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Bridging the Gap Between Esthetics and Medical

Adele Beck March 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Picture this: A treatment room with two doors, one on either end of the room. Inside, one medical-grade hair reduction laser and one highly qualified medical technician, both able to perform procedures in a five-minute time frame. Outside one door is an assembly line of women, hands held high above their heads, waiting to clear their underarms of unwanted hair. Outside the second door is a clerk, cash register at hand, graciously accepting $200 from each of these women who are happy to pay to rid themselves of this unwanted hair.

Entrepreneurial mode kicks in. Cha-ching! Receiving $200 every five minutes computes to a whooping $2,400 an hour. A spa could make a million dollars in revenue in just over a month and also bring its state the distinction of being the state with the most hairless armpits. With that vision in mind, my partner and I opened our first medical spa.

A complementary relationship

Well, probably needless to say, was my vision wrong. Apparently, some people are OK with hairy armpits, and not everyone can afford expensive laser treatments. So where does an aspiring medical spa go from there? The goal of a medical spa is to provide a facility where clients come to enjoy themselves for the day with stress-release treatments, as well as to receive medical procedures performed by highly qualified personnel. Avoiding the feel of a clinical, sterile atmosphere without compromising the safety of the client or the quality of the procedure is the ideal design: a medical facility where one can see a visible difference in the products they use and the treatments they receive.

But what really defines a medical spa? In what ways can all the necessary treatments be incorporated to create a true medical facility as well as relaxation spa? Why, with the high ticket price of laser treatments, does it need $100-an-hour facials or $20 bikini waxing or wraps, scrubs and massages that take up not only costly manual time but also uses up valuable products and space? To define a medical spa, it must be looked at as a marriage of medical and esthetics. As soon as you put “spa” in the name, people immediately desire specific things: spa treatment, stress relief, relaxation and luxury, all of which contribute to a thoroughly healthy well-being.

One the most important reasons to incorporate esthetics into a medical spa is to help keep the spa growing. The facility can make money with these treatments. Every waxing ultimately can turn into a laser hair removal, every massage or body treatment into a fat reduction or cellulite treatment, and every facial into a laser treatment. And if the spa is connected to a plastic surgeon, any or all of the above can turn into a surgery.

Creating the mix

So how does a medical spa incorporate esthetics into medical and vice versa? Start out by training your team in sales, which is not always an easy job. Clients come to a medical spa to learn about their skin—they are looking for answers. When a team member offers knowledge of skin care pertaining to the individual client’s skin type, the client listens. She constantly is reminded of the benefits of monthly facials, microdermabrasion and peels, and thus, she couples the esthetic treatments with the medical procedures naturally. Making sure the client realizes these treatments function as age-management and continuing maintenance is a must to get optimum results from more aggressive treatments down the line.

Cross-training staff also is important for the success of a medical spa. Even if it is a procedure particular technicians don’t ordinarily perform, it is important they know and understand everything associated with each treatment the facility provides. Only then can they intelligently explain all of the spa’s offered treatments to clients, telling them how it feels and noting the benefits. At the end of each business meeting, train your staff on the profitability of each treatment and the cost associated with actually performing it. This both broadens and strengthens your team’s understanding of sales and how difficult, yet important, it is to be profitable.

Testing the waters

Of course, even with all the information you can provide for them, some clients are hesitant to try new things. That’s why it is important to give them incentives. I emphatically dislike the word “free.” Nothing is free. Someone is paying for whatever is marketed as free. However, everyone enjoys a gratuity. So, after first-time medical treatments, apply a complimentary esthetic add-on. For example, following a first-time laser facial hair removal, add an aqua lift mask. It brings an added value and gives the client a soothing feeling after an anxious laser treatment. If performed with style and courtesy, the odds are that after each ongoing treatment the client will purchase the mask. Add-ons also open the door to other esthetic treatments. An easy way to assure that clients remember your facility offers esthetic treatments as well as medical procedures is to ask if they would like a makeup application after any procedure, even if they’ve had a cellulite reduction.

To help familiarize clients even more with treatments, try hosting a wine and cheese makeover party. Invite around 10 to 15 women to receive a complimentary makeup application. As five are being made up, the other 10 are engaged in a question-and-answer period with a physician, a factory laser technician or another qualified professional in an associated field. It educates clients on every treatment performed in the spa and is a great way to sell retail products.

A guided tour

Explaining what a medical spa offers also can go hand-in-hand with getting the word out about the facility itself. Last year, I produced four infomercials that still run on a local access station benchmarking all the spa’s treatments, explaining what a medical spa is and what one can expect at a first-time appointment. The viewer is transported through the rooms in the spa as the host demonstrates each procedure. The first stop is the skin analysis machine, which generates quantitative values for skin features in six different areas. All my new clients receive this complimentary procedure. The demonstration leaves clients with a picture in their mind and thoughts of how to finance a program prepared exclusively for them. It also provides each client with a good idea of the special things only a medical spa can offer.

The next stop is the spa version of the laser facial. This is an example of how to use your current assets as a jumping-off point for medical spa growth. For some time my partner and I had labored over the purchase of an LED machine. Spas across the country were introducing them to their existing clients, adding high profit dollars to their revenues. The market is there, but how does a medical spa tap into it without another expensive machinery purchase? Why not use the machinery it already has?

There is a technique used in some laser treatments with low energy settings that is as safe as an LED and far more effective. Using it in combination with a regular facial, a mini-micro and a hydrating mask, the technique is relaxing, gives immediate and long-term results and offers a manageable price for people who cannot afford regular laser treatments. It also serves as an introduction for clients thinking about more laser treatments and is a good way for younger clients and laser patients to maintain their youthful skin. It is a win-win situation for everyone—the ultimate showcase of the combination of esthetic and medical.

Get the word out

With the invention of the esthetic laser came the “medical spa,” a business which today remains in its infancy. Many consumers don’t understand what a medical spa is, leaving the gap between esthetic and medical intensely wide. One needs more than unique marketing techniques to help bridge this gap. Spa owners need to continue to educate their team members and clients—even the impassive ones. The more people who know how well esthetics and medical combine forces, the better business will become. It will be a subliminal message that one day will kick in when they see that fine line turn into a deep crevice that ordinary makeup will not camouflage. With the knowledge of what a medical spa can do, they’ll know just where to turn for help.

Editor’s note: Adele Beck’s Reprieve Anti-Aging Spa in Warwick, Rhode Island, won the award for “Best Balance Between Medical and Esthetic in a Medical Spa” in Skin Inc. magazine’s first Best of the Best Awards competition.