Now more than ever, creating and maintaining strong, well-curated online before-and-after (B&A) galleries is a pivotal part of any aesthetic practice’s marketing plan. Practice marketing on the visually rich and dynamic Internet requires B&A images that are as clear and compelling as the quality of the practice’s overall marketing message. This first of a three-part series of articles dedicated to the importance of patient photos, explores the reasons why good quality B&A photo documentation is crucial to practice success. The second and third installments will discuss best practices for taking patient photos, as well as HIPAA and related legalities attached to the use of patient photos in marketing materials, presentations, publications and/or online.
“From a sales and practice building perspective, an online treatment photo gallery is extremely valuable especially for practitioners that are just starting out,” said Gregory Mueller, M.D., F.A.C.S., a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, Calif., and inventor of the oVio360 system, which takes 360° patient photos. “It is the most popular page on your website.”
According to Claire Webb, senior manager of content strategy and operations at PatientPop (Santa Monica, Calif.), which specializes in practice growth solutions, online galleries have become essential, particularly in the aesthetic, beauty and health and wellness industries, as well as on social media.
“While aesthetic service providers have long been using before-and-after photos in their offices to demonstrate the kinds of results patients could expect, they’re now sharing those photos online to attract more new patients,” she said.
If physicians are to succeed with their B&A galleries as marketing tools, they must employ images and videos that tell patient stories, stated Candace Crowe, owner of Candace Crowe Design (Orlando, Fla.), and practice marketing expert.
“For my first plastic surgery client, I had to go into the practice and sit down with the patient care coordinator, and she went through a photo album with me. She was full of stories about these plastic surgery patients. I didn’t just see photographs, I heard captivating stories. In that way, it is so important that your photo gallery show that you honor and respect the patient first. The patients are the heroes of these stories. The practitioner is the guide and the hero of the practice.”
As noted by Ms. Webb, “Consumers love to learn the story behind drastic transformations, especially if they’re hoping for similar results for themselves.”
A physician’s skill level is often judged by the quality of his or her online gallery.
“From day one, even in my training at university, it was drilled into our heads – always have good photo documentation,” stated Dr. Mueller. “That was 20 years ago when all we had were 35 mm cameras. Today, many physicians use their phone. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it is critical in these hyper-competitive times to post more photos, and the more prominent they are on your website the better.”
Additionally, there is no doubt people have become habituated to image-based shopping and anticipate looking at pictures when considering any sale, including a life-changing one. In aesthetics, prospective patients do not tolerate blurry, grainy, skewed images. Modern practices must strive to publish high-quality photos that will impress and increase patient engagement.
Online galleries not only showcase the physician’s skills but can also be used to attract patients and bolster consultations. “Moreover, patients always want to see how much progress they’ve made with their procedures,” Dr. Mueller added.
“With so many consumers opting for minimally invasive approaches, even the smallest of improvements to a patient’s
facial or body features have to be shown in greater detail than ever before,” he emphasized.
“Potential customers are intensely scrutinizing our B&As and the minute changes that we make using non-surgical methods,” Dr. Mueller continued. “Therefore, physicians need to document, for instance, the fine-tuning of a patient’s face, or maybe a filler or laser treatment that changed the shape of the face imperceptibly. In this context, if the photos aren’t good enough then people won’t be able to see these very subtle differences.”
According to Josh Weiner, chief operating officer at Solutionreach, Inc., a patient relationship management software developer in Lehi, Utah, four out of five patients won’t even consider a practice that doesn’t showcase B&A pictures.
“These galleries are usually viewed more often than any other type of content the provider offers,” he noted. “B&A photos and videos can also have an impact when they are included in email-based or social media marketing campaigns, or even in educational efforts
like newsletters. Compelling images capture a reader’s attention and increases their willingness to read a piece of content by about 80%.”
Considering these aspects, physicians must develop an executable plan for how he/she, and staff, will be organized to take standardized photos and videos on a daily basis. This includes making decisions about cameras and microphones to capture sound during surgical videos or lectures, whether or not to hire a professional photographer or D.I.Y. Then they must decide which Internet platforms are best to use (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, their own website, and so on), and more.
To this end, the manner in which in-office photo and video shoots are planned and implemented varies. Some physicians bring in third parties to set up the technical aspects. Others have the overhead to dedicate a staff member or two to implement and manage the online galleries, keeping them fresh and persuasive. Most practices do not do any of this. It is often left to the owner / physician to take on.
As expressed by Dana Fox, president of Strategic Edge Partners, a medical practice marketing firm in Seattle, Wash., “In too many instances, physicians start out with good intentions but then get busy and ultimately treat their galleries as after thoughts. As a group of people that are used to being the smartest individuals in the room, many physicians consistently do not understand that their photo gallery isn’t just a demonstration of their work. It is the demonstration.”
As such, practitioners need to embrace their galleries and testimonial stories as the most significant pieces of practice marketing, Ms. Fox continued. “Within a 50-mile radius you may have over 100 competitors, and the only thing that differentiates you from them is your unique selling proposition, which is demonstrated by the quality of the work you show publicly,” she said.
Ms. Crowe agreed. “Why wouldn’t you want to show your absolute best work under the best possible circumstances? I’m appalled when physicians say they don’t have time to learn to crop the raw B&A images. They say they have to do it all themselves and have no time. You simply have to make time for your B&As. Take the time, plan well, and go into it armed with good advice and some basics.”
In addition, physicians should look at their B&A documentation as part of their artistic and creative work. “I have yet to talk to a cosmetic surgeon that did not describe themselves as an artist,” said Ms. Fox. “Let that same artistic attitude and approach be reflected not just in the surgery, but also in the demonstration of your work through your photographs and videos.”
There are practical considerations, as well. For instance, “There may be no such thing as too many photos, especially when you consider the gallery ought to show best case examples of every service offered, from various angles,” stated Ms. Crowe. “In addition, consider the ethnic diversity of patients. Anyone looking into aesthetic procedures will want to see outcomes on people that look like them.”
Many practitioners eschew the expense of high-end photographers and vow to keep it simpler. For the regular practice, “You could probably do it for $800 or less and set up your own lights, backdrop and a camera,” said Ms. Crowe. “We encourage our clients to do that and construct the staging in advance, not only for still shots but to use for video testimonials, as well.”
Finally, make certain prior to shooting the first B&A that your website and social media pages are designed to handle photos and, in particular, videos. This is a typical disadvantage of practice websites that were designed years ago, and they might need to be upgraded in order to play contemporary videos and adequately host your B&A galleries online.
As well, each Internet platform, from the practice’s website provider, to Facebook and others, have specific guidelines that must be researched and followed.