Sometimes guests move on because of a bad experience, but “most of the time it has nothing to do with the spa,” says Angela Cortright, owner of Spa Gregorie’s, with locations in Newport Beach and Rancho Santa Margarita, California. “In some cases people find another facility they prefer or one that’s closer to where they live, but for the most part it’s due to life’s demands. Usually, these customers are salvageable.”
“Our target demographic is 30- to 55-year-old, college- educated women who make $50,000 or more per year. If you think about it, that’s a busy person,” says Sean Vierra, LMT, owner of The Pearl Day Spa in Eugene, Oregon. But according to Vierra, a hectic lifestyle is just part of the equation. “I think the number one reason spas lose clients is because they think the spa doesn’t appreciate their business,” he says. “If you’re not communicating to your clients that they matter to you, they’re going to go elsewhere.”
But even if that happens, all hope is not lost: Spa owners can still lure these absent clients back using the following pro strategies aimed at winning them over again—and keeping them returning.
Sending the Right Message
Spas must keep detailed data about their patrons—including email addresses—and systems should be in place to track and manage that information. “If they don’t, there’s no way to continually improve existing customer relationships, effect sales or develop marketing techniques,” says Leslie Lyon, president of Spas2b, a spa management consulting company.
Email campaigns that target lost clientele should be built into a spa’s regular marketing plan, ideally on a quarterly basis. “Anybody who hasn’t been to our spa in a year makes the list,” says Cortright. “We find out who those guests are, and then we send a nice email along the lines of ‘Hey, we miss you. We know life gets busy, but it’s important to take time for yourself.’” The message also includes a discount code with an expiration date to create a certain amount of urgency. Cortright reports that she most recently sent out such an email in March; as a result, 76 past customers returned.
Contacting former clientele is important, but avoid being too intense in your messaging, as it may backfire and alienate the very people you’re trying to attract. “Find a gentle way to keep in touch, as opposed to the ‘hype, hype, hype’ or ‘hurry, hurry, hurry’ kind of relentless advertising,” says Karen Carnabucci, MSS, LCSW, TEP, marketing consultant and personal coach for health and wellness professionals. “You simply want to reach out to these former clients to remind them of your presence and your services. Be cognizant of the words you’re using, and present your message in a soft, relaxing way to really reflect what you’re offering.”
In addition to a coupon or discount, Carnabucci advises spas to send their clients useful information and updates such as a new service offering or an upcoming event. “You want to have something to communicate that’s of interest to the recipient,” she says.
Vierra reports that open rates for his emails are between 15 and 20 percent; if he adds a customized note, the rate increases to 30 to 50 percent. “People do appreciate that personal message—they like that we’re a small business, that we value them as clients, and that if there’s something we can do differently for them, we will,” he says.
But email isn’t the only method for reaching out to lost clientele. The Pearl Day Spa’s “We miss you” campaign starts with a postcard, which is then followed up with emails and accompanied by a social media campaign to target this specific type of client, explains Vierra. For example, after an email has been sent, a social media post on a medium in which the client participates will follow shortly after. “We have a marketing company that creates most of our social media posts, and they figure out the targeting of clients,” he adds.
Vierra tracks marketing campaigns by assigning each one a different phone number. “Those sent through Google include one phone number but Yahoo has a different one, and boosted social media posts have another,” he says. “So when the calls come through, we know which messages are actually converting into appointments.”
Spa Gregorie’s has had success with personal phone calls. “Our therapists are proactive and they know our guests well,” says Cortright. “If they haven’t seen a client in a while, they know that a phone call may be in order.” It’s important that the right employee places the call, however. “It must be done
by somebody who is outstanding on the phone, with great customer service skills, who really knows how to engage in a nonthreatening and respectful way; otherwise it just sounds like you’re throttling the client with a sales pitch,” warns Cortright. “But if it’s done right, people truly appreciate the outreach. They appreciate just knowing that we care.”
Getting former clients to come back in the door is only the first step—the next is to get them returning regularly. It’s about rebuilding that relationship, says Carnabucci. “Sending a follow-up note, a quick text or even a small gift after the appointment boosts rapport,” she notes. “Spa services are very personal, so they call for a personal yet professional response.” Giving the right kind of gift can make an impression, adds Carnabucci. “They don’t have to be fancy, but they shouldn’t be things that people would throw away,” she says. “It’s important to find ways to communicate to clients that they feel valued. You want them to walk out of the spa feeling like their practitioners care about their well-being.”
“You need to understand these guests’ wellness beliefs and needs—and make sure they know it,” adds Lyon. “What are their lifestyle and beauty goals? Find out what has changed in their minds and lives (that you can answer to), and then advise them using your expertise.”
Sometimes, spa owners never quite figure out why specific clients leave, but a targeted survey that asks, “What’s the biggest hurdle to returning to the spa?” can help ferret out answers. You might not be able to recapture every single former client,” admits Vierra. “However, by reaching out to a few thousand other people in the same demographic who likely have similar opinions about why they do or don’t come in for services, you can get a general idea from the group as a whole.”
Also bear in mind that retention should be a focus not just for management, but for the spa’s entire team. “Part of our compensation structure is based on client retention,” explains Vierra. “All of our messaging and marketing is aimed at keeping customers and pre-booking appointments. For a spa, it’s a key performance indicator.”
–by Jeanette Hurt