6 factors to consider in the beauty business

By Lynda C. Corpuz, MoneySense magazine

Posted at Oct 17 2009 12:12 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2009 08:12 AM

Beauty clinics make sometimes outlandish promises to transform you into the prettiest, slimmest, or whitest creature to ever walk this planet. But before you enter the Promise Land, consider these important factors:

1. Look for the name

Branding is everything, so they say, and this also applies to a beauty clinic. Dr. Emma Guerrero, president of Bioessence, a beauty clinic chain that started in Davao almost 13 years ago, says advertising does not create a beauty clinic. “A brand that is there for several years becomes popular because of the experience of their existing customers.”

Celebrity doctor Joel Mendez, president of Philippine Anti-Ageing Medical Society, Laser Medicine Society, Inc., and Mesotheraphy Society, Inc. and founder of the Mendez Medical Group (of Body & Face and Weigh Less Center, which is now going on its 10th year), says branding is important. “It’s important that a name becomes an icon since the market that you’re looking at is not just one year – you’re looking at a market good for five to 10 years.”

Celebrity endorsers are also a come-on for beauty clinic clients, says Francis Albert Labora, public relations manager of Forever Flawless, a beauty clinic chain of six years. “In our case, the public gets familiar with us through (actresses) Lorna Tolentino and Judy Ann Santos. ‘Ah, pinagkatiwala nila Lorna at Judy Ann `yung mga balat nila sa Forever Flawless.’ So that means something. And even in beauty care, we are still showbiz oriented.”

Lagrace Espiritu, 38, operations manager of Banco De Oro-Equitable PCI Bank Timog branch, gets regular facial treatments and is currently enrolled in Bioessence’s slimming program. She says celebrity endorsers have a come on, but not that much. “Siyempre, kung ang endorser hindi naman kagandahan, bakit ako maniniwala? An established name is what I consider in going to a beauty clinic.”

2. Visit one near you

Truly, the mall is the mecca for most activities and interests. No wonder majority of beauty clinic chains today are located in the malls. “It doesn’t really matter though if it’s a stand-alone or a chain of beauty clinics inside a mall, as long as they satisfy your need. And usually, it’s the brand that clients think of,” Dr. Emma says.

“We like the mall setting better because we’re more accessible. A freestanding beauty clinic still brings intimidation – like they’ll be seeing and paying for a doctor – although there is still clamor for it among those who want to avoid the crowded malls,” Francis says. “Beauty clinics now are like a one stop-shop that offers clients most of what they’re looking for,” says Dr. Michelle Cruz, medical director of Forever Flawless. And gone are the days that weekends are for your salon needs, Dr. Joel says. “Most want a treatment to be done right away, that’s why we’re at the malls to cater to such clients.”

3. Check its affordability

As she ages, the more chances for Lagrace to get fatter, this mother of four thinks, so she considered a slimming regimen. She first canvassed among beauty clinic chains for affordable rates, at the same time, a program that will help achieve her desired results. Income from her various sidelines formed part of the partial lump sum she paid the beauty clinic. She will complete the balance at the end of the program, which she availed through a buy-one take-one promo of 50 sessions (with a prescribed thrice a week visit) for P30,000. “My other income is what I use for my luxury. That way, I give time to myself without sacrificing the needs of my family.”

Vanity is not anymore a luxury as more people include it in their budget, Francis observes. “(And) affordability makes beauty clinics more popular today,” Dr. Michelle says. Dr. Joel opines that longevity is the name of the game in the beauty clinics segment. “Ngayon, pababaan ng presyo ang labanan. The value for money must be there. Kaya binibigay namin `yung tamang serbisyo sa abot-kayang halaga.”

Cash remains a preferred method of payment. Currently, the mass market, which is also boosting the vanity business, is mainly driven by price in their search of a beauty clinic, says Dr. Emma. She illustrates that prices of beauty clinic services catering to the low-end market are from P200-P700 per treatment, while the middle-range spends P800-P1,500 per treatment. The upper market, which mostly avails of technology-aided services, spends around P1,500-P3,500 per treatment.

4. Confirm the standards

Females are still majority of the clients availing of popular beauty clinic services like facials, slimming, and whitening. There is also a growing base of male clients who mostly avail of facials and spa services. And well-trained aestheticians or consultants who perform non-invasive treatments such as facials, apart from doctors who do medical procedures, service them.

