Article: Ten Keys to a ‘Stand Out From the Competition’ Successful Aesthetic Medical Practice
- Posted on: Nov 21 2012
By Cheryl Whitman
The core competency of a super successful next generation Aesthetic Medical Practice owner blends the medical quest for excellence with the newest, best of breed beauty treatments and services.
Staying ahead of the “power curve” and developing a can and will do attitude, is the essential character-defining attribute of the successful medical spa entrepreneur. Do you have what it takes to be a leader in this ultra hot market space? Are you ready to expand your medical practice service offerings and provide your patients with services they are currently seeking from other sources? Are you ready to convert your patients into medical aesthetic clients?
One physician that is happy with his decision is George Trim, MD, a New Jersey- based OB/Gyn who recently expanded his practice to include medical spa services. Explaining why he made the transition, Dr. Trim says, “It’s my opinion that patients would prefer to see their trusted physician for these non-invasive aesthetic procedures. Medical Grade spa services offer the opportunity to provide additional non-insured services to infuse cash into the practice. These are also procedures that provide a lot of patient satisfaction without significant risk.”
If you are ready to expand into the world of Cosmetic Medical Spas, here are some key concepts to embrace to help you launch and maintain a “Stand out from the Competition” successful medical spa component to your existing practice, or standalone facility.
1. Medical Spas and Aesthetic Practices Are a Business, a Focused Commitment to a Robust ROI:
Do you understand the myths and realities of medical spa economics? You need to ensure that you are ready to commit adequate financial resources to your business endeavor. You need to evaluate all the various areas of financial commitment and then be certain you have the financial “war chest” to create your medical spa from concept to flourishing business. Be sure that you do not overlook the importance of starting with the basics that all business owners respect, everything from the building or medical spa location to training and staff development. You will want to have legal and compliance professionals review your business plan specific to your own local and state regulations, and privacy laws. These laws can affect the set-up of your medical spa and its services and dictate that your staff be trained to use discretion concerning treatments and/or how medical charts are stored or verbally discussed. Consider what professionals you will need on your team to ensure success, for example, business managers and lawyers, marketing, and
public relations professionals. Remember that your marketing and public
relations program must be in place and actionable well before you open your medical spa doors!
2. Environmental Scan and knowing your Competition Inside Out
Just because you have a great concept and a well-funded business plan does not guarantee your success. You must first evaluate the demographics of the location that you have designated for your medical spa. Honestly, this is frequently the make or break research assignment that many business entrepreneurs fail to include in their medical spa development decision-making process. A word of strong caution: Know your potential marketplace to ensure that “if you build it, they will come!” You can do this by conducting by using primary research – some ad hoc focus groups and by surfing the Internet for secondary research. For example, you can identify the socio-economic make-up of your proposed location by gathering information from the government through the U.S. Census Bureau
(www.census.gov), the city clerk’s office, or real estate agencies, and chambers of commerce. If you plan to use professional consultants, they can provide this analysis as part of their services.
Knowing your competition inside and out is essential to ensure that you do not create medical spa that has to take business away from potential competitors. Instead, you want to carve out your own unique niche that may attract an untapped market for your special services. Be sure to check out the competition thoroughly. How? Start by visiting their websites. Look at staff credentials, number of staff members, services offered, and fees charged. Make extensive phone calls to gather menus of everything offered in the area.
Then make personal visits, or have trusted colleagues schedule a variety of treatments. Remember that the nicest website may be just window dressing for a ho-hum operation. Once you have checked out the competition, you will know what services they offer. To be successful, provide alternative services – give the public what it is currently lacking.
You must make your medical spa unique. How? You create a niche market for yourself. Find and fulfill a need that will make you stand out in the crowd, no matter how great the competition. You might decide to specialize – focusing on acne treatments, age management, or anti-aging medicine. Alternatively, you might decide to have a “men-only” facility. Let your uniqueness and your passion be your guide.
3. To Serve and Make Beautiful – Your Service Mantra
Often medical spas miss the mark because they focus solely on the variety and quantity of services. To ensure a successful business result, think first about putting “service” into the services – or adopt the “quality is supreme mantra.” Even though you will create a tailored service menu to meet and exceed the expectations of your customers, be sure that the most important part of any service is the “serv” part. Ask tough questions of your staff. Beyond the technical ability and/or treatment services and technology to perform the requested service, they need to be fully empowered to provide the highest level of quality service to each client. Why is this
important? Excellent client experience will primarily create a loyal following, and create the foundation for your much need Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) program to gain you additional marketshare!
