appointed office with grand piano playing itself in the lobby, neatly-uniformed staff rising to greet you at the door and escort you to a comfortable chair, get you a fresh-brewed latte, offer you a choice of magazines....then, only minutes later, escort you to the spa room for your complimentary manicure and hand massage...then to skin specilaist for a complimentary assessment, while you relax in a chair with a full-body massage pad and gentle heat, as your pre-chosen favorite music plays gently in the background....then into the treatment room for your first hair removal session...then some anti-aging skin treatments....and back to the limo, carrying a complimentary gift basket of little soaps and skin lotions. The charges for the extras are all evened out during the year as part of your monthly membership fee charged to your credit card, so there is no plebian act standing at the front desk at the end of your visit reviewing charges and writing out a check, nor any such bill arriving in the mail.

That's the kind of 'sales thinking' you have to do BEFORE doing any marketing, before crafting any message.

How the message looks, on the page.... well, that depends on what all the other messages from competing businesses look like. Typically, they're a BLUR of sameness - all trying to 'out-gloss' each other, full of glamorous women, little text (read 'little of anything that actually sells'). So whatever you do, make sure your ad looks dramatically different. You can still have an ad that 'looks expensive' - but it MUST have the crucial elements of direct response.

And if it doesn't 'pull' the very first time you run it, change it. The Hugo Boss-wearing, pony-tailed advertising 'creatives' will tell you that you have to 'give an ad time' - nonsense. If it doesn't work the first time you run it, it's never going to work.

And if your staff, family, colleagues and friends tell you they 'love your advertising', start to worry. The only opinions you should listen to are those of your customers.

Hope this helps.

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