Every week, we will seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue it is facing in its business.
After eight years of selling cosmetic surgery tourism to clients in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the United States, Edmonton-based Gorgeous Getaways Inc. decided it was time to kick-start sales of its services on its home turf.
"Canada has an aging, financially secure population, and there is less competition in Canada than in other regions like Europe and Asia-Pacific, where the market is now saturated," says Rachel Rowling, owner and global director of Gorgeous Getaways, which combines low-cost surgery with five-star holidays in such locations as Malaysia, Thailand, Costa Rica and Mexico. "It's also expensive to have cosmetic surgery here."
In January, the 30-employee company – which is incorporated in Canada, the United States, Australia and Malaysia – began efforts to build a Canadian business for a nip-and-tuck holiday by mailing postcards to 50,000 homes in middle-class neighbourhoods across the country.
Globally, Gorgeous Getaways books about 700 to 1,000 clients each year. For its first year in Canada, it set a modest target of just 50 clients for total sales of about $300,000, based on an average charge of $6,000 each, Ms. Rowling says.
"Our experience in other countries has been, once we established our brand in the market, the business has rapidly grown," says Ms. Rowling.
To date, however, with the year almost over, only about 30 Canadian clients have signed up. "It's been very disappointing," Ms. Rowling says.
"Launching in Canada has been somewhat different than in other markets due to a national public health care system versus other countries – like the U.K., U.S. and Australia – that have both public and private treatment options. Canadians are also much more conservative."
The Challenge: How can Gorgeous Getaways kick-start a market for its services in Canada?
THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN
Mark Healy, partner, Satov Consultants , Toronto
The actual sales they need in the first year is such a small number that it strikes me that they would want a direct sales force, someone pushing this to people they know. That sounds overly simplistic but it's about being very, very targeted and finding people who move in circles where it's not a weird cultural thing to have cosmetic surgery – it's the accepted norm.
Maybe Gorgeous Getaways could also do a partnership with a spa clinic chain, where the clinic gets a cut for promoting the procedures to their clients as an upsell. So maybe for clients who want something more than Botox or fillers, this could be presented as the next step and it would be offered as an extension of the clinic's services, but maybe with the Gorgeous Getaways branding.
Michèle Soregaroli, co-founder, Transformation Catalyst Corp. , Vancouver
Gorgeous Getaways needs to identify the social circles and places where its target profile gathers to connect, such as events, galas and charity events. They should consider being sponsors at these events to get attention.
They should create a buzz around the trips, perhaps create a "girls' trip away" campaign, where friends can go together and get their individual treatments done at the same time, perhaps at a friends-and-family discount. Gorgeous Getways should also think about partnering with other local businesses that work with the same target market and co-sponsor events that provide fun, information and incentives to sign up.
A broad-strokes approach for this type of business doesn't work as well in Canada because we have a small population that is spread out geographically. It's better to get a buzz happening in more focused, core markets that are of the same mindset.
Christian Wolters, director of sales and marketing, Intrepid Travel , Toronto
Intrepid Travel started 22 years ago in Australia and launched in Canada about 3½ years ago. Like Gorgeous Getaways, we have a unique offering, which is bringing small groups to unique locations. And like them, our primary demographic is women. But what Gorgeous Getaways offers is really a niche product, even more niche than what we provide.
I think their marketing money would be best used in public relations and getting featured in media outlets most likely to reach their audience. So think about hiring a publicist. Gorgeous Getaways should also do familiarization trips, where select journalists can either choose to experience a procedure or shadow a client. This will allow them to actually see first-hand the quality of care provided by the hospitals that do these procedures. We've done these "fam" trips at Intrepid Travel and they do generate a great deal of media coverage.
THREE THINGS GORGEOUS GETAWAYS SHOULD DO NOW
Hire an insider
Hire sales staff who move in the same circles as its target audience.
Consider a partnership with a spa clinic, or sponsor events, such as galas and charity balls, where target clientele gather.
Get some press
Hire a publicist and use part of the marketing budget to try to generate some media attention, such as through press junkets.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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