Marketing in Bloom
By Josh Corman

AT THE ISPA STRONGER TOGETHER SUMMIT earlier this year, Rosa Crawford and Scarlett Dixon, co-founders of U.K.-based agency Partner & Bloom, shared a wealth of insights about how spas can make the most of their marketing efforts, even while facing the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pulse recently caught up with Crawford to discuss recent trends, how your spa’s marketing dollars should be spent and more.

DON’T DROP DIGITAL MARKETING
It may seem far-fetched to imagine that much has changed in the handful of months since the ISPA Stronger Together Summit, but the truth is that the spa industry itself has continued to evolve rapidly during that time. Leaders are doing everything in their power to meet high demand for spa services after many of their spas returned to full-scale operations and occupancy limitations fell away in the spring and summer. Staffing challenges have become greater, spa professionals are taking on increased workloads and, of course, the pandemic itself continues to keep everyone on their toes. All of these factors have an impact on the way that spas choose to—and are able to—market themselves.

Early on in the pandemic, around the time many spas were reopening last summer, digital marketing efforts were top of mind for many in the industry. “I think some businesses, particularly those who hadn’t tapped into digital marketing and maybe didn’t have their retail offering online or through Shoppable links, through their social media or otherwise, they were under a lot of pressure to get up and running,” Crawford says. “And so one thing we saw [at that time] was partners, particularly in hospitality, who were interested in our help and advice on how to do that very quickly.” If this sounds familiar, then you may be a part of one of those businesses.

But as Crawford points out, as more spas returned to full capacity throughout 2021, those digital marketing efforts slowed down in some cases, despite their effectiveness. “The irony is that there’s still such a fabulous opportunity to be on social media and on Shoppable—there are all sorts of different tools coming out all the time,” she adds. Crawford suspects that this scaling back has more to do with staffing and resources than any sort of decline in the value of digital marketing itself. “We’re seeing the spas back and busy, which is amazing, and I think that we’re seeing some of the digital marketing take a backseat, maybe because there are fewer inhouse members of staff looking after that side of things,” she says.

THE WELLNESS BOOM
The recent high level of demand for spa services has also been accompanied by an attendant rise in consumer interest surrounding the ingredients that make spa products and treatments effective. Though Crawford notes that the CBD market in the U.K. and Europe is much smaller than in the U.S. (largely due to regulatory issues), it is exactly the kind of ingredient— tied to better wellness outcomes, applicable in a number of ways, naturally derived—that consumers are interested in learning more about after coping with the stresses of the pandemic and potentially seeing their mental and physical health decline. “I think the pandemic lit a fire under that interest [in CBD],” Crawford says, “People are looking at their symptoms, whether it’s struggling to sleep, increased anxiety— these things that, unfortunately, the pandemic has increased.”

Even time-honored ingredients such as lavender, chamomile and Vitamin C are seeing renewed interest from individuals increasingly focused on their personal wellness. Spa brands highlighting these types of ingredients in their products and services have seen a notable increase in website traffic, according to Crawford. “That’s been a really interesting avenue of opportunity for us… making sure that spa partners are aware of some of the very targeted, ingredient-level benefits and are able to communicate that clearly during reopenings or product launches as well,” she says.

Educating your audience about the ways in which product ingredients can affect their health and wellness is just one example of meeting your audience where they are at this stage of the pandemic. Crawford shares that some of Partner & Bloom’s clients in the spa and wellness space have seen an enthusiastic response to messaging centered on improving guests’ well-being in other ways. “They have chosen, on balance, to change how they’re profiling themselves during the pandemic,” she says. “I think they realize that their audiences are looking for a sympathetic conversation, a demonstration that they’re in tune with the mental health aspect of the pandemic, using their platforms to advocate for very practical things that one can do to help boost their energy, help their sleep patterns and routines [and so on].”

