The sunless tanning industry is exploding in 2017 and I’d be doing a disservice if I didn’t dedicate a blog post to exclusively helping these bronzed businesses to find more clients and make more money by winning at online marketing.
In this blog post, I interview sunless tanning professional and founder of the Association of Sunless Tanning Professionals Shonna Dexter. Shonna has grown a thriving business during her 6 years in the industry and has helped numerous other spray tan businesses to start up and grow.
She’s also acutely aware of the growing pains and marketing struggles of sunless tanning businesses.
How do I differentiate myself from other spray tan studios?
How do connect with my target audience on Instagram?
I want to do ads but don’t want to waste money… help?
How do I come up with fun ideas for videos for my business?
Any of these sound familiar?
We’ll be chatting about the most important lessons Shonna has learned and the top marketing issues that sunless tanning businesses have, along with how to solve them.
Shonna is founder of Recreating Rays Spray Tan Studio in Olathe, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City). She’s also the founder of the Association of Sunless Tanning Professionals, the only professional trade organization in the world for sunless professionals, and The Sunless Summit, the only sunless-only event in the world.
To say that she is knee deep in all things sunless would be an understatement.
“My life revolves around this industry that I’ve been a part of for just six years,” Shonna says. “My business began as a side hustle in July of 2011 and quickly turned into a passion.”
Within a few years of working two jobs, she had left her full-time gig to pursue her dream of building a successful sunless business, as well as creating the ASTP. Stepping away from the security of her 9-5 was scary, but Shonna has continued to take risks and they keep paying off.
“Recreating Rays is the first storefront sunless-only business in my city. There are three of us who handle all of the tanning and I will be hiring another employee this winter to allow myself to step further away from doing the tanning, giving me more time to dedicate to building the business.”
As director of the ASTP, Shonna has helped hundreds of sunless tanning pros start and build their businesses and create a dream job that helps clients feel fantastic. She’s learned some crucial lessons about the industry.
“Our clients are in a very vulnerable situation: getting naked or half naked in front of a complete stranger. Hair and nail pros don’t have to stand in front of a naked person and make them feel comfortable. We do.
This vulnerability allows us to really get to know people. You have to be to make total strangers feel comfortable naked all day. From my experience, a lot of the women in this industry are also highly sensitive and in-tune with others feelings and emotions.”
“There are those who enter the industry thinking it will be easy to make a quick buck and have no real passion for it, but they are usually gone within a year.
It takes time to build a clientele and if you’re not willing or don’t have the wherewithal to keep going when things get hard or are slow building, you’ll quickly sink.
“Overnight successes” are extremely rare. Most of the very successful people in this industry have been at this for five-plus years. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
“A lot of the really successful owners understand that they will never know everything there is to know about building and running a successful business, so they are always engaging in learning activities.
It may be reading books or taking classes or networking with other business owners, but they are always looking to extend their knowledge-base in some shape or form.”
“Knowing who your target market it is, what makes them buy and then KEEPS them as a client is the most important aspect of building a successful business.
For instance, I charge a higher price than most in my market and I know that a lot of people won’t spend what we charge on a spray tan…but some will. We don’t try to convince the people who are only motivated by price because it’s a lost cause. We focus on our time, energy and marketing dollars on the people who are driven by service.”
“The vast majority of pros in this industry begin alone (some are partnerships, but those would be the minority, for sure). Until you build a strong and steady clientele, solo is all good. Once you build a strong client base, though, solo can be VERY overwhelming.
Not only are you doing all of the tanning, but also trying to find time to market, order product, respond to calls and emails, form collaborative partnerships…the list is never ending!
A lot of sunless pros suffer from burnout BIG TIME during busy season. It’s very difficult to do it all AND have a life when you’re spending 10-12 hours each day just seeing clients.”
Shonna knows all about the issues sunless tanning pros have with finding clients, making money, and navigating the world of social media. Here are some of your most burning questions, with practical answers.
I’ve started with this question because it’s the most general but also the most important. And the solution for these two problems is one and the same: know your audience.
You absolutely cannot sell and market to everyone, and trying to cater to everyone will only leave you scratching your head trying to find clients.
