spa marketing on a budget

[Image: Getty Images]

Concerned about spiraling marketing costs? Here’s how to brand your spa on a budget.

Trying to market spa services to an increasingly fragmented audience can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive. Anyone who has entered this industry in the last 20 years has witnessed a seismic shift in the way spa-goers consume marketing material. Long gone are the days when the only competition spa owners had to worry about was the other facility across town, and when a sound marketing strategy consisted of glossy postcards, Yellow Pages ads and tall banner signs.

Nowadays, with everyone from the plastic surgeon down the street to the local gynecologist competing for business with day spas, savvy entrepreneurs have to get creative with their promotional efforts. But before you blow your entire budget on the latest social media tool or pricey marketing guru, look to the affordable and effective solutions you already have in your toolbox. Case in point: the following four key strategies, straight from the pros who made them work.

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Rethink Your Retail Shopper

Retail shopping bags are the ultimate brand ambassadors—and they’re inexpensive to boot. By investing as little as an extra $1 per customer, spa owners can essentially turn bags into billboards. Larry Oskin, president of Marketing Solutions, a Fairfax, Virginia-based public relations agency that specializes in the beauty and medical industries, concurs. “You need to get your brand out on the streets in a way that’s memorable,” he opines. His suggestion: Keep the bag simple, yet distinctive. “If your spa’s logo is unique, with a strong color scheme, go with that,” he advises. He recommends limiting the use of deluxe shoppers provided by retail partners such as skincare companies. “They look nice; however, they don’t promote you,” says Oskin.

Whether it’s Tiffany’s bright blue boxes or Bloomingdales’ little brown bags, a well-done shopper works overtime, at no extra cost. “Whenever I give speeches at conventions, I talk about how women save the Tiffany box and love to show it o. With a very small extra investment, all spas should take advantage of this creative marketing and branding opportunity.”

Synergy Spa & Aesthetics

[Image: Courtesy of Synergy Spa & Aesthetics]

Preach to the Choir

In-house marketing is one of the most effective and affordable ways to reach those most likely to use your services or buy your products: the clients already in your spa. “Your customers are a captive audience,” points out Anna Churchill, owner of Synergy Spa & Aesthetics in Raleigh, North Carolina. She believes in nonstop marketing to existing clients, who in turn become disciples spreading the gospel of your spa services.

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Synergy’s two locations feature large round tables for displaying current promotions. “Every season we change our specials,” explains Churchill. “We create an attractive scene that draws people over. Our clients know to look there to find out what’s going on—we’ve trained them to go to the table!” Front desk personnel also wear shirts and buttons that advertise new treatments as part of these promotional campaigns.

Counter cards are another simple and affordable way to promote specials. “You need in-spa point-of-purchase signs that change at least quarterly,” says Oskin. “Remember to switch the signs on your front desk, windows and stations every four to six weeks.”

You can also use wall art to promote your spa services. If your budget allows, ask your retail partners to supply tasteful, framed posters that can be placed in restrooms, locker rooms or in the hair salon area.

Revamp Existing Collateral

Business cards, counter signs, shelf talkers and brochures are traditional forms of spa marketing collateral that, even in 2017, are still valuable—and it pays to wring more marketing mileage out of these old standards.

“Retail shelf talkers are one of the most affordable ways to promote products,” says Oskin. “You can even make them on your home computer.” The industry veteran suggests including the product’s name and two to three benefits. “It must describe what it does,” he says. “The term ‘skin mask’ alone doesn’t really tell the customer which issues it addresses or which skin type it’s for.” Another suggestion: Ditch the traditional spa menu for more affordable rack cards, suggests Churchill. “We print them in bulk and design new ones for specific promotions,“ she says.

Despite the growth of LinkedIn and the prevalence of nifty smartphone apps, business cards aren’t obsolete. But you can still afford to get creative with them. That’s why beauty and lifestyle pro Stacy Cox, owner of Pampered People in Studio City, California, opts for colorful hair combs—with different options for men and women—that display her contact information. Instead of pieces of paper that end up in the trash, her combs are gifts to keep.

“I give these out constantly—clients go nuts for them!” she enthuses. “You can also do this with lip balm and nail files—there are so many inexpensive ways to reinvent the business card.”

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Be Human

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are effective ways to engage with clients, but “one-on-one” communication methods still have their place in spas’ marketing efforts. Churchill reports that she uses email to reach nearly 20,000 customers who visit her spas each month. “Email is a very effective and affordable form of communication,” she says. “Plus, you can segment your messages. For example, our male clients don’t want to know about vaginal rejuvenation, so instead we’ll tell them about ‘Brotox’ and ‘DudeSculpting.’”

Churchill ups the engagement ante further by hosting a weekly video segment, “Ask Anna,” on YouTube and Facebook, in which she responds to a client’s question in a talk show-like setting. “It costs next to nothing. The camera was only about $100,” she shares.

In the age of social media, real contact is an affordable way to set yourself apart from the competition. Cox, for her part, uses text messages, emails and good old- fashioned phone calls for what she calls “custom-tailored interaction.” She elaborates, “In the past, you’d pre-book a client before they left your spa. If you didn’t do this, they weren’t getting back in because the therapist would be unavailable by the time they called. Now, I have to be much more proactive: I put reminders in my notebook such as: ‘Contact Jennifer in six weeks to schedule her next facial.’”

Personal touches like handwritten notes and token gifts work well too. “Offer clients small, inexpensive giveaways with a thank you note telling them how much you appreciate them,” suggests Cox. “It costs little but goes a long way. You’re creating value, which you’ll get back tenfold.”

–by Merlisa Lawrence Corbett

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