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Save Face: Great for Public Safety, Great for Business

Ed Challinor is a Digital Marketer and Analyst at Smileworks, one of Liverpool’s most popular facial aesthetics and dental practice.  He is active in the digital and media communities and has been shortlisted for the 2018 UK Search Awards.

Here he shares some exciting insights into the benefits of registering with save face not only to keep patients safe but to get more of them phoning your practice and booking appointments.  He believes this will generate the cash you need to overhaul your regulatory strategy and keep the patients coming to your practice.

Why is patient safety important?

Stupid question, right?

Right…?

At Smileworks Liverpool, patient safety is at the core of everything we do and our lead clinician Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann BSc BDS MSc Aes.Med.  MJDF RCS (Eng) is a vocal participant in the debate about standards with formidable and increasing experience of managing complications.

“The amount of complications we’re seeing from unqualified practitioners and beauticians seems to have doubled recently”, she said, as I was researching this piece.

Smileworks are Save Face registrants because we share the values and vision of the self-regulation model and believe patients need somewhere to turn in these times of unprecedented innovation and explosive growth in a market that seems to continually dodge any meaningful top-down regulation.

I’m not going to cover the regulation debate here.  You can read about the disastrous state of the industry and the opportunities squandered by Keogh from a variety of sources and commentators.

It’s easy to blame the failings of the Keogh Report, the hoards of unregulated practitioners or the trust issues in the industry.  But trying to find people to blame is usually a waste of time.  If I’ve learned anything from the business of aesthetics it’s that you just need to put in place systems to allow your practitioners to flourish financially and personally – and this process will inevitably lead to better standards overall.

At Smileworks great self-regulation and learning has lead to unprecedented profitability.  In the search for greater profits, a good place to start is with the basics.  Patients don’t want to be put at risk.  They don’t want complications.  So your job is foremost to serve patients safely.

It’s now all of our responsibility to set a good example and spread the idea that your patients want safe and complication-free treatments even if governments and regulators (and most of the market) are falling short.  Serving customers and making patients happy is how you grow a practice, make money and have fun.

An Unbiased Assessment of the Aesthetics Market

In my mind, better standards are inextricably linked to better financial performance.

It’s blindingly obvious there are many who are motivated by money alone and don’t really care about outcomes or patient happiness.  For example, save face cited statistics that 71% of patients who complain found their practitioner through social media.

Why?  Because these practitioners are hardly making any money and cannot afford a website never mind a marketing team to run, promote and optimise it.  They also can’t afford genuine CE marked products, training and CPD.  They can’t afford a proper place to carry out their treatments and this is why so many are mobile and treating people in the basements of salons or on the couch at home.

Facial aesthetics has to be profitable and it’s my opinion that a lack of financial clarity and poor business practices are the root cause of many of the complications we’re seeing in the industry.  Corners are being cut and people are here for the wrong reasons.

To add to the problems, many aesthetics businesses in 2018 are failing.  In fact, their failure rate over three years is higher than 90%.  These businesses account for a huge part of the market and it’s saddening to understand that they’re neither making their leaders and patients wealthy nor happy.

It’s the author’s opinion that better business performance equals better patient outcomes.  With more profits comes a ‘culture of abundance’ which in turn creates practices more likely to spend on regulation, less likely to cut corners and again more likely to self-regulate and invest in more training, materials and expertise.

“But safety doesn’t make me money it costs me money!”

I hear you say.  Two words for you; Alcoa. Corporation.  Google it and you’ll find one of the most basic business lessons from the CEO of Alcoa, Paul O’Neill who famously started ranting about safety as a ‘habit’ before turning around the corporation to become the safest and most profitable aluminium provider in the world.

Safety and regulation have always been core habits at Smileworks.  We’re a dental practice after all.  But could it be safety that has set us apart?  Many would say there’s no place for Rockefeller habits in a medical setting but our performance begs to differ.  On analysis of the numbers, I often look for (in vain) the one magic bullet or off-the-scale-metric that causes our profitability. I have never found one single thing but more a matrix of factors all adding up to a sum greater than their parts.  And this matrix has safety as the core competency that drives every other decision and action.

My role as digital marketer and analyst at Smileworks gives me a unique perspective on how registration with Save Face has helped us gain insight into what a good facial aesthetics patient looks like.  I’ve also noticed those who opt for the most extensive treatment plans – and accept them – are putting in time researching from a number of diverse sources before even picking up the phone.

