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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

Step Eight: Initial Marketing

By John Fanuzzi

As your staff trains and prepares for your spa opening (to be discussed next month), a parallel process must take place: the initial marketing that announces the event, clears the way for the opening, and builds a foundation for future promotions.

When I think of marketing, I think of what it takes to make the phone ring to book an appointment or make a sale. Although sales and marketing go hand in hand and are often misunderstood, there is still a distinct difference.

When considering marketing, think of eight "P" words -- Prospecting; Positioning; Packaging; Presentation; Pricing; Promotion; Public Relations; and Profitability. Assuming we have a marketing budget for initial startup and the first year, let's get started and look at these "P" words.

Prospecting: When I hear the word prospecting, I think of looking for the gold. In terms of your spa, the search is no different. Gold is what we need to find. We need to find out who our potential customers are. It is a searching and seeking process. It is a time to be a detective and figure out how to get the best return on the time and money you've invested. Times have recently changed, and I think the best buy for your money is using e-mail in your local area to announce your opening and your services. It is probably more important today to get an e-mail address than a phone number. By using e-mail and building that list, you can send out current information about pricing, specials, new services, new employees, and last-minute openings. You should always include a link to your website in the e-mail. Learn from the beginning how to capitalize on this most effective marketing tool. Of course, there is also good old word of mouth and advertising, which certainly have their place and should be used.

Positioning: This is how you place your services in comparison with the competition. How are you going to win customers? Unique services, better prices, an immaculate atmosphere, the best customer service, a free food and juice bar, limousine service, valet parking, or the most caring employees?

Packaging: Everything in retailing depends on it. The beautiful label can often sell a lousy product. The same applies to the services you sell - the written description that makes the customer want to have the experience, the photographs of the treatment that enhance the description, and the beautiful presentation of the products on the shelf.

Presentation: Think of the first impression you get when you meet someone who's well-dressed, visit a beautifully landscaped home, or dine at a restaurant where the meal looks like a piece of artwork. Your spa should make that same impression every time, with every customer. The way you welcome each customer and lead him/her to each station, the cleanliness of the juice bar, the neatness of the front desk, the graphics of the spa menus, and the logos on the employee's shirts - it all makes a difference. Be creative, but keep in mind which details will bring each customers back with all their friends.

Pricing: I like fair pricing. Check out your local competition to make sure you are in the range of your local economy. Your published prices should not be too high, because you could price yourself out of the market, especially in the beginning. They should not be too low, because you could give the impression that it is an inferior service. You also could be working for minimal margins and could create price wars with the competition, in which case everyone loses. You can have specials, but don't devalue your services. If you list a higher price with the right packaging, you have added perceived value, and if it is performed elegantly you will easily get your price and have repeat business.

Promotion: In the initial marketing stage, and until you have full capacity, you will need to offer specials of all sorts. I would start by having an invitation with a RSVP to all of the businesses and influential people you know. Host a "spa party" at which you could offer a free chair massage, for example. Maybe you could sponsor a fundraiser for some community cause, with half of your sales going to a charity. You could develop an incentive program, such that, for each new treatment a customer tries, a friend receives a free treatment . You could cross-promote with other businesses, especially wedding, restaurant and hospitality. You could offer a free service after three referrals. Be creative.

Public Relations: Send press releases to all the local media for everything you do, and invite the press in for complimentary treatments. If you can afford it, hire a PR person. Write articles or a column for the local newspaper - make yourself an authority for your profession. Attend local chamber of commerce meetings and network with everyone, so you keep a hand on the pulse of the community. It's all about public image. What do your customers really think about you and your spa, and what are their perceptions? Long-term business success boils down to building and nurturing relationships.

Profitability: Don't be discouraged if you are not profitable the first year or two. You are in business to make a profit. It is important to squeeze every bit out of your marketing effort. Take advantage of free publicity. If you do advertise, make sure you get some articles written about your business. Ideally, you want happy customers to do the promotion for you. Successful spas do not need to advertise. When this happens, you can take that marketing money you don't have to spend and turn it into pure profit.

Until next time, keep an eye out for the most giving and loving employees -- next month, we'll discuss initial training.

Only Victory,

John Fanuzzi


Click here for previous articles by John Fanuzzi.

 

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