THINK LOCAL
Driving Revenue Through Community Partnerships
by Ryan O'Gara

As spa directors continually search for ways to create authentic experiences for their guests while also increasing revenue, many have decided the best way to do that is by tapping into local resources. Businesses need revenue-boosting partnerships to succeed, and spa directors have decided that looking at local resources does that and also distinguishes them from their competitors.

In many Native American communities, for example, medicine bags represent more than a place to store medicine. It’s something much deeper. It’s a connection between a person and the world. It’s about maintaining harmony with the physical and spiritual realm.

In Sedona, a strong Native American community, Jim Root recognized the importance of a medicine bag, but he didn’t fully grasp how that should apply to Mii amo, where he is the general manager and Enchantment Group director of wellbeing. Mii amo sold medicine bags, but they weren’t local products.

“There was nothing wrong about it, but there was definitely nothing right about it,” Root says. “We used it as an opportunity to start a conversation about a medicine bag and undestanding its importance in our community.”

Shortly after beginning this dialogue, Mii amo began purchasing medicine bags from a local Native American family that used locally sourced deer skin. Instead of a generic medicine bag, Mii amo now offers a male and female version that takes its presentation and intention to a deeper, more authentic and genuine level. That bag doesn’t work for a spa in the Midwest, for example, but it’s an example of how to integrate where you are and what you are into that local community.

“The key for wherever I’ve been, and especially here, is to understand sense of place and spirit of place,” Root says. “It’s easy to go look at all these nice things, but do they actually fit? Here, we sit in strong place of Native American history and culture, so it’s been relatively easy to reach out to our various Native American communities and authentically incorporate products that move our business forward.

“It can’t be a gimmick or a cosmetic that looks good. It has to fit.”

Root believes there is a duality—an effort and a story. He says if the effort is not supported by the story and an explanation, it doesn’t resonate as richly as it could. That’s why he and his entire staff talked to the family producing the medicine bags—so the whole team could explain the significance to the spa’s guests.

This way of thinking speaks to a trend among spa directors, who have found that featuring local products at their spa does more than just help out their neighbor: it improves their bottom line and makes them a better business.

Thinking in Terms of ‘Place’ to Expand Clientele

Whichever region your spa is in, there are specific things native to your area. Spas that work with local vendors in their area can get premium products in their spa. The Edgewater Spa in Madison, Wisconsin, for example, uses local cranberries and cherries as snacks. Kelleye Martin, the spa director, was most proud of figuring out how to take advantage of the popularity of local beers.

Martin knew she had to take advantage of the thousands of people that come to Madison for the Brewgrass summer concert series, and three years ago, she figured out the best way to do it: beer-inspired treatments. For example, she took a popular tangerine beer and looked at the properties of tangerine and discovered it’s a stress reliever. So, Edgewater offered a stress relief massage with a tangerine beer after the treatment.

“It helps drive a different clientele,” Martin says. “We see more men because of it.

“It’s about giving them that experience that’s unique versus just getting a spa treatment,” she adds. “So how do you enhance that? You highlight other local businesses. And we’re not some big corporation; we need those local partnerships just as much as they need us. It becomes great for both of us.”

In Napa, wine-inspired treatments are popular. Spas in that region which have partnered with wineries have seen the benefits.

Silverado Resort & Spa, for instance, created packages that involve spa treatments and wine tastings. The private club has members that work at wineries, and Silverado features their wine in the spa. Suzy Bordeaux-Johlfs, the spa director at Silverado, says creating relationships with wineries helps boost its reputation, which is crucial in a small community where word of mouth is a key element of increasing clientele.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is another example of a spa that works with wineries to offer more than just a massage. They do events at local vineyards and participate in a grape stomp. Jane Turner, the spa director at Fairmont, says that partnering with a local yoga studio has given the spa a nice boost.

“That brought people that have never been through our door here,” Turner says. “We do a special deal to where they can spend a cheaper admission fee to spend rest of the day here after yoga. That has grown here to where a yoga studio now rents space from us.

“It’s making these relationships that is really helping us.”

Establishing Credibility with Local Partnerships

Spas have found that it isn’t necessarily about randomly picking local businesses to partner with. There is some strategy to it. Establishing partnerships with other reliable businesses goes a long way towards building credibility for a spa.

BodiScience Wellness Center & Spa, for instance, has a company policy in its employee handbook addressing personal suggestions and recommendations. It requires employees to observe standards of conduct to assure recommendations are aligned with BodiScience’s level of service to enhance the relationship of the client with the center. BodiScience has a list of like-minded local companies that they have partnered with and trust implicitly. “Our relationships are intentional, to build trust with our clients and assure exceptional experiences,” says BodiScience president Dawn Tardif. “It’s important to keep the guest’s experience at a high level even when they are not at the spa.

“When someone dines at a lovely spot to eat, it creates the opportunity for us to enhance our client relationship,” Tardif says. “It helps build loyalty and trust with us. It’s not uncommon that clients ask us, especially when traveling, about special or unique places to go to.

“There is an intangible benefit when you assist somebody with recommendations. When we are able to assist, our goal is to make certain their life is more enjoyable, or make their life easier, it enhances our business relationship with them.”

The spa‘s reputation extends outside of the building, as Michelle Adams Somerville says. The Spa Advisor for the Woodstock Inn and Executive Vice President at Billings Farm & Resort says that she is trying to have her guests think bigger than just a massage at a spa. It’s about a lifestyle full of wellness, from the food guests consume to the skin-care products they use.

“Farm-to-table and farm-to-face is something we’re really trying to pull together and weave through our spa,” Somerville says. “The spa experience is not just about the hour or two you’re spending with us. It’s establishing habits to contribute to overall wellness daily.”

Highlighting the Exceptional Stories

Every now and again, there’s a story that is so inspirational that the revenue generated is completely secondary because of the way it enhances the experience. Simon Marxer, the Director of Spa and Wellbeing at Miraval, recognized that a partnership with Ben’s Bells was a no-brainer. It’s a foundation that teaches individuals and communities about the positive impacts of
kindness and sets out to inspire people to practice kindness as a way of life. It was started after founder Jeannette Maré dealt with the loss of a child.

Marxer heard Maré speak at an event, and he knew he had to incorporate her passion into Miraval. Instead of simply sitting with the grief of losing a child, Maré decided to turn her energy into cultivating something to make the world a better place. She is now one of Miraval’s speakers.

“That relationship, it’s wonderful for us,” Marxer says. “Not only do we have the opportunity for our guest to learn about the initiative, which aligns with our values, but it also generates a sense of connection to Tucson as a whole. That provides a richness of experience for our guest. I think that’s really something they seek.”

“You can go anywhere on vacation and you’d like to have a distinct connection with that place, not just surrounding and scenery but the local culture. Many of the things we bring in are indicative of the Tucson vibe. It’s intriguing to people who come from other countries and other areas of the world to touch something close to this place. We all, to some level, have interest in expanding our horizons.”

And for spas, the greatest way to do that is to tap into local resources.

While it may seem like common sense to work with other local businesses, that isn’t always the case, as Turner discovered.

“I’m from the UK, and it isn’t done as much there,” she says. “Coming here, it’s refreshing because everyone wants to help everyone else. If businesses pull together, we make stronger businesses for everybody. That, for me, is quite special.”