Web Exclusive: Interview About the State of the Spa Industry With Maritza Rodriguez

Following are transcripts from a recent interview between Skin Inc. magazine editor in chief Melinda Taschetta-Millane and editorial advisory board member Maritza Rodriguez, global vice president of marketing & communications for Pevonia International, LLC, which included a discussion of spa trends and the future of the spa industry. Read the Reflections column that features the rest of this interview.

Melinda Taschetta-Millane: What future adaptation do you feel still is necessary for this industry to continue to move forward?

Maritza Rodriguez: I think a more global perspective within the spa industry would make a tremendous impact. It’s not an easy task. There’s not a true source for global representation of who we are as an industry, and I think that’s a challenge. That’s a challenge from a manufacturer, vendor and professional standpoint, because if this is your career and this is what you are dedicating your life to and you want to build, where do you have to go? What are your options on a global level, because people are changing as they are aging. They are looking at other options that are not always U.S.-based. I believe an evolution from a national vision to a more global wellness vision will serve all of us in a positive way. We are fortunate with Pevonia because we’ve got that global perspective from our distributors, but as a whole, the industry doesn’t have that, which would be extremely beneficial.

Education is another huge area—making education truly mainstream for the industry. Right now, pretty much, the way education works is by selection. It’s members-only. If the majority of the leaders were making education truly an important part of their business model, the whole industry would benefit, and it would elevate the quality of our professionals and, in turn, the quality of what is delivered to the consumer.

MTM: What advice do you have for spa owners in this day and age? How can they keep afloat, stay practical?

MR: Tons—where do I begin? The funny thing with our industry is, you deal with all levels of individuals. And many have their hearts in the right place; this is where they want to be, this is their love, this is their passion, but the business side needs to drive their business, and not relationships or emotions. It’s that whole dynamic of “This is the way I’ve done it, and I’ve done OK, so I’m OK. It’s what I’ve done in the past.” It’s getting past that mindset of “I’m doing this because I love this” and changing gears to a mindset of “I’m doing this because I’m successful.” And I think on the emotional side, there is a big difference there. A lot of the wonderful people who we have in our industry are emotionally distraught. They’ve paid the price for being part of this industry, especially the last few years, and they don’t know what to do. So, having a business mindset or bringing in a key player within your business who has that business-driven mindset, in my mind, that would be the No. 1 position that I would be looking at, someone business-minded and detail-driven. I can’t imagine that a spa can truly be more successful without it, and that can come in many forms. That could come as a consultant, that could come as maybe a shared position, farming business knowledge with spa, with someone who knows business and is out there every day in a corporate setting. There are creative ways to do this, but I don’t think people always see that. They have this wonderful escape, this wonderful retreat that anyone would die to be a part of, and particularly for free, so why not exchange it, why not develop some type of business-minded mentoring program where you could come together, wherever your weaknesses are.

Another area is a strengths, weaknesses/limitations, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. You know, I don’t know too many spas that seriously dedicate time to a SWOT analysis. That’s a mistake. It helps you be able to then take that analysis and have a plan of action. You could do some type of business mentoring or barter program, where perhaps you know someone extremely strong in information technologies, and you are getting ready to launch an automatic customer relationship management (CRM), so why not barter with someone who knows more than you do? Then you don’t make the mistakes that cost you thousands and thousands of dollars, nor do you have the loss of all the downtime that comes as a result of that. Same thing on the business side of it, on the retail side of it, on the merchandising side. I think those days of everyone just doing their own thing and being OK with it have gone by. This industry has evolved into needing experts in the right areas in order to develop a business successfully.

MTM: Being a marketing guru, what advice do you have from the marketing end?

MR: I think from a marketing standpoint, I’d like to at least report what I see as a trend with highly successful accounts that I encourage to be a mainstream trend: targeted marketing. And also, getting customer feedback and really listening to what your customers are saying and let that drive your marketing plan. Because a lot of times, I think that people go by whatever they happen to read, or hear, or they think somebody else tried that worked, and sometimes the answers are staring at us right there. It’s as simple as having a great account sitting in front of you and saying this is everything I’m doing right, but this is really what I am desperate for. You also need to get that kind of feedback from the consumer that’s walking in your door, from that client. Yes, you are a great place, I love the ambiance, I love this and that, however, I’d love for you to offer … do you do that? Do you answer that kind of marketing intelligence, and then once you have it, do you use it? Because some places are great at feedback and asking for input, but then it never goes any further. If you have the plans and make sure that you are asking for that kind of input, you should be ready to make some changes, because the last thing you want to do is ask for input and then not do anything with it. That’s a bad business decision. So target marketing is one, and then I think the whole strategic marketing approach to not just market for the sake of marketing is crucial. If a spa has a marketing budget, chances are good that it’s extremely lean or nonexistent. A good option is e-marketing, which is pennies, it costs nothing but the person’s time, using trial resources. Most spas have amazing people on their staff, and they’re challenged with keeping them busy when traffic is down, yet they have someone who is just a dynamo when it comes to retail, yet have them just sitting, waiting for some appointment to walk in the door. It’s knowing your team members and getting to know their strengths, and also culling them, helping them to become stronger in their field so that they can attribute to your business at a higher level.

And then of course, I must mention digital marketing. Enough said. Digital marketing and social mediaif you’re not there, then you are in trouble. That’s just the bottom line. I won’t say you are in trouble, but you are in danger of becoming extinct. You still could turn things around at this point. In this industry, there is still a lot of laggers, but globally, if you look at the universe, you’re really, really behind, and so there needs to be a plan for that, even it’s on a smaller scale, even if it’s a start-up plan. Then when you are ready to take it to the next level, either barter for professional services or try something such as a 30-day assessment. Let them give you the input. Again, tap into your clients. You have all these affluent consumers that are walking in; they are in the business world, they understand how to do business, and why not tap them and ask what do you think about the overall experience that they are offered? What about the spa’s services? What about how you are approached? I think asking those strategic questions and then actually doing something with it will go far.

We have talked about that and how important education is, both digital and online. And I think on the retail, consumers are looking around more than ever. I think there is a resurgence to effective but safe. I think that the mindset of “It doesn’t matter what it does as long as I look good” is weaning out. The consumer has now come full circle and said OK, I can do these aggressive, invasive procedures, but I can also do noninvasive nonaggressive, and the treatments and the products are natural, but effective and safe, and I’m actually doing something great for my skin. So, it’s that whole shifting of the mindset, and that’s both on professional and retail side, which will carry over to spa treatments. But I also think that clients walk into a spa looking for more advanced types of treatments, and they want the experiences to be more unique. You can do that in so many different ways—by enhancing it with equipment, enhancing it based on personal selections, there are a lot things. Very unique menu offerings allow spas to really distinguish themselves. You need a unique menu, and a unique way of delivering the services. Is it going to give them a wow factor? If you can get there with the products that you are using, then guess what, your guest satisfaction rate just went up. Consumers want the wow, and they are willing to do noninvasive and safe, but they still want the wow.

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