Onboarding a New Device

By Sara Cheeney / 14 Apr 2021

Nurse prescriber Sara Cheeney shares her five steps for introducing a machine to your clinic

Every clinic wants to offer their patients the best treatments and having the latest, ‘must have’ devices can achieve this. However, it can also spell the end of profitability for the clinic.

With our patients demanding more perfect results, and jumping onto treatment fads and trends, the temptation to buy becomes strong. It’s also the reason that the aesthetics market is swamped with a mind-blowing choice of different machines and sometimes pushy salespeople trying to get their device into your clinic.

Unfortunately, as a business coach I’ve seen the painful effects of clinic owners overstretching themselves to pay for a treatment device that was never going to cover its costs. By not doing their sums, they have placed a noose around their business’s neck. But it need not be like that.

Benefits of a new device

There are plenty of positive reasons for investing in a treatment machine. They enhance your offering, they improve the patient journey, and they can give you an edge over competitors. The right device can take a patient’s treatment results from good to outstanding and the better the results, the more kudos and recognition your clinic will receive. Not only that, but your revenue will increase with the right machine. With each machine I’ve introduced to my clinic we have seen an increase in revenue and customer satisfaction, as our treatment offering has improved.

To ensure you choose the best device for your clinic and patients, follow my five simple steps…

Step one: assess demand

Demand is more than just what you perceive to be the favourite machine because that’s what the glossy mags tell you and your patients. It is about your patient demand and what will work for your clinic patient base. Consider asking your patients what treatments they’d like to see you offer, doing patient surveys via email and social media, and working out what will enhance your current offering.

I believe a holistic approach to your patient’s journey offers the best results and happiest patient, so how will the chosen device complement your offering? What gaps do you need to fill? You should consider:

Treatment styles – work out what machine will be busy all the time based on your patients’ current treatment styles. For my clinic, I wanted to offer advanced facials, which the HydraFacial does amazingly well, but I knew that I was missing out on not offering the more invasive treatments, so I invested in a fractional radiofrequency device as well. This had the added benefit of enabling me to offer skin-tightening packages and more specialist treatments.

However, be aware – it’s foolish to think that by investing in a device you will attract a whole new clutch of patients. You may attract a few, but in my experience it’s better to please the patients you have and grow your database organically.

Average treatment cost – if your current average treatment cost is £100, there may be no point bringing in a machine where the treatments cost £500 as it won’t be what your patients are used to or can perhaps afford. As above, satisfying your existing patients should be your priority.

Step two: do your research

If you are thinking about investing in a machine, then it’s time to take a step back and make an informed choice not a rushed decision, based on safety and clinical evidence based practice, market research, demand, economics and your clinic ethos.

First of all, you should think about space. It sounds simple, but have you thought about where will you home the machine? Have you got space? Is it mobile, and can you move it between treatment rooms? You should be planning that the machine will be in full-time use, so how can you capitalise on this?

At the heart of the decision is the reputation of the device; will it deliver the results in a safe, clinically-proven and effective way? What is its safety rating? Is it approved by the FDA or is it CE marked? You want peace of mind that the treatment device you choose is going to complement the tools in your toolbox, not create problems with shoddy results and negative patient feedback. Select a machine that will fit your needs, your patients’ needs and has excellent support from the suppliers.

There is no point investing in a device with poor back-up support as, invariably, anything electrical and mechanical will have faults, but you want to know that these faults won’t result in something that can’t be used as the parts are ‘not available’. Every salesperson will tell you why their device 

At the heart of the decision is the reputation of the device; will it deliver the results in a safe, clinically-proven and effective way?

is the best, so don’t take their word for it – speak to clinics who have already installed the machine you are interested in, search online for reviews and do your homework by looking at both clinical and case studies.

Other things to consider about the company you may ultimately purchase from are, what do they offer by way of staff training, product deals and incentives, and marketing? Do they want their machine in every clinic on every high street, or are they selective about where they put their devices? The last thing you want is the clinic next door getting the same machine and undercutting your offering.

Step three: consider the financials

Doing the sums is a must, but its not everyone’s strong point. Having a husband as an accountant taught me long ago that no matter how much I ‘needed’ the latest device, if the sums did not add up then it wasn’t coming through the door. In my experience, a treatment machine needs to generate four times its value in income, to cover overheads, labour, marketing, and any other associated costs.

There’s the question of how you’ll pay for the machine. Offsetting your tax burden by buying an expensive machine outright could make great financial sense, but if you don’t have the available cash then the other option is leasing.

You’ll need to take into account the additional lease costs and overheads. For example, if you are operating on a 40% profit margin, an additional £5,000 worth of sales would be needed to cover the £2,000 costs.

You need to ask yourself ‘how quickly can this device make a return’? If it’s not busy, it’s not generating an income, therefore it’s a drain on the clinic.

Step four: get your staff involved

It’s essential to consider what happens when your new device arrives in your clinic. Do your staff feel as passionately about this new member of the team that they must work with? Did you take them with you on the journey of deciding which machine to go with – were they involved with the decision making? Or are you thrusting something onto them that scares them and that they’ll do everything in their power to not use?

When I have introduced new devices into my clinic, I’ve encouraged my staff to embrace their new ‘team mate’ with free treatments, and a commission structure that encourages up-selling of the treatments offered via the device. If your staff are reluctant, then you will need to turn this around with staff training and motivational tactics, as without them onboard you could end up with the device becoming an elephant in the room.

This is where your research into good after-sales support and training will pay dividends! If your staff are onboard, then they’ll promote the benefits and thus improve the sales.

Step five: market appropriately

Before your new device arrives, you should be shouting about it so the appointments are already in the diary for when it does. This is where that great after-service from a reputable supplier comes into play. How much support will you be given to promote your new investment? Are they helping to organise demonstrations, provide you with literature, images and incentives? The thing about marketing is it must be continual, so ensure that you have changed your plan to include the ongoing promotion of your new machine.

Have you updated your social media plan to let people know? Do you have an e-newsletter where you can shout about it? Taking advantage of the device manufacturer’s own content will help prior to the device arriving on site. Most companies will have before and after photographs which showcase the amazing results of their machine, so make the most of these. Great content can be found from celebrities who have had effective results from a particular device, look at the buzz around Morpheus8 after Judy Murray had her treatment recently.

A great way to advertise a new device is to have an open event with demonstrations. You won’t be able to fit all your patients into the clinic, so aim this at your VIPs or big spenders. You also won’t be able to offer everyone a treatment at the event, so chose your patients well; consider who’ll shout the loudest about their results? Offering free treatments to the patients you know will post on social media or within their friends group is free marketing, so make the most of it. For more advice on planning an event in these difficult times read PR consultant Jenny Pabila’s article on Hosting an Event During the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Aesthetics website.1

Careful consideration

The way treatments are being delivered are involving more elaborate and expensive devices, and the marketing that these suppliers are doing makes it more tempting to put your business into huge debt to buy. My advice is don’t make the leap without reviewing all the options and enter any investment or lease with your eyes wide open and having done all your homework. If your investment doesn’t work out, there’s no point blaming the pushy salesperson!

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