Developing a medical spa: Tips for creating a business plan, sustaining success

May 01, 2008, 4:00am

Dermatologists are in a position to create the gold standard for medical spas, but first they need to master a retail mindset, an expert says.

Key Points

Maui, Hawaii - The world of aesthetics is a very different world than that of a physician's office, said Cheryl Whitman, CEO, Beautiful Forever Medical Spa Business Consulting, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., at the MauiDerm 2008 meeting here. Medical spas are retail businesses, and she says marketing and business management are essential keys to success that aren't learned in medical school.

The medical spa industry has come a long way over the last 10 years, she says. The first spas offered basic services; now, they've expanded to include more basic aesthetic and medical services, including an expanded team of professionals.

The medical spas of the future will offer a state-of-the-art facility with wide-ranging services from holistic to medical, "as well as a host of specialty physicians offering clients a vast selection of services for every aspect of his or her aesthetic needs," she says.

As skincare specialists, dermatologists can create the gold standard for the industry, but first they need to master a retail mindset.

"There's so much business out there for you. You just have to know how to go out after it successfully and do it the right way," Ms. Whitman says.

Identify the market

First, she advises, you have to identify your opportunity and find a niche.

Since 2003, Ms. Whitman says, U.S. sales of anti-aging products rose 42 percent. The top five cosmetic procedures in 2007 were Botox, chemical peels, laser hair removal, microdermabrasion and fillers.

"Anti-agers currently spend almost $2 billion in sales every year, so you want a part of that market, and it's there for you," she says.

Create a plan

Perform a competitive analysis. Find out who your competitors are, what they are offering and how much they're charging.

She suggests sending spouses, nurses and friends to competing establishments. Look at their Web sites and their advertising material. Find out what they're doing -because, she says, a person might be advertising big or have a great Web site, but that doesn't mean they're doing great or have a great location. There are also great places that have horrible Web sites.

Ms. Whitman advises keeping this analysis as a living, breathing document. Include in the document the name of the location, the phone number, the Web site, the services that are offered and at what prices. About every six months, she adds, update your analysis, because you should know what's out there and what you're competing against.

Concept, branding

After you have a niche and a business plan, she says, you need to start branding your business from your logo and your office atmosphere to your Yellow Pages ads, Web site presence and marketing brochures.

Devise a concept that has a story and that may be carried throughout your spa from the layout and interior design to the marketing brochures, she advises.

"You have to have people recognize your name ... when they see your logo, your color scheme ... everything has to combine and look as if it's one," she says. When someone receives a marketing brochure, looks at your Web site and then walks through your door, she explains, they should recognize the environment because the look and feel of all of your material and your office is the same.