Fiona Ritchie – Simply Indulgent – CEO Business Marketing Interview 18

Simply Indulgent CEO, Fiona Ritchie talks about her move away from corporate marketing and gives some excellent insight into the importance of customer experience, visual messaging on Instagram, beauty blogging, using Facebook to collect email subscriptions, educating customers via email marketing and the power of letting customers choose bookings via Timely.

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Ryan: This is the Ryan marketing show and your listening to episode 18 of 100. Today I’m joined by Fiona Richie from Simply Indulgent in Taradale and we are gonna be talking all about beauty therapy and getting a business started from zero to doing very well in what, just under three years-

Fiona: About three and a half years.

Ryan: Great so tell us a little bit about your business and how you got into it and what the journey has been so far.

Fiona: Beauty therapy was something that started with a dream to be a hair dresser as a young woman, my father said “Fiona you won’t make any money in that,” so I went along and I ended up doing dental nursing. So a very strong anatomy and physiology background, moved into medical sales for a very long time and then into marketing and communications which has been incredibly beneficial. Once I got into Hawkes Bay and away from the corporate world of Wellington marketing, I felt that I was coming to the end of that and wanted a change to be able to run something that I owned and that I could do something with and make a difference to people who were potentially suffering.

Suffering from skin conditions, suffering from ill health or having nursed someone through ill health. So I have a bit of an altruistic background as well, coming from a family that care a lot about the community and the people in it. I decided that beauty therapy would be a lovely way to run, I was going to work from home and look after people doing fluffy things. Once I got into the training – and had they told me this before I started I probably would never have done it – it was the most intense training of anything I had ever done in my life, to the point where the final international examination is run over 9 hours. You meet someone you’ve never had before, you’ve got to work with that person totally blind with all the knowledge you’ve gained over the past couple of years, and be able to create the right treatments to suit that individual within that time frame. It’s exhausting, nerve wracking but one of the best things I ever did and I’ve ever done and made me realised I am actually okay at what I do and I can run a business.

By the time I had left school, and I knew I was going to do my own thing, I had 68 clients, and I realised that working from home wasn’t going to work because the by laws were going to change and I didn’t want to invest the money into creating a clinic in my own home. I was in a culdesac, so wasn’t going to get much foot traffic passing and looked for premises here in Taradale. Taradale was a perfect opportunity because there was only one major competitor here and the – I think they were looking for somebody new, something different and I decided to go down a clinical boutique line. The reason for that was beauty therapy has changed, it’s not fluffy, it’s not a beautician anymore it’s about therapy, about skin therapy and something that I really really loved and I could see the difference so I approached the local chemist and set up a little room there. Was there for year. They didn’t open late nights and there was an opportunity to go to another pharmacy, that didn’t work but was learning curve for me and went back to Taradale. In may, 2015 I opened my own place in the Lee road complex behind four square and haven’t really looked back.

Ryan: And this is where we are now, so this premises has only been open a year.

Fiona: Yes.

[00:04:08]

Ryan: And what are some of the big learnings that you’ve gone through as a business from operating under the umbrella of the pharmacy through to now operating on your own premises with your own branding?

Fiona: I think the opportunity was that there was a ceiling where ever I was before, that I could only do as much as I was allowed to do under their rules or their opening hours or their branding. I was also affected by how they managed their business, so how their people were, what they listened to on the radio, how the lighting affected the ambience within the business that they owned which is great for them but was not working for my brand. So the opportunity was to come here to create a discreet environment that was private, that was relaxing, calming, and I think we’ve done that and great foot traffic and free parking always goes a long way.

Ryan: So being able to have that full control over that environment then you can create the type of experience for your customers that you would want to experience if you were a customer.

