Is HydroTherapy Right For Your Salon & Day Spa?

Is HydroTherapy Right For Your Salon & Day Spa?
Douglas Preston
day spa hydrotherapy
When thoughts turn to starting up or expanding into a spa business, the entrepreneur will often focus on a few compelling concepts that will eventually decide the design, and fate, of the business-to-be.

Chief among these ideas is a spacious and relaxing environment, a unique spa concept, and glamorous, seemingly fun-to-perform services that include the use of Vichy showers and Hydrotubs. It’s exciting to imagine that equipment getting a good workout from throngs of eager, hydro-savvy clients that will make your business investment a successful one. But it seems that few spa business owners have investigated thoroughly just what’s really needed to make an investment in specialized, sophisticated equipment and services profitable.

Many hydro equipment vendors have expressed dismay with customers who sometimes fault the costly devices for their failure to generate adequate customer demand. Vendors correctly feel that if the equipment is working properly, has been serviced promptly, and sufficient operational training has been provided, then their obligation to the customer has been dutifully fulfilled. However, many spa operators have begun to expect, even demand, that equipment vendors also provide marketing assistance, service plans and protocols, pricing help, and routine technical training for a revolving door staff. And while the price structure of hydro equipment sellers does not–and competitively cannot–include the cost of all these post-sale services, it is also reasonable to understand that the seller may not feel obligated to do so either. Think about it–you may plunk down $75,000.00 for a new Mercedes Benz, but the dealer is not going to provide you with driver training, auto insurance, or vacation planning. You get a warranty, care and maintenance tips, and some basic operating instructions–all that anyone should or can expect. Anything you need beyond that must be obtained from resources whose business it is to provide it: insurance companies, driver training schools, and travel agencies.

Somehow a trend has developed for customers to insist upon services that go above and beyond what’s realistic when purchasing high-end spa equipment. But if we’re going to plan and operate a spa successfully, we’ll need to face the fact that we will need to independently locate, utilize, and incorporate the best overall service and management systems we can find. And this means taking full responsibility for our decision to run our companies. Think of it this way: as business owners we love our spa customers. We recommend appropriate home care regimens and give instructions on daily use, and troubleshoot if they run into a problem with a product. Beyond that–it’s up to them to decide what to do with what we’ve provided. We cannot, and should not, be expected to do more.

Hydro equipment and the specialty treatments they permit are fun and interesting to work with, but how much did you really know before setting up shop about attracting the hydro client, keeping them returning, and actually making a profit from those sales? Unless you have a clearly detailed and working business plan for this service department, you have no plan at all. No planning means no direction, and no direction means you bought the car but can’t think of where you want to go, and don’t have a map to get there even if you have a destination in mind. Yet you do have the car and at least some people are willing to ride along with you somewhere–but where?

Rather than print an entire business plan (also known as an educated guess) let’s simply assume that our goal is to keep our hydrotub from becoming a convenient place to store used linens. It would also be nice to turn on the Vichy shower for purposes other than rinsing the dust from the table below. In other words, we want strong service sales generated by the mere presence of this miraculous machinery in our spa. We open up for business, stand ready at the keyboard and then…well, maybe almost nothing. It may be slow in the beginning, and it will take enough effort to get our standard services such as facials, manicures and pedicures going let alone the more esoteric. Should we call our vendor and complain about this scarcity of customers? Should we demand that they give us more training, treatment ideas, and a foolproof marketing campaign? Were we falsely lured into this expensive investment by predatory, heartless salespersons? No. The vendor delivered and we have now painfully discovered what failing to plan properly will do to any part of any business. So instead of attacking a sales let’s learn how to make a hydrotherapy operation as successful as it can and should be.

There’s going to be some new work to be done by you but it’s better than doing a lot more of the wrong things. As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is in doing something over and over again while expecting a different outcome. And remember this article is for those of you who are just now planning to enter the hydrotherapy business, and those still looking to get it out of the starting gate. If you’ve already built a prosperous hydro department in your spa then just…keep reading a little longer.

Make Your Hydro-Treatments Pay!

Make Your Hydro-Treatments Pay!
Douglas Preston
hydrotherapy treatment strategies
Step 1: What is your goal?
Yep, you need a goal, and not a vague fuzzy goal such as, “I want to have a good hydro clientele.” We need more.

