Brick-and-mortar spas are teaming up with mobile spa companies to increase their reach and build business.
Looking to downsize your day spa but expand your revenue stream? It can be done, or so say the increasing number of owners who are turning to mobile spa companies to provide off-site services. The benefits can be plentiful: Imagine racking in business even on days when your spa is closed… reaching a previously out-of-range client base… or being able to provide services that aren’t feasible at your brick-and-mortar location. DAYSPA did some investigating about the logistics of partnering with mobile spas, and establishing such an arrangement for your day spa business.
A Suite Partnership
When Vickie Bennett, owner of Vasaio Life Spa in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was approached by a local Marriott to provide spa services for its hotel guests, she suggested to the hotel that she send staff over to perform in-room treatments. Then she quickly realized that the necessary equipment would be too cumbersome to transport from client to client.
Fortunately, however, Bennett didn’t give up; her engineer husband created a specially designed cart that could be easily rolled from guestroom to guestroom. The cart worked like a charm, and the idea was subsequently covered by USA Today, releasing a flood of inquiries from other hotels wanting to do the same.
“Hotels that created huge spas years ago have begun to realize that they’re expensive to run—so they’re turning them [or parts of them] into additional guestrooms or meeting spaces,” explains Bennett. “Mobile services allow these hotels to still offer a spa component, to provide services when their own spas are overbooked, or to give special attention to VIP guests.” Today, as CEO of Suite Spa, Bennett sells those carts to business owners who want to offer on-site spa services but just don’t have the needed facilities.
Mobile services certainly helped Bennett keep her own spa afloat when business was slow; one hotel Bennett teamed up with brought in $250,000 in one year for the spa owner, which helped make up for the losses sustained at her brick-and-mortar establishment. “When the spa was dead, the hotels were still busy—and you can command more money for services in a hotel setting than a spa’s,” Bennett points out. “Doing this brings in additional revenue without additional spending; because the cart is the only overhead, there’s an incredible return on investment.”
Bennett hired a public relations specialist to help spread the word to more hotels about these mobile moneymakers, but she thinks the next biggest group of buyers will be spa owners who want to expand their services to hospitals and high-end condos or apartment buildings. These types of facilities are becoming increasingly competitive, and on-site spa service is a very appealing feature for them to offer.
Bennett recommends that spa owners wishing to go mobile contact local hotel concierges and ask if guests are requesting in-room services. The spa can bring on subcontracted staff or use these mobile appointments to fill downtime for in-spa therapists. Spa owners also benefit, says Bennett, because guests might return to the hotel with a group of family members or business associates.
“We tell them, ‘We own a spa down the street if you’d prefer the full amenities of a traditional spa,’” she explains. “As an owner, you have to think outside the box—and outside your spa’s walls.”
When a spa owner with limited space wants to accommodate a larger group, that’s when Melissa Brown, owner of Spoiled Rotten Events in Simi Valley, California, steps in. After noting a growing demand for mobile massages, spa parties and get-togethers, as well as spa days at home for bedridden or pregnant clients, Brown was inspired. She created a company that provides these services on behalf of brick-and-mortar spas. “It’s an opportunity for a traditional day spa to provide clients with additional options,” notes Brown. “We can incorporate a spa’s signature treatments, products, massage techniques or packages into the home setting.”
To ensure success, Spoiled Rotten Events maintains flexibility, as each spa—and each spa’s clientele—expresses different needs. A spa can call Spoiled Rotten to schedule an event or appointment, or the spa’s client can call the company to book directly. Smaller spas may not be in a position to prepay, so Spoiled Rotten will set up a contract that allows for payment to the mobile company within 30 days; each setup is created on a case-by-case basis. An associate from Spoiled Rotten meets with the spa owner beforehand to discuss his or her objectives, and the spa’s treatment standards are shared with mobile technicians via a phone interview or personal visit.
