Want to plan and execute sharp spa marketing strategies throughout 2013? Create a bulletproof promotional calendar.

As the old proverb goes, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail,” and nothing could be truer when it comes to day spa marketing. Which is why you should plan to ring in the New Year with an annual—and detailed—promotional calendar.

“Plan your work and work your plan!” encourages Larry Oskin, president of Marketing Solutions. “Consider every month, season and holiday, and strategically plan your advertising, promotions and PR accordingly, to most effectively promote all of your services and products.”

The benefits of a carefully planned marketing calendar far outweigh the time and resources invested in its creation. “You will be so much better organized as an owner and leader if you have a calendar,” says Lisa Arnold, spa consultant and author of Beauty Brigade. “It gets your team into a pattern of keeping things alive and fresh, and regularly expecting something new to share with their clients.”

A proper game plan also affords you perspective, and time to arrange for cross-marketing with other businesses and partners. Conversely, “If you do everything last-minute, you won’t be well organized… which can lead to lackluster results,” says Oskin.

To kick off 2013, DAYSPA picked the marketing-savvy minds of Oskin, Arnold and Cici Coffee, owner of Natural Body Spas, with multiple locations around Atlanta. These experts answered all our questions about building airtight calendars that benefit clients, staff and a spa’s bottom line. Here are their insights:

DAYSPA: What are the goals of a promotional calendar?

Oskin: To create successful short- and long-term plans so you don’t end up chasing after last-minute opportunities that are not well thought out or executed. Coffee: Overarching goals should be focused on seasonality; changes in climate should steer treatment and product promotional focus. For example, in the summer we focus on skincare themes like UV ray protection and reversing existing sun damage, etc.

What should the calendar look like?

Oskin: I recommend separating a spreadsheet into six bi-monthly periods starting with January/February and going through November/December. Keep in mind, your professional spa and beauty trade manufacturers and distributors largely create their launches and campaigns on this basis, so your plans will fit hand-in-glove with whatever they’re promoting. Also, most spa clients only visit once every four to eight weeks, so this schedule offers the most effective use of your time and money.

Start by creating a marketing chart listing all of your spa services and products on the lefthand side of the spreadsheet, and your six monthly periods across the top. This allows you to view everything, and get a base plan in place that you and your entire team can work toward finalizing.

What are the most important elements to include in the calendar?

Coffee: Have lists of initiatives or goals for your staff to achieve, as well as ways specific vendors can help you reach them. Enlist all points of messaging to be used for each (examples: website, advertisements, social media, staff scripting and in-store, point-of-sale material).

A calendar should include all monthly service highlights and corresponding products, and also stipulate what the client should expect to achieve in treatment, and with home use. Keep your messaging clear and consistent for each period.

Oskin: Also, take the time to list all community events and local charitable projects you could incorporate. Aim to strategically promote each of your services and products when your clients would most appreciate and benefit from them.

Consider scheduling an annual spa photography session to capture shots of all current signature services, top products and your staff members, for use in this year’s promotional materials. Create a complementary yearlong PR plan too, keeping in mind that most media outlets work three months in advance. This will help you pitch TV, newspaper and magazine stories to highlight your promotions.

Who should be involved in the calendar planning process?

Coffee: For us, different groups are involved in various aspects of the planning. Our marketing team starts by looking at seasonality and identifying possible initiatives. Then management asks product partners to disclose their respective calendars and offer suggestions, promotional materials and in-store demos to help us achieve each initiative. Operations staff plans roll-out details and time lines. Management communicates the field plan to the spa staff.

What are the most important times of year to focus on promotion?

Oskin: Use past financial reports to analyze and highlight what has sold best during each month, quarter and season. Then, plug in the events you know you want to focus on: major holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the year-end holidays, National Breast Cancer Month, National Wellness Week and any other annualized season. You should also note all federal holidays, when people are likely to have time off to go to the spa.

Gift certificate/card promotions should be promoted year-round, but tend to perform best leading up to the four biggest gift-giving seasons—especially if your front desk staff and service providers are trained to ‘promote the promotions.’

Arnold: I use online greeting card services to remind clients of anniversaries, holidays and other festive promotions. Use your calendar to tip off your staff as to when reminders should go out!

Coffee: We plan promotions around new product launches or skincare discoveries, and try to piggyback on our vendors’ PR initiatives. So when one of our favorite companies lets us know about a new treatment they’ve designed or ingredient they’ve discovered, we try to highlight their launches and news in our own promotions, to benefit from their advertising, as well as the editorial coverage they’ll receive.

What are the wisest ways to budget promotions throughout the year?

Oskin: On average, you should budget 5% to 8% of your projected gross annual sales on marketing, unless you’re a brand-new day spa, in which case you should plan to spend 10% to 12% your first year. More established spas that generate $2 or $3 million dollars annually can scale back to 3% to 5% per year.

Certain promotions, seasons, holidays and months will require larger budget allotments, so figure out your budget in advance and plan on designating months that will cost more and less to promote. The annual calendar is a great visual tool to help you end the year on budget.

Arnold: You need to look at your past years’ financial reports and analyze consistent business trends—identify slower seasons, busy seasons, new product timelines and services. I suggest 3% to 5% of income be channeled into advertising, but I am also a big proponent of internal marketing, as it is much more cost-effective, and often a more successful way of getting the most out of your existing client base.

How long should each promotion last?

Arnold: A good cycle typically ranges between four to eight weeks, depending on your spa’s frequency of client visits.

Coffee: Last year we had too much going on—we had planned monthly promotions—and the staff had trouble transitioning. So this year, we’ve extended themed promotions to 60 days, with a few subtle changes, such as newsletter info and small specials and sales, taking place from month to month, within those cycles.

How much flexibility for change should I allow once my calendar is drawn up?

Oskin: Plan for keeps when it comes to your major service and product projects, while you leave some flexibility and wiggle room for promotional ideas. But plan to confirm each bi-monthly promotion at least three months in advance.

Arnold: Most successful promotions are all set, in terms of material preparation, at least 30 to 45 days out. I think as long as changes take place at least 60 days prior to the promotion, you’ll be fine.

Coffee: We only wiggle when a promotion is not achieving forecasted success, and at that time it’s important to be flexible for change. For instance, when microdermabrasion started getting big, we realized that while we offered it, we were still putting more emphasis on other, less popular treatments, so didn’t even come up in Google searches for microderm providers. So we shifted our focus drastically, with great results.

Once my calendar is completed, who should I share it with?

Oskin: With all staff and external resources! There’s no need to share it with clients too early, since you don’t want them to delay their spa services or purchases because they’re waiting to use discounts and promotional offers. Early on, though, take your calendar to neighboring restaurants, florists, bridal shops and any other business you might want to cross-market with, so you’ll be able to plan cross-promotions at least three to six months in advance.

Coffee: First, we show our plans to vendor partners, so we can decide when we’ll be promoting together. All managers require finalized plans two weeks prior to the launch of each promotion. After each promotional cycle ends, finance and marketing reviews sales to analyze for ROI. Then we sit down to document the strengths and weaknesses of each, to reference in our final planning for 2014.

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