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Many practices struggle with ways to introduce and integrate skincare products into their patients' treatment plans. Most patients want effective skincare products, and almost every cosmetic practice sells an excellent line of products. So why is integration still so difficult for some? The answer is two-fold: 1.) Practices worry that patients feel they are getting a “hard sell” if product discussions are introduced during their visits; 2.) In very busy practices there is concern that the physician will get “sidetracked” with a product discussion in the exam room and consequently run behind for all subsequent patient appointments. How can these legitimate concerns be reconciled with the desire to assimilate skincare products more fully into the practice?

One solution to these issues begins by aligning patient needs and desires with what practices have to offer. To accomplish this, practices can create a space where customers can sample products in a low-key, comfortable, hands-on atmosphere. However innovative, this “beauty bar” concept is not a new one; retailers like Sephora, for example, have successfully utilized the customer-tailored “open-sell” environment for some time. An experiential product area addresses customer behavioral preferences: people like to touch, feel, and smell products before buying.

Creating a Skincare Bar

Creating a skincare bar is an ideal way to showcase products and allow aesthetics patients the opportunity to “sell themselves” on excellent skincare. Most cosmetic medical practices can create a skincare bar as long as certain logistics are worked out and plans for integration are carefully considered. A typical planning session might include discussions on the following topics:

Space. When carving out a space in the office for a skincare bar, it is helpful to think in terms of a large bathroom vanity. Although a sink in the skincare bar would be ideal, cosmetic counters get away with water bottle misters and a robust supply of cotton balls and paper towels.

Integration. Practices should plan to encourage clients to explore the skincare bar before or after their scheduled appointments. A clinician or medical assistant can assist in transitioning the patient from the exam room to the skincare bar. To optimize use of the bar, practices might consider hosting a daily or weekly “happy hour” to accommodate drop-in visitors. Hosting other special events at the skincare bar is also a possibility. For example, an event might be planned around the introduction of a new product, an open-house, a lecture on skincare, and/or discounts on products (see accompanying sample invitation).

Marketing. Practices can promote their skincare bar in office collateral materials, messages on-hold, and on websites, Facebook, and Twitter. Other opportunities to promote the skincare bar exist when patients book appointments and when staff members confirm appointments. The frequency and excitement level in communicating what is new in the office with regard to skincare products will have a direct correlation to the sales of skincare products at the bar. Patients will only be excited if everyone in the office is excited. Photos and patient testimonials will be important tools for spreading the news, and social media and practice websites offer ideal platforms from which to present it. Marketing individual products within the bar is also important. One detail that is often overlooked in skincare product displays are “shelf talkers.” A small “shelf talker” card that explains a few basic things about each product is a terrific communication tool that should be employed in every office. Information included on “shelf talker” cards should address the following:

1. Who is a candidate for this product?
2. How is it used?
3. How much is it, and how long does it last?

Training/Staffing. Employees must be ready, willing, and able to support the skincare bar. That said, developing a robust skincare business requires a unique type of professional training and focus. Staff development should occur in an ongoing way with an end goal that ensures that the team is skilled in the identification of skin types, has knowledge of skin physiology, and is versed in the history of skincare and the health benefits associated with good skincare. Most importantly, they must know how to effectively interact with the diverse clientele of a busy and successful aesthetics practice. Additional training needs for staff members will differ depending on their respective positions within the practice. As examples, a telephone operator will need training on integrating information about the new skincare bar into the practice's daily appointment reminder calls, and the clinician and/or medical assistant will benefit from training on how best to transition patients from the exam room to the skincare bar.

Meeting the Buyer's Needs

Once the skincare bar is built, then what? Consumers become highly motivated and sales tend to increase when three buyer needs are met: When something unexpected is offered, When something is offered at a timely moment, and When something is meaningful to them. It's not difficult to meet all of these needs in the skincare bar environment.

Unexpected. How many cosmetic medical practices provide a skincare “play” area? Not many. Does this mean it's not a good idea? Absolutely not! It is an innovative concept based on the changing needs of clients, and patients love it. Today's customer is very involved and values choice above all else. Customers choose and customize everything from how they receive daily news to how they take their coffee. Select retailers recognize this desire and are tailoring their environments to meet this emerging customer need. Medical practices can also tailor what, when, and how they offer skincare products to patients. The attention paid to patients' unique skincare needs will eventually become a compelling factor in their loyalty to the practice.

Timely. There is an understood link between good skincare and physical health. One of the key indicators of ill-health today is poor skin color, tone, and/or texture. An offer to provide further information and guidance regarding proper skincare should be made to all dermatology and plastic surgery patients. It's a fact that today's patient is willing to invest time, energy, and resources when provided with skincare solutions tailored to meet their specific needs.

Meaningful. The ongoing use of products and the expansion in use to other products is rooted in face-to-face, meaningful education with experts inside the practice. Rather than having a “point of sale” mentality regarding skincare product sales, practices must adapt staff to new roles as educators and coaches. If a patient buys a bottle of sunscreen and is then educated in a meaningful way regarding appropriate use, that patient will likely begin applying almost a 1/4 cup of sunscreen to their arms, legs, chest, neck, and face after showering each day. When one considers that sort of usage, it does not take long to realize that patient education and demonstration is critical for the long-term growth and health of the practice's skincare business.

Raise the Bar

When it comes to skincare products, today's aesthetic clients are not looking for the “hard sell” but rather an opportunity to choose and customize. Establishing an experiential product area like a skincare bar and reinventing salespeople as educators addresses this issue and has proved to be a successful pathway toward fully integrating skincare products into treatment plans for numerous practices.

Glenn Morley is a management consultant with the Allergan Practice Consulting Group of Allergan, Inc.

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