best practices ... building a brand
Think of a cookie-cutter. Craft one in a shape that distinguishes your business from all others, place it on the cookie dough, press down hard and discard everything outside the edges. That's what "branding in the spa" has become; no longer can you develop a fabulous signature service and expect it to shoulder the entire branding burden.
"Differentiate or die," declares Minton. "If you're neither different nor a franchise, why would someone come to you? Even if you are a franchise and keep consistency throughout your locations, you still must offer something that sets you
apart from the pack."
But originality doesn't come easily. "What I see over and over is copying," adds Minton, who also heads The Spa Association. "You can't be a leader if you copy. People always think their idea is the best, most unique idea in the world, but usually it's been done. Try to be truly unique."
Everything you do must contribute to your core concept, Minton continues. Keep no hangers-on in your service menu or on your product shelves. "If you're offering services and you don't understand why, stop doing them," Minton advises. "Everything must be results-driven."
Your spa's image includes not only the look and feel, but also how you sound. "Be very conscious of language," advises Canavino. Best practices land that tone at somewhere in the friendly-yet-professional range, and the owner must hold that note with both staff and clients.
"You can't be really nice to clients and then not treat staff with the same respect," says Papageorgio. Even your signage must fall in line. A simple "We don't accept checks" sign could be worded in a more positive way, says Papageorgio, adding, "Don't post sarcastic notes in the backroom like, 'Your mother doesn't live here. Clean up after yourself.' A new staff member might be put off instead of seeing it as humor."
Dolce Divino Salon & Spa provides a good example of how one concept can drive a business. Located in a bustling area of Corpus Christi, Texas, the spa is convenient to the young professionals who work nearby. Consequently, owners Alexa Gonzalez-Barter, Ariel Moore and Ambrose Gonzalez focus almost exclusively to the working professional, setting their number-one goal as getting clients in and out as quickly as possible.
"Some retired people do want to take their time and spend all day with us," says Gonzalez. "We adjust as needed; we don't rush people out. But our bread and butter is the working professional."
How does this play out? New technicians practice speeding up their craft. A manicure/pedicure is scheduled while highlights are processing. The esthetics rooms are equipped to do massages, facials and waxing; instead of having the client move from room to room, the next technician takes over in a flash. Proper training keeps quality control from suffering, he adds. "We don't really cut corners," says Gonzalez. "We just do everything more efficiently." Entire office staffs come to the spa together. "It gives the
staff that works together a chance to drink and spend time socializing, and they can each get a pedicure in 15 minutes,"
says Gonzalez. "We're able to do a staff of 30 in a reasonable amount of time." With word of mouth revving the marketing engine in
the corporate world, "quick" is also the way the Dolce Divino name spreads.