Once you know who your ideal client is, you know where to find them and how to communicate with them. You’ve also put yourself leaps and bounds ahead of competitors who are still trying to sell to everyone that bites.
Shonna, for example, defines her target audience as “female professionals and stay-at-home moms in their 30’s and 40’s”.
Let’s say you’ve decided to go after female professionals and stay at home moms aged 30-40 like Shonna has. It may seem like you’re limiting yourself, but it’s exactly the opposite. Now you know exactly how to reach these people and how to speak with them.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that narrowing your target narrows your chances of success. It’s exactly the opposite!
Hopefully you already know exactly who your target is.(If not, head back up to the last question!)
Now it’s time to implement a local Instagram marketing strategy to connect with those same people on Instagram.
1) Tag all of your pics at your location (create a location like this if you can’t find your salon)
2) Like and follow people who have checked in at your location. Also try messaging people who follow you with a personal message. It might seem like a lot of work but it shows you’re a real person and that you appreciate them.
3) Follow and interact with people who have recently been at places in your target group. This might be a gym, certain restaurants, stores, parks, neighbourhoods etc.
4) Use the right hashtags to micro-target people in your ideal audience
– city hashtags
– hair hashtags popular in your area
– hashtags that could be related to the interests of your clients
5) Get involved in local events and happenings to make your salon stand out as a city “landmark”. People love seeing local landmarks on their feed!
6) Partner up with a local business to do a local promo (cross promoting products, for example)
Success! Now check your email to grab your checklist.
Getting found on Google is all about search engine optimization, which people write full-length books about. Essentially, search engine optimization is what you do with your website and social profiles that makes Google’s algorithm rank you higher when someone searches for “spray tan in your city”.
Because it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to go into too much depth about SEO for your spray tan business, I’ll summarize 3 strategies that will make a huge difference for you:
Google says that getting good quality reviews from your clients helps your business to appear higher up in search results. It also means that people will naturally be drawn to your business because of your good reviews on:
Google My Business
Just take a look at the importance Google puts on social reviews for salons:
So, getting social reviews are important for Google, too. How do you get more of them? Learn 10 ways of getting more excellent reviews for your salon here.
If someone is searching for a hair salon in Los Angeles, which site do you think will attract their attention?
Or this one:
Butterfly Loft will always get more clicks from Google because:
So, how do you make your website title and description as magnetic as Butterfly Loft?
Since more than half of the traffic from Google now comes from a mobile phone or tablet, Google rewards websites that look great and work well on a mobile phone.
How do you know if your website is “mobile-friendly”?
Well, if from your phone the text is teeny tiny, if the buttons are smaller than a fingerprint (what people use to tap!) and if your before and after pics are so blurry you can’t tell which is before and which after… you probably aren’t mobile-friendly.
Google Ads can be a massive money-maker for your sunless tanning business: on average, businesses make 2$ for every 1$ they spend.
In this article I interviewed a spa owner who made $3,600 in bookings spending only $175 in ads, which is huge!
But, it is easy to go wrong with Google AdWords and some mistakes can be very costly. Make sure that you do the following for best results:
1) Set up a dedicated landing page for a unique offer (for example, a special priced spray tan package for brides)
2) Choose keywords involving your city and the specific phrases your target client would search for (for example, “spray tans for weddings miami”. Add 15-20 of these keywords and phases.
3) Write a spectacular ad that includes your city name, the price of the package and the unique benefits of your business.
Good for you for recognizing that video is the most important marketing trend of 2017! But if you’re running out of ideas for videos for your spray tanning business, don’t worry.
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The number of sunless tanning businesses around the world is only going to continue growing, and with growth comes competition. Competition means you’ll have to step up your game, both in your marketing and also your sunless tanning skills.
You’ll dive into both of these things at the Sunless Summit 2018 in Las Vegas for two and a half days of education and networking that is unparalleled in the industry. I’ll also be there giving you more juicy ideas and strategies to skyrocket your studio’s growth through online marketing. Hope to see you there!
Oh and last thing! I have a marketing checklist for sunless businesses that you don’t want to miss. Download it for a ton of ideas and inspiration to promote your spray tan studio online!
Success! Now check your email to grab your checklist.