First of all, assuming that we’re going to buy this equipment no matter what, we need to know why we’re getting into this service area. If it’s to make more money, then we’ll need to look into the cost of each treatment, find a breakeven point per service, and then price the services to make money beyond that. How much should you charge? Find that breakeven point first, check out your competition, and then price your services above both. Anybody who’s not planning to be the best spa in your area? No? Then charge like you’re the best. You can’t realistically expect to be the highest quality spa and the low cost leader at the same time. Just go ahead and allow yourself to make some money, please.

So, we want to make more money through superior hydrotherapy services, right? The next question then is:

Step 2: Who is your target customer?
Oh yeah, the client. Remember him or her? The one breathlessly waiting outside before we even open who’s savvy enough about these services to want to hop into that tub or on the table for a little healing rain? What will get customers into your spa for these specialty treatments and keep them rescheduling for more? What results will they be expecting? We don’t really know for sure, do we?

To keep your hydrotub and Vichy equipment spouting water, you’ll need to be very clever in making sure that you’re appealing to the right consumer. There are two types of spa users that you will be serving most often: the dyed-in-the-wool, just gotta have it, Spa Enthusiast, and the gift certificate-waving Spa Package Pamperling. Each of these spa visitors have their own unique way of utilizing your services, and each represent a very different kind of business opportunity for you. Let’s examine them closely and see how we can make the most of their visits with us.

Spa Enthusiast
Get down on your knees and worship this person! She (I’ll say she) is the most lucrative and rewarding client you can possibly find. Treat her like gold! This lovely creature loves your spa, loves your services, and wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else for her treatments. She doesn’t need to be reminded hourly that she has an appointment with you–she can barely wait until she comes back in! She buys all of her spa products from you without any coaching, rarely if ever returns a purchase, and loves to experiment with your new arrivals. And fun? This woman is an absolute joy to work with! Why can’t they all be just like her? She’s healthy, a true believer in personal care, and is current on all the latest techniques for keeping her face and body beautiful, just like her close friends whom she refers to you. This client is the ultimate calling card for your business, and you can find her if you look carefully enough.

Step 3: Actively market your hydro services.
How to get this customer interested in your hydrotherapy program? Speak directly to her in your marketing efforts. She’s not a typical bargain hunter but loves an unexpected deal or perk. Charge her top dollar but deliver nothing but the best that you have, and deliver on it consistently. Tell her what to do and she’ll do it. If toning and firming of the body’s skin is what she wants to achieve, then give her a program that promotes those results. Treatment series coupled to a faithful home care routine is a must for this woman, as is maintaining a properly kept appointment schedule with you. Don’t be afraid to take a proactive approach with her–she’s there for the results and you are the professional that’s advising her. But remember, be as serious about what is needed to get treatment results as a nutritionist would be about the behavior needed to reduce weight. The same goes for all of the other benefits your hydro equipment is designed to produce. Believe in it, talk about it everywhere, schedule and lead your clients, and earn a wonderful reputation for great results and sterling professionalism; your hydrotub is not an amusement park ride.

Spa Package Pamperling
This is the life-giving blood of any new or established spa business. They come in every size, age, and enthusiasm about the role of a spa in their life. They are less likely to see the spa as a serious or affordable routine for themselves, but rather are there for a little “pampering”. Pampering is that scary, hard-to-recognize result that is so much taken for granted in the spa business.

One thing is certain: the Pamperling has come to the spa because either she or some kind-hearted soul wanted her to have a day of sheer personal indulgence, and it’s unlikely that they don’t really know what to expect from the spa beyond something unforgettable. And that’s exactly what you’ll give them by recommending your hydro services!

Step 4: Package your plan.
This is the golden opportunity to make those hydrorooms splash with pamper-making magic! While the Spa Enthusiast will likely follow your recommendations for good self care and thus partake of your hydro programs, the Spa Package Pamperling is less likely to reschedule, less likely to make a significant product purchase, and much less likely to articulate the benefits of “pampering” in a way that will lead to the getting of more of it. Probably another gift certificate will be needed to see her again, and that for another one-day-a-year pamperfeast. Your spa packages need to be a marvelous way to introduce new customers to new services, and hopefully get them to reschedule for more. That means you should design your spa package programs to include a healthy tour of your various exotic offerings. Who wouldn’t love a relaxing and toning hydrotreatment followed by a skin smoothing sea salt exfoliation under the Vichy rain? Here’s an example of a spa fantasy experience:

Water Music Rejuvenation Package
This unique and totally relaxing spa experience is a wonderfully refreshing escape for the mind and body! Your program begins with 45 minutes of sheer heaven in our warm and invigorating French Hydrotub where you’ll be pleasantly massaged by an array of air and water jets while immersed in seaweed-rich marine extracts and aromatic oils. You’ll then be guided to our Vichy spa where skilled hands will gently massage you with skin softening sea salts. Relax under a delightful rain of warm water that rinses your skin and promotes healthy circulation. Following a quiet herbal tea break, a highly trained aesthetician will treat you to a skin firming and hydrating facial treatment, where you’ll also learn some fascinating tips for taking the best care of your skin at home. What a marvelous retreat from the stresses of modern life!

