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Marketing a Clean Spa

Janet McCormick June 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
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Times are tight right now and spas want—and need—a larger share of clients. Spas, whether they are small or large, want to attract every client possible by using every method at their disposal to set themselves apart from their competition. How can your spa do this and then enjoy the benefits? Marketing your differences, if done properly, can bring in new clients and allow you to keep the ones you already have. But you need something new, a shtick, something they will notice and say, “Ah ha, that is where I want to have my treatments.”

Being clean

The very best gimmick is something that will not only attract clients for a one-time or occasional service, but will also spark loyalty and a good feeling about the entire spa. Goodwill can bring appointments into other parts of the spa, as well, if carefully marketed. One topic that can do this is client safety. Running a thoroughly clean establishment sets your spa apart from your competition, and will attract clients to your spa and keep them there. But first they need to know you are special in this arena of concern.

Safety is a growing worry for clients, mostly due to consumer media coverage about the damage and deaths caused by a few spas because of unsanitary conditions. The nail area of spas is a main focus when safety is considered because the most visible cases of sanitary neglect have occurred in this area. The media has announced the problems in the nail industry to the world and erroneously indicated that all nail services are dangerous. Many clients have accepted this judgment and do not have nail services, and some no longer go to spas.

Nails

Spa professionals generally believe that theirs is “Not one of those spas.” But is that true? Has a nail technician in your spa ever reused a file or orangewood stick? How about a towel? Do you require your nail clients to wash their hands before being seated at the service table? Do you give your nail technicians the support they need to be perfectly safe? Some important and marketable purchases and policies include the following:

Good quality, single-use nail files for technician use. Nail files traditionally are expensive. They cost from $1.75 up to almost $5 a piece, and that eliminates the profits of a manicure or pedicure if the file is thrown away, as per the regulation in every state. For that reason, many spas do not push the one-time use of files. Know, however, that there are inexpensive files available in multiple grits that can be purchased in bulk at reasonable prices.

“We purchase files in bulk with our logo on them so our technicians can give them to the client or throw them away after each service,” says Cathy Masters, purchasing manager for Kenneth’s Hair Salons & Day Spas, which has multiple locations in Ohio.

When a nail department strongly enforces this policy, every new client is surprised at this gift and asks about the policy. For that reason, when the file is handed to the client at the end of the service, the technician should provide a brief description of the spa’s infection-control principles with the theme being, “We care about you.” This simple activity can be a very valuable marketing tool for your spa. With that in mind, the cost of the files can be put into perspective as a serious marketing technique to elicit positive feelings about the spa.

A strict hand-washing policy. The regulations of every state require technicians and clients to wash their hands before giving and receiving nail services, but this is among the regulations that are most ignored. Again, this is a very visible marketing tool because clients notice and comment on it, and offers an opportunity foryou to discuss it with them in a “We care about you” voice. Train manicure clients how to wash their hands for at least 60 seconds with a gel soap and brush before a treatment. The hands are cleansed, then a brush is used to clean around the nails and their free edges. The technician also washes her hands well. Many are using gel hand cleansers between clients, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that these actually kill more microbes than washing with soap and water, if used properly.

“We have client sinks in the nail rooms now to make this task speedy, and to allow technicians to monitor client hand washing,” says Masters. Let’s face it, many clients cheat because they believe their hands are not dirty, so be sure to state the policy and allow no variation from it.

Clean nail tables. Clear and thoroughly clean every nail table between clients. Also, disinfect them with a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved surface disinfectant. Clean towels must be used for every client, and by having an organized nail table, technicians can establish this habit easily. A clean table supports a client’s feeling of safety.

Obvious and visible infection techniques. Many spas are purchasing autoclaves to step up their infection control to a level that is even higher than the states require. (Access complete contact information for all state boards.) Pouches house the implements during sterilization, and technicians tear open the pouches in front of clients to demonstrate their level of sterilization. Pedicure equipment, rooms and implements must be impeccably clean, and pedicure chairs need to be disinfected thoroughly.

If the spa strongly advocates sanitation through its marketing efforts and client safety policies, that belief can influence clients’ feelings about the rest of the spa as well. For that reason, the other departments of the spa must also practice high-level infection control. Every area must be immaculate.

How to market safety

Safety is an issue for many clients. For that reason, safe practices can double as successful marketing tools because they target a person’s self-preservation instincts.

Policies and practices. The first place to start is by marketing your policies and practices of infection control. For instance, the spa’s policies have been changed or developed regarding cleanliness, it has purchased new sanitation-based equipment and its professionals have been thoroughly trained and informed of the benefits of a sanitary spa.

Internal marketing. Next, current clients should be told about the spa’s new safety policies because internal marketing is the least expensive and usually the most effective kind of marketing. For example, a separate insert can be put into the client brochure and given or sent to every current client, with a two-to-three sentence explanation of the changes.

The information can also be e-mailed to a client list, stating something to the effect of, “Your safety is important to us at XYZ spa.” Spa personnel should supply the brochure and insert to clients and provide a short explanation, such as, “We’ve become aware of the changes out there in the world, so we have decided, for your protection, that we must step up our infection control. We care about you and want to protect you in every way we can. Please take a look at the explanation in the brochure so you will know the changes we’ve made.”

Small, tasteful signs should also be placed around the spa about the policy and at the front desk. This will result in positive curiosity, then clients will begin discussing it with their friends who have seen the media stories and will be pleased to brag about how “My spa is stepping it up. Has yours? If not, you need to come to mine.” Also, you will be surprised how many facial, hair and massage clients not getting pedicures will begin making appointments.

External marketing. The external marketing of the focus on sanitation can be simple, such as placing in every ad a brief statement that reads, “We focus on your safety,” or, “We sterilize.” Your Web site can include a short page with your safety policies, focusing on a “We care” theme. A small, transparent statement placed eye-level above the handle on the front door of the business is also a good practice. It’s believed that a person must see something seven times during a short period of time to remember it. That means any new marketing must be staccato though subtle. Once is not enough.

Answer it loudly

Clients are becoming more knowledgeable and, therefore, are becoming more choosey about where they experience their spa services. Many are turned off due to what they have heard about the unsanitary conditions of some nail salons and spas in general. Marketing to this concern can turn a negative into a positive; attack it head on and answer it loudly, and you will reap the benefits with new clients and more business.

 

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Infection Control

Doug Schoon, a consultant from Schoon Scientific & Regulatory Consulting, LLC,and co-chair for the Nail Manufacturers Council, says that there is a lot of misinformation in the spa industry about infection control. “Infection control should be fully and correctly understood by every professional in our industry, but is not,” he says. Many professionals believe placing implements into disinfection liquid is sterilization; this is a misconception. The correct information follows.

Sanitation

  • Reduces the population of dirt, debris and microorganisms on a surface
  • Physically removes contamination, but does not necessarily destroy microorganisms
  • Is a mandatory requirement before disinfection or sterilization of implements

Disinfection

  • Involves using an agent to destroy or inactivate harmful microbes
  • Usually refers to the destruction of microbes on implements by immersion in EPA-approved chemicals that kill the growing, vegetative forms of bacteria, but not the resistant spores of bacteria and many viruses
  • Requires proper mixing of all liquids according to manufacturer instructions to actively disinfect

Sterilization

  • Any process, physical or chemical, that will destroy all forms of bacteria, fungi, spores and viruses
  • Can be performed through the use of steam under pressure (autoclave) or through a designated number of hours of immersion in EPA-approved sterilants, such as glutaraldehyde

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