For any practice, the addition of a new aesthetic laser is an important capital equipment investment and deserves thorough consideration.
When buying a laser, you're also starting a relationship with the laser manufacturer... it's worth it to make sure the company will take care of you.
Here is a suggested list of 10 questions worth asking to ensure that you're making the best decision for your practice:
1. Will this tattoo removal laser suit my needs?
This is obviously the most important question when considering a laser purchase. Different practices have different goals – it's important to find the right tattoo removal laser for your specific needs:
- Is the system powerful enough for you?
- Does the system treat the ink colors you want it to?
- Do you care about how long it takes the laser to warm up?
- Is your treatment room somewhat cramped so the size of the laser matters?
- Do you plan to use the system for additional applications?
- Does a track record of reliability matter to you?
- Are you wanting to start out with the most advanced equipment or eventually upgrade from something more basic?
Envision performing laser tattoo removal daily and think about what features for functionality, reliability, and efficacy are critical to you.
2. Is the company trusted by leaders in the field?
Since laser tattoo removal became widely available in the early-to-mid 2000's, some front runners in the field have emerged. These leading skin specialty and laser practices often have been performing laser tattoo removal for ten years or more and have witnessed trends in the industry rise and fall.
These leading practitioners often have:
- multiple clinic locations
- high volume of patients
- wide variety of tattoo ink colors to treat
- patients of all skin types
- valuable reputation to maintain
- upgraded their equipment over the years
Look to see which systems these practices are choosing to replace their older equipment and what brands they trust for their clinics – they've seen it all and choose equipment from established manufacturers that makes sense for their high-volume needs.
3. How comprehensive is the laser training?
Even if you have experience with performing laser treatments, adding on a new procedure means adding on a whole new set of patient questions, side effects to manage, protocols to learn, and more.
Here are a few things to look for in training:
- Will your trainer have in-depth knowledge of tattoo removal in particular?
- Does the manufacturer have an established history in the laser tattoo removal field or is it relatively new technology for them?
- How much time will the laser company commit to the training?
- What topics are reviewed in the didactic portion of the training?
- Will the training include supervised hands-on practice?
- Will the laser company help you schedule patients for the training?
- Does the training include certifications for trainees? What certifications?
- Will the company provide patient forms and paperwork for your use?
Your training is your opportunity to get off to a good start with laser tattoo removal – make sure the laser company equips you with the right knowledge.
Also ask the laser manufacturer what will be provided when additional training is needed.
Most practices have some level of employee turnover, and even laser clinics that have a single owner-operator tend to hire on more staff after establishing themselves. Training from the laser manufacturer is important to making sure practitioners feel comfortable and confident with the procedures they perform.
For example, Astanza can provide complimentary additional training during our preventative maintenance visits to your practice and waive the tuition fee for any of your new staff members attending our training program, New Look Laser College.
4. What is included in the marketing support?
For laser tattoo removal – just like many other aesthetic procedures – marketing is key to profits. Effective marketing brings patients in the door and helps you achieve a return on your laser investment.
Because of the importance of marketing, many laser companies offer some level of marketing support to those buying a laser. Some companies claim that their included marketing support would be valued at tens of thousands of dollars or more.
It's important to look at what they're really giving you – not just what they say it's worth.
Realistically, most companies provide some printed marketing materials (brochures, posters, etc), a directory listing, and a printed marketing guide... no real services, nothing custom to your practice.
If your practice is just starting out or looking to expand your marketing on a budget, finding a laser company that provides valuable complimentary marketing services (custom content creation, press release writing, PPC management, etc) can save you both money and headaches versus going with an agency or trying to do it all internally.
5. What is the turnaround time for service calls?
Lasers for tattoo removal are highly complex devices that require periodic maintenance to perform optimally.
Unlike a car which you can take to a wide variety of mechanics for service, your laser can only be serviced by experienced laser technicians with the right parts and tools – which makes you dependent on the responsiveness and expertise of your laser manufacturer's service department.
Most veterans of the laser industry have at least one horror story of working with an irresponsible laser company that leaves them high and dry in face of a technical service need. We've heard of some companies having two-week waiting periods for service support of critical issues – meaning the practice was faced with rescheduling two weeks' worth of patients. For any practice, extended downtime can be hugely damaging to both revenue and reputation.
Ask your laser manufacturer what's the longest any client has had to wait for an emergency service visit and what the average system downtime is per year. Ask them to tell you about an instance where the service department went above-and-beyond to keep things running smoothly for a practice (hint: a good laser company should have many examples to share).
