MEMBER PERSPECTIVES
Mindful Marketing: Crafting and Executing Your Marketing Plan
by Jamison Stoike

It goes without saying: to grow your business, you need to have effective marketing. Whether it takes the form of an email campaign to recapture existing clients, creating positive word-of-mouth among hotel staff or using Instagram to reach a wider audience, marketing is a skeleton key to unlock your spa’s growth potential.

It’s not always easy, though. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. SEO. Email. Print. Content marketing. Lifestyle marketing. Direct marketing.

There’s a lot to take in. How do you sort out what’s necessary from what’s just fluff? To get the bottom of the issue, Pulse spoke with three ISPA member spas who make a point to be mindful about how they market their spas across a range of platforms.

Forming a Plan, Setting Goals

Step one: form a plan with concrete goals.

That may sound prosaic, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds. It can take a tremendous amount of effort for a spa director to set aside daily operations, emails and other responsibilities to take the time to build a solid marketing plan—especially because any good plan starts with robust analysis.
At Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu – Hualalai Spa, Director of Spa and Wellness Cecilia Hercik emphasizes the role of historical data analysis on their yearly strategy as a whole, not just their marketing plan. Hercik begins by performing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis on her spa, then pulls three years of data on the spa’s key performance indicators. From there, she’ll decide what areas most need the help of her marketing dollars.

“Our spa facility is exclusive to hotel guests and members,” says Hercik, “making it a little harder to promote our services.” Because of this, Hercik’s spa develops its marketing plan around enticing hotel guests to visit the spa. Additionally, she and her team generate innovative ideas, particularly for promotions, by consulting industry research and trend reports, then brainstorming together.

Once the analysis and brainstorming is complete, Hercik ensures that her spa will be able to track the success of any marketing initiative. “We make sure to program all of our promotions in our booking system to track results,” notes Hercik. “It’s able to give us all the data we need.” Furthermore, her marketing plan is laid out in a simple, roadmap-type format; this makes it easy for staff, spa leadership and hotel leadership to follow its logic.

Tracy Harper, director of spa & wellness at The Spa at Sun Valley, agrees with the importance of keeping the plan simple: a good plan is not necessarily a complex one. When assembling her spa’s marketing plan for 2020, Harper “made the marketing simple” by going with what worked over the past several years. “I break up my marketing plan into four categories—seasonality, local, events and holidays—and use what works to keep consistency,” Harper says. “We work around the resort marketing schedule.”

Implementation and Follow-through

To illustrate what an effective marketing plan looks like in action, it may be useful to walk through the execution of a marketing plan from goal-setting to post-campaign analysis. In 2019, The Spa at Sun Valley set a singular focus for its marketing: increase the number of local guests. The spa is highly seasonal due to its rugged Idaho location. Summer and winter are mobbed by tourists, while the shoulder seasons—typically April through early June and late September through November—are much slower. Harper surmised that by increasing local traffic, she could improve her spa’s profitability during the shoulder seasons.

As part of Harper’s marketing plan, her spa offered targeted discounts geared towards locals. Furthermore, The Spa at Sun Valley took out ads in a widely-read local newspaper. Harper also doubled-down on social media and was more proactive about inviting spa-goers to join their Facebook page.
While Harper doesn’t have exact numbers for how much revenue this campaign generated, there’s enough available data to paint a vivid picture. “We saw a 29 percent increase in our revenue year-over-year, and that’s really attributed to our shoulder season,” states Harper. “We did 1,923 more services during the shoulder season last year than the year before.” Although the spa did offer a 40 percent discount, the sheer volume of treatments more than made up for it—and as any good spa director knows, once a customer has gone to your spa once, it’s much easier to make them come back. The increase in locals even helped the hotel’s bottom-line, too: spa guests frequently bought food and drinks from the hotel’s outdoor pool café.

