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How to start a spa club that increases revenue and client relationships

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If you planned to tone up for your wedding, would you hit the gym for a single five-hour session before the big day? To shed 10 pounds for bikini season, would you diet for a day and expect to look great? The answer to both, of course, is a resounding “no.” Likewise, when a spa client wants to get her skin or body glowing and rejuvenated, an annual marathon spa day certainly won’t result in the same long-term benefits as monthly visits to the esthetician or massage therapist.

“It’s like going to the gym. If you want results, you have to work at it regularly,” says Angela Cortright, owner of Southern California’s Spa Gregorie’s. This is why more and more spas are creating serial-treatment programs, and promoting monthly maintenance rather than special-occasion outings.

“The spa is a relationship business, and when you see someone using a gift certificate once a year, that’s not a relationship; it’s more of a one-night stand,” says Keith West-Harrison, co-owner of Great Face & Body in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and CEO of Spa Enrichment Strategies. “The days of guests going to the spa for five hours at a time are over. People don’t want to be disconnected from email and Facebook for that long. There’s been a shift in the pace of society which has led to a shift in the habits of consumers which should—for smart spa owners—lead to a shift in what we offer, and how.”

The best way to roll with this shift? Provide a wellness odyssey that lasts throughout the year, in incremental doses. DAYSPA checked out some of the most successful serial spa membership programs to find out how they work, how they’re marketed and what they bring to the table.

Club Rules

“It’s a simple concept: make a commitment to your skin,” says Amanda Gorecki, owner of Healing Waters Day Spa (with locations in North Carolina and Kansas), of her spa’s Pure Commitment membership program. Gorecki launched the program, based on Healing Waters’ primary skincare product line, Pure MD, in 2008 as a way to increase revenue in a down economy.

Pure Commitment members get an introductory facial for $75, 11 monthly facials at $99 a pop, discounted skincare boosters, 25% off all Pure MD products and the opportunity to bring in a guest for discounted facials twice a year. “This wouldn’t work if you didn’t use a line your clients really liked,” Gorecki says. The program was such a hit that in 2009, Healing Waters’ massage therapists requested their own version. Thus, Massage Me Monthly was born under a similar format.

Spa Gregorie’s launched its Skincredible Facial Fitness Club in May. Skincredible members who sign up for one year at $99 a month receive monthly facials; two homecare kits featuring the same products used in Skincredible services; and discounts on products, boosters and even waxing. A six-month program is also available.

At Advanced Beauty Care in Burlingame, California, owner/esthetician Sarah Jane Simons offers the Youth Recovery Program, a three-month-long facial club/comprehensive homecare regimen. Like Healing Waters’ program, Youth Recovery was born of a product that Simons’ clients loved: Time Logic Age Serum by Guinot.

"It's a simple concept: Make a commitment to your skin."

“It started in 2009 after a year of ‘experimenting,’ ” Simons says. “I fine-tuned the program to enhance results via a three-month cycle: a month using the serum, then a month of applying youth-regenerating day and night creams, and a final month spent renewing the skin via gentle fruit acids. It’s a process that you can repeat throughout the year.” The program begins with a consultation with Simons, and includes various facials and at-home “prescriptions” that are detailed in her written instructions. “It’s highly customized for each individual’s specific skin needs, so we don’t have a fixed price,” she says.

Pledging Members

Promoting these programs essentially comes down to the one-on-one consultation. “I spend 15 to 20 minutes with each new client asking questions like, ‘What are two things about your skin you’d like to improve?’ and ‘Where do you carry your stress?’ Then I suggest solutions to their problems,” West-Harrison says. “You can market programs with email blasts and signage, but nothing works like getting a person in front of you to really talk.”

At Spa Gregorie’s, the client’s initial consultation is dubbed a “Skintervention.” “It starts with an analysis of guests’ nutrition, stress levels, etc., and then we use a skin scope to look for sun damage and other issues, and a moisture meter to test the hydration of the skin,” explains Cortright.

During Healing Waters’ Pure Commitment consultation, members are encouraged to come in every three weeks for a facial. “I want a client in here a minimum of once a month, so if I tell them ‘every three weeks,’ they’ll come every four or five weeks, which is actually our goal,” Gorecki says.

Another winning push to help sell these programs? Internal staff incentives. “We offer estheticians free products or a comped chemical peel as motivation to enroll clients,” Gorecki says. “The more they use the product themselves, the better able they are to talk to clients about it, and it’s great for them to know they’ve secured a year’s worth of business for themselves.”

“Once you turn a client’s yearly spa habit into a monthly one, and deliver what you promise, they are yours for life.”

Healing Waters also sells lots of Pure Commitment membership packages at a discount during its annual Ritual Sale—held for only a set number of hours. “We modeled it after Nordstrom’s anniversary sale, where they don’t tell customers in advance when it will take place, so that guests aren’t waiting for the sale before they sign up,” Gorecki explains. “We don’t even let our staff know when it is. But we give teasers through Facebook and email blasts.”

In addition, Healing Waters hosts one-day sales for corporations, in which managers can buy into the programs for their staff, at a discounted price. “We encourage businesses to incentivize their employees with it,” Gorecki says. “We sell a lot in bulk this way and it creates another opportunity for secured income.”

Beyond the one-on-one contact, Spa Gregorie’s relies on social media, advertising and local press, getting editors hooked on the program so they’ll help spread the word. “Every event we attend, we bring the Skintervention set-up with big banners, and use the testing machines on guests for free,” Cortright says.

Advanced Beauty Care uses its Facebook, website and blog outlets to educate women about aging skin concerns and the continual efforts necessary to fight them. “I have Facebook fans all over the world who haven’t even come in, but are simply interested in the program concept,” says Simons.

Even better than new fans? A stronger bottom line and deeper client relationships. As West-Harrison notes, “Once you turn a client’s yearly spa habit into a monthly one, and deliver what you promise, they are yours for life.”

“We’ve had our best years since launching Pure Commitment, despite this economy,” says Gorecki. “It secured us an extra $120,000 in the first year, exceeding expectations. And when our clients bring in a guest, a high percentage will convert, giving us new clients. Massage Me Monthly has also succeeded, bringing in approximately $75,000 in 2010.”

In Skintervention’s first month, Spa Gregorie’s was able to sell two programs a week. They were up to three by the second month. “We’re very happy with it. And when we deliver on the results and guests walk away with amazing skin, they tell their friends,” says Cortright. “It doesn’t get any better than that.” •

Related: Get With the Program | The Client of the Future: Part 1 | The Layers Club