Peter Bogdan, MD, an internal medicine specialist practicing in NY, recently added core medical spa services to his practice. Dr. Bogdan explains, “My patients are used to receiving the utmost in professional and technically superior healthcare services. They expect and we deliver the same very high quality service to our medical spa clients as we provide to our internal medicine practice patients. This is our mission and we have an unwavering commitment to ensure that we deliver on this promise.”
4. Designing the Winning Menu of Services
Any successful restaurateur knows the importance of creating a winning menu that continues to delight, anticipate, and tantalize the taste buds. Take a lesson from your favorite gourmet inspired restaurant to help you formulate the menu of services that will distinguish your medical spa.
How do you jumpstart the menu creation process? Think in terms of tried and true services and combine with a dazzling array of up-to-the-minute, must have now service offerings. Today’s medical spa client is very informed and proactively seeks just the right destination for their beauty enhancement procedures. They know the result they are looking for and it is up to you and your staff to help guide them to the right treatment options, services, and procedures to help them attain their goals. You can stay up to date with
trends by subscribing to industry trade publications, joining anti-aging associations, getting on the mail list for various industry companies and associations, and exchanging information internally from the spa side to the medical side and vice versa.
You must determine your range of services. Will you provide general services that appeal to a diverse market-driven clientele or will you specialize to appeal to a niche consumer-base? You must know this before you set out to write your menu of services. Start with these questions: what is the medical spa specialty that will best meet the needs of my prospective customers and match my professional expertise? Will it be more profitable to serve general needs? Alternatively, will I create a more substantial medical spa business expansion by specializing in one or two target markets?
Perhaps you will want to specialize in men’s services. In this case, you would want to offer laser hair removal for the back and face. On the other hand, will you want to specialize in the ethnic market? Do you know what services are most sought after by this sub-group? Alternatively, do you want to provide a general medical spa service menu that features treatments such as peels, lymphatic drainage, microdermabrasion, or laser hair removal?
5. Location, Location, Location –Inside of Your Facility
We are not talking here about where in the city, state, or nation you decide to build your medical spa. Instead, what is very important to the client is where they are receiving their treatments and services once they have entered your building. You would be surprised at how this plays a large role in your future visits from the client and their desire to provide you with Word of Mouth Marketing.
Whether you are revamping current office space, or building the facility from the ground up, two essential location-related areas need immediate attention.
Creating a spa like environment is important for the client. It helps them separate the fact that this is not an illness visit, but instead, elective services visit to improve their appearance. To assess you cosmetic medical spa “patient oasis,” check to see if you have created space that is comfortable for the client. With a medical spa service offering, you need to ensure that the spa is not
medically or exam room-like in appearance and décor. This includes ensuring that the room is quasi-sound proof. Then, consider the message. What is the level of ambiance and uniqueness that you are trying to convey at your medical spa? Unlike a medical office, your medical spa should not have a medical office feel. Clients coming to your medical spa already feel great. They just want to enhance their appearance and wellness outlook.
Second, when considering your interior location, be sure that all of your rooms are multi-purpose. You may not need to add extra space if every treatment room is multi-functional. Your staff also needs to be cross-trained. The receptionist or appointment booker needs to be just as conversant and knowledgeable about your service menu as the physicians themselves. However, that does not mean they dispense medical advice to the caller.
In-house satisfaction assessment surveys about your menu and staff performance are a good way to gauge satisfaction levels. Better to fill your client’s needs by adding treatments than to have them look for them elsewhere.
6. Prepare Your Office
You will make your choices about equipment, design, and décor based on your research. You are now in the business of pampering as well as practicing medicine, so you should aim for a soothing non medical environment.
Remember, some of the people coming to your new facility will be “clients” as opposed to “patients.” They are coming to de-stress. They are looking for the relaxing “spa” aspect, as opposed to the sterile atmosphere of a doctor’s office. Changing your décor and the ambiance of your facility does not have to be dramatic. Something as subtle as using earth-tone colors on a wall or replacing the Musak with some New Age CD’s goes a long way toward modifying your atmosphere. By the way, that subtle change in environment works wonders for your staff, too – they will be more productive and happier in a more pleasant atmosphere.
Make sure that when clients walk through your doors they are immediately impressed and delighted with the environment you’ve created. It is like meeting someone for the first time – first impressions really do count! Pay close attention to everything in the waiting room and at the receptionist’s desk. Make sure that all your marketing collateral materials are organized, up-to-date, and create a consistent brand image. The first impression here sets the stage for your prospective client from prospect to patient. Make a concerted effort to do this first step right. You may want to seek a professional consultant for tips.