A similarly detailed strategy was enacted by The Carillon Hotel and Spa by Director of Marketing Roxana Medina. As a relatively new wellness resort, Carillon’s main priority for 2019 and 2020 was—and still is—a multi-tiered approach to building brand awareness. Social media plays a huge role, comprising both organic posts and targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram. “We do a variety of different things; we don’t like to put our eggs in one basket,” says Medina. “An integrated campaign is always the most dynamic.” To that end, Carillon amplifies its core marketing with influencer marketing, digital ads, email communications, local community outreach and direct mail.

Medina strives to back up all of her marketing initiatives with hard data on their efficacy; even Carillon’s direct mail is easily trackable via unique email addresses and phone numbers. “ROI is always going to be our number one metric,” Medina notes. “You can’t always measure it that way, but there’s where we’re going to try to start.” Beyond ROI, Carillon scrutinizes how its customers behave when they browse its website, attend an event or view an advertisement. Social media and digital ads, of course, come replete with copious data, all of which is used by Medina and Carillon’s team to inform and shape their creative brainstorming. “I think it’s important to ideate and be experimental while using those numbers and data to support your decision,” Medina says.

Thinking Outside the Box

While traditional forms of marketing are still as essential as ever, it’s becoming more and more important to think outside the box and incorporate all types of marketing into one’s marketing plan.

Hercik and the staff at Hualalai Spa regularly hold internal training sessions to educate hotel staff on the spa’s offerings; they also offer spa tours to new hotel employees. This makes hotel staff more comfortable recommending the spa to guests. At The Spa at Sun Valley, Harper takes advantage of the slower shoulder season to offer treatments to frontline hotel staff. “We’ve seen a huge benefit in doing that,” says Harper, “because many of them have never stepped foot in a spa before. We’re giving them that excitement of, ‘you have to go!’”

Social media is another aspect of the marketing mix where it pays to get creative. According to Hercik, her spa works with influencers—such as triathlete Dave Scott and celebrity nutritionist Harley Pasternek—on “brand pairing.” The Spa at Sun Valley, meanwhile, has chosen social media as their primary platform to focus on in 2020. The spa is using different platforms in different ways; Facebook will be a landing page for day-to-day promotions, activity and news, while Instagram will center more on lifestyle marketing. “We have two trainers this year that are 100 percent focused on our Instagram page,” Harper adds. In addition to the typical photographs and visual content, the Instagram page will feature educational content about the spa lifestyle and its mental, physical and emotional benefits. Lastly, Harper is hoping to add more contests and promotions to the spa’s existing messaging on Facebook.

Thinking outside the box led to what Medina calls Carillon’s biggest marketing success of 2019: rather than naming any one campaign or event as the most successful, Medina cites a repositioning of how the brand viewed itself as Carillon’s greatest triumph. “We always had spa and wellness as part of our DNA, but we always [positioned ourselves] like a lifestyle resort. Mid-year, we repositioned to put wellness first,” Medina says. Medina worked with the property’s staff—as well as outside partners and agencies—to emphasize that “everything needs to come from this vision to be a true wellness resort.” Once that switch was flipped, it led to an immediate improvement in the strength, creativity and efficacy of Carillon’s marketing campaigns, according to Medina.

She adds, “We have an incredible beach, incredible pools, an incredible facility and the room product is amazing. But all of the luxury hotels have that. Our biggest differentiation factor is wellness.”
And that’s the crux of any good marketing plan: what makes you unique? Find it, then build your plan for the next year—or the next decade—to leverage that differentiator to its maximum potential.


Good with the Bad

Not every marketing idea will work out, and that’s okay—an occasional miss is the price of innovation. It’s also a great opportunity to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Tracy Harper: “We do an event twice a year where vendors come out. Guests get a mini-service, food and beverage, and access to the amenities for $50. That has been successful, so last year we added two additional ones during different times of the year and they just did not work. And I think less is almost more; if we offer it too much, they’re going to get used to it. So we’re going to offer it here and there, and not inundate our marketing with it.”