Fiona: Yes. Very much so, it allows us to also display our retail product in a better way so that people have an opportunity to see what else we work with. The idea is for a client to come in here 15 mins prior to the appointment, have a cup of tea, a herbal tea. Sit down and listen to our music which is usually very restful, and peaceful, people kind of almost nod off, we’ve got fabulous magazines on style and creativity. We also have ‘Rushing Woman’s Syndrome’, the book by Dr. Libby Weaver. So people kind of get the opportunity to just chill out, they are half asleep by the time they get on the bed and that’s half our battle done because we really want them to be relaxed by the time they come into us.

[00:06:14]

Ryan: Now it’s one thing to have those initial 68 clients then when you get your own place there is then some pressure because you’ve now taken on lease and expenses and potential for start. How have you gone about growing the business from that 68 to where you are now, what are some of the strategies you’ve used? What is some of the things that have happened that weren’t planned that have been very good for the business?

Fiona: So the initial development was done, mostly by Facebook. That was quite big for us actually and I used Grabone twice which was also really good because it was relatively an inexpensive way to get your ground out to many people but it was not something I would continue with.

Ryan: And why is that?

Fiona: I believe that it would probably dilute my brand now. We are a boutique, exclusive beauty therapy clinic and I just think that we have reached level where we don’t have to discount.

Ryan: Good for a business that is just getting started, to grow big awareness quickly, but not something you want to become reliant on for customer and repeat trade.

Fiona: Very much so.

Ryan: Okay, now talk about the Facebook side of it. How did you see the success there?

Fiona: So Facebook was great it was a one to many option as well. You were able to, in the early days, get out to many people with Facebook business marketing. It didn’t cost you, so it was a cost effective method to get out to many people and you could run competitions on there and people would share it. There was some limitations around using photos, that type of thing which you certainly have to learn very quickly, it was a new media for myself having done mostly email marketing and that type of communication in the past, direct one to one letters and along with that I did create an email marketing list so collected all the information, kept that and started to use Mail Chimp. And I still do now, use Mail Chimp, as a free method of getting my email communication out.

So we have also used Facebook to collect subscriptions to our email marketing communications, Facebook is also linked to our booking system. Our booking system is Timely, Timely is a New Zealand based company that is open to me in real time. I’m not talking to somebody in the Phillipines and I can talk to them at any time during the day or night. And its a very quality company, what it allowed me to do early on was to forget about how to book people and worry about missing the opportunities to get new people. And giving them the opportunity to choose when and how they wanted to come in and see us, so I was not reliant on having a receptionist. So now I would say probably 80% of our bookings are done online.

Ryan: Is that right? Wow.

Fiona: Yeah.

Ryan: So by, on the booking side on things, by going digital and allowing, opening up your appointment system for various products and timings, that’s actually reduced your cost as well by not having to have a receptionist just for phone bookings?

Fiona: Yes, significantly. Absolutely, and it allows us to manage the growth of the business. Again, cost effectively, but also providing a service that is actually not available from many salons around the country, especially in the Hawke’s Bay.

[00:09:58]

Ryan: Just going back to the email side of things, how important is growing your email database and how do you use email to talk to either your customers or reaching out to prospects?

Fiona: So email marketing, probably about every month now I’ve gotten onto a regular bases, it was sort of hit and miss there for awhile depending on time, but every month I got out with a communication. It’s about education, primarily at what we have done as to use education. Offers and things don’t tend to work for us for some reason, which is great because people actually are happy to pay the full price, they want to support us. Email, I also distribute through Facebook to a wide audience and try and encourage more people to subscribe and it also goes out on Twitter, so another media that I’ve used a little bit, intermediately. Every now and then it seems to take off and it works really well for me but it’s not my main stream. We’re just starting to go on Instagram as well, popping up some of our make up line. Some images on there, some photography that’s just amazing so why not use it? It’s also a method to get out to the different target audiences I want, we’re primarily working with people 35 to 64 at the moment. I want more people.

Ryan: So we were talking about the different social media channels and how you’d just got into the Instagram side of things. How do you… Do you change what type of content you put on different channels or are you putting the same type of content on Instagram as you were on Facebook?

