I recall opening my first day spa in a market where there was no competition. In fact, in Colorado at the time there was only one known esthetics practice more than an hour away from my first location. The owner was a Hungarian known for pummeling the skin to renew circulation and essentially torturing each client while performing extractions. Of course no one knew what a day spa was so I was on the opposite end of the aisle in terms of marketing strategy. I shocked, educated and grew a practically non-existent market. After many years the spa industry is an entirely different terrain. In the spa market today it is no longer enough to be even the best of marketers—you need to do far more to maintain your stake of market share.
Stake your Claim with a Solid Customer Base
When the spa market was young most spas had clients as a given: consumers wanted to go to spas and there were only so many spas to visit. Given that type of scenario it is easy as a spa director to sit back and burn through new clients. The assumption is there will always be more. The terrain has shifted and now with a spa on every block on every street in every town, each customer is an expensive, fragile lead. Like owning land in the real estate business your customer base is your insurance against rough times, your rock to lean on and your customer base is your future upon which to grow. Marketing is often thought of as a technique for attracting new customers but in a more mature industry marketing is also the method by which an existing business can continue to capture market share.
Step one to creating more opportunity for your spa is to take a hard look at your customers. Who are they really? So often we trudge along every day, week and month simply getting by. The phone rings, the customers come in and nothing really improves. When this is allowed to happen, the spa becomes chaotic. There is no longer a semblance of priority setting. In this type of setting the end result is oftentimes atrophy of the spa’s core clientele. In a competitive market this path leads to certain death.
Who are your Customers?
Do you really know who frequents your spa and why? For over a decade now we have heard that the target market of a spa is a 30-50 year old female whose annual household income is over $100K. Some studies also suggest that she has at least a college degree and likely has some post graduate education. Many business plans out there simply read, “targeting an affluent consumer.” The affluent market isn’t made up of drones and more importantly at the end of the day those people aren’t the only people frequenting your spa. You can’t make your clients happy until you know who they are and what they want.
Although your point of sale system might track some key aspects of your clients’ profiles in terms of age, some purchasing habits, frequency of visit and similar indicators, other key factors like what is really important to them while receiving a massage or how important is their relationship with the staff are more qualitative in nature. It takes some work to dig into the general demographic of a spa-goer and come out with answers about who they really are and what they value.
In a saturated market it is not enough to rely on simple marketing strategies like discounting, value added and brand positioning or even referral marketing. To further grow your base you must attract new client and keep them.
- Use technology
- Solve the clients critical problems
- Become the place that feels good
- Make everything easy from booking to retail replenishment
- Niche market: Figure out exactly where your brand fits in–or doesn’t
- Know each individual customer
Meet your guest’s unique needs. The benefits you promise must have special appeal to the market niche. What can you provide that’s new and compelling? Identify the unique needs of your potential audience, and look for ways to tailor your product or service to meet them.
Finding your brand’s Groove
Start by considering all the product or service variations you might offer. When it comes to marketing soap, for example, not much has changed over the years. But suppose you were a soap maker and you invented a new brand to gently remove chlorine from swimmers’ hair. You’d have something uniquely compelling to offer a niche market–from members of your neighborhood pool to the Olympic swim team.
Say the right thing. When approaching a new market niche, it’s imperative to speak their language. In other words, you should understand the market’s “hot buttons” and be prepared to communicate with the target group as an understanding member–not an outsider. In addition to launching a unique campaign for the new niche, you may need to alter other, more basic elements, such as your company slogan if it translates poorly to another language, for example.
In instances where taking on a new niche market is not impacted by a change in language or customs, it’s still vital to understand its members’ key issues and how they prefer to communicate with companies like yours. For example, suppose a business that markets leather goods primarily to men through a Web site decides to target working women. Like men, working women appreciate the convenience of shopping on the Web, but they expect more content so that they can comprehensively evaluate the products and the company behind them. To successfully increase sales from the new niche, the Web marketer would need to change the way it communicates with them by expanding its site along with revising its marketing message.
Competition can create opportunities for your brand if you stick with what you do best, focus on that 20% that make your business solid and if your brand consistently delivers results and outstanding customer service. While this is challenging and a bit like running a series of back to back marathons, the results are substantial and long lasting. Loyal guests invite their friends and peers and provide a foundational base of revenue that is otherwise difficult to achieve.