How to identify the competitive advantages of your day spa or massage practice (part II)

Some day spas have a theme as part of their competitive advantage / Hawaiian Experience Spa

Some day spas have a theme as part of their competitive advantage / Hawaiian Experience Spa

As Massage Envy, Massage Heights, Hand and Stone, and others via for the cheap massage market, independents need to find and capitalize on their competitive advantage(s) before they disappear like so many massage businesses these days.  Whether you are opening a new day spa, opening a new massage business, tweaking or redefining your existing business, or are thinking of becoming a massage therapist; competitive advantage is critical. There are many ways your day spa or massage business can have a competitive advantage to differentiate itself from the Massage Envy’s of the world however, it is not necessary, nor is it possible, for your business to have every type of competitive advantage.  Even one major competitive advantage can be enough to build your business and your marketing plan around (Recommendation: See Part I of this article before proceeding).

Variety of Services – Massage Envy and other chains usually offer only a handful of services, while some day spas offer dozens of services to their clients.  Offering clients a variety of massages and other spa services sparks interest among new clients and keeps existing clients coming back.  Offering more services or products, however, is not always a competitive advantage.  Fast food restaurants have struggled with this for many years as they confused and lost some customers when adding more services.  In and Out Burger is a perfect example of how offering less services can also be a competitive advantage.  If you do choose to offer more services or products make sure you have a system to manage the complexities of your added menu.

Price – The simplest and perhaps the worst example of a competitive advantage is price.  If you sell the most inexpensive computers or offer the most inexpensive massages, you do have a competitive advantage – to a degree.  Becoming the low price leader has worked for Walmart and others throughout the years, however, for a small business the low price avenue is very dangerous. You have to make a profit (unless your business is just a hobby), and you need healthy margins to accomplish that.  Unless you have the inside track on supplies and can lower your price below your competitors and keep your margins high, consider staying away from this choice.  Price is a competitive advantage of Massage Envy.

Upgrade Potential – Somewhat related to price this is a particular advantage of some day spas. Treatments start at $49 like a clinic chain but can exceed $400 or $500. Clients often visit initially for entry level treatments but end up trying more expensive treatments in future visits. Always offer your clients a way to upgrade if you can. Many of your clinic competitors do not offer higher priced treatments and miss out on this opportunity. Restaurants and bars have used this for years, offering customers upgraded liquor (for more money) when ordering a mixed drink.  Remember you are helping your customers by making them aware of your services and upgrades. You are not tricking them or manipulating them in any way.  Always have your customer’s best interest in mind (words to live by in any business).

Quality – Being the quality leader is a great aspiration.  Most business people want to provide quality services to their clients.  This is another competitive advantage of some massage practices compared to chain clinicsMassage Elite due to the quality of therapy they offer.  Most of the time you will want to find a balance between quality and price.  This balance is called value. Clients are generally looking for a great value even if they say they want the best price.

Convenience – Americans want convenience. That is how the convenience store, with its higher than average prices, has flourished in many areas in the past. We want the best value at our ideal time and place. Convenience contributes to the value of your product and service.  A car wash a block away with easy access 24 hours a day, may be a better value than a less expensive one two miles away that you can only get to from the northbound lanes and is not open late on the day you want to visit.  Hours, location, ease of conducting a transaction, etc. all add to the convenience. This is another competitive advantage of Massage Envy.

Service  – Service can be a major competitive advantage.  If you can have a quantifiable difference in your level of service you can use this at the center of your marketing plan.  For example, if you only hire massage therapists that are also personal trainers you can advertize your service advantage effectively.  However, if your service difference can not be clearly articulated this will not be a major competitive advantage for you.  For example saying “we have the best therapists in the city” is not a service advantage you can use, even if it is true.

Finding your competitive advantage, however, is more difficult than reading a list and saying, “I will be the best at convenience”.  In the next part of this series we will explore how to find your particular competitive advantage and how to maximize it for more profits and success.

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  1. Pingback: Marketing your massage practice or day spa: First know your competitive advantage (part I) | The Massage Advancer: Your source of facts and news about the science of massage therapy

  2. Great articles that help to critically eye what one’s business has to offer. I think your points here about price and upgrade potential are very important. I’m looking forward to the rest in this series.

  3. I am not a fan of chains that use contracts. Massage Envy locked me in for a one year contract. This does two things advantageous for the business–,first, it guarantees one massage per month at pretty much the going rate for the average massage business–,second, it encourages the customer to get another mnassage at a 30%+ price break, reducing the amount of unsold time that almost all massage businesses have to deal with.

    Many spas only offer one price, even if you only come in weekly.

    The best way to beat Massage Envy and other contract chains at their game is to sell volume discounts for 5 or 10 massages. Once you sell these, you know the customer will be back. Unless you are one of the lucky few massage businesses that never has unbooked hours, especially during the week, it is to the spas advantage to offer these volume purchases. I recently locked in 10 massages at an already relatively inexpensive massage business at 30% off the base price.

    The reduced price I obtained by buying ten one hour massages averages out to $4 less per hour than Massage Envy’s mid-month massage rate mentioned above.

    I expect this young lady to be in business for a long time.

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