I have looked at data from Google analytics, third-party tools, call recordings and patient feedback and can tell you the precise things patients look for when searching for their provider of choice.

These are Expertise, Authority and Trust.  Also, I’ve discovered that if social media is your only channel then you’re missing out on 40% of the margins across our quite diversified range of aesthetic products and services.  I find this an interesting metric when put together with the 62% of complaints coming from social media.  This is not a surprise to me at all.  Social media screams ‘budget’.  Social media results are amateurish on all metrics when compared with their harder won and more carefully constructed counterpart websites. Social is borrowed media.  Don’t ever forget that.

Search Engine Benefits

There was a core algorithm update over at Google on 1st August 2018 called the ‘Medic Update’.  Its job was to promote the more trustworthy sites to the top of the results pages.  The reasoning behind the update is straightforward:  If you run a business likely to impact important decisions searchers make about their money or their lives (like facial aesthetics) then Google will only rank you if they can trust you.

Research from Barry Schwartz’ Search Engine Roundtable cites 41.5% of sites affected by this update are in the Health industry – hence the name.

These sources of trust come in many forms but foremost amongst them are registrations with trustworthy regulatory bodies such as Save Face.  There’s a huge amount of analytics and discovery that identifies the most trusted sites and if you are registered with those sites you will be seen as trustworthy by association.  Don’t worry about ‘seed sets’, ‘shards’, ‘shortest parallel distances’ and any other maths or mechanics.  Just trust me that this is the current situation and has been extensively analysed by people smarter than both you and me.

The algorithm is built out and measured to faithfully represent the results arrived at by the webmaster guidelines – rules that a human, not a machine is supposed to follow to rank sites.  So the humans do the work and then the computer scientists build an algo that does the same or better job of ranking sites on its own.

So read and absorb the webmaster guidelines if you want to succeed. Because these are the data points used by the algorithms that direct sites to the top of page one or into page 2 obscurity depending on what they crawl.

Reputation is Everything

Reputation is key to the process of getting recognised by Google and getting noticed by prospective patients.  It’s shortened name is E-A-T which stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust.

Not only is it important for your website but is also a huge factor for users in their purchasing decisions.  For more about E-A-T take a look on SEO Inc. for a basic rundown.

From looking at our enquiries; almost 70% of new patients mention our reviews as the main factor in their decision to choose us.  Positive Google reviews that are authentic and clearly not faked are being scrutinised by every patient before they visit your practice for treatment.

Save Face allows users to write reviews about particular treatments that not only assist patients but help search engines determine your brands’ ‘review diversity’ – another important ranking signal that also appears in the guidelines.

The research I’ve done shows patients sometimes checking our Facebook, Google, Save Face and even the GDC website in the same session before calling the practice and booking an appointment.  This shows that review diversity and reviews are no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’ for local business success in 2018.

PR and Demand Creation

A great deal of what we do at Smileworks is forecasting demand.  It must be remembered that Save Face is a lobbying organisation and is doing a great job of bringing the issues to mainstream public attention through the work they are doing with celebrities and mainstream media from Sky News to the BBC, Metro and Channel 5.  These are organisations that you need to be associated with either directly or indirectly for the success of your own PR and marketing efforts.

Any facial aesthetics provider will know that the pharmaceutical companies do not do a very good job of creating demand for their products.  This is for a number of reasons.  Some are legal reasons (it’s illegal to advertise Botox® and other prescription-only products) but mostly they’re just saving their money by making their providers do their advertising for them.

The work Save Face is doing in creating real demand for safe treatments has been impressive to say the least.  When you have a practice that’s running efficiently and at almost maximum production, success is correlated strongly with localised demand.  Patients are genuinely interested in the stories they read in the newspapers and see on the news and this is creating more demand for the services you provide.  It is vital that you too leverage this coverage by being seen on the Save Face register.

So, in conclusion, it is not the government that is going to help bring standards up.  At least not for now.  Someone is going to potentially get badly hurt, creating some sort of scandal (like the PIP one) before people will take notice.

The only alternative is sensible self-regulation based on solid CPD and learning, clinical-based findings and good professional conduct.  In addition, you will need to embrace the principle of E-A-T and learn how Google and customers interact with your brand.  Perhaps it will, in fact, be Google AdWords or Organic Search which sorts the winners from the losers going forward and not regulation at all.

These are the things that have set our aesthetics business apart from the rest and are factors that you should work towards in your business if you want it to be profitable, successful and safe.

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