Triumvirate of Trust
For today’s savvy consumer to buy anything from you, whether it is a massage or a skincare product, you need to satisfy what I like to call the Triumvirate of Trust. They must trust the sales person, they must trust what you are selling (the therapist and/or the product) and they must trust the business (your spa) itself. If you can tick all those boxes, only then can we start talking about making a sale. And all of this comes down to communication.
In today’s hyper-connected world, making sure potential customers know who you are, what you do and where to find you is not always easy. It is noisy out there. How do spas break through the noise? And it is not just a matter of breaking through. It needs to be done in the right way. You need to first achieve the Triumvirate of Trust.
Consumers do not want to feel like they are being sold to. Today’s spa consumer, in fact consumers in general, are smart. They have heard every imaginable sales pitch you can throw at them and so the default now is sceptical. Your therapist may well be truly gifted, and your skincare line may be the best there is. But guess what? Most of your competitors are saying the same thing. So, it is all going to come down to how you communicate you message.
Customer Touch Points
The simplest way to ensure your overall communication is on-point is to assess each and every touch point you have with your guests. What is the point where they first hear about you? When is the first time they interact directly with you? What are the various contact points with members of your team throughout the spa journey? Look at each one of these touch points and really consider if your message is getting through to your customers.
When I ask spa operators what their first point of contact is, many say it is their website. And it might be, but it probably is not. Your website may be the place potential guests go to learn about who you are and what products and services you offer, but how did they come to your website? Chances are, they saw a review on TripAdvisor, or followed a link from the hotel’s website, or saw a poster in the hotel lobby, or heard about you from a friend who had visited you before. Or, perhaps, the most likely of all…via social media. All of these are far more likely to be the first points of contact.
Websites Still Matter
Your website may not be the first touch-point but it is nonetheless an important one. Since we have already started talking about web presence, let us continue. Websites are still a big deal. Some smart tech folks suggest that business websites will soon be a thing of the past. Just like consumers do not trust that TV ad you have paid for, neither do they believe your website. After all, you made it, so it must be biased. What consumers believe instead is what they see on social networks or independent review sites. And the naysayers will probably be right, eventually. Websites may one day become a thing of the past but I think it will still take some time to happen. In the meantime, make sure you have a website that delivers the right message and information.
There are many guides out there to help you work out what constitutes a good website. Do not be fooled into thinking that spas are special and that the standard best practices for websites do not apply. They do. When in doubt, have a look at the websites of some of the biggest brands out there. You can be sure that companies like Apple, Amazon, Coca-Cola and McDonalds have spent a lot of money getting their websites just right. Look at what they do and apply their concepts to your site.
There are two key points that I implore you to focus on with your website.
The World is Mobile
Firstly, optimise for mobile. Make sure your website looks great on phones and tablets.
Do not make mobile visitors have to pinch and zoom and drag the screen around to be able to read and respond to your site. The mobile phone is the interface of today, not the future. It is here now, and much too often I come across websites that do not work well on mobile. With so many fantastic cheap options available today for a website, there is no excuse. Most web templates come with the feature to automatically tweak your site’s appearance based on what type of device it is being viewed on.
My other big focus area for your website is imagery. Please avoid the stock standard, super boring spa photos you see on so many websites. If you do not know what I mean, just Google ‘spa’, click on the Images tab and it will become obvious. Same. Same. And Same. Candles, a small stack of rounded rocks, a rolled-up towel and a nice flower. Boring! And what about the action shot? The massage image. A pretty lady laying on the massage table, hair neatly tied back, make-up perfectly applied, head turned to the side. And, if you want to give that exotic resort feel, put a flower in her hair too. Same old same old.
Not every business can afford to hire a great photographer to do their own custom pictures. If you can, great. I highly recommend it. But if you can’t, stock images are fine, just do not use the same ones as everyone else. This may seem like the opposite of what I suggested earlier about copying Apple and McDonalds on web design. But it is not. You can still copy the design principles but make sure the imagery is unique.
Hotel signage is not enough. Nice spa posters strategically located around the property, in guest lifts, etc., are great, if you are selling something that people know they want and need. But if you’re not, then all you are doing is providing something pleasant to look at. Some people would argue that this is the point of the promotion – to bombard the guest at multiple locations throughout the hotel so that the spa is embedded subliminally in their minds. Maybe it will work, but the more likely outcome these days is that your guests will quickly find something else that occupies their attention and your spa imagery will soon be forgotten. The real goal is to convince the hotel guests that using the spa is something they really need.
