Marketing is essential to keep your tanning business successful. To do well in marketing a tanning salon, there are a really only a few things you need to do well, but it is amazing that so few are even trying. Even if you are happy with sales today, effective marketing dollars still need to be spent to keep new customers coming in the door, otherwise your salon will slowly fade into obscurity.
The tanning business is a luxury experience and by selling this experience your salon should be focusing on three main points which are image, escape and convenience.
- Image is the primary element of the tanning business because beauty is what the customer is paying for in order to look good. Provide some higher end equipment and develop marketing to emphasize a professional image and your bases are covered. Just as importing as presenting the image in your external marketing efforts, your internal marketing should convey a higher-end image as well. You can do this by keeping your facility clean, professional attire such as polo with logos and organization.
- Escape refers to giving people a place to go and relax, even if it’s for just a few minutes. The escape your salon provides is a bar or golf outing so you customer can get away and do something for themselves. To illustrate the features of your escape angle, your employees need to cater to the customer and make them feel special. Nothing will kill the escape more than the employee sitting bored at the counter and acting indifferent when the customer comes in the door. Hammer home in your training that every customer gets the star treatment. Escape is also a feature to sell to the customer who is preparing for vacation. While they are now a short-term customer they may turn into a long-term one. Consider directing some marketing dollars towards brides, limo services, catering and travelers. You can also discuss cross marketing with salons, travel agents and others to promote each other’s services.
- Convenience is the other prime area to focus your marketing on as many people come in during a lunch hour or after work before heading home. Make sure your staff is prepared to assist people in getting in and out quickly. Too many delays and no matter how good your equipment is, the customer who is on a tight time schedule will leave for the competition who is better organized.
Here are a few tested ideas to help market a tanning business:
- Remember that the regulars are the bulk of your business and also stabilize income during the slow season. Make sure these people feel special and consider freebies and discounts after every certain number of visits.
- Pricing and delivery needs to be smooth and easy enough for any employee to talk with the customer. If you have to be there making every sale or there are too many options, you will ultimately loose customers. The more choices you offer and the longer and harder the sale is to make brings anxiety to the customer and takes time from helping paying customers who will end up feeling intimated and not come back.
- Your current database of customers is a marketing goldmine. The further it has been since the client last stepped foot in your salon increases the likelihood they are not returning. You list is good up to 18-24 months. Try to find out why they left and what you can do to get them back. Direct mail responses provide a .5%-2% return. Make sure when they do return, you have fixed the issues that caused them to leave, otherwise your direct mail dollars are wasted.
- Develop incentives to get people to keep coming into your salon. Whether it be discounts or free visits if they come in more often, you are increasing the likelihood of them remaining a loyal customer and spreading positive word of mouth along with selling lotions, etc.
- Target your advertising to potential tanners and not the general masses. Potential tanners include people who focus on beauty such as gym members and hair and nail salon customers or people preparing for a special event such as travelling, getting married, going to prom, etc. Get you marketing to what the customer is interested in and get them coming in the doors. Look at cross referring with these other businesses and even providing a free initial visit to make the offer strong enough to get a response.
- Don’t promote yourself by the brand of bed you have. This just generalizes your beds with the competition and customers will merely compare prices by the type of equipment you have.
- The customer doesn’t care nor understand anything about watts, UVA, HP, etc. but they do care about getting a tan. Some will care about price, others time and the rest on quality. Trying to market to all three will be a losing battle so choose one.
- Make sure your salon is immaculate. Even with all the marketing dollars in the world promoting your tanning salon as a luxury experience, a dirty facility will eliminate that image quickly.
- Word of mouth in key for the tanning businesses success but it will take years to achieve. Please don’t have this be your primary source of advertising listed in your business plan. It’s just not how it works.
- Always ask the new customer how they heard about you. Advertising is expensive. If you want to be successful it is imperative that you know where your advertising is working and whether it is profitable.
- Customer service is a critical differentiator in the tanning business. With the saturation in the market, tanning is a commodity almost anywhere you go and customer serivce is how you can set yourself apart from the competition.
- In targeting your direct mail advertising keep within a three mile radius of your salon and more heavily in the one to two mile radius.
- Advertising for a tanning salon averages (keep in mind this is a rough average and what works for one salon may not work for another) but most new salons spend 12% of revenues (and factor much more for the grand opening) and then drop to 10% after that to keep new customers coming in the door.
The tanning business is selling the tanning experience not the tan so having a solid plan is important to create the best possible experience. There are many elements to consider but most importantly packaging, great equipment, fresh lamps, effective, easy to understand affordable pricing, well trained courteous staff providing exceptional customer service and a beautiful salon. Consistent effective advertising, and constant communication with your clients is the key to marketing a tanning salon and being profitable.
The question you need to be asking yourself before starting on any advertising program is how are you going to sell the experience and what makes you different from the competition. There had better be something different and compelling enough to get people to notice your tanning salon. Today’s consumer has so many choices of tanning salons to go to than they did just five years ago and just putting out a sign and handing out some fliers is a recipe for mediocrity.