Equipped professionals should compose a beauty clinic, Dr. Emma says, that’s why she sends her staff to trainings abroad to keep them up with international standards. Dr. Joel says it’s a must to go where the trend is. “Training and updating is important, kahit alam na namin ang gagawin. On my end, I’m hands-on. I teach my doctors what to do. Pero hindi ako magkukunwari na alam ko kahit hindi ko alam,” Dr. Joel points out.

Apart from the doctors and staff, a beauty clinic that changes beddings regularly, sanitizes equipment frequently, upgrades tools and clothing whenever necessary are hygienic factors the mass market are not really particular about, but the mid- to high-market always look for, apart from the Zen-inspired ambience that is calming and enticing, Dr. Emma illustrates.

As for Lagrace, she will only go to a beauty clinic that’s referred to her. “Kapag sinabi na maganda ang serbisyo sa isang beauty clinic or salon, pupunta ako. Pero kung pupunta ako just for the experience, hindi, takot ako sa ganoon.”

5. Find one that goes the extra mile

Lagrace first met with a dermatologist when she was 32, to remedy the two to three visible chicken pox marks on her face. That visit went well, though she didn’t instantly become a beauty clinic patron. Only when she reached 35 that she started regularly visiting one. And so far, she finds the services commendable. “Pero kahit maganda `yung service, kung hindi friendly `yung mga tao roon, hindi ko pupuntahan.”

Since most of Bioessence’s clients are top executives who can’t afford two to three hours of visit, the beauty clinic makes sure they attend to them right away, Dr. Emma says. “Doing clients’ appointments properly and following up via calls to check if they’re applying their home medications are just two of the ways that we provide our clients value for their money,” she adds.

Dr. Michelle says, as per Forever Flawless’ experience, patients’ compliance is high, coming to the clinic twice or thrice a week for their scheduled treatments. “Hindi natatapos ang pagiging pasyente mo paglabas mo ng clinic. Pasyente ka pa rin namin paglabas mo, because we make sure you follow the prescription that we give you.” “The clients remember the aesthetician or doctor more than the service and the price. There are also patients who don’t want any other aesthetician or doctor to attend to them, gusto nila `yung suki nila – sinusundan din nila `yun kung saan man nalipat,” Francis says.

As for the celebrity doctor, Dr. Joel says he used to attend to a lot of details in his clinics. “But with the many clinics I have now, I still make sure I visit them. Hindi ko rin na kaya asikasuhin lahat. Pero pag nakita ako ng mga kliyente, I pass by, say hi, and do something for them. I have to live with the name, that’s why.”

6. Avail of the add-ons

Waiting is a common complaint among beauty clinic clients, which happens usually during weekends and in flagship outlets of beauty clinics that most clients visit, some not for just one treatment, but to avail of multi-services for half to a whole day. “Even how demanding the client is, what’s important is you make sure someone’s beside them. `Pag kulang pa, send another one. `Pag hindi pa rin kaya, I’ll be there or I’ll get their number and talk to the client myself. Pero pag hindi kaya, hindi talaga kaya.”

For such, marketing schemes are employed to ensure clients will endure the waiting, and become regulars eventually. Giving ice cream during summer, discounts when a client who doesn’t want to wait returns the next day on an assigned time, or tokens and freebies are what Forever Flawless are offering. Holistic packages and advanced treatments are next in their line-up.

Dr. Emma, meanwhile, recommends packages to clients who have a serious skin or diet problem and can finish a program prescribed to them. “Apart from the fact they can save up to 20% if they avail of packages, we make sure that each client’s specific need is done by a consultant or specialist, and we fit in the type of treatment, only if they need it.” Annual promos, like lunch break discounts, are what clients look for in Mendez clinics, Dr. Joel says. “We can lower our prices because we can. And we do that with the same expertise and facilities we have for those clients who can afford to pay more,” he prides.

And Lagrace, apart from achieving her target outcome from her slimming program, is also getting free services and tokens for the clients she referred to her beauty clinic. “Kasi `pag nakita nila sa iyo, that you’re an evidence of a good service provided by your beauty clinic, madali na maghatak na subukan din nila ang services ng beauty clinic mo,” she ends.

From the 2007 edition of MoneySense, the country’s first and only personal finance magazine. You can read more financial tips and stories at www.moneysense.com.ph.