Ms. Fenard

Spas, Health & Fitness

Spa Marketing: 10 Effective Methods in Creating Buzz

By Elaine Fenard, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality

Historically, the spa industry hasn't been known as a bastion of marketing prowess, but to be fair, much of that has to do with the fact that most full-service spas (day spas notwithstanding) are embedded into better known and marketed hotels, leaving them as a value-add for various packages and specials. However, some spas are doing wonderful things on their own to build the spa's brand and drive traffic. These efforts help to drive hotel rate and occupancy from both traveling and local audiences, and when expectations are met, a great spa experience can do much for building brand loyalty for the property, helping to keep your customers tied to you on both an emotional and practical level.

To build brand loyalty and traffic for your hotel spa, take a look at what works. The following is our list of top-ten "buzz builders" for marketing spa.

1. Build a spa brand as a forethought, not an afterthought

Most spa guests are interested in some form of healthy living, and the increase in spa use during the past several years bears this out. As such, hoteliers need to realize that building spa brand loyalty helps to build brand loyalty to the asset itself. Build a spa brand that calls-out to consumers, and you can actually attract guests that you wouldn't normally attract. There are many spa options in the world, yet the best ones are built on a solid market positioning focused on a specific key benefit for its audiences. Take great care in determining what your spa brand will be and what it promises your guests. Be sure to fulfill that key benefit via treatments offered, service standards, design and marketing. In short, be the brand, reinforce it, and you will be rewarded.

2. What's in a name?

Sometimes naming is everything. Certain brand names carry with them powerful customer feelings and perceptions that can go well beyond brand-identifiers. Just ask any consumer what the name Starbucks or Apple conjures, and you'll find the answers to be quite a bit more than "coffee" or "computers." That's because these brands have done a good job of creating brand affinity, loyalty, even patriotic-like allegiance. True, their success isn't only due to the name, but it does beg the question: would Starbucks or Apple have been quite as effective in their branding strategies if they didn't have names that were engaging, memorable and unique? Perhaps, but probably not. The same goes for spas. When developing a name for a newly-created spa, don't short-change the process just to get something on paper so that you can quickly develop a logo. Consider your audience and determine the brand vocabulary from which to develop a name. Make sure the name is something that is truly unique within the spa space. Don't be afraid of what might seem strange or unpredictable at first glance, and steer clear of what's expected. Your name should reflect your brand's values, and you'll also want it to be something that can stand alone, representing your brand in a way that you can be proud of and that your customers will remember.

3. Go green

Yes, we've all heard this phrase a number of times. It's everywhere, in every industry. Sustainability, reducing the carbon footprint, eco-sensitive, all of these ideals and more pervade Western industry, commerce and public sensibilities to a point where not only should it not be ignored, but it should be embraced. Why? It's important and is the right thing to do. Plus, it can help attract customers to your spa. Be conscious of your customers' concerns. Employ green initiatives at your spa, and boast about it, albeit not too loudly. Let your customers know that you feel as they do, and that you are doing everything you can to limit waste without ruining the experience.

4. Create the buzz-worthy event

Create an event that not only attracts customers and media but also establishes your spa's desired brand position. For example, one of our partners once designed and developed a luxury hotel spa with a desired brand position based on health and wellness. As part of the grand opening festivities, he secured the participation of well-known master yogis from around the world, and promoted the event as the place to be for serious yoga enthusiasts. As a result, the spa garnered significant media coverage as being a leader in the wellness realm, particularly as it regarded yoga. The timing was perfect in that he established this event during the launch of the spa thereby creating and cementing a brand positioning from the very beginning. Today, that spa is still known as offering a wellness platform with an emphasis on yoga, primarily because the initial event was based on the positioning strategy. In short, a well planned and well timed event can do much more than simply attract immediate attention. It can set the course for years to come.

5. Capture the data!

At its core, marketing is about reaching the audience. With today's technology, capturing and using customer data can increase the power of your marketing program significantly. Whether you ask for guest information at booking or after a spa experience, the important point is to capture it. Marketing studies show that it costs considerably less to sell existing products and services to customers with whom you have a relationship over capturing new customers who haven't yet experienced your brand. So it stands to reason to make sure you keep in contact with all of your customers on a regular basis. Even if you have a resort location where your customer-base is fairly transient, you just may be able to garner regular orders of spa product they received while at your location, thereby generating ongoing off-site revenues. Email-blast strategies provide a wonderfully cost-efficient means of keeping in contact with customers. Just be sure to allow them to opt-out at any time in any email communication.