Fiona: Probably adapt the same thing in a way, and the reason for that is obviously you’ve got different lengths of time that you’ve got people’s attention for. And there’s only so much interaction that’s available to get back from different media. With Instagram it’s kind of like a little snapshot, might even put some funnies up on there, but on the Facebook I’ll be asking for interaction. So at the moment I’ve got a campaign that’s running, how do you apply your eyeliner to each eye? Is it a problem for you or what ever and if you comment you win something. Just sharing it around the different media again it’s that whole repetition, and hopefully the same people if not more might pass it on or share it.

Ryan: And have you got any specific advice around how you grow an Instagram fan base, given you are at that early stage.

Fiona: I think it’s a bit of a toe in the water kind of thing, I probably… it’s a younger market for me. Which is what I want, we want young women, young men to start looking after their skin now so they don’t have to spend loads of money to turn back the clock later.

Ryan: So you know that to business imperative, you’ve got to go after that market and your assumption is they’ve moved to Instagram and that’s where they are hanging out not Facebook.

Fiona: Either they’re Snapchatting or they’re Inastragramming and it seems to me just watching some of my younger friends and family that they are moving onto Instagram with their photos so I’m thinking well, I need to be in there. So I tend to watch those little trends and just sort of see what’s happening, so it’s a little bit of a suck and see. And looking at what my suppliers are always doing with their own Instagram communication so it’s really exciting.

Ryan: I think like as a side, you’ll be very successful there. Instagram is very much a visual medium and anything that’s beauty centric goes off.

Fiona: Honestly, Young Blood is our mineral make up brand, calling young bloods American Indian so hence the name it sounds a bit weird to Kiwis but their photography and their use of Instagram is fantastic. They also really support their beauty bloggers so blogging is another big thing. Blogging is something I’ve gone into in the last year as well.

[00:14:52]

Ryan: Yeah, I’ve noticed there’s some articles there on the Simplyindulgent.co.nz site. How do you decide what type of content you’re going to write about?

Fiona: It could be seasonal, I must admit I’m not as organised and planned down to that tactical level as I should be. I guess I’m a little bit reactive in some ways, but yes seasonal it will be or if I’m seeing an increase in acne clients coming in for instance, the teens. I’ll start to do some educational things on there, so essentially it’s around the education, it might be in conjunction with a campaign. We ran a campaign recently where it was an amnesty, bring in your old skin care and we will give you a trade in value of that as a discount on switching to our skin care. So we did that as blog as well, tend to watch some of the really good beauty therapists that are really into these spaces, internationally and just gleen some ideas from them, but that was amazing that campaign, oh my god. Our monthly spend on beauty products that month went up significantly and it’s just been really cool.

[00:16:05]

Ryan: Fantastic. How do you go about choosing which product brand names to support and endorse?

Fiona: It’s a minefield, there is some really good stuff out there. I choose Image Skincare which is my key, my hero skincare line it’s a cosmeceutical. Beauty therapy only and you can only buy it by prescription, and the reason I chose that was, probably half way through my last year at school a friend of mine said, “look I love this stuff can you find it?” I couldn’t find it anywhere, it was in Christchurch so I spent two hours of the phone to the CEO and we are very similar people and I just haven’t looked back. It’s cost effective, it’s a growing brand, they sponsor Miss Universe internationally. They are owner operated and they come out of Florida. So their humidity in the Summer is very similar to ours so it works very well in New Zealand conditions, but great brand. Great price. Fantastic support and the innovation is just continuing, they just released a collagen shot. Which is the latest and greatest, it’s a liquid collagen. Normally the collagen comes in a powder form which is actually quite difficult for the body to assimilate. So it works well with us, what we have done is we started to go from the inside out as well as our clinical treatments so we actually work from a wholistic basis. We have flaxseed oil and supplements now, now we have collagen shots so to compliment our fantastic skincare range and it works. It really works.

