Sizing Up the Competition: What Matters and What Doesn’t

Written by Douglas Preston

You’re planning a prosperous future as a career aesthetician. To succeed with clients, you know that service quality and prices matter. But, potential clients have numerous spa choices in your area – your competitors – and you are concerned about how to position yourself among them. And, who are these businesses that want the same clients you do? It is a big list:


  • Full-service spas
  • Day spas
  • Medical spas
  • Solo skin care, eyelash, or eyebrow practices
  • Health clubs with spa services
  • Department stores, drug stores, Ulta, Sephora, and multi-level-marketing sellers
  • Online retailers


And many more! Before deciding how to deal with the competition, it is useful to think about your potential client first. This way, you only need to know what kind of services and type of facility the client is most likely to do business with. To gain some insight on this, ask yourself a few of the following questions:


  1. Is your ideal client a high-end (selective and possibly picky) consumer who likes elegance and exclusivity over a busy, moderately priced spa?
  2. What age group are you targeting and why?
  3. Will retail be an important part of the sales activity?
  4. Are you planning to specialize in a couple of services or will you offer a broad range?
  5. Are you already established in business or just starting out? Do you have a mailing list or can you gain access to someone else’s?


Once you have an idea about who you are as a business (the message to potential clients), you can then survey local competitors to see which of them seem more like your own. And, while you will want to learn what makes these other businesses seem unique or appealing, it is important to remember that your spa will always be something original, even though you may be performing services available elsewhere.


With this in mind, here are my best insights about what matters and what doesn’t when it comes to business competition.




As aestheticians, we’re not selling basic commodities, such as eggs or gasoline. Our services and products appeal to a specialty market and, as specialties, we are judged as much on the customer experience as the location or price, possibly more so. With that in mind, be sure to produce the best possible memory for your client about their visit to the spa. That story, which is your reputation, and your referral power, is the greatest competitive advantage you will ever have. When a new client who formerly saw a different skin care professional answers my question, “Why did you decide to find a new aesthetician?”, the response almost always involves service disappointment or less-than-considerate treatment. Don’t let that happen to you.




The RPP principle: Relaxing, Private, and Personal. These are the qualities most clients refer to when they describe a positive spa experience – the ones most important to them. You do not need a decade of career experience behind you to create an enjoyable business environment, just a commitment to deliver it. Many long-term professionals begin to lose this focus over time as they become bored in their work or take clients for granted.




If you plan to compete on the basis of price, particularly at the lower end of the scale, remember this: when you look for budget-minded clients, those are the ones you will attract and also get referrals from. When price is high on clients’ priority lists, it will remain a key factor in your relationship with them. These clients are deal driven and likely to push for discounts or other price breaks. They will also be tempted to switch service providers when a better offer comes along. Also, these clients may have smaller incomes, which can be easily affected by changes in employment status or minor emergencies. I target more affluent clients who demand top-quality and are both willing and capable of affording it. They are not as quickly impacted when the economy slips downward.




Be consistent. Clients love service professionals who offer the same level of service every visit. Do not move clients around on your schedule or cancel them to accommodate a personal agenda. This is a bad idea and, sadly, a common practice.




Don’t worry that your facility is not as large or glamorous as others. Clean, comfortable, and serene is more important to clients than big and impersonal or messy. Think of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant you love. It may not be the biggest or most impressive in terms of physical appointments, but, if the food and service is great, then little else really matters.




Forget that there are many other spas or aestheticians in the area, even in the same building where you operate. Most clients do not discover their service professional by sight but by search, usually online, or through referrals from existing clients. If the client is satisfied with you, they can pass by 10 competing spas or skin care businesses on their way to see you and not be tempted to drop into one of them.




Don’t follow the pack. If you notice that local competing spas are running price specials, avoid the temptation to copy the idea. After all, why do they need to cut prices in the first place? And, do you really want to take less money for your work? Stick to your message about price and quality. So many aestheticians say that they want to earn what they are worth. Okay, then charge what you are worth, not beneath it.


Competition is a natural and normal feature in business. It will always be with us. You now represent competition for professionals who were established before you came along and others who have entered the market since then. Where there are competing businesses, there are clients to be served by them – that is why those businesses are so plentiful. Know what pleases skin care consumers most and be the best in the service of that. Then, be patient and watch your business grow.



douglas preston 2016Douglas Preston, president of Preston Beauty Professional, has a career that spans 33 years in professional aesthetics, education, and skin care career mentoring. His business articles appear in DERMASCOPE Magazine, Spa Management Journal, and others. He is a past president of Aesthetics International Association and a former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. Preston has started and operated award-winning day spas, trains spa and skin care professionals internationally, and is a featured speaker at numerous spa and skin care trade events.

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