Word of mouth has been instrumental in spas learning about her company’s mobile offerings, says Brown. Spas that hire her company benefit when the mobile team shows up and hands out the spa’s advertisements and menus, and uses its branded robes or other accessories. “One person who regularly visits the spa may be hosting the party, but that host’s guests then get familiar with the spa and products, so a new market is reached,” relates Brown. “And the physical spa may offer treatments that aren’t performed at parties, which drives guests to the spa for those treatments.”
To maintain quality, Brown conducts monthly meetings with her partner spas in which they discuss efficiency measures and current specials or events the spa wants to promote. Spoiled Rotten provides all clients with feedback cards to mail back to the spa, and encourages clients to rate their experiences through online reviews, or emails and phone calls to the spa. “This is the best way to see what areas we can improve in, and for the spas to learn which services are most popular with guests,” says Brown.
If you’re considering expanding your day spa’s reach by partnering with a mobile company, there are some essential how-tos to keep in mind, such as: how to enlist mobile help; how to prevent or tackle concerns that might arise from operating through another company; and how to market your new mobile services to current and prospective clients. Take these tips from Felicia Brown, a business and marketing coach for Spalutions and Every Touch Marketing in Greensboro, North Carolina, to make your mobile services successful:
Conduct due diligence. Hiring a mobile company or service provider is no different from hiring any other independent contractor to provide your clients with services. Ask for a resumé, conduct interviews, perform background checks, secure current references, and check out reviews or testimonials from past clients.
Set boundaries. Make sure you have a clear agreement in place that defines which party is responsible for what in terms of providing equipment and supplies, collecting or sending out payments, following up with clients, etc. What about staff uniforms? If practitioners are working on your behalf but wear their company’s logoed uniforms, this may confuse clients. Discuss how you will handle this ahead of time. You also want to be sure all of your liabilities are covered via insurance. Talk to your insurance company about any special riders that may need to be added to your policies (auto, business, professional liability) and what kind of coverage or proof these individuals need to have for you to be securely covered.
Open communications. Schedule a practical appointment with the personnel who will be representing your day spa. Because mobile companies specialize in in-house or off-site work, have the practitioner come to your home rather than your spa, so you can evaluate how he or she handles getting and following directions, setting up the treatment area and dealing with paperwork/business details—as well as the overall timing and quality of the experience. After a mobile vendor is hired, you may also choose to utilize a secret shopper or two to evaluate performance on a regular basis.
Target current clientele. Get the word out about your new mobile services to your clients via email, social media sites, direct mail, in-store signage/brochures and staff referrals. Ask those clients, as well as other business contacts in your area, for referrals for this new service. After you have some positive client experiences—and testimonials of your own—you will be better prepared to go after new business leads and clients.
Reach out to local businesses. Once you have your pricing and specific services in place, ask your current contacts for referrals to businesses that might be interested in mobile spa services. If possible, get decision-makers’ names and information so you can contact them directly to share info and schedule a meeting. Get a feel for each business’s goals (to reward employees, increase productivity, thank clients, etc.) during these initial conversations so you can provide a customized solution or program for them. When done right, these types of partnerships present a win-win for both businesses.
Don’t have any mobile service providers in your area? You may still be able to cash in on the mobile trend. “If you’re a day spa, you can create your own mobile program that is simple and allows you to preserve your profits,” notes Dori Soukup, CEO of InSPAration Management in Daytona Beach, Florida. “You can even host educational events, not just offer pampering.”
To accommodate larger get-togethers, Soukup recommends bringing product kits to off-site locations and teaching spa care. For a skincare party, for instance, you might instruct on the proper tools and techniques for cleansing, toning and mask application (between professional care visits, of course!). This also presents more opportunity to sell products and expand the reach of your brand. “You can do the same with massage (teaching techniques and then selling a membership or massage series at the spa to the guests) or even nail care,” Soukup points out. “Parties like this can generate a lot of revenue for the spa while requiring the least amount of expense and employees to carry them out.”
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer based in Oxford, Mississippi.
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