Ms. Fenard

Spas, Health & Wellness

Using Technology to Market Your Spa

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

Typically, the spa business is relatively slow to embrace new ways of doing things. Perhaps this is due to its centuries-old roots of tradition and culture. Yet an increasing number of top-performing spas are embracing technology for reservations, booking, CRM and outbound marketing. The beauty is you don't have to be a tech-guru to take advantage of what's being offered, what it does and how it can help your spa.

The first step is to get engaged and educate yourself. Read articles, take seminars, join user groups, join social networking sites to see how they work, investigate the latest books-it's simply a matter of wading through the vast amounts of information to find out what's truly salient. To help speed up this process, here is a list of tech suggestions worthy of a second look (or in some cases, a first look).

Search Marketing Optimization (SMO)

Purchasing or bidding on key words with search engines such as Google and Yahoo is a bit like making a traditional media buy except it is much more measurable. Sometimes known as pay per click advertising, most SMO programs revolve around paying for key words and phrases that, when input into a search engine field, yield your website as one of the "sponsored links." The great thing about SMO is that you don't pay for the listing unless a user actually clicks-through to your site from the sponsored link. Be sure to fully understand the complexities of such a campaign before spending money, however. Critical details such as which key phrases to use, how much to bid, and how to modify the campaign based on the results are all important factors to consider before a campaign is implemented. For example, the cost of the keyword "spa" would likely be cost-prohibitive, not to mention much too broad to have a positive effect. But the phrase "San Francisco day spa" will yield a much more qualified and defined audience at a fraction of the cost. There are many qualified web marketing firms that can help in this endeavor, and it may be wise for first timers to seek such assistance.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Not to be confused with SMO, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of helping a website achieve a higher ranking on search engines. It might sound simple, but it's actually quite complex that can involve programming, meta tags, links, blogs, site content and much more. Don't get bogged down in the specifics of how SEO works, but rather that it can work if your aim is to climb the search engine rankings, which of course should be a key initiative for all spa operators. Simple techniques such as keeping a blog on the spa's website can help with rankings merely based on the fact that frequent and fresh content on a site is one of the things search engines look for. Blogs also allow for opportunities to text link within the content, another key indexing component of search engines. All this is not to say you should go out and completely rebuild your spa's website, but at the very least it might do to seek counsel with an SEO expert and prioritize what is possible based on your budget and online marketing objectives.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is perhaps one of the most cost efficient methods of communication in today's business setting. Template-based email marketing programs such as Constant Contact or Emma are inexpensive, available online, easy to use and generally result in professionally produced e-messages that reflect well on the spa. While there may always be a market for traditional printed direct mail, email blasts can be more quickly executed without the additional budget strain of printing and postage. In addition, most online email marketing programs have back-end tracking reports that tell you which recipients opened the email, how many clicked through to your website, which pages of your site they visited, who has opted-out, and much more. But a word of caution: never blindly send emails to customers or prospects who have either not opted-in to receive emails from you or who have previously opted-out. There is nothing more detrimental to building customer affinity than to be thought of as a spammer. In fact, it is best to be familiar with the email laws of the countries in which you conduct business prior to embarking on an email campaign. For example, in the U.S., the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 contains strict guidelines on the rules around email marketing. A few good resources for this type of information include: click here

Social Networking

The concept of social networking to help a business such as a spa might seem slightly esoteric on the surface. But scratch beneath the surface and you'll find that sites such as Facebook, MySpace or even a self-generated site that encourages and responds to ongoing customer interaction actually do have something to offer if used in the right way. They present a forum for communication with customers-whether that means making special offers, providing tips, or simply telling your guests about new treatments or menu updates. And such tools can also be a great help in yield management, particularly during slow periods.

Anymore, social networking sites have changed the way people communicate with friends as well as brands and businesses, a change that has completely altered the playing field of how we, as marketers, communicate with our customers and prospects. This is perhaps best summarized in a white paper from Boulder, Colorado-based Enthusiast Group entitled "Enabling the Social Media" which states,

"Media today is no longer about "elites" (professional media, marketing departments of companies) pumping out information and sales pitches while the masses listen in. The Internet is the dominant force in our culture today because it enables people to find and talk to others-existing friends and new ones who share their interests-and talk to brands that they care about." (Note: the entire white paper is a valuable read. Grab it online at www.enthusiastgroup.com.)

Analytics

Using analytics programs to determine the effect of your spa's website is a must, not to mention a no-brainer. Such programs yield a host of valuable information that will not only help in determining how to maximize your consumer site, but also show the effect of web traffic in conjunction with various e-marketing campaigns you may be running such as email blasts and SMO efforts. It's true marketing integration at its most powerful. Statistics such as daily web visits, page views, time spent on the site, geographical overlays, and much more can be made available via analytics programs. And a quick word to the wise: Google Analytics is free; all you have to do is sign up and insert a pre-set block of code into your site's code.

The final analysis in how to use technology to your spa's advantage is that there is no final analysis. The marketing and communications opportunities presented through technological advances are an evolutionary process that will continue to grow and expand, almost exponentially. As marketers, this shouldn't be daunting; rather, we should be excited about the possibilities that technology has brought to bear on our industry. Those who embrace this notion will surely be the ones who most benefit.

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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