What You Need to Know Now for an Effective Spa Holiday Marketing Strategy

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With the Holiday season sneaking upon us, I thought that it was important to offer some advice on crafting an effective holiday campaign. Of course every business is different but one thing is for certain. Effective marketing needs to have a strategy and a plan that is carried through. When I talk to spa owners, they all know it’s coming but few tell me that they have a plan.Time quickly gets away from us during this time. You go through a steady October and then before you know it, you are carving the turkey and fielding hundreds and thousands of gift certificate phone calls each week. The good news is that we already know its coming and there is still time plan how to maximize the potential of what is sure to come. Those of you who know me know that I encourage systematic processes, scripted conversations for sales strategies and that I teach you to design for automatic success. The only way to fail is to not design for success. This is the time to shine and improve holiday sales. In this article, I will share data from 2010 holiday consumer reports and how to use it to craft an effective marketing campaign this holiday season. Then I will provide quick tips on how to effectively integrate each marketing channel to have one solid campaign.Let us first outline what we know about the holiday season. In these next several paragraphs, we will take a look at pertinent information related to consumer spending trends during the most wonderful time of the year. It is marked as the top revenue opportunity of the year and is an optimal time to ramp up new business initiatives and engage with existing and previous clients. This is a time that consumers are willing to open their wallets to treat their loved ones. In this day and age, we have to make sure we employ a multi-channel media marketing strategy at the opportune time to ensure that we can reach all of our existing and potential clients.This season, we have a fantastic opportunity to run effective campaigns given that we have 5 full weeks between Thanksgiving week and Christmas Day. Plus, Christmas is on a Sunday this year. According to Epsilon’s 2011 Holiday Trend Report, fourth quarter revenues in 2010 remained at a flat 6% increase over previous year through October, peeked to 8% in the second and third weeks on November and of course spiked to 14% the week of Thanksgiving where it remained steady until it dramatically dropping two weeks before Christmas back down to 8% and 5% respectively. If all things remain the same for 2011, this means that you have got to start marketing NOW as you have between week 48 (Thanksgiving) and the two weeks following to make your biggest sales.As far as online marketing and sales is concerned, Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday) of 2010 was the biggest online shopping day of the season and generated the highest revenues for retailers. So if you have not already, start selling your gift certificates online NOW! More than ever, consumers are buying whatever they can online and when they are looking to buy a spa gift certificate online and you do not or have not optimized your site for this, they WILL find a different spa who does, or worse, just buy a Spa Finder gift card. This is easy to do, call the folks at Spa Boom and they will set it up for you and if you are running Millennium, it makes it even easier!Because of the huge opportunity with online sales, you must run an effective online campaign. The role of social media will be huge and will play a major part of supporting your in-house promotions, print ads and email strategies. It will also be key in early marketing efforts to drive sales during those three peak weeks. It was a key driver of Thanksgiving Day sales and leading into Black Friday. It is hard to ignore the power of Social Media with the abundance of consumers with the latest iPhones, Droids and Blackberry devices, listening to their favorite retailers and spas. Many are also making purchases through their mobile device. (Do you see why you need to have online gift certificate sales)?Obviously email makes an equally huge impact, if not more for spas. You would think that the highest open rates would be during that holiday period but believe it or not, open rates are strongest (16.9%) the first week on October with a steady decline through the week of Christmas. Another interesting fact is that open rates begin to increase the week of Christmas and continue, reaching their highest open rate the last week of January (18.3%). These statistics mean that you MUST start marketing now and also run a post holiday campaign that carries you into Valentine’s Day.However, click rates have fallen due to consumers being trained to seek out massive discounts in 2009. This translates into being more effective in establishing goals and focusing your promotions and call to action to yield a higher conversion rate. Big retailers often run targeted promotions towards different segments rather than one broad and general campaign, increasing conversion. There is no reason you shouldn’t be doing the same thing. You know that the people who come in for that once per year express massage and facial are unlikely to purchase a $300 package so why are you inviting them to? Target your emails based on client’s purchasing habits and segment your database.It is also important to recognize the peak days for emails. The 2010 season showed the highest open rates on Monday (12.2%), Thursday (10.9%) and Friday (9.1%). The highest conversion days were Wednesday (6.7%), Friday (6.5%), and Tuesday (6.3%) with Saturday a close fourth at 6.1%. This means you should inform on the peak open days with your call to action emails being sent on the peak conversion days. At the same token, you also need to realize that you are competing with other retailers both in and outside your industry. So you want to make sure that you are not part of the flooding emails that come overtake inboxes this time of year. The peak days for promo emailing in terms of volume of emails are Fridays, Mondays and Tuesdays respectively. Now would be a good chance to go back and look at your stats if you can measure them. But what I conclude from this info is promote on Wednesday (lowest volume of mass emails, 9.6% open rate and 6.7% conversion rate) and sell on Wednesday or Tuesday (6.5% open rate and 6.3% conversion).Lastly with respect to emails, it is important to have a captivating headline. This improves search results on Twitter and Facebook as well. The headlines that had the highest open rates in 2010 included the following words: Black; Now; Sale; Save; New; Holiday; Free; Coupon; Exclusive; Gift; Only; Deal; Today; and Offer Respectively.We have talked mostly about timing, now let’s take a quick look at what you should know when deciding what and how to advertise. According to Nielsen’s, most are not planning on spending more this season with the exception of affluent households who reported plans for modest spending increases. One of the biggest growth in revenues this season however, are expected to be gift card retailers. Most consumers will still be focused on practicality and value and the affluent segment will also be looking towards entertainment