The increased emphasis on selfcare that seems to have taken clear hold during the pandemic is likely fueling interest in the outcomes Crawford describes, and spas should consider highlighting the specific results guests might expect to see from the treatments and product on offer, especially if those results are tied to improved mental or physical well-being in some way. “Definitely make sure there are offerings... that really tap into more of a journey of wellness,” says Crawford, adding that spas able to incorporate natural outdoor settings into their offerings are likely to draw attention from those looking to incorporate nature into that journey.

HEAD OF THE CLASS
Spa and resource partner leaders alike can take advantage of a more wellness-focused audience, but only if they can effectively educate that audience about which services and products are likely to serve their particular wellness goals. This education can be delivered in any variety of ways, but Crawford cites Instagram’s versatility and emphasis on visuals as particularly effective for sharing expert knowledge with your guests and social media audience. “It’s not the only very valuable social media platform out there, but it is one that I think, if utilized in a certain way, can really generate sales withing the spa and wellness industry for productor service-based businesses,” she says.

There are two keys to education in this space, as Crawford explains— the first is leaning on the credibility you and your team have established as experts in your field. “The quality of that content is really important to look at. People are often really, really interested in you as an expert,” she says. “Whoever’s behind the Instagram [account], whether it’s an enormous marketing team or just one spa director, I think you can embrace the voice of authority on the matter, be it why you’ve just introduced a new treatment or what, specifically, it’s targeting.” And though social media has a reputation as a space where brevity and attention-grabbing hooks are the primary currency, educational posts can—and should— be more robust. “I think these types of posts are worthy of longer captions as well, and [they can] be more in depth,” says Crawford. Authoritatively sharing the expertise you and your team have acquired in your roles can be the spark that brings a curious individual into your spa.

Crawford advises most clients to dedicate a quarter of all posts to educational output and emphasizes the need to maintain a truly educational— rather than sales-focused— tone in those posts. It’s not always easy. “Some individuals find it comes really easily to them to write content that is educational, and for some people, that’s absolutely not the case. They might be writing content that is of a greater entertainment value or finding their voice slips automatically into the voice of promotion and sales,” she says. If that tendency rears its head, ask for a fresh set (or fresh sets) of eyes to make sure the post strikes the right note. “Planning ahead and making sure you’ve got this balance of content is really, really important.” In other words, let promotional posts be promotional, and let educational posts be purely educational.

SMALL SPEND, BIG IMPACT
For businesses without deep marketing budgets, determining where and how to best allocate funds given the myriad platforms available to choose from can be one of the most challenging parts of creating an effective plan. There are, however, ways for spa industry businesses large and small to make the most of their spend, according to Crawford. “Making sure that you’re highly tailoring to your audiences and thinking very carefully about which content you’re sponsoring, if your budget is limited, is really important,” she says. Regarding sponsored content, Crawford explains that businesses often don’t see tremendous results from their initial efforts, leading them to abandon the practice due to a lack of results. Crawford says the exact reason a sponsored post doesn’t gain much traction can sometimes have little to do with the quality of the content itself, but with the approach to putting it out there.

“If you’re going to sponsor something for a couple of days, it won’t have time to optimize itself on any of the platforms,” she says, pointing out that Partner & Bloom sometimes work with clients who haven’t experimented much with sponsored content and the impact that different approaches have on the effectiveness of the posts. Testing out more “direct-fed sponsorships over a longer period of time, where, on balance, they’re probably not spending any more money,” Crawford says, can have a significant impact, as long as the content is highly tailored to its intended audience. “If they want to draw attention to something—if that’s a giveaway or a product launch—it’s probably worth sponsoring something on that main feed because you’re going to be increasing the traffic onto that platform. If you’ve had a bad experience spending small or not so small amounts of money on things like digital advertising, and you don’t feel like you have seen any tangible results from that, that’s a great shame, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an enormous opportunity there for you as a brand.”

They say—to paraphrase an old expression—that half of marketing works, but no one is sure which half it is. But, with the tailored, authoritative approach to digital marketing that Crawford describes here, you and your business can end 2021 on a high note with an aim to reach new peaks in 2022.