6. Stay in the headlines

It's relatively simple to keep your spa in the headlines. With the current and seemingly growing interest in spa, you can find a number of special interest spa publications and websites that cater to the interests of avid spa-goers. Many of these media outlets are looking for the latest news about various spas, be it new treatments, new procedures, new openings, or simply new hires. Keep your brand's name in the media by writing press releases that extol the latest news about your spa and what it's up to. Got a special package to promote? Write a press release. A new product line? Write a press release. A new spa director? Write a press release. Keep your audience informed by establishing relationships with those who write about the industry. Build a media list, keep the information flowing, follow up with phone calls to key editors and reporters, and you'll find that you get mentioned at a fraction of the cost of a typical print ad placement. The media relations method can be a wonderfully cost-efficient option.

7. Hire a good PR firm

Continuing with the theme of idea NUMBER SIX, sometimes staying in the headlines works best if you team with a solid PR firm or professional. After all, effective media relations takes time, effort and expertise. If you don't have an in-house PR team, hire it out. Most PR firms understand how to best access media opportunities and gain media placements. They usually have established relationships with key media, and if you can find one that specializes in hospitality, and better yet spa, so much the better. These firms are out there, waiting to perform for you. It's simply a matter of finding one that works with your budget and goals. Finding the right PR partner can work miracles for your brand.

8. Design, design, design

As mentioned in our previous column about spa design, a strong design platform can create talkability. One of the best ways to cement your spa brand into a guest's mind is to fulfill his or her expectation through the experience. If you want to create a fantastic spa experience, create a fantastic design, one that will be remembered and talked about after the experience. Strong design will create marketing buzz simply by being unique, memorable and true to your brand ideals. ** **

9. Promotions

Good promotions create buzz. Whether it's a special Mother's Day package or a complete room/spa package, a well-considered promotion helps to create referrals and repeat business. We already mentioned creating a buzz-worthy event, but a simple spa package incorporated into an overall hotel package tends to gain attention amongst spa lovers. In particular, the well-known spa media company Spa Finder (www.spafinder.com) provides a strong avenue to get your promotion out to spa enthusiasts throughout the world. Work with your property's marketing department to include spa, promote it, and watch the results. This is a must-do.

10. Capture the captive audience

Promote your spa in-house. This is the low-hanging fruit, but oddly, in-house spa promotions are often neglected. Remember, most of your guests, whether they are there for business or pleasure, seek a way to relax and unwind. Don't leave it up to chance that they will peruse your compendium or happen to walk by the spa. Promote the spa with signage, email, in-room table-tents, in-room TV channel, key-card envelope stuffers, and so on. Remember, the mere fact that you have a spa on-site is a plus. Don't shortchange the in-house opportunities of building your spa business from within.

Brad Fixler is Partner & Chief Marketing Officer for Spatality. He has worked in the field of marketing, advertising and brand building for more than 17 years. In addition to leading Spatality's marketing efforts, Mr. Fixler also serves as president of the Denver-based branding and advertising agency, Fixler Davis, Inc where he specializes in creating brands, brand positioning and marketing strategies. During the agency's tenure, he has worked closely with Spa Strategy to help its clients create new spa brands and marketing campaigns. Mr. Fixler can be contacted at 303-865-7440 or brad@spatality.com

Elaine Fenard, recognized as a spa industry visionary, became an important third partner of Spa Strategy Inc. in spring 2006. With more than 25 years of experience in spa development and operations with the world's largest hotel company and the leading international spa operations company, Fenard joins the partners in their pursuit to create innovative, luxurious and profitable spas for their clients. Ms. Fenard was vice president of Spa Development and Operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts where she oversaw spa development and operation for over 750 properties in more than 80 countries. She championed the Starwood Spa Collection, a group of 34 unique spas, in addition to overseeing the development of many successful individual spas under the Starwood umbrella. Ms. Fenard can be contacted at 303-573-8100 or Elaine@spastategy.com

Elaine Fenard is an integral partner in Spa Strategy, one of the world's leading spa consulting and design firms. Joining in the Spa Strategy quest to create innovative and profitable spas, Elaine brought to the team more than 25 years experience in spa development and operations with one of the world's largest hotel companies and the leading international spa operations company. As an industry pioneer and recognized expert, Elaine is a frequent speaker at many conferences, and is a regular guest speaker at Cornell University. Ms. Fenard can be contacted at 303-573-8100 or Elaine@spastategy.com Extended Bio...

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