and leisure.What you should take away from all of this is the early marketer catches the worm (20% started shopping in September), focused advertising will win, and revenues will likely remain flat or decline if you do not implement a smarter and more effective marketing strategy this year. These reports are generalized of retail forecasts so remember that the gift card game is different, it is a last minute purchase. Get your spa at the top of mind now so when shoppers are running around thinking about those last minute gifts for their loved ones and employees, you are top of mind and very accessible. Now that you have this information, you can craft a campaign around this. Here are a few ideas to drive revenues and put yourself in front of a larger captive audience.Capture a bigger audience – Increase that top of mind are to reach out to your local mall and ask of you can rent space in their common areas to sell gift certificates through the season starting on Black Friday and running through the day after Christmas. Some malls have satellite units for this very purpose (caution-try to avoid the kiosks that you traditionally see electronic cigarettes and inexpensive skin care products at. Shoppers are programmed to avoid these in most cases). If the mall does not have a satellite unit, do not stop there. Propose that you set up your own table that mall management can approve to make sure that it fits in with the mall and is not displayed like a temporary fixture. Try your hardest to make this happen. If you can pull it off, it is a great way to put yourself in front of shoppers, increase awareness, meet new clients who have not heard of you and get your name out there. Make sure that it is staffed with people who are attractive, approachable, knowledgeable and can sell. You will likely need to recruit additional staff to do this or ideally offer more hours to your current staff. Either way, train them extremely well so you do not need to micro-manage them. This will allow you to avoid relying on the traffic outside your store front and you can capitalize from the malls hefty marketing budget. You can also partner up with independent vendors within the mall to drive traffic to your booth. This is costly, expect the lease to cost around $2000 more or less plus staffing costs, but the return is there if you do it right. (I have done it for 6 years with no regrets).Social Media – To run effective email campaigns, support them through social media outlets. Build anticipation by offering tips, and advice on health and wellness during the holiday season but DO NOT SELL! The purpose of social media is to instill trust and build community. Share advice not promotions and spam. Give people a reason why they would want to follow you. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself before you share “would my life be better if I knew this information that I am about to share?”. If the answer is yes, click that button. If it’s no, try harder. Make sure you stay active with social media this holiday season to get people listening, this way when you do throw out the occasional promotion or sales pitch, your spa clients will be more open to learning about it. It sounds like a lot of work but you can set this up over the course of a couple days for the entire holiday season. Check out objectiveMarketer.com to schedule your entire holiday season campaign and you will not need to tweet or Facebook for the rest of the year! Also, do not forget to add promos on holidays too. Early bird savings on Thanksgiving and last minute savings on Christmas day. Of course this is only possible if you offer online certificate sales. Also remember to include links to your online gift certificate sales direct site. As I mentioned, people are buying right on their mobile devices, so make it easy! In fact, Google predicts that 44% of all last minute gift research this season will be done on mobile devices. That’s too huge to ignore.Email strategy – emails should be supported through social media to develop a buzz and anticipation. Let people in on little secrets throughout social media to let them know something is coming but don’t give it all away. You want people to talk about it and have a desire to be in the know. When you do finally send out the emails with the call to action, share the link several times through Facebook and Twitter by using a shortened URL address which you can get at http://bit.ly. With respect to emails,any campaign you run should be done in 3s. The first one to share info, provide advice, and establish a reason why your clients will want to take advantage of the offer. Do not put the offer in the first email but rather let them know that something is coming. The second email is reinforcement of the first and the call to action or sales pitch. The third is a follow up to the second as in a last chance offer, extended offer, or even better savings then the first time. You should run multiple campaigns throughout this season.Discounting – A lot of businesses make the mistake of discounting spa packages. Do not do it during this time. People are willing to spend and they are looking for a deal, but do not discount the services in your packages. Instead, think on ways to add value and really sell the service. Sell your spa first then the package, not the other way around. Cater to your guests needs and budget instead of simply giving them a list of packages to choose from. You certainly want to have pre-defined packages ready to go and to post online and offer as online gift certificate sales, but do not discount. If you are traditionally known for discounting your services, come up with an inexpensive grouping of services and use that cost to advertise. For instance “spa packages starting a just $45”. I try to avoid advertising prices at all costs, but each situation is different. The key is to get as many human interactions as possible and learn the clients spending limit and preferences and suggest packages and service offerings armed with that info.Print Ads and Other Traditional Media – If you have come this far, you simply need to support what you are saying with your print ads. Share your Facebook, Twitter and Email account info in the print ad and use consistent imaging the entire season. These images should be an extension of your brand and included in both print ads and email. Come up with one or two clever headlines and supporting images and use these throughout all marketing efforts as your holiday branding strategy.There is much that we have not covered, but I hope that this article has provided you with inspiration and direction. Remember to use the data provided in the first section when crafting your campaigns. This sounds like a lot but it is so important this year. I’ll bet you can knock out your entire Q4 marketing and advertising in a block of three days and never have to worry about it the rest of the season. That allows you to focus on selling and fulfilling rather than attracting and managing. The most important thing is to get your staff on the same page and train them on selling. I will be providing some strategies on this in next month’s issue. As for now, if you have any questions or need clarification or just want to comment, feel free to reach out to me. I love providing as much feedback as my time allows.