What can a day spa or massage business learn from Starbucks?

Why do customers visit your business and why do they come back?  These may be two of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself as a business owner.  If you are trying to open a day spa, open a massage clinic, or already own one, you too must know the answers to these questions.  Otherwise how will you compete successfully with Massage Envy franchises and the other clinics, as well with independent day spas, day spa franchises, independent massage therapists, resort spas, etc? 

Starbucks, one of the largest service companies in the world, is acutely aware of the importance of these questions and has built their entire international business model around the answers.  We may provide massage therapy and facials while Starbucks provides coffee and lattes, but we have more in common with each other than meets the eye. 

In the national bestseller The Starbucks Experience (ISBN 978-0-07-147784-0), the author isolates five key leadership principles that transformed an ordinary idea into an extraordinary experience

  • Principle 1: Make It Your Own
  • Principle 2: Everything Matters
  • Principle 3: Surprise and Delight
  • Principle 4: Embrace Resistance
  • Principle 5: Leave Your Mark

In a series of articles, I will expand on each principle and give ideas of how you can take the principles that Starbucks uses to make each customer visit a memorable experience, and apply these concepts to your day spa or massage practice. 

Starbucks took the mundane and made it exceptional.  Prior to the Starbucks explosion people were happy stopping at a convenience store on their way to work to get a big Styrofoam cup full of mediocre coffee for less than one dollar.  We didn’t know any better and we were happy with the price and convenience of cheap coffee that did the job and kept us awake on the way to work.  Back then no one would have imagined that there could be a successful business model where clients would pay five times as much for a premium coffee choice along with a nicer experience. 


Adding a few snacks would enhance any day spa or massage experience.

In some ways, we can draw parallels between the old cheap coffee experience and the experience clients receive at some discount chain clinics. 

While these clinics offer a very basic economical massage experience, many professionals realize that the client experience could be greatly enhanced.  Just think of your local chain clinic and then think of some ways you could improve the client experience.  What if you only hired experienced massage therapists?  Or maybe you introduced a compelling décor to the clinic.  Or what if you provided robes and sandals to each client to wear while they relaxed in your lounge before or after their treatment?  There are dozens if not hundreds of other ways to enhance the massage clinic experience – just use your imagination. 

The mistake that many massage and day spa professionals make is to think that clients will not pay for these enhancements.  After all, everybody wants to spend the least amount of money possible – right?  Wrong!  It is an age old mistake to think that consumers want the lowest price.  What consumers really want is the best value, not the best price.  A cup of coffee that tastes good to you is worth much more than a cup of cheaper coffee that doesn’t taste good, just as a quality massage that eliminates a client’s pain is worth much more than a so, so massage. 

By adapting the five principles listed above to your day spa or massage business you can learn the secrets that enabled Starbucks to compete with the cheap coffee sources and enhance the customer experience in ways the customer never even knew they wanted.

Check back soon for additional articles covering the five principles listed above.

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  1. This article was just what I needed to remind me that I’m on the right track!
    I’ve had my own massage business since 2004. When I started, everyone thought I was crazy for devoting my practice to females only. It actually allowed me to build a reputation and skillset that enables me to provide exceptional care. Now, despite the Michigan economy & proliferation of massage franchises, I am expanding to a larger (more expensive) facility where I will be able to have another room available to additional therapists. I love this article and will keep it as a reminder whenever I doubt the path I’ve chosen!

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  3. @MarktheSpaman says:

    Great comment and for using Principal #1 – excellent! How interesting of you to differentiate your business by devoting your practice to females only. Keep up the good work!
    Dallas, Texas

  4. I love this article, coming out of the “low” price franchise to an independent owner, you are correct. Clients want service period. I left a franchise and raised the prices, great decision.

  5. Pingback: Trying to build your massage or spa business? Sip on these pointers from Starbucks: Part II | The Massage Advancer: Your source of facts and news about the science of massage therapy

  6. Excellent piece. Keep ’em coming!

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