It’s a fact of modern life, unfortunate as it is, that being good at your chosen profession isn’t always enough to be successful in business.
In the cut-throat competitive environment of the aesthetics industry, effective marketing is essential to survive and thrive.
Over the weekend, Team SPA+CLINIC attended Babor and Dr Babor skincare’s excellent annual presentation and lunch in Sydney for its salon, spa and clinic clients, to roll out new product releases and the brand’s vision and direction for 2017.
Among the keynote speakers was Ricky Allen, a health psychologist and Health and Beauty Editor at Large for Vogue Australia, who told a rapt audience about the importance of mastering internal and external marketing strategies for true business cut-through and client retention.
Marketing is defined as “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising”.
But, as Ricky explained, for a truly successful enterprise, marketing begins “at home”; that is, it’s about how well your business is functioning internally and how that is perceived by clients.
“If people are happy with the service you provide, they’ll tell five people. If they’re unhappy, they’ll tell 10,” Ricky explains.
There are many and varied factors at stake here. We recap a few:
IS YOUR CLINIC CLEAN?
What’s this got to do with marketing? Everything. It’s the message you give to clients and other professionals working with you about how seriously you take your business and client care and safety.
In an industry where you will increasingly work in tandem with cosmetic medical professionals, and you yourself will provide more treatments that are medically-oriented, cleanliness is paramount.
Scrupulous attention must be paid to keeping all surfaces (treatment beds and their linens and other furniture, counter tops and cupboards, sinks and basins, floors et al) as well as equipment, to a clinically hygienic standard.
It goes without saying that clinicians’ apparel must be spotlessly clean.
Apart from demonstrating professional pride and high standards, this will dramatically minimise the risk of clients developing infections or other avoidable side effects.
DO YOU HAVE PROTOCOLS IN PLACE?
Knowing your stuff needs to be shared if you’re the clinic owner and/or manager.
You might have signature secrets (a bit like the recipe for Coca Cola!) that others can emulate but not replicate, but on the whole there should be standard protocols in place, based on appropriate information, for all the treatments you provide so that your clients can expect consistency and continuity when seeing different therapists.
This may also help you get a better deal when negotiating insurance.
MAKE IT PERSONAL
In two years, says Ricky, your business could be wiped out if you keep offering stock standard treatments, such as facials, that people can get anywhere.
“Department stores are opening up treatment rooms all the time, with facials and the like being redeemable on purchase of products. How can we compete with this?”
Ricky says that professional treatments need to be tailored to individual needs, and then converted into programs.
“Dermatologists treat skin disease,” she says. “Dermal aestheticians are specialists in `normal’ skin and its disorders. We need to embrace this space. We are the experts.
“So if you currently offer just facials, consider what else you can offer your clients to address their overall needs.”
BE A SCAN FAN
At Day 1 of Babor’s annual get-together of clients, the first four people who signed up to new skincare protocols/packs received a free Babor Derma Visualizer skin analysis device.
Such devices are increasingly important in aesthetics offerings, says Ricky: “Clients are very sceptical these days as they become more educated.
“Skin analysis devices provide a point of difference that can also boost client confidence in the treatments and products you are offering.”
Ricky explained, to much laughter, that as we get older eyesight inevitably fades.
“So people are walking around with lines, wrinkles and blackheads they don’t really know they have.
“I suggest to the clients I coach that they ask their clients in turn to look at their skin in a magnifying mirror and say what concerns them most.
“Most will go – OMG!!!! I had no idea (of this or that).
“The next best step is to confirm what they see in the mirror with a skin analysis and then prescribe a treatment program.
“A scanner is a very important marketing tool. As therapists we can say to clients: `If you stay with me, in five years your skin will look younger than it does today.’ And with a scanner they can scientifically track the improvements as well as see them in the mirror.
“Cheaper, ad hoc treatments in department stores certainly cannot offer this.”
IS CUSTOMER SERVICE UP TO SCRATCH?
“I tell business owners and managers that they should do a daily walk-through of their salon, spa or clinic to make sure all areas are looking and flowing as they should,” says Ricky.
“A crucial element of this is the standard of customer service provided: Is it high enough? Do you exceed client expectations? Do you make a point of ringing a client the day after a treatment such as micro-needling to ask them how they are going. A two-minute phone call will make them feel valued and it also protects you. If there are any adverse side effects presenting you will be able to nip them in the bud instead of it turning into a major problem.
“A key issue is taking client complaints seriously. You should never ignore a complaint and hope it will go away. You should definitely not tell a client to get lost! That is the quickest way to find yourself embroiled in a legal action, or to have your business’s reputation trashed all over town.
“Whether or not the client’s complain is legitimate in your view, work with them to come to a mutually acceptable resolution.
“When you take someone’s concerns seriously, you will likely have them as a client for life.
“All that said, NEVER volunteer liability. Even if you know the fault is on your side do not admit it, but do everything you can to resolve the matter.”
Ricky says that the nuances of what constitutes good customer service are so broad that a protocol should also be put in place for this and communicated clearly and regularly to therapists and other staff.
Make sure they understand their employment obligations and receive ongoing training and education.
REWARD YOUR STAFF
The quality of your staff is your most important assets and you don’t need to be a genius to work out that if they feel valued, appreciated and are acknowledged for a job well done, they will always go the extra mile for you and your business.
Give team members regular feedback, negative as well as positive when necessary, says Ricky.
Why not institute and “employee of the week or month” award – it’s a real confidence booster and feelgood experience?
Build in treats every now and then to make things fun and show your appreciation to staff as people, not just employees.
And it will also greatly benefit the bottom line of your business if you incentivise sales.
“A salon owner I was consulting to bemoaned the fact that the business made virtually no retail sales,” Ricky says.
“I suggested he offer his staff cash incentives for selling product. Six months later he rang me and said he was going to have to stop doing this because he was `having to pay the team too much money’.
“I asked if he was insane! Sales were soaring as a result of giving staff a potent reason to move products off the shelves. Needless to say he didn’t go ahead with that idea!”
REWARD YOUR CUSTOMERS
Your customers are your lifeblood, so find ways to regularly reward them for their loyalty and referrals.
It could be free product or add-on treatment, discounts or vouchers for special occasions like their birthday, or because they’ve told you they’re starting a new job.
These touches make customers feel they’re important to you – and are a welcome surprise besides.
DON’T LET OPPORTUNITY KNOCK THEN WALK OUT THE DOOR
Subliminal selling is a powerful tool of the internal marketing function.
“A recall a salon owner telling me she must have lost her mind when she went to a beauty trade show and bought dozens of scented candles,” Ricky says.
“She wondered what on earth she was going to do with them all. Then she had an idea to have one burning near the register, and the rest displayed nearby.
“It smelt so beautiful and created such a lovely atmosphere that customers instinctively bought a candle as they paid for their treatment. She sold them all within a week and then decided to stock the candles as a regular retail item!”
Make sure you have your retail product attractively displayed in an area where customers will take notice – ideally the waiting area.
As they wait for their appointments they will likely browse your retail offerings, which may well pique their interest to buy.
“But remember that if you are displaying products with active ingredients in an area which gets exposure to sunlight, have only the boxes on show,” Ricky warns. “The potency of the ingredients will otherwise be compromised.”
* Ricky Allen has qualifications in nursing and psychology, diplomas in beauty therapy, paramedical aesthetics, first line health management and public relations, and is at present working on a thesis for her Masters Degree in Health Education. She is consults in marketing and training for clinics and cosmetic houses and runs paramedical, advanced treatment and medusa management courses for doctors, nurses and beauty therapists.