Most importantly, speak to existing clients (not paid luminaries) – they're the ones that will have the best insight into the quality of the support from the service department.
6. Is technical service provided directly or by freelancers?
Some companies (typically small start ups and used laser dealers) don't have internal capability to service the lasers they sell. It takes extensive knowledge in lasers, access to highly specialized parts, and precise technical ability to service a Q-switched laser – not all companies have the funds or expertise to have a dedicated service department.
For companies without internal service departments, they rely on external freelance laser technicians to provide service for the systems they sell. These freelancers typically don't specialize in servicing one type of laser technology or brand and often have limited access to parts – sometimes compromising the quality of service they provide. Ask your laser manufacturer who provides the service for the systems and make sure that you're comfortable with the answer they give you.
7. How much will an extended warranty cost?
Most new tattoo removal lasers come with a standard one-year limited warranty on the equipment with a separate pulse count warranty on the flashlamp. However, quality tattoo removal lasers are designed to last 5 to 10 years or more with regular maintenance – that's were extended warranties come into play.
Many practices buy extended warranties/service contracts to have peace of mind about their investment and have regularly scheduled preventative maintenance visits. While what's covered by an extended warranty is fairly consistent between laser companies, the prices are not. Some companies fairly price their extended service contracts based on the costs associated with providing the service, but some laser manufacturers charge triple the price because they look to profit from their service department and have a recurring revenue stream from their clients.
How do they get away with charging triple for their service contracts? Some major manufacturers refuse to provide service unless you're under an extended warranty – forcing you to buy a warranty if you ever want service on your laser again.
Don't worry – not all laser companies are looking to gouge their customers. Just make sure that you ask about the prices for extended warranties, if preventative maintenance visits are included in the cost, and if service is available to out-of-contract customers.
8. What are my options for upgrading in the future?
Tattoo removal lasers come with a wide variety of features and capabilities at a wide range of price points. Some new practices or those looking to test the waters for laser tattoo removal wish to start with an entry-level tattoo removal system, some practices wish to start out with the most sophisticated laser available, and many purchase somewhere in-between.
If your practice starts out with an entry-level or mid-level system (as many practitioners do), you may wish to eventually upgrade once you've built a base of tattoo removal patients and have the monthly revenue to cover the cost of a more advanced laser.
The advantages of upgrading may include:
- faster tattoo removal results
- effective removal of resistant ink colors
- faster treatments
- newly warrantied equipment
- better functionality/usability
Unfortunately, many laser manufacturers do not take in used equipment (even from their own customers) for a trade-in value toward new equipment (Astanza, however, does). If you think you may wish to trade up or add on an additional system (such as a laser for treating resistant inks), ask the laser company what upgrade options will be available for you in the future.
9. How will the company help with financing?
Tattoo removal lasers are a capital equipment purchase, and the majority of laser buyers choose some form of financing for their laser purchase. While all laser companies are eager to get you qualified for financing, some companies will help you with the process more than others.
There are many options for financing a laser, but most laser buyers either finance through a capital equipment leasing firm or through their local bank.
If you intend to approach an investor or your local bank for a loan, you may wish to have a business plan or more detailed information on the return on investment of tattoo removal lasers. Creating such a business plan can be quite an undertaking for those new to the industry or purchasing capital equipment, so look into the support and resources the laser manufacturer can provide to help you.
Also, even if you aren't financing your equipment, some companies may be more flexible than others regarding payment terms – ask and find out what can be done to make payment of your laser work for you.
10. Do I feel comfortable with the company I'm buying from?
Unlike the other questions on this list, this one is more qualitative. Different laser manufacturers have different reputations and values, and it's important to choose one that will respect what matters to you.
Some companies focus more on flashy advertising, some focus more on informing their clients. Some laser sales personnel have more of a pushy approach, some function more as trusted consultants. Some companies are publicly traded, some are privately owned.
If you're looking at two quality lasers from two different reputable manufacturers, consider choosing the one that you'd rather have an ongoing client relationship with and which provides the best services for your practice. After all, their expertise and support could be very helpful in making your first year with laser tattoo removal a successful one.
- Adding Laser Tattoo Removal to Your Practice
- The Market for Laser Tattoo Removal
- Laser Equipment Buying Guide
- Why Laser Wavelengths Matter for Removing Tattoos
- The Astanza Trinity Laser
Download the Free Laser Buying Guide.