RealSelf CEO and founder Tom Seery announced April 19, 2018, that RealSelf raised $40 million in a new round of financing that would drive the company’s next growth wave, said to benefit practices that do business with the online community, by building awareness, increasing traffic and engaging and educating more consumers.
The many millions in financing also aims to make it easier for practices to link with potential patients and will fuel new investment in technology, including a personalized Concierge service to help consumers book appointments with practices, according to a blog post that day by Seery.
It’s hard to ignore the power of RealSelf’s marketing engine in aesthetic medicine. Ten million people visit RealSelf each month. The site features more than 20,000 board-certified doctors and healthcare professionals. And the online community is home to more than 2 million patient reviews, ratings and photos related to about 450 aesthetic procedures — including both surgical and nonsurgical options.
While consumers don’t pay to use the site, physician and other practices that want to enhance and promote their profiles on RealSelf pay a premium. RealSelf did not respond when asked what it charges doctors, and those charges are not listed on the company’s website.
“Before medical providers are able to sponsor ads, we verify they are in good standing with their local board, and we consistently ensure they maintain a 3.0 rating or above,” Seery wrote in an email to The Aesthetic Channel. “We currently choose not to make consumers pay for using RealSelf because we believe this information should be freely available to anyone who’s weighing whether an aesthetic treatment is right for them.”
Sponsored providers capture more than 90% of consult inquires, according to RealSelf.com. RealSelf facilitates about 500,000 connections between consumers and doctors each month, according to Seery.
But is it worth it?
Potentially costly investment aside, there is something for everyone on RealSelf; it’s a matter of where your practice is and what it may or may not be primed to do. According to marketing consultant Nina Grant, vice president of Practice Builders, aesthetic practices should claim their listings to make sure the contact information and physician names are correct, but that doesn’t mean they should take the next step and advertise with online communities like RealSelf.
First, practices should get their own house of marketing in order before adding a new expense to the advertising budget, Grant tells The Aesthetic Channel. In other words, invest in optimizing your branding and digital/field marketing.
“… consider improving on your own personal branding, before building on theirs. Is your own website developing the leads you seek, while differentiating you in the market? Are you well represented and active on social media? Is your online reputation achieving a competitive number of high-star reviews? Is your phone team managing the leads you are already receiving? Is your case acceptance percentage in keeping with industry norms?”
Once physician practices are ready to branch out to include RealSelf or other online advertising in the budget, they should first research their markets, according to the marketing pro.
“Which of your competitors are active? Do some competitive research to determine their results in your own market,” according to Grant. “If you aim to pilot a trial, by all means, do track resultant leads/patient visits/treatment acceptance. Your goal will be a positive [return on investment] ROI, so, ask for source of awareness, track that patient through to treatment and judge by the numbers before scaling this investment beyond a piloted test.”