So go ahead and confidently let the water flow in those spa packages. Create several different versions of them but make sure there’s some hydro in every one. This has been my instruction to many a spa and virtually all of them have found the plan extremely productive in selling these specialty services and products.

Is that all there is to it? No, there’s more.

Step 5: Service and sales training.
Let those hydro vendors off the hook and let training professionals handle this part of your business investment for you. There are some great resources available out there whose business it is to keep your spa team up-to-date on all the latest advances in hydrotherapies and treatment products. A good trainer will know how to use most types of popular hydro devices and will thoroughly understand the needs and sensitivities of the hydrotherapy client. This is no place to pinch pennies. Ask the experts for referrals to skilled spa trainers, and be sure incorporate that training into your own in-house program. This is an investment in your business; you’ll pay dearly for poor, perfunctory spa training, believe me.

An important and almost always neglected component of any meaningful spa training is in service and product sales. Why again is it that the hydro services have been moving more slowly than expected? Who exactly in the spa is actively selling customers on them? Be honest now. Are you really doing all that you can to interest spa visitors in the services they know the least about? Don’t wait for clients to discover them on their own. Many clients, even long time regulars, use a remarkably small percentage of what your service menu offers, just as most repeat restaurant customers select from a narrow portion of the dinner menu–that’s why they create “daily specials” to sell the halibut. Even then they still have to have to print specials on the menu or, better yet, instruct the wait staff to describe them in tempting ways. The same goes for you and your spa staff if you want to attract a greater number of your customers to your specialty hydro treatments. It’s still a developing market.

Step 6: Be focused.
My spa, Preston Wynne, removed its hydrotub (a menacingly mean-tempered machine of poor quality) after 10 years of battling with it. Service sales never grew appreciably and we needed the space for more in-demand treatments. Did the tub fail? Other than mechanically (relax, most of them are very reliable these days) no; we failed to focus on the hydrotherapy business sufficiently to make it successful. For us hydrotherapy was always a sideline to our aesthetics services around which we have built a considerable reputation for results. We just weren’t that serious about hydrotherapy, although we continue to operate a Vichy shower that has become the pivotal device in many of our body therapies. The point is, it may not be prudent to spend thousands of dollars on equipment and products with which you plan to take a “plug and play” approach. It’s not likely to benefit your business unless, perhaps, you’re a large resort operation who has the financial resources to provide marginal amenities that meet every client request. In that environment it is the availability rather than the frequent utility of specialty equipment that matters most. Unless you can afford to indulge customers on that level, you should plan to manage your hydrotherapy investment with care and dedication. This is the way to prosper in the specialty services business!

Best of luck to you!

Choosing the RIGHT Equipment for your Salon or Day Spa

Choosing the RIGHT Equipment for your Salon or Day Spa
Douglas Preston
salon spa equipment
You’ve seen them gleaming on the trade show floors, you’ve craved them in the pages of industry magazines, and you’ve envied them at work in the spas you admire: those impressive and exciting machines that will make your treatment services state-of-the-art too!

It’s a big decision involving potentially lots of cash, some risk, and a assumptions about dependability and client acceptance. You’ve got the brochures, you have your business dream, and are approved for a loan or lease. The questions now are: what do you need, where should you get it, and what will your equipment investment do for your new business or expansion?

In order to make a sound decision you’ll, in fact, need to ask yourself a few more questions about the benefits versus the cost of certain treatment devices, as well as how likely you will actually sell the services such equipment is designed to assist in. Also, you’ll want to do some background research on possible vendors whom you may have to call upon to deal with delivery or warranty problems that might develop. While I could write a master’s thesis on this important subject I’ll try to offer some helpful guidelines for those of you who are about to plunge some serious money into these products.

Evaluating your “needs”
Think about why you’re convinced that a $15,000.00+ investment in a hydrotub is the best way to grow your business. Are clients demanding this service? Do you disappoint callers each day that hoped you offered this type of service? If not then perhaps you may find that you’ll have one old tub by the time you ever recoup your investment, if you ever do. For others who have been successful with marketing and selling hydro treatments,(and many have), there may be a need to upgrade or even add a second unit to meet the demand. Just make sure that the decision is grounded in practicality rather than emotion–that the need is based on proven customer interest in the services these devices will deliver and not simply your own desire to work with or own them.

