SPA MANAGEMENT: How to Keep a Man

Once you’ve lured your male clients into the spa, use these tried-and-true techniques to keep them there.



You might compare the relationship between a man and his spa to the delicate bond between romantic partners: It must be nurtured and treated gently to reach its full potential. Review the questions below to see how your courtships with your male clients measure up!

How did you two meet?

The circumstances under which your spa’s relationship with a male client began will help lay the odds for long-term success or failure. How did you attract this client in the first place? Did you rely mostly on your general website and social media efforts, and/or local advertising? These channels may have made him aware that you exist—but they only go so far.

“You have to teach men how to spa,” says Dori Soukup, founder and CEO of InSPAration Management. “Have a separate menu for your male clients, even if it’s just a panel or an insert with all men-focused treatments.” In other words, make sure that guy knows there’s a special role just for him. Soukup suggests segmenting your email database so that you can promote to men separately from women. “You can combine everyone on your general newsletter, but you should be targeting men separately for specific promotions,” she says. “And don’t forget to create a section for men on your website.”

And don’t count on the “mutual acquaintance setup,” wherein your loyal female clients simply bring in their male buddies, relatives, boyfriends, spouses, etc. Even if the majority of your clientele is, and always will be, female, you’ll need to market directly to men, using their language. The marketing strategy at Burke Williams, with locations throughout California, is targeted equally to attract both genders, according to Ashley Eckenweiler, the company’s public relations representative. But the spa, which boasts a 30% male clientele, also promotes men’s packages and services to male-focused publications and media sources to help bring the men in.

After you’ve made the appropriate overture and created a clear path, there’s still the question of motivation. Why should the male client enter into a relationship with your spa? Give him a host of reasons. Stacy Cox, owner and esthetician at Pampered People in Los Angeles, which enjoys a 30% rate of male clientele, says that it’s about teaching men the psychology of grooming. “We need to neutralize men’s way of thinking that they can’t go to the spa because it’s all about pampering and luxury,” she says. “If you take the responsibility and thinking out of the equation for them, they will keep coming back.”

Take note of your male client’s frame of mind when he walks in the door.

How was his first time?

All “firsts” tend to trigger anxiety, but that anxiety decreases dramatically with each positive experience; therefore, that first visit to your spa is crucial. The special men’s section in your menu can ease some first-time stress in advance, by pre-answering questions of what to expect throughout his spa visit. The more information you can provide, the better. “Include a section of spa etiquette tips, and fully describe your gentlemen’s facial, sports manicure, deep-tissue massage, exfoliating body treatment, etc.,” advises Lisa Starr, spa business consultant and educator at Wynne Business. “This way, men don’t have to read through everything else, but others can still see all the services, since they’ll be listed again in the regular menu.”

A proper setting can make or break that first visit. Take an objective look around your spa; invite in a few of your male friends if needed. How do they respond to the colors, décor, furnishings, scents, amenities, retail offerings and music? Do they make them want to run out the door toward the embassy of the closest sporting goods store? Have you created an environment in which a man can truly relax?

“Many day spa owners don’t think about male clients during the layout and design of their spas,” says Starr. “Men require bigger seats, larger robes, wider tables. Ideally, you’d segregate the waiting areas for men and women, but maybe you could just make it a little more private with screens, or arrange the seating so that it’s back to back.” Starr also points out that men’s locker rooms tend to be an afterthought at spas. Do men have a dedicated space at your spa for changing, fully stocked with the appropriate amenities?

“You can’t have the spa be super fluffy,” says Cox. “Simplify. Don’t burn all the candles. Don’t have all of the flowery scents going all at once.”

Laurie Knowlton, owner of Zen 3 Spa and Bodyworks in Springfield, Missouri, enjoys a 30% to 40% male base, and agrees that men are easily put off by an overly feminine space. “Men who come into our spa are not intimidated, because it’s not feminine,” she says. “The waiting area doesn’t have a lot of females sitting around, and we have three male therapists on staff. Some guys prefer a male therapist who may understand their needs a little better than a female.”

Tracy Whynot, owner and therapist at Place 360 in Del Mar, California, with a client base of 40% men (70% for her acupuncture clients), reminds owners to include a range of products in their retail departments. “I’ve found that our male clients are interested in purchasing ‘experience products’,” she reports. “They like stress-reducers, such as music, oils and aromatic diffusers.”

