Appetizing offering

Dr. Sasson Moulavi, founder and CEO, Smart for Life Weight Management Centers

As a bariatric physician, Dr. Sasson Moulavi — known by his patients as “Dr. Sass” — builds strong, lasting relationships with them based on sincerity, openness and honesty. So it makes sense that as the founder and CEO of his own weight management business, he believes the way to gain customers long term isn’t through flashy advertising or gimmicks but though the same philosophy of putting client needs first. Since launching Smart for Life Weight Management Centers in 2003, Moulavi has grown the company and his popular “cookie diet” to $70 million in revenue in 2010.

Smart Business spoke with Moulavi about the keys to creating and marketing a product offering that resonates with customers and results in long-term sales success.

Prioritize quality over marketing. We spend a lot more money on research and development than we do on marketing and making the product look really cool, because I believe that’s where the money should go. It’s first of all to make a really good product. Don’t sell your customers garbage.

The way we communicate is by delivering results. …We just want to get people to try it, and we know that once they try us, they will then see the results and then they will believe in us. They will not say, ‘Oh they are just another gimmick — I just wasted another $100,’ which is what happens to a lot of companies. And then they go on to the next one. Our reorder rate is 60 to 70 percent because people who use us, stick with us.

Keep the message straightforward. When I started dealing with people, I hired people who were marketing experts, advertising experts, media experts and PR experts. It was very hard sometimes to tell them, ‘Let’s just keep the message as plain as we can with the most truthfulness that we can give in a short message. Build trust in our customers. Over time, that’s going to pay off.’ And that’s what happened. [It’s] getting everybody to believe that telling our clients the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is the best way to go. Rather than giving them lots of advertising and gimmicks and trickery, just lay it out, plain and simple. The customer is very smart and they’ll understand it. Once people figure out who’s lying to them and who isn’t, then we get the customer to trust us and it’s a lot easier to do business with our customer, because now you are dealing with a trusting relationship.

Meet the customers’ price point. In this economy, you can have a good product, you can have good marketing, but if it’s overpriced, you’re not going to sell any. As we got bigger, we were able to bring our cost down. We were $12 a day three years ago. Now we are $10 a day.

A lot of businesses right now will tell you that they make a lot of their sales when they have a special sale and that’s where you see the successful companies like Groupon and Living Social. When they reduce the price, their sales just go through the roof. We did a sale with one of these companies and we had almost a 2,000 percent increase in our sales because the price was so much lower. People are very price sensitive these days.

Be willing to change. If a client’s unhappy with something, we take it very seriously, even if it’s one client. Some of the clients I call back myself because I want to know what’s going on. Doing that has helped the team and I understand where the client is, what do they want, what are the problems and what kind of products they want.

Generally, if people are criticizing you, they are doing it because they like you, love you and want to help you. People don’t typically criticize their enemies to their faces. Anybody who is criticizing you to your face — that’s a good sign. That means they like you. So whenever a client comes up to me and tells me, ‘I really hate that. It doesn’t taste good,’ I don’t take offense to it. I say, ‘Well, how can I make it better?’ I find that if you listen to your clients and you don’t take their criticism and get sensitive about it, you just keep improving and getting better.

How to reach: Smart for Life Weight Management Centers, (561) 394-5300 or