Spa employees are famous for nagging owners to shell out large sums of cash for the latest treatment devices only to ignore it soon after its arrival–the new puppy syndrome. Just because they want this equipment doesn’t mean they’ll work in earnest to sell the services it was designed to produce. Before committing to a big purchase pull your team together and get not only a serious pledge to promote the new services with customers but also a plan, that is, exactly how this will be done. Set sales goals and obligate those who want you to invest the money to come through with their end of the bargain. Otherwise, no deal. You’ll find yourself with a costly white elephant and a staff that now expects you to invest in heavy advertising to get the new program off the ground.

Hotel and resort operators that still regard their spas as guest amenities rather than the profit centers that they could be, may have the budgets and incentives to spend lavishly on costly fixtures and equipment. If the idea is to use the spa as a means to attract travelers or vacationers to guest suite and other services then a well-appointed spa may be worth the expense; a marketing expense, that is.

Seriously consider equipment, however, that contribute to the quality delivery of high-demand services, devices such as facial steamers or electrically elevating massage tables, first. Their cost relative to the service demand will make immediate financial sense for your business. A steamer can cut linen costs and save time while massage tables that change height easily may help you keep a therapist or two on your staff longer and reduce the chance of employee injury.

Think retail
The heart and soul of any spa’s profitability lies in the successful retailing of personal care products. Body therapy products are fast coming on as the second tier to those reliable facial regimen sales. Here is where an investment in special body treatment equipment may really help your business’s income. A Vichy shower or Thalassotherapy tub, when used to support body contouring programs for example, may help to put a lot of stimulating and firming products into those shopping bags. That can mean big money for your spa but you’ll need to provide superb service and sales training, especially in this traditionally slow-retailing department, if you want to see those numbers. So if you’re trying to decide between buying the tub or a sauna, buy the tub unless you think you can move more bathrobes than bath salts!

Shop for quality
The lowest-priced vendor of spa equipment may turn out to be a high-ticket headache in times of sales and service support. You’ll have enough challenges running your business and don’t need to add equipment support hassles to your list. Here is where you’ll want to stick with the name brands that have a proven reputation in quality and ease in servicing. Don’t fool around with “bargain” manufacturers and small-time suppliers. Read product reviews (when you can find them) and ask other spa owners about what equipment they have and what their experience with it has been.

Another thing, if you want a rock-bottom price on a treatment machine, don’t expect much attention after the sale. Equipment vendors have to make a living too and successfully goading them to shave their prices to the bare bone will make them less likely to provide the essential product support you’ll also want. Time is money and you’re not going to get both when driving a hard bargain. Compare vendor prices and look for a good deal and a commitment to fast, reliable service. Don’t be afraid to ask for customer references either if in doubt about a particular equipment dealer.

And just because you spent $10,000.00 on a piece of treatment machinery doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be entitled to free staff training, or any for that matter. Spa operators have come to expect this kind of vendor support (because many have provided it as an expensive means of competing for a sale) but it’s becoming harder to get these days.

Think about it; while you may be able to afford to buy a Mercedes Benz it doesn’t obligate the dealership to provide you with driver’s training as part of the deal. Some things you just have to do on your own. Beyond basic operating instructions a product vendor most often will not want or agree to assist you with lots of on-site staff training. Many equipment customers not only expect such value-added service but also want the vendor to tell them how to market and make money on the treatments themselves! It simply isn’t realistic. But you can bet that generous offers of equipment training, when found, have their costs built into the retail price of the product you’re buying. Either way you’re going to have to shell out a little extra for high-quality instruction. Just do it and get down to the business of making your investment pay for itself.

Shop for the long-haul
What’s new and innovative today may become old and outmoded tomorrow. Some cutting-edge technologies change so quickly, especially in the upper-priced categories, that’s it’s difficult to settle on a choice. No one wants to become stuck with an expensive device that’s no longer “hot”, or can’t deliver the best of what’s currently available. In the early days of hair removal lasers a number of spa owners found themselves saddled with long-term lease obligations on what rapidly became obsolete or even discredited machines. Look for equipment that has a proven track record for results and is not likely to be upstaged by a competing technology or method.

Also look for those rare manufacturers who offer some kind of business support plan to help you understand where your best opportunities are and how to run your spa more efficiently and profitably. It’s very much in the interests of equipment manufacturers to see their customers prosper if they expect repeat sales and a high degree of buyer satisfaction. You may have to pay extra for such a plan but the cost may more than offset the price of equipment sitting idle or other potential sources of waste in your company.

