One of the greatest perplexities to any spa owner is advertising. When to do it? Where? What makes sense? How much should I budget? We all understand the business of skin and body care, but getting our spa-oriented mind into marketing mode takes a real push. Marketing and advertising is a vast field of possibilities-both good and bad.
Every business needs to market itself, to get the word out about the availability, uniqueness, and quality of its goods and services. In the increasingly competitive day spa industry it's important to make potential customers aware of a company's distinctive qualities.
As a result of all this competition, it's also become more expensive to attract and expand on sales.
Many spa owners have become disillusioned with the investment return of conventional advertising and promotion; particularly print ads in newspapers, circulars, and magazines. The few businesses that can afford television and radio spots have seen returns even more disappointing. Product and service discounting, while producing some new sales, often fails to expand either the customer base or profits, particularly profits since the cost of sales can rise in direct proportion to the depth of those discounts. Employees await new appointments like baby birds in a nest-mouths open and calling for the next parental feeding, often lacking confidence in the hunt for more business. What's the anxious spa owner to do-litter windshields with day-glo flyers? It's time for a little marketing lesson.
Begin by understanding that marketing is a complicated science, one almost requiring a master's degree for those interested in mastering its methods. Most of us are novices at best, tossing precious advertising budget into a game we don't understand, like first-time gamblers sitting at a table of card sharks. Unfortunately there are plenty of willing hands to help you lose money in this game.
The spa industry is built on creativity and we sell feelings. Our advertising and marketing needs to be the same.
Our favorite place to start is by adopting a great local charity. We have always found that by giving back, you get much more in return. Beyond the Karmic benefits of adopting a charity, the press loves to write about those types of relationships. Again, we are in an emotional and feeling driven industry, this carries those feelings of goodwill right back to you. We have had clients have great success with their local chapters of DRESS FOR SUCCESS (www.dressforsuccess.org). They focus on helping women get back into the work force by helping them with work skills and giving them suits for the interview. Since self-esteem is an important part of getting a quality job, it lends itself very nicely to the spa market. Imagine how much more confident you'd feel going for an interview after a facial and make-up lesson. The other members of the community that support Dress For Success are the ideal clients. Most of them are successful corporate people with lots of stress in their lives. That's an ideal market for you.
The keys to picking a good one include:
- Good local outreach (people & pets are great ideas)
- Other supporters are your ideal clients
- Cross promotional opportunities-breakfasts, fund raising events, access to a e-mail or mailing list
Networking opens a whole new arena of advertising and marketing opportunities. Think of all the people you know. We all have friends with connections. Now is the time to use them. Become a local expert in your area on health and wellness. Offer to speak at luncheons or events in town. Bring a few massage therapists with you to a chamber of commerce mixer. Nothing gets people as excited as a little table where you offer free hand and arm massages. Not only do you get the chance to make customers, the people you talk with will go out and tell others. Again, this ties into the relationship aspect of our industry that you cannot get through a flat print ad in your local paper.
Just last month I did a day of consulting at a new spa in Mission Viejo, Calif. While waiting forever to make a left hand turn into the parking lot, I counted 53 people out for their morning walk. They were pushing strollers, walking with friends and jogging. Once inside we discussed marketing. We figured how many new people we could get if we set up a bottled water table and offered chair massage one day right on the curb! Yet another great and low cost way to personalize your marketing efforts.
One other overlooked area of advertising is through referrals. It is well worth the cost of having business cards made for your employees and to get them in the habit of passing them out.
Ask any spa owner where their best new customers come from and you'll hear the same thing: word-of-mouth. Referrals, the great client cloning engine that we all love and depend upon! It's the least expensive source of the best customers you can ask for. But that's exactly the problem: we don't ask for them. Employees hand departing clients their business card, managers create referral reward certificates that offer special discounts for clients that recommend others to try the spa, and everyone is confident that clients will automatically encourage friends, coworkers, and family to visit.
Why am I whipping this issue when you know that you've been winning referrals-lots of them? Because there are many more that you could've had IF you asked your clients to send them to you. It's a mistake to believe that referrals are simply a natural happy client reflex. They aren't. In fact, the busier your spa seems to be, the less likely your customer will want to increase their own difficulty in getting the appointment time they want. And some customers believe that if you're as busy as you say you are the last thing you need is another customer to work on. Why...they're actually doing you a favor by keeping potentially pesky customers away from your already overloaded schedule. See how expensive assumptions can be?
Here's a simple and elegant script that works very well in prompting your clients to send you more: require (that critical word again) that technicians tell departing clients (new and first repeat clients), "Sara, I just want to say that it was wonderful working with you today! Many of my best clients come from the referrals of others I see and I'd be honored to work with friends or family of yours whom you think would also enjoy my services, especially if they're as delightful as you are. May I give you a few of my cards?" Works beautifully and customers are deeply flattered by it. Now the client knows that you want more customers and, after a request as personally thoughtful as this one was, will be more actively seeking them for you. Referrals are the product of generosity on the part of those who are loyal to someone that has treated them especially well. Save your discount and give more love!
Set goals for your employees. They should be able to get 10-15 new clients a month just based on the people they bump into at restaurants and boutiques.
Each spa's advertising and marketing approach will be unique and should include the flavor of the spa. Be creative. Think of the ways you can influence the people you meet to become long-term clients.
Your marketing to-do list:
- Adopt a great charity.
- Make it a point to network with other local businesses.
- Interact with mall walkers or other fitness gathering locations.
- Create a referral system and goals for your staff.
- Track all of your referral sources.
- Keep it fresh and exciting.
- Invite a trainer to teach your staff retail and marketing techniques
Okay, you have plenty to do now! With a measured plan and dedication to success you can see a new wave of untapped customers sweep into your spa. Customers are standing by!