Building Great Brands on a Foundation of People and Values

Written by Shannon Conley

Start talking about brand marketing and even successful and seasoned entrepreneurs will start talking about logos, advertising, shelf-talkers, public relations stunts and social media activations. But your spa brand is much much more than your media mix – I would go so far as to say that your brand is the very essence of your spa. It is found in the beverages you serve, the wine or tea you serve, your team’s telephone manner, the cleanliness of your business, and your service providers’ appearance. It is a big bundle of consistent experiences that create a story in the minds of your clients.

Look at one of the most successful brands in the world: Starbucks. They consistently deliver an incredible brand experience. You know what to expect when you go to a Starbucks, no matter the location. It is well-priced, simple, and consistent. Nothing more and nothing less. It is backed up by a uniformed dress code, consistently styled (yet locally relevant) locations, and regular offers. It is simple, but powerful, branding that belongs in the spa industry too.

The People Business
Branding in a spa is about how you and your team interact with your clients day in and day out. It is about your people: your team, clients, partners, neighbors, and community. It is about inspiring your people so they understand and appreciate the necessity of being consistent across the board. When your brand is about your people, your people and their values will be visible in the way your services are delivered and the experiences your team creates.
Keep in mind that there are a huge number of consumer touch points, most of which you control, that influence your clients’ loyalty and patronage. What happens when your clients walk through your front door? Are you proud of that moment? Is it visually appealing? What are the sounds they hear? How does it smell? How does it feel? This is where your brand positioning should come from – moments like this and so many more like it inside your spa. This is where the rubber meets the road for us. The following six guidelines are good for aligning your branding, communications and people.

1. Align Values, People and Messaging
Your marketing message and in-spa experience need to be aligned. I am not talking about the generic “We want to offer great waxing and a wonderful experience for our clients” routine. All spas offer that (or say they do). For your spa brand to stand out, you need to know the why behind what you do so you can inform all of your decisions with that meaning. The promise your brand makes needs to be delivered all of the time, every time, wherever possible and whenever possible.

2. Keep It Real
You have to be realistic about who, what, when, why and where your spa is when it comes to branding; otherwise, you will have a huge disconnect between your spa and your clients. If you are a mid-market spa, it does not work to pretend otherwise – especially if you cannot deliver up-market quality due to financial or creative restraints. The same applies to your location. If you are in an affluent area, your brand needs to associate with your client base’s demographic and psychographic make-up. If you say luxury, people expect luxury… customer service, services and treatments, even the type of hand towels in bathrooms.

3. Get Buy-In
Without buy-in from your team as well as your clients, ultimately you will fail. For a spa brand to work in 2014, you need to carefully define your service and product offering in an objective way and see where the market is for what you have to offer.
You cannot do this on your own. Creating brand ideals should include your leadership team, your mentor, your mom, your therapists and even your clients. And, of course, your frontline staff will be instrumental in developing and delivering the brand experience… so it is essential that they believe in it and ultimately own it.
The best first step is to ask your clients about the things they like and dislike about your spa. There are a lot of ways to get this valuable information from your clients without diminishing their experience or your brand. You could offer a complimentary next service or give them a gift card for retail or services, whichever they would prefer.
However, do not ask your friends – they are the only people not on the list. It needs to be people who are prepared to be blunt and honest with you and are qualified to access your needs in one way or another. From your point of view, the feedback is worth more than its weight in gold. It is the key ingredient that will enable you to develop your brand experience in harmony with the benefits your clients like the most. Where this becomes really symbiotic is when your clients feel they are part of your community. If you hear, listen, and act on their feedback, it will make them feel even more loyal to your spa than your competitors could possibly understand.

"If you align your brand with your own true values, you will always
have a legend to read your map"

4. Branding is a Journey – Not a Destination
Do not think you have to get your brand perfect to get started. You do not and you will not… ever. And in the same respect, do not think that you will ever be finished assessing, refining and improving it. You will not. Your work is never done.
Once you have established what you stand for, what your goals are, and where you want to end up, you begin positioning all branded communications along these same lines. What does that mean for you? You will know when you are talking your talk and walking your walk. As a result, your messaging will be true, authentic and consistent with your actual values.

5. Keep at it All the Time
Some of the choices you will make when you are developing your brand early on will be free. Others will cost you time and creativity. And then, finally, there will be some choices you make that will cost you a lot and better be for the right reason.
Some choices will be very easy to implement and others will take careful planning and strategic thought to get right. The good news is: if you align your brand with your own true values, you will always have a legend to read your map. And once you start working this way, you will always work this way.

6. All Aboard
The number one priority is getting your team onboard. There are so many things that they can be doing – especially in the way they deliver services and client experiences – that will deliver the maximum impact for the smallest possible cost. Make sure to practice inclusive leadership, ask the right questions, listen to the answers, understand what is meant, and focus on a bias toward forward progress.

Shannon-Conley-2014Shannon Conley is an experienced aesthetician with more than 17 years of experience in the skin care, spa and salon industry. As founder and owner of Urban Waxx – a unique salon concept completely focused on waxing and over the top customer service with three locations in Portland, Oregon – Conley has experienced a period of rapid growth since starting her business in 2007. She has also found success in product development with the launch of Serious Serum, the best all natural, AHA ingrown hair eliminator and skin exfoliant on the market. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or

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