Whatever you decide to do, remember this: that introducing a new service involving new spa gadgetry is subject to the same conditions as is opening a new business–customers may not flock in just because it’s there. It’ll take time for clients (and even members of your own team!) to become fully aware of the new service offering, and probably a little longer before they decide to try it. You’ll need patience, perseverance, and a solid belief in your program before you’ll realize success in this new department of your business. You can make your wonderful new machine make money, but do expect to work at it first.

Best of luck to you.

Salon Spa Equipment WARNING

Equipment WARNING
Christopher Brazy

Thinking of purchasing a new piece of equipment? Do you figure on it being the first in town to offer this hot new service that everyone is dying to get? This can be the WORST decision you could make if you don’t follow the guidelines below first.

Does equipment make you money?
It’s VERY easy to fall into a bad equipment situation. This can happen a few different ways. Either we get caught up in the hype of the “latest” gadget thinking it’ll bring us business, OR fall prey to a salesperson at a tradeshow OR we feel it’s necessary to complete our vision of our dream spa. RESIST the temptation to fall for any of these. A sure way to make LESS is by spending MORE which is what you want to avoid.

The Latest thing, but will it bring you money?
Getting a new piece of equipment is exciting. It offers hope. It allows for more and different types of sales. You want it and more importantly, your clients want it…at least, that’s what you believe.

We watch Oprah, and she spotlights some exciting new technology and it’s the new buzz word and possibly even the talk of the town. You’d like to be the first (and possibly only due to its hefty price tag) spa to offer it. You believe clients will RUSH to your door with money in hand. THAT would be great, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry, I wish it did, but I’ve never been one to sugar coat things or say things that you want to hear just to get your money. I am here to tell you how it is and this is how it is. Equipment doesn’t produce sales, YOU do.

A local doctor bought the brand new thermage unit and advertised “as seen on Oprah” and ended up giving away procedures for half off to try to move them. I also know of a spa owner that bought a microcurrent unit and then sold it unused 6 months later for half price. And these are just 2 of many examples of equipment that didn’t produce sales as hoped. Just look at all the used “unused” merchandise out there. People buy it thinking that it will produce sales, and it doesn’t. Sales come from people, not equipment.

Beware of the “income” sales chart
Salesmen are great people, the best. They’re always outgoing, friendly, the kind of person you’d like to hang out with …this helps them do their job. They do their best to get you caught up in the hype (this is especially effective at trade shows). Ironically the worst thing you could do at a trade show is browse the show floor looking at all the goodies to buy, but that’s another story.

I’ve even noticed that the sales message is online via “sales charts.” They do what most spa owners do. They multiply the cost of treatments by the number of hours in a day and show you that you can make $200/hour, 10x/day and that’s $730,000/year!!! Just by spending $10,000 on their microderm unit. What they forget to mention is the COSTS. Such as the person performing the service, the cost of the room since it won’t be able to do other services, credit card processing fees and MOST importantly …a dose of REALITY! Where would you get all those clients??? Just because you can treat X many people/day doesn’t mean you will.

The “Vision”
The deadliest of all traps, is our “vision” of our dream spa. Since it comes from us, from within, it’s hard to see as a potential danger.

Many feel the need to be a “one stop shop” offering EVERYTHING. So you need to offer massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, hair, wraps, waxing …and of course we shouldn’t turn away money so let’s also offer hydrotherapy, and vichy showers, a steam shower, mud baths, microderm, laser hair removal, photofacials, non- surgical facelifts, botox, etc., etc., etc.

Wraps are a good example. They require a wet room. A wet room is VERY expensive, tile, plumbing, green board and of course the actual multi-head shower or hydro-tub. The treatments are top dollar and just incredible. However, no one wants them. They’re requested maybe monthly. Factor in the cost of the caregiver, product, equipment and buildout of the room and it would take DECADES to break even. Whereas if you offered massages there you could turn it into a money maker for you. Don’t offer services until you’ve crunched the numbers on them to find out if they’re viable.

To sum up, the simple version is keep your costs down if you want to keep your profits up. The longer version is that it is NOT the equipment that people buy from. People don’t run up and hand over money because have this or that piece of equipment. “Your clients buy from you, what you recommend, because they like and trust you. So why not recommend something that doesn’t have a $10,000 price tag associated with it?” Now that you know the common scenarios where owners get caught, you can avoid them and save thousands in the process.