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Communicating Professional Value, Part 1

Celeste Hilling May 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
three women in a boardroom

Know your competition. Whether you are playing a baseball game, building a business or trying to please your clients, knowing your competition is an essential key to success. In the spa industry, many owners, managers and professionals are spending too much time competing against each other. Instead, it’s time to join hands and marketing brains while banding together to take on the true competition—big-box stores selling over-the-counter skin care. Too many people in the industry are letting the mainstream media and marketing executives tell the story of professional skin care, and they are sending a misleading message that consumers can achieve the same or better results from an over-the-counter skin care product compared to a spa product.

Case in point, one over-the-counter line has recently introduced an expensive, high-end product to be sold in big-box stores, positioning it as an alternative to dermatologist-prescribed product offerings. However, it forgot to include one important value in the pricing: the guidance of a licensed, trained professional. This is where the spa industry can soar.

The opportunity is immense for spas to develop brand loyalty by fulfilling clients’ desires for long-lasting results through professional guidance. Spas already have a viable and loyal audience at their doorsteps. Statistics from the International SPA Association (ISPA) show one in four Americans have been to a spa, and there are more than 32 million active spa-goers. They are coming through your doors regularly. You are touching them, and yet allowing them to walk out the door empty-handed, leaving your clients to buy products elsewhere.

How do you educate and instill in clients’ minds that every time you touch them you are there as a professional to guide them through their important lifestyle and skin care choices? It’s all in the training. Give your staff a new vernacular, one unified message to send. And teach them to listen.

Share the knowledge

Spa owners, managers and estheticians have to tell the story and share the knowledge—it’s absolutely your responsibility as a spa professional. You are the people with the essential licenses, training and expertise. When consumers are provided with good information, they will make wise choices. This means, as a spa industry leader, you have the awesome responsibility of keeping your staff up to speed on the latest developments, products and their benefits, and in turn, the best ways to communicate this knowledge consistently and accurately to clients.

Nearly every spa professional educates on what products they use. For example, an esthetician may explain to a client why vitamin C is great for the skin, then simply let them leave without purchasing a vitamin Cproduct. The client then goes to her neighbor-hood drug or big-box store, reads a few labels and buys something with vitamin C in it. Most likely, the product—as well as the money and time spent—will disappoint her. This was the spa’s mistake. The esthetician educated the client, but she didn’t take that education to the next step by leading the client toward an effective product purchase.

Think of it this way: Treatments, products and guidance should be viewed as one seamless education experience for your clients. In one visit, this one-stop shopping mentality enables clients to receive the proper service, products, education and guidance to keep their skin maintenance and care going at home.

Putting the big-box theory to the test

With every dollar counting right now, you need to help your clients make educated decisions. Understand it is more cost-effective for clients to buy a product they can use for six months with great results than spending a little less, using the product for two weeks and then throwing it away because they don’t know how to use it.

Spa professionals owe it to their clients to share this knowledge and empower them to make the right decisions. When they end up at a big-box store, who’s there to prescribe the best products for their skin type? Who’s telling them what they do and don’t need? Honestly, besides the kid who’s standing behind the checkout counter, do customers even have the opportunity to talk with another human being during this process, which can directly affect their health and self-esteem?

Think of how cost-effective it is to have a professional recommendation with each product. When you help a client, consider that the coaching and professional recommendation is essentially free, and your client has the opportunity to better understand professional products are not more expensive than those found at drugstores and big-box stores.

Again, those outlets are your real competition—not other spa professionals. Focus your energy on figuring out how to educate clients on the benefit of a professional recommendation.

Learning to listen

Almost all spa professionals have likely witnessed firsthand the value of listening to clients. The power of the professional recommendation in the eyes of the client is enormous. These women and men look to personal trainers, life coaches, supervised weight loss programs and various support groups to master lifestyle changes that would lead to long-lasting, visible results. They value the training, tips, techniques, product suggestions and, most importantly, the consistent moral support they received from these professionals, and they credit these experts with encouraging them to stick with a program long enough to see results. With all of the knowledge and wonderful advice you share, it’s also important to take time to listen. Your clients are your best source of knowledge.

Spa professionals have many gifts for clients. These gifts are built by using education to help people achieve amazing skin, improved self-esteem and a healthier lifestyle. Only the spa community has the knowledge and personal connections to create these life-changing gifts and priceless. Embrace that responsibility and share your wealth of knowledge with clients today.