[00:17:54]

Ryan: What can people do on their own to look after their skin? What are the things you should be doing in your teens, versus your 20s, 30s, 40s? Is it different or is it the same?

Fiona: Everyone is different. Every single person is different. However, if there’s one thing that everybody, man woman, child, should be doing it’s using sunblock on their face everyday. In our teens, hormonal changes affect us so therefore we need to have a really good skincare routine. Doesn’t have to be expensive, they don’t have to buy my product. I’ll guide them, but maybe one of my products would be useful to them. Something with salicylic acid, and it helps clear out pores and stop blackheads and pimples. I’ll teach them about personal hygiene, so changing your pillow case if you’re spotty you’re just going to transfer bacteria back and forwards. It might be around washing your towel more regularly. So those sorts of things focus on that particular age group so maybe 12 to even 22.

Then you’ve got that group that is just starting to think about lines around their eyes and they’re are wanting to stop that so we will probably bring in an eye cream and just talk about what they need to do. Some treatment so say 70 – 80% of everything to keep your skin health is done by you at home with good skincare. Say 20 – 25% is what we do here in clinic, so we have facial peels, we do collagen induction therapy so these are resurfacing, skin cell regenerating treatments where the body reacts to a potential injury that sends lots of good nutrients and vitamins to the skin and it turns over faster. As you get into the 30s you’re probably a bit tired, you might have a little bit of money and you want to do something more so we would maybe put some different ingredients into your skin care. Make sure that you’re actually able to keep up with what’s going on with less perhaps.

Coming into your 40s you’re starting to age, you’re starting to need a little bit more assistance you maybe haven’t used sunblock, maybe had a few too many wines and you’re dehydrated so again it’s wholistic. We talk to you about your skin health from the inside, it’s all around lots of vitamin C, vitamin B for stress as well as stress on the skin and fish oils or flaxseed and safflower oil which are the key ingredients which work within our bodies to help nourish from within so they help our digestion, they help with cells taking up water and nutrients. Getting rid of toxins that cause acne or maybe eczema, those types of skin concerns. We work very closely with other practitioners, where we are limited we will then pass them on either to a naturopath or a nutritionist for a further assistance if, maybe I have no answers to. If necessary, send them off to a doctor for a prescription for some form of medication, sadly that is generally when they want quick fix and that’s where they will go and obviously it’s less costly, but I am getting more and more people wanting to come the wholistic way. So we will work with them on diet and good skincare to heal acne, I’ve got some amazing before and afters of some poor kids.

[00:21:26]

Ryan: Do you find that through your approach that you’re not only treating the skin deep problem and the biology issues, you’re actually changing outlook, psychology or confidence?

Fiona: Very much so. One of the questions we ask in our consultation process is, how do you rate your skin out of ten? So one being bad, ten being fantastic. Generally if they are anything from five and above I know I’ve got a lot less work to do on their self-esteem then I have if they’re five and under. Or maybe even six and under, and sometimes just one treatment, brightening them, talking to them, educating them just changes their lives. Everything they feel about themselves, one boy – and he is 16 years old and he had acne from shoulder to shoulder down to his shorts – within five months that has just changed and he just thinks I am the bees knees apparently which is really lovely to hear, but he’s worked really hard and he’s believed in me in what we were able to achieve and I said to him, “Can I use you as a case study?” And he went, “Sure thing, hell yeah.” Straight off the bat, there was no question because his whole life has changed, they were very concerned about him but he’s doing really well.

Ryan: Are you seeing more interest from a gender perspective, are you seeing more men come in, seeing beauty either as a way to fix something that’s wrong but also to improve their change of getting a job or how they’re perceived by customers. Is that something that’s, or is it very much still rugby. New Zealand culture, she’ll be right.. like where are we at now from what you’re seeing?

