At the beginning of the year, Lord Sugar offered his personal advice to small business owners on how to approach the coming months. "Do it yourself" was the overriding message. Take a long, hard look at your business and, if necessary, rethink your strategy. Don't expect support from government or banks. Try to avoid borrowing money to run your day-to-day business. Have a plan, set targets and check regularly that your takings exceed your outgoings. Good, simple and sound advice from the business king - or should that be Lord - of common sense.
Of course, Lord Sugar is right. To improve an existing business's profitability with a minimum of investment the way forward is to look closely at what you do and find more effective ways of doing it.
Provide incentives for visits at quiet times According to marketing specialists Caroline and Sue Pile, of Piledrivers, a majority of the UK's spa businesses could do more to improve their turnover through good marketing techniques.
"A good place to start is to look at your current business and identify the quiet times of the day or week when you could treat more clients," says Caroline. "Assuming there's a pattern, and there usually is, it makes sense to target your marketing to those times - perhaps a voucher campaign for morning treatments or a gift incentive to book the quieter mid afternoon slots."
It's important to understand what it is you're marketing and why, claims Sue. "It's a competitive marketplace and a spa really needs to have a point of difference with unique selling points. For example, country spas can take advantage of their location and city spas can promote their convenience and accessibility. These factors alone will affect how a spa can best promote itself but always remember that markets change and you may need to revisit your strategy regularly to keep ahead of the competition."
Make sure your marketing message is current There are a number of marketing initiatives worth considering (see marketing tips box, left), but the core message is to make sure your message is current and consistent.
"We recommend that someone is appointed as a ‘brand policeman' to ensure consistency in all marketing - including leaflets and flyers, menus, gift vouchers, press releases, website and social media content," Caroline says. "So much of it is in the preparation. If you plan your marketing carefully and make sure that your staff are aware of all the seasonal promotions and incentives on offer, you'll almost certainly attract new customers. So don't put your plan in a drawer. Make it visible to all staff and use it to monitor success."
Don't forget that not all marketing will result in instant sales calls. Marketing has other long-term roles to play in the form of brand building and customer partnerships.
Promote products to boost turnover Spa consultant Lisa Knowles, of the Spa Set, adds that secondary spend from retailing can instantly improve the fortunes of a spa. Product sales can represent upwards of 25% of a spa's turnover.
Well-lit shelves or cabinets in prominent positions will help to display your products but ultimately you will need to rely on your therapists and receptionists to sell them.
"Selling doesn't come naturally to most therapists so a degree of sales training and an in-depth knowledge of the product is necessary," Knowles says. "Homecare advice should be the final element of any good treatment and clients should, therefore, be encouraged to take products home with them for their homecare regime. It shouldn't be a ‘hard sell', but a part of the process."
Knowles also believes that up-selling treatments to customers will allow the therapists, and the spa, to shine. "Therapists should be motivated to deliver outstanding care for guests," she adds. "This should include offering the best and most luxurious treatments."
There is little extra cost in delivering luxury treatments compared to standard but, as they sell at a premium, they can be much more profitable, Knowles says. "Don't forget to incentivise your staff to sell. Set them achievable targets and reward them well for success."
how grayshott spa became an award-winner
The rejuvenation of Grayshott Spa near Hindhead in Surrey focused on clear points of difference to develop sales propositions that set the spa apart from a crowded and confusing market to increase occupancy and revenue.
Grayshott's heritage of innovation, natural therapy, pioneering spa treatments and expertise of the professional therapists was re-established to suit the current market.
Day and residential packages have been developed in line with today's spa-goer's needs, resulting in the spa becoming one of the UK's independent award-winning spas and the acknowledged leader in natural therapies.
A concise menu of packages for spa breaks make them easy to buy, and easy to sell by reservations, reception and via the website.
The price points and rack room rates have been rationalised for clarity and value to avoid the need for confusing discounts and enabling effective seasonal promotions to drive business in tough periods.
A consistent approach, sticking to Grayshott's core product and what it does well with regular communication, e-blasts and PR, that is authoritative and of direct relevance to brand and guest, have been effective in creating an evolving programme of articles, themed events and offers of interest and value.
The establishment of reputation, guest loyalty and retention through tough economic times has been realised in 2010 - Grayshott's most successful year.
Proprietor Simon Lowe explains: "Although Grayshott is one of the oldest spas in Europe it is also one of the most modern in its approach to health and wellbeing and prides itself in having some of the most knowledgeable therapists in the spa world. Our commitment to constantly improve is demonstrated with the just completed, newly refurbished ladies spa."
SPA marketing tips
â- Get testimonials from your clients and encourage them to recommend you to their friends
â- Offer loyalty reward schemes
â- Liaise with other local businesses and help promote each other's services
â- Get involved with off-site community events that attract large groups of local people
â- Advertise your spa at local sports clubs and gyms and look for cross-selling opportunities
â- Be consistent with your message
10 tips on making the most of your spa
1 Plan ahead Prepare your promotions early and know when to launch each one.
2 Watch the competition Keep an eye on other spas, watch what they're doing and how they're doing it.
3 Understand your points of difference What makes your spa unique?
4 Develop marketing partnerships Help to promote each other. Start with your chosen product house and with other local businesses that could "dovetail" with your own - fitness clubs, hair salons, and so on.
5 Contact large employers in your area Perhaps your spa could become a part of their employee benefit scheme.
6 Build your database Update and build your client database for targeted promotions. This list is one of your spa's biggest business assets.
7 Use social media Twitter and Facebook are increasingly useful tools for marketing.
8 Contact the press The editors of local papers and trade magazines welcome newsworthy stories. Keep them informed about your business and gain free publicity.
9 Run seasonal promotions A New Year detox or a summer holiday skin tonic will always attract custom.
10 Share your plans Ensure all your staff are familiar with the content and benefit of each promotion so they can help sell it.
How to drive sales of spa products
â- Choose a brand that is not widely available in stores or beauty salons but is international. It will be perceived as a specialised, professionally advised treatment for the skin.
â- Make the product available to everyone and consider trial sets for new members.
â- Make your spa reception a retail area and encourage guests to browse.
â- Provide rester stands and brochures. Keep tissues and a small bin nearby to allow guests to play with the products.
â- Train all staff on the products and encourage them to sell by running regular incentives, both for treatment bookings and retail sales.
â- Feature the spa and brand equally on your website.
â- Offer regular special packages featuring the product. Include offers such as free travel packs with each booking.
â- Add the brand name to the keywords on your search engine to gain new clients.
Lois Southgate, national sales and education manager, Puig
make sure you maximise business efficiency
â- Most businesses can be more efficient and now is a good time to look afresh at your current systems, procedures and contracts.
â- It's worth talking to your suppliers, for example. Are there discounts or incentives available for buying more products at one time? Don't overstock but volume discounts are worth looking into if you have sufficient storage.
â- Likewise your suppliers may be willing to extend their credit terms. They'll value you if you've become a regular and reliable customer.
â- You could make significant savings by swapping energy suppliers or tariffs. And it's worth checking that you are running an energy efficient business, without unnecessary waste.
â- Ask your staff to suggest ways to reduce overheads, you might be pleasantly surprised by the answers.
Spa Source Volume IV is packed with business advice and useful tips on how to build and improve your spa business.
Copies are available exclusively to Caterer readers at a special 50% discount.
Contact 020 7833 3772 quoting "Caterer Offer" or go online for further details.