You also want to ensure that customer service is an action and not merely a moto. Assess truthfully the public’s perception of your cosmetic medical spa. Is your office exceedingly customer service friendly? Analyze such areas as waiting time (should be minimal). It is also helpful to have a separate “holding” or waiting area that is peaceful and relaxing. Here perhaps you could make healthy teas and water available. Spa goers feel more at ease in a relaxing and private setting, so do what you can to create this environment for your clientele. Also, most physicians that offer both medical services and cosmetic medical centers are most successful when they can at least create two separate waiting areas so that ill patients are not sitting with the spa service seekers. You may also want to consider what the Miami Institute (www.miami-institute.com) has found to be a great benefit for their clients. They have created a VIP waiting room that leads to a separate entrance into a VIP holding room. Think special, think privacy, think relaxing and tranquil – key elements that will attract and maintain a loyal customer-baser.
7. Selecting the Right Equipment and Distributor
Buy or Lease
Choosing equipment depends on your menu of services and the specific demographics –what the potential clientele is seeking in their particular neighborhood. What essential is that you realize that this is not an “emotional” buy. You need to do your homework to ensure you make the right purchases, for the right reasons, and for the right service and treatment protocols. For this reason, never make a buying decision at a trade show, and most importantly, never make a purchase decision because you feel under pressure.
Follow the following powerful suggestions to focus on acquiring just the right equipment. You are not ready to identify your equipment needs until you create a financial projection, a demographic review, and a tailored menu of services. Here is a checklist to get you started on the right course of action.
First, you will need to decide if you are going to make an equipment purchase investment, or forestall purchasing in lieu of some fine equipment leasing options. This is one decision that strongly favors going the leasing route since technology is rapidly changing so you the important option of constantly upgrading your equipment.
Then, identify an equipment supplier that has many years of experience in the medical or spa industry. Collaborating with the right distributor will reap great rewards for many years. Beautiful Forever Aesthetic Business Consulting is a great resource for helping guide you to just the right suppliers and vendors.
You’ll want an equipment supplier that offers a large selection, highly trained staff, outstanding customer service, and competitive pricing – just call their 800 number and see I someone is waiting to assist you. Make sure the company has a good support/service staff that will be able to replace equipment within 24 hours should there be a problem. You create what can become a lifelong partnership
when you choose a supplier, so do your homework
The Right Supplier – This is a crucial decision. The right supplier will become your trusted partner, supporter, and go-to source. Don’t make price alone the deciding factor when narrowing the field of potential supply partners. While you may find that some distributors have significantly lower prices – they may be carrying overstocks or discontinued products. Moreover, they may not offer a wide range of services and support.
Staff of Experts: Be sure that your supplier has been in business for several years and has a highly trained and experienced staff. These folks make it their business to know equipment and take pride in providing the best service.
Selection: A professional spa business development organization can help you select equipment that fits your budget and allows you to perform the treatments on your menu. The best distributors offer a large selection to choose from, saving you time and effort. You do not have to do exhaustive research and make calls to several different companies. Utilize the distributor’s knowledge and expertise. It is their business to offer innovative solutions that meet your needs. You need to focus on providing your patients with a truly unique experience!
Logistics: After you have made your choices, your Distributor Partner will make certain that you get what you need when you need it. Because different pieces of equipment may have to be shipped from different locations (some even around the world), you want to select a Distributor Partner that has experience in working out the logistics and agreeing on suitable timelines.
Unrealistic Timelines? Your Distributor Partner will provide you with options and work with you to develop solutions.
Specs and Installation Information: One of the most important components in setting up treatment rooms and a medical spa is accurate installation information, which your Distributor Partner can provide. Obtain required information in advance for architects and designers. Because this information often goes through several hands during the design/planning phase and can get lost, an electronic format for documents is great – they can be stored and printed as needed.
Information When You Need It: Your Distributor Partner should be able to provide Warranties and Operating Manuals to you for each piece of equipment you purchase. Lost your information? Or did you accidentally throw out important paperwork that was in the packing box? Your Distributor Partner should have an 800 number where a customer service rep can easily accommodate your requests whether you need information by post, fax, or email.
Or do you have a question about your account? No problem. Your Distributor Partner should have knowledgeable staff (and the infrastructure needed, i.e. data based IT support) to answer your questions.
Having Equipment Problems? Need a Replacement Part? Your Distributor Partner should have technical service reps to help you troubleshoot problems to make sure that you are using the equipment properly, and that it has been adequately cleaned and maintained. Frequently, minor problems can be corrected immediately via the phone. If needed, your Distributor Partner should be able to provide you with replacement parts or have the ability to make needed repairs in a timely manner.