Fiona: I think there’s a real shift, there’s a lot of older woman who are sending their husbands in or partners in for treatments because they want them to start doing some for themselves. So that’s been great so once they’ve come in and they realised there’s not really a barrier, it’s not too girly, it’s not too fluffy, and I talk rugby with them. I’ve got quite a broad spectrum of knowledge that I can make them feel comfortable, which I think perhaps is an advantage of being an older therapist. However, we are getting younger guys coming in, one they have major skin concerns, two they may have hair issues. Like guys growing hair in their ears and nose, that sort of thing. So it’s around how they look, how they’re perceived, there’s a lot. Younger guys tend to be more conscious of how they look, you really see that you look at the All Blacks and you look how sharp they are, their hair cuts are just so sheek. They’re far more open to having treatments done and might not talk about it over a beer at the end of the week but at the end of the day, someone’s going to notice that they are looking better and they are going to wonder why. So yeah, we are seeing a lot more.

Ryan: It’s increasing but it’s still best kept secret amongst guys that they’re actually going to do this. It’s interesting that the wives of the older men are prodding them into it, it’s very interesting.

Fiona: Yes it is, and some of them finding it quite uncomfortable, they might not really want to go with the massage they prefer to go to a massage therapist, because it’s a little bit more…the lights are on generally, it’s a little bit less kind of relaxed. Where as ours is a little bit more, it’s a really soft environment for that. When I have a guy coming in for skin problems, I have the lights on. It’s very clinical, they sit first and I’ll treat them that way rather than lying down so we align what we do with the type of client we have coming through. So really it’s about adjusting how we approach things and maybe having a little bit more masculinity in here to help ease those guys coming over the threshold.

[00:25:38]

Ryan: So you’re three years in now, one year in this premise. Where do you want to take Simply Indulgent from here?

Fiona: Well we employed our first part time employee in December last year, the reason for that is we have peak seasons and generally from October to the end of February is really busy for us. I was finding that I was booked to the hilt and almost getting to the stage of actually turning people away on a more regular basis so we bought in Kirsten. She’s a mature grad as well, fantastic, fabulous lady and wants to do what we do which is the clinical work. So that’s been great, that allows us to open on a Monday which gives us six days during the Summer period and to increase the number of late nights that we have. That really has worked, it’s increased our turn over, we also have the opportunity to add on somebody else this Summer because I would really like to have a receptionist because it’s too busy for us to be out here at reception as well so I’m bringing on a young girl who is still at school. She’s at Woodford and she’s beautiful and is really keen to get a job so we’ve just got to train her up to handle what’s going on out here, probably maybe to do manicures and maybe a little bit of make up. That gives us somebody that we can just say alright, you look after these ladies and we can carry on. They can make appointments because we sell so many vouchers at Christmas, hundreds of vouchers. Vouchers are fantastic, we are the only ones selling them online as well so you can purchase vouchers online and we will either deliver or send them out in the mail to people locally. Another great option for us.

Ryan: And just to wrap this part up, how will you know you’ve reached your goal with Simple Indulgent?

Fiona: I work with a business coach, so I work with Sam from Enable Business in Havelock North. I was lucky enough to come across Mark Greer who felt that I was the right fit for their business and I felt they were the right fit for this business so we have been working together for nearly nine months and we have been refining and making me a little bit more disciplined about the goals for the business. So we get together every three months and we sort of see where Simply Indulgent is sitting. I’m obviously all over my zero, making sure that we’re tracking in the right direction. It’s been almost a bit of a tradeoff, bringing in someone and increasing their hours because you are ongoings increase. So that’s been really interesting so employing somebody has been quite a major for me, but at the same time – it’s been a little bit of a juggle – so working with those guys helps me to keep on track and also just to see the results and make me feel really more confident that we are going to achieve those goals. So we keep stepping it up every month even when it’s quiet, we’re stepping it up. It’s awesome.

Ryan: That’s fantastic, Fiona, to have some insight into Simply Indulgent and how you’ve grown your business and to hear the plans you’ve got for the future. So thanks very much for your time today, and good luck in the future.

Fiona: Thank you. Cheers, thank you very much.