People have always been drawn to simple solutions and lists as a source of information and advice. Research has shown attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and even public television’s premier educational program Sesame Street is based on providing snippets of information with fast-changing topics and images to hold a child’s attention and increase retention. The same is true today for adults.
Simply put, marketing is a series of activities that communicates information about a product or service to attract the attention of a target audience and translate that interest into a sale. A marketing plan organizes these activities in a coordinated manner, with each initiative building on the last to create a comprehensive strategy.
To help build the best marketing plan for your spa, keep these facts in mind, as well as the fact that any marketing effort should be directed toward both current and prospective clients. Remember, it is more cost-effective to keep and grow your current base than to attract new customers.
Now is the time
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Society today is primed and ready for professional skin care products and services. A recent survey by the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons found that, for adults 18 and older, two-thirds favored cosmetic surgery, an 8% increase above last year’s results. The approval of cosmetic procedures is growing across all age groups. Also, the demand for anti-aging products and services is expected to grow at 11.3% annually, despite current economic conditions. And the market size for anti-aging products alone—excluding services—is now $5.8 billion. It is expected to eclipse $11 billion by 2012.
To best take advantage of this growing market, a significant component of your business plan should include a comprehensive approach to marketing your services and product offerings. The following marketing initiatives focus on proven techniques and activities that work. Know that there is not a simple, perfect top 10 marketing initiatives list. These strategies are meant as a catalyst to stir the pot and get you thinking about you, your business, your team members and how to enhance each of these components.
Remember, the devil is in the details and in the execution. Where practical and affordable, consider the services of a marketing professional to help you achieve your goals. But never forget, no one knows your business as well as you do, so don’t be bullied into any activity that doesn’t feel right. It’s your business, your money and your future—you need to do what you think is right.
1. Focus on your most profitable clients. Review your current client list, and determine those clients who are most valuable to you. You may be surprised to learn that a small percentage of them actually contribute the majority of your profits. Ask those premier clients why they use your services and purchase your products, as they may be better able to articulate points that can play a major role in shaping your marketing initiatives. The more you know about your current clients, the more you will learn about your spa and about what actually works.
2. Target your first marketing dollars to current clients. Market to your existing customers. Offer them programs such as a free product with a service or a procedure you want to introduce or expand. Add a free upgrade to a specific service as a special that changes monthly. Create a frequent visitor program where, when a clients reach a specific number of services, they can receive a free service or a significant discount. Offer services in a series, with the last one free if the client pays in advance. These kinds of initiatives will help keep your regular clients coming in.
3. Market through education. Conduct periodic educational seminars for current and prospective clients. Bring in speakers, involve your vendors, and offer raffle prizes and welcome gifts. And if you find your vendor does not act as a strategic partner, switch vendors.
Advertise educational events to your clients, in local newspapers, on the radio and with zip code-specific direct mailings. You can often trade advertising with the media for free services they can give away to their clients, listeners or employees. Bartering is a widely accepted business practice.
To provide great information, seek out vendors as speakers, as they are also likely to benefit from addressing your audience. You will be amazed at how many noted professionals will offer to speak at your event at no direct cost to you. Topics can include information such as the latest advances in noninvasive cosmetic procedures, updates on breast cancer screenings and treatments, new ingredient trends—basically any issue that would be of interest to your clientele. Most importantly, present useful, credible information on timely topics. These events should not be commercials for a given product or service, and they should make your clients want to come back again.
4. Establish a referral network. Create cooperative programs with like-minded professional practices and businesses. These could include physicians, dentists, chiropractors, wedding photographers, fitness studios, schools and colleges, as well as neighboring shops and stores. Think out of the box. For example, you can host local networking events at your location. Many professionals would welcome an event to meet other area professionals for both business and personal reasons. Why not become a catalyst for bringing people together? The benefits to you can be enormous.
5. Offer last-minute specials. In the spa industry, it’s well-known most days have open appointment slots. But if you can work on getting it so that every slot is filled, both you and your clients will benefit. To that end, create a last-minute special list. Have your front desk staff make clients aware of these opportunities that carry special rates, and make sure clients know they will only have a two- or three-hour window in which to accept the offer. Communicate that these openings are rare, so clients should take advantage of them when the opportunity arises. There are great benefits to both you and your clients if you can fill in those empty time slots.
6. Get involved in local charities. First and foremost, giving back to the community that helps support you is the right thing to do. Second, it can help increase your business’s visibility and profile among community members. Adopt an organization to support, and encourage your staff to do so as well. Being active in an organization, especially one that attracts current or potential clients, will spread your good name and result in increased business. Donate services and support, and volunteer as much as is feasible for you and your team members. Remember, givers receive and get back more than they give, so be generous in spirit and in deed.
7. Collect client information, especially e-mail addresses. Without an accurate database of client information for communication, you are losing out on a myriad of opportunities. You cannot run a service business by just opening your door and waiting for clients to come to you. E-mails, periodic newsletters, special incentive communications, colorful postcards and birthday cards containing gift certificates are just a few examples of how you can stay in touch. Call each client after she comes in, asking about her experience and level of satisfaction. If there was an issue, all the better, as you now know about it and can take corrective steps to prevent it from happening again. People like to be asked about their service, making this a good marketing program, as well as a quality assurance effort.
Whether you like it or not, your competitors are reaching out to your clients, as well. If you need support or advice, seek help from your strategic partners. If they will not help, seek out those who will. Don’t forget, your suppliers benefit from your growth and success just as much as you, so ask them for support. But be reasonable. An amiable business relationship is typically the most successful one.
8. Establish your services and products as business incentives. Contact local companies and branches of large corporations in your area and offer your services, at a special rate, as employee incentives. These can be used for sales goals, by real estate agents for referrals and new home buyers, by mortgage companies who look to reward those referring clients to them ... the list goes on and on. In essence, anyone who wants to show their appreciation to an employee, client or referral source has potential. Plus, the individuals coming in for these services may well become new clients if you meet or exceed their expectations.
9. Create a one-on-one marketing initiative. Marketing one-on-one is a simple and no-cost initiative that works. By emphasizing person-to-person interaction with a client, you will create a better relationship that yields both client loyalty and referrals. Take the time to learn about those to whom you and your team members provide services to, and train your staff to do the same. Remember details about each client, such product preferences and family information. This creates a level of familiarity that leads to return visits. Everyone likes to feel they are appreciated and heard, so making a special effort to remember details gives you a distinct and well-regarded edge.
10. Market solutions, not problems. Marketing requires an ongoing commitment. To be effective, you need to create familiarity, trust and consistency, and to do this is not a one-shot deal. If you are going to market, make your plan strong at the outset and follow through. One-time efforts are typically a waste of time and money.
Focus on specific market segments as well: new mothers, pregnant women, those seeking anti-aging treatments, smokers and similar niches. Create signature services that build the image of your spa and its services being the solution—the expert—in that area, as well as the thought that coming to you for treatments is special. You want to be the one people turn to, and refer their friends to, when an issue arises.
Going the distance
Each day, ask yourself: What have I done to grow my business today? If the answer is nothing, make a resolution that this will not happen again. Also, any marketing effort would be enhanced by engaging the services of a professional who is knowledgeable and experienced in targeting programs to your specific, desired market. You cannot and should not be all things to all people. Decide who and what you are, what makes you special and tell the world—or at least everyone in your neighborhood.