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Recruiting and Retaining Clients

Melinda Taschetta-Millane March 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

What is your spa’s consumer strategy? We know that a key challenge as the economy slowly makes its comeback is finding new clients to bring through your door and, once they are there, retaining them.

In January’s Vocal Point online survey, we asked our audience: “Is it worth it to get involved with online group buying deals, such as Groupon? Why or why not?” The majority of our respondents saw potential in using online group buying deals, when carefully executed. Although many of you also cautioned about appealing only to bargain-hunters looking for a deal, I think it’s important to share some of the feedback from your peers about how, from this experience, they successfully increased retail profits, gained new clients and helped educate consumers about the importance of spa.

Of course, using caution is key. “It is worth it if you use it correctly,” emphasizes Jennifer Durand, owner of The Nurture Nook Day Spa in Houston, TN, and winner of the Face & Body® Midwest 2011 Conference Package. “Package an offer that won’t cost you more than you are receiving, even once you’ve discounted it. Only book as many Groupons in a day or week that keep other spots open for your cash flow. The advance money you receive for the Groupons also helps with your cash flow, but keep the money back until they cash them in. There is always a percentage that will never use their certificates, and that will enhance the overall money and service received. Make sure you have follow-up offers, as always, for your new Groupon clients. Give them a reason to come back. Even though the spa industry has been sluggish, this is a good time to offer incentives to encourage people to put spa into their lives. If you treat clients right and give them more value, they will think it is worth paying more for. I have witnessed this firsthand, and our business has grown because of it.”

Branding and marketing are everything in a slow economy. “By getting involved in group deals, you are opening your business up for more visibility and potential foot traffic,” says Anthony Silvestri of Sella Skincare in Batavia, IL. “The key to being successful with these promotions is to be prepared and staffed. Poor service and turning new customers away will flop your campaign.”

And no doubt about it, advertising costs money. “Having someone else spread the word about your business is worth doing your service—one time—for a discounted price,” says Shelley Hancock of Real Transformation Center in Foster City, CA. “Use the opportunity to wine and dine these people, and then you’ve created that potential long-term client.”

Donna Dodier of Donna Dodier in Boca Raton, FL, feels that any form of free mass advertising is good if you can get your name out there. “For the business owner, it may bring fresh clients that could potentially become loyal regular spenders,” she explains. “When a Groupon coupon is being used, ask if the client wants to add a body polish or mini facial and make it an inexpensive way to experience the quality and relaxation of your spa. A Groupon buyer may have never entertained coming to your spa until an offer became available. This is the business owner’s chance to acquire a new stream of steady clientele through a little special that is advertised to the masses. You just need to be wise about how to make it work to your advantage. When the Groupon clients check out, ask if they would like to leave gratuity on the special price or the regular pricing of that particular service. Ask them if they would like to be a VIP client and receive specials through their personal e-mail address. But always remember, we all only get one chance to make a first impression.”

Marci Delaney at m.d. Skin llc in West Columbia, SC, credits Groupon with her new start-up business’ success. “With the economy as it has been this past year, I absolutely do not think I would be where I am at this point without participating with Groupon,” she states. “My offer was more than 50% savings to the consumer on a European Facial. I sold close to 200 coupons. As of this date, more than 50% have redeemed, I have been paid by Groupon—exactly as promised—and have grown my client base significantly. I created frequent visitor cards to give to each Groupon client that provides an additional $10 discount on their upcoming facials, provided they come within three months of their last treatment. Then their fifth visit will be 50% off. As a result, I have had many already return, some even for other services such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels and also to purchase gift certificates. Sounds like a winner to me! Would I do it again? Absolutely. I am already planning another Groupon campaign during the slower summer months.”

Denise Neal, an independent business owner who recently relocated her company, Serendipity Esthetics Skin Spa LLC, to a major downtown business hub in a wellness center in Greenville, SC, has a similar reaction. “The distance between my former location and where I am now meant that I was going to lose a certain percentage of my regulars and needed a way to replenish that consistent customer base,” she explains. “My online group buying deal was promoted in late November. It resulted in 238 sales generating needed cash flow for business improvement, and enabling me to turn a significant number into repeat business. You don’t expect every purchaser to return; however, it does promote awareness that my business exists. I have had such a good experience, I plan to repeat in the spring.”

In this rapidly evolving technical world where money truly does play a factor, keeping on top of trends and adapting them into a workable format has almost become a means of survival. “I believe we have to keep up with the next generation and since this is a form of advertising online that costs no money up front, it works for me,” says Brenda Romanow of Desired Image Skin Care Clinic in Amherst, NY. “It is a new, fresh approach that offers new clients an introduction to a service and business that they would not have otherwise tried. As business people, it is up to us to figure out how to treat these new clients like royalty and make up the dollar difference with repeat business or by helping them pass it on. Win-win negotiations always work!”

The bottom line is to know your market, set your goals, and have a clear and well-defined plan in place. Having a consumer strategy in motion will ensure that your spa continues to thrive.