In-room collateral like tent cards and guest compendiums are much less relevant these days. Once upon a time, browsing through the spa menu in the guest compendium was a good time-filler, but today, guests have their phones and tablets to amuse themselves with while waiting for their bags to arrive.
Be Where the Eyeballs Are
In many hotels, the printed guest compendium has been replaced by the Hotel TV channel, and you will often find this playing on the TV when you arrive in the room. It can be a useful conduit for information, but it requires patience to wait for the spa information part to come around. If you miss it, or want to hear it again, you need to wait for the segment to loop around again. Sometimes these channels have an annoying soundtrack, often playing too loud and many times over the top of poor quality video. In addition to the promotional channel, many hotels also have a text-based hotel directory on the TV. These systems almost always seem slow and cumbersome to navigate, even in the best hotels.
Wherever the hotel displays hotel information to their guests, the spa information must be there too. These displays are the default place for guests to find out about hotel services and facilities, so you need to be there. But do not just stop there. Think about other ways to stand out in the guest room. How else can you capture their attention? Maybe in a more unique way.
Timing is Everything
As mentioned earlier, for most hotel guests, spa is optional. You as the spa operator need to somehow convince them that they should be going to the spa. You need to influence their behaviour. When are the guests most susceptible to being influenced and more open to receiving your spa messaging? When are they likely to be the least distracted? At night, for instance, right before they go to bed. Or maybe when they are in the bathtub, relaxing. Also, in the morning, when they first get up, before the distractions hit.
Now that we have identified the right timing to deliver the spa message, the next question is what and how. The what is pretty simple for most hotel spas. We are in the business of delivering relaxation and pampering so that is what we need to tell the guests about. Make them aware of what we have that can help them to relax and rejuvenate. The ‘how’ is the chance for your creativity to really shine.
If your hotel offers a Turn Down service, this could be an opportunity to promote your spa. Turn Down service is where housekeeping comes in the evening and refreshes your room, folds back the duvet (hence the term ‘turn down’), places the slippers by the bed and a little chocolate on the pillow. And on the pillow, right beside that little chocolate, could be an ideal place to leave a nice card with a feel-good message or a quote or, better still, a few simple tips for a good night’s sleep.
Tips for In-House Spa Marketing
PRO TIP #1: If you really want to make an impact, scent the card with a bit of lavender. Super simple and super impactful. And of course, this card does not come from the hotel, it comes from the spa.
PRO TIP #2: Create a Pillow Menu with a Spa Pillow option. What is a Spa Pillow? I do not know. So why not create it? It could be as simple as a normal pillow with some lavender or chamomile scent. Or it could be made of fancy memory foam. Be creative.
PRO TIP #3: How about including a Sleep Spray in the minibar? Encourage guests to try a few pumps of the spray on the bed and pillow before going to bed and let the aromatherapy scents (yes, our old favourite lavender again) work their magic. You may be able to find a supplier who could white label the Sleep Spray for you – that is, put your spa logo on it – though that often requires a large order. Or you could add a simple tag to the bottle with the spa logo on it. Instead of placing your Sleep Spray in the minibar where the guest may never see it. At Turn Down, have it placed on the bedside table with a little note explaining what it is, how to use it and how much it costs. Maybe even place it on the pillow.
PRO TIP #4: Another spa item for the mini-bar would be a cooling eye mask placed in the fridge. These are great for relaxing the eyes. Offer it as a complimentary amenity to be used during the stay. If the guest wants to take one home, they can purchase it, just like with a bathrobe. This involves extra work to clean and sanitise the eye mask after each use, but it is a great service touch for the guest and another good way to promote the spa.
PRO TIP #5: This is my absolute favourite in-room promotional opportunity for the spa. Water. Yes, those two plastic water bottles that sit by the bed or sometimes in the bathroom. Complimentary drinking water, provided by the hotel. Why not label them with the spa logo? Water is essential to our health and well-being and for many, SPA means salus per aquam (Health Through Water). Why label the water bottles with the hotel logo? Most are consumed in the hotel itself, so people drinking the water already know where they are.
Voice is the Future
A final thought on communication. If we want to communicate a message to our customers, we need to consider how they will consume that message. What is the best interface between the customer and the message? The interface of choice today is the mobile device, but the interface of the future is voice. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, Google’s Home. The biggest companies in the world today are investing big in the interface. So, do yourself a favour. Give some thought to how you will be communicating with your guests in the future