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Surviving the Economic Crisis

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: January 7, 2009, from the January 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Also, similar to Tamara Spa + Wellness, Changes is spending more time making the client experience something to remember. “We’re in an affluent area and we’ve always been busy. We’ve trained our staff to realize and appreciate clients, but a percentage of our team is a little complacent. At a recent State of the Company address, we told them to consider what they’ve been doing throughout the years in regard to client relations as training, and now it’s the real thing. Step up and make sure you’re doing it every time. I think our team gets it and, as a result, that’s why we’re still climbing a little bit in today’s economy—we aren’t taking it for granted,” Waters says.

Marketing maintenance

It is common knowledge that the worst thing a business can do when experiencing tough times is to cut the marketing budget … but some spas do it anyway. “If you’re going to cut something, that’s not a good place to start,” says Bernens. “You’ve got to keep your name out there in order for it to be recognized.” So instead of cutting your marketing entirely, consider refining it. “Don’t try and do anything like discounting to beat out the competition, because once you discount, it’s hard to come back from that,” advises LaCour. “The competitive edge is taking what has worked for you already and seeing what you can do to give added value to your services, such as the old gift-with-purchase. For example, if you’re doing a microdermabrasion series, add on a glycolic peel.”

Open houses are a great way to offer promotional services to new and existing clients, too. “We just had an open house that was huge success,” says Bernens. “It takes place once a year and clients come to get a discount on that night.” Friedman believes it’s important to organize a lot of activities around your spa. “People are looking for specials. We are planning a couple of open houses, offering free makeup applications for the holidays and hosting a Botox* party,” she says.

As important as the programs themselves is getting the word out, and Web-based resources, because of their low price, speed and ease-of-use, are quickly becoming the spa’s favored form of marketing during the economic downturn. According to Morrell-Dean, “I’ve been doing a lot more Internet marketing than radio and newspaper advertising, and I can’t imagine advertising any other way.” In fact, Spa Morrell does approximately 90% of its advertising through the Internet, using Constant Contact for e-mail blasts, SpaFinder, Merchant’s Circle and search engine optimization. “That’s been the best advertising for us thus far,” says Morrell-Dean.

The speed available by e-mail blast marketing is proving priceless because spas are doing more last-minute marketing than ever before. “We are sending e-mail campaigns to fill unbooked times, and we’re being specific about the availability—this technician, this time, this day,” says Waters. “That’s proving to be pretty beneficial.”