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Massage Today
August, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 08

Are You Just Doing Massage? Combine Services for Value-Added Options

By Ann Brown, LMT

Are you just doing massage? I have worked in the resort spa industry since 1994, and the resort-type of "spa-ing" is really all that I know. Sure, I understand the gamut of the spas in the industry – med-spas, day spas, chiropractic, small massage business and more – but my focus is on marketing to a resort/leisure/vacationing client.

These clients come to resort spas wanting and needing an escape, a true getaway from their everyday lives and stresses. They seek out resort spas, utilizing their vacations as their excuses and their annual rituals to pamper themselves. Looking at our clientele and how they add on spa services at resort spas, I have to wonder, why don't more small massage businesses add more treatments to the menu that give monthly clients the same feeling as being on vacation?

Our spa-goers today want to feel better. They want to let go, relax and walk away restored. Massage is at the heart of what we do in the resort spa business – still our number one treatment. So, while resort spas capitalize on the same treatment you do every day, I think that today's small massage businesses can also capitalize on what the resort spas do.

The same clientele we see on vacation are the ones that will book monthly for massage treatments closer to home. I know that many of you readers of Massage Today operate small businesses, and many of you work independently trying to secure and fill your books with people in your town/community. Even though I do think the economy is starting to come back, it is still tough to grow your business at the rate we were all growing in 2006. The challenge is to change with the times, to reinvent ourselves and to not look back at historical data, including financials, booking pace, new clients and how quickly existing clients rebook. It's time to come up with some new ways and fresh ideas that allow our guests and clients a respite and a bit of a vacation while they are on the table.

While massage is still the most frequently booked spa treatment, our body treatments are not nearly as readily booked as back in 2006. We decided some time ago to become a bit more creative with how we package items together and call them "specials." One of things we look for in a profitable "special" is how to add something to our existing most popular treatment – massage – in a way that our guests will want to get more out of the treatment through the special offer, while minimizing any increase in our delivery costs.

While adding on special mud masks or salt exfoliations are good treatments, they require the use of wet rooms and incur product costs. In contrast, one of the simplest ways to enhance a massage is to add a dry exfoliation. The body benefits are still great for the client and the cost to provide the extra service is minimal to our resort spa – and completely within the realm of possibility for a small massage business to offer.

I have always been a big proponent of body brushing and it was a long time staple on our resort spa menu. As more and more spas have adopted the practice, we've sought a way to perform the exfoliation in better, different ways to bring a "wow" factor to the guest and deliver incredible body benefits. One of our "specials" at the resort spa that has really taken off is a physical exfoliation using a new exfoliation mitt and then a massage. We package them together for an 80-minute service.

I love this mitt because we do not need any products with it and it offers a different, more modern way to treat the guest. A derivative of the aerospace industry, the honeycomb mitt has "memory," the ability to repeatedly return to its original shape. Naturally, anti-fungal and antibacterial, it dries quickly and is great for re-use in the treatment room because it can be properly sanitized/disinfected.

Any time you consider adding on to the massage, consider what takeaways you can give your client. What about the treatment you are offering can they take home with them to continue the health and wellness benefits on their own? While you talk about at-home practices with your client, make sure to equip them with the right tools. When offering exfoliation – either with a body brush or the mitt – you have the opportunity to make an easy retail sale, one that gives your client a great at-home tool at an easy, low, price point.

We offer the mitt for sale directly to the guest for them to use at home and educate our guests on how to use it, but our professional staff will always perform a more satisfying exfoliation in the treatment room than the guest can do at home. The professional treatment is more thorough and feels so good. The exfoliation really excites the nervous system through the vibrant friction of the mitt on the skin. There is a point where you can just see the client become totally relaxed, so ready for the massage to follow. After the exfoliation, we use a seaweed oil that is so good for the skin, and as a spa therapist, it is rewarding to see the guest's skin look vibrant, youthful and highly moisturized.

Guests love this treatment and it costs me no more in professional treatment costs because we do all the work with the mitt that can be disinfected at the end of the treatment and used again. Topped off with a great retail sale for the mitt, and it is a win-win for us and a great treatment for the guest. We even offer 20 percent off if the guest buys the mitt that same day of their massage treatment combo. So far, we have almost 80 percent closure on the sale of the mitt at the end of the treatment, a terrific return on investment for the spa and it gives our therapists some retail money in their check, too.

You can add on some money to your massage and bundle an exfoliation – dry body brushing or with a specialized mitt – as your summer special, or you can give the exfoliation as a complimentary item for booking a massage on a day of the week you need to boost your appointment volume. There are many ways you can make a new or existing client feel valued and the need to do so is a given today: our guests and clients must feel there is value in what they are paying for!  You could even give them the mitt or body brush after the service and put into the cost of the treatment the wholesale cost of the mitt. In doing so, you would be out nothing more than a bit more time to do the exfoliation and would they see the value in that? YES!

Maybe you've been in business for a while and maybe you feel that massage is enough. But I think that clients want to try something new from someone they trust and you don't need a wet room or a wet table or even water to offer this extra wellness service. Why don't you try it next month and offer it one day a week (again, when you need extra services) and tell me know it goes? You can email me at with any questions or comments. I am eager to hear from you!

Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.


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