When men come into your spa, find out what brought them there and what they liked about the experience.

Are his needs being met?

Successful relationships occur when both parties’ needs are met. You need to retain your male clients, and they need to make your spa their own. It has to become a familiar and nurturing place for them. “Men need direction in spas; they are in an unfamiliar environment,” says Starr. “Train your staff to interact with male clients in a clear and comfortable way. Men do not ever want to feel silly.”

Not 100% sure exactly what your male clients want, or why? Ask. “It all goes back to processing a first-time visitor,” says Soukup. “If a man comes in for a massage, ask him why he wants that massage. Encourage him to sign on for a program and home care. The spa, client and therapist all benefit from proper client consultation.” She also recommends that spas conduct more surveys in their local areas to find out what men are interested in.

Whynot has noticed that her spa’s male clients enjoy getting to the spa early and using the time to relax and unwind. That’s one need right there, but there are others. “Our male return rate has a lot to do with providing the services they need, the convenience they want (online booking, for instance), and a friendly and helpful staff,” says Whynot. “Men want direction and structure. If you want them to book an appointment, explain to them why it’s important and they will usually book.”

If a man isn’t sure what he wants, Place 360 brings him along slowly. The spa will set him up with a 30-minute generic skin service and then perform various treatments within the allotted time, depending on his needs. Whynot notes that,?“Men usually want the facial, but they don’t want people knowing that they’re getting it.” As they get more familiar with the drill, they have the opportunity to call more shots. “We have something called Club 360, which gives men the opportunity to put together custom packages: golf packages, stress management packages and more,” says Whynot. “We even have a package in which we offer them a beer instead of the traditional glass of wine.”

Zen 3 created Zen Men, a collection of service packages geared toward maintenance, performance, repair and more, for its male clients. “We don’t offer facials or nail services, only bodywork, and that makes it a little easier for us to attract and keep males,” acknowledges Knowlton. “But it’s always about personalizing the care. We treat everyone like a new client, every time.”

Small details are very important when it comes to catering to the male client. “Parking is a huge thing,” notes Cox. “If they can’t find a space, they’ll arrive grumpy. Don’t assume what their state of mind is; detonate all of the bombs before they arrive.” Cox suggests having men’s magazines, offering them a beverage and keeping a nice flow to the entire experience. “It’s like dating; less is more,” she says. “Keep it simple. Many male clients work white-collar jobs and they’re used to protocol. They want to see that at the spa, too.”

Cox also points out that, since men generally lean toward massages, incorporating elements of massage into a facial will show them that you understand what they want and can balance the way you present it.

Are you working on the relationship?

Your spa may be the one place where men receive a little nurturing, so don’t disappoint—be reliable and consistent. For instance, make sure your front desk staff is there come appointment time.?“Men hate to announce their arrival,” Cox remarks. And don’t make that repeat male client have to repeat his requests. “Be organized, make notes and know your clients!” she says.

Small gestures can go a long way. Find out what type of music your male client likes to hear during a service. Remind him when important holidays are coming up. You’re making yourself—and your spa—indispensable. And that goes a long way toward building a relationship.

Men need to feel appreciated, especially as the relationship goes on, so make use of loyalty programs. “If someone is a loyal back wax client, after five waxes I give him a free service,” Cox says. “If he regularly purchases products, I occasionally give him a complementary one.”

Are you planning for the future?

Burke Williams incentivizes men to return to the spa with specific service packages offered exclusively “for him” multiple times throughout the year, and during the holiday seasons. Says Eckenweiler, “We feel that this male spa package tactic incentivizes women to give the gift of spa to the men in their lives. And that, in turn, leads to men making the spa visit a regular occurrence.”

Always rebook male clients while they are still at the spa, say the experts. “Guys don’t want to call and book a spa appointment from their office,” says Starr. “Get them to book before they leave. Today’s software does everything for you, including sending clients reminders.” Adds Knowlton, “Always do a follow-up call to see how the previous service went for them.”

Finally, when creating your event calendar, don’t forget about the men. Soukup notes that most spa events don’t really encourage men to attend. “Try an event focused on de-stressing, becoming a better leader or becoming more productive,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be only for men, either. Men want to be around women. Market it to the women, and let them know how their men could benefit from attending.”

Liz Barrett is an Oxford, Mississippi-based writer and editor.

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