8. Select the Right Staff.
This is the time to take heed and study some retail success stories. Nordstrom’s for example has made its mark on a fine tradition of customer service. Think carefully about your staff to ensure that each staff member is able to create a customer-centric approach to meeting and exceeding client expectations. This is a far different set of services that you are providing in your medical practice where mostly the patients’ services are covered in part or full by medical healthcare insurance coverage. Since most of your clients in the medical spa component will be cash paying clientele, they can afford to be very discriminating about where and from whom they
receive their aesthetic enhancement services. Do what you can right from the start to create a staff culture of extraordinary customer service. Doing it right the first time is essential. As the saying goes, you only have one first chance to make the right first impression.
Selecting the right staff is a make or break step in the successful launch of your cosmetic medical center. Do consider using professional help. You can use an agency or consulting co for assistance in finding and interviewing the right professional staff member.
It is paramount that when you decide to become a medical spa, or add aesthetic services to an existing practice, you need to take a hard look at your staff. I cannot say it enough – customer service is central to success, and your staff can be your best marketing tool – they can make you or break you. Keep this in mind during the interviewing process – you may find yourself looking for different qualities in future hires than you did in past hires.
Both existing and new staff must have the right professional look and convey the desired feeling that matches the atmosphere you want to provide. They must be trained in customer service and understand the principles of pampering. There can be no compromising on this since the medical spa business is a very service oriented business venture.
9. Train your staff
Make sure you allow at least two months prior to your opening to hire new staff or give your current staff the additional training they may need. Be sure that the staff has a chance to sample one or more of the services offered by your cosmetic medical spa. They are your best PR ambassadors, ready and willing to tell anyone who will listen just how extremely amazing your services are and why they can’t wait a minute longer to become a client. Then, to keep morale high, do offer your staff one free non-invasive treatment per quarter to perpetuate their eagerness to be your cosmetic medical spa’s calling card.
After they receive this “first person” training, you’ll be ready to embark on a comprehensive training program. It is not as daunting as it may seem. Most companies that sell products or equipment have trainers that will provide on-site training to your site, or they may provide off-site training. Alternatively, you can hire a professional consultant to provide needed
Start with training days as a kind of preview before the public opening. Then, budget for continued training, which is critical to keep all staff abreast of current and evolving trends. Continuing education is crucial. New and improved equipment using cutting-edge technology is always on the horizon, so training needs to keep apace. Every few months or so, upgrade your staff’s expertise with in-house training, or, better still, send them to a trade show, which not only educates them, but motivates them.
10. Patient Financing Options
Unlike your medical patients that rely on health care coverage to pay in part or full for their medically oriented appointments, your medical spa service seekers will most likely pay for their services and treatments on a cash basis. While some services and treatments may be relatively low priced offerings, a majority of the services may require a bit of a cash investment. For this reason, just like shopping for a car or a home mortgage, a host of innovative patient financing options has popularized patients’ ability to receive aesthetic services without breaking into their savings. In a recent survey conducted by Inquire Market Research, it was found that 78 percent of patients are more likely to book procedures when a patient financing option is offered. Patient financing is taking the economic barrier out of the equation through innovative, 12 to 18 month no interest or extended payment plans to comfortably fit the cosmetic procedures into everyone’s budget. For example, a $3,000 treatment on an extended 48-month plan, it would cost the patient $79 per month (with a fixed APR.) Patient financing makes the process simple and affordable, and you would be able to offer multiple procedures and services to the same
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he coined this quote: An once of image is worth a pound of performance. Before you open your doors to receive your first medical spa client, ask yourself if you can deliver that important ounce of image as well as the pound of performance to create the most sought after medical spa practice in your neighborhood. In fact, if you do all of this correctly, WOMM will spark a revolving door of clientele for your medical spa services. Remember that all new ventures take time to grow. The beauty of the medical spa business is that in its short history, it has proven to be a quick-return business. It is not unheard of to have a good
handle on your success after just six months. However, be prepared to work hard.
If you are a physician, you must be aware that you now have more than a practice – you have a retail business. You must change your thinking. You may be staying open longer hours (or different ones) than you would in a normal medical practice. The key to success is recognizing the importance of client feedback. Listen carefully and then continue tailoring your services to meet clients’ expressed needs and wants. Make the decision to expand into medical spa services and back up that decision with careful planning and execution.
The rewards will be amazing – both personally and financially.