Education and intelligent marketing among key themes at Spa Life

Social marketing, retaining male clients, and the state of education were among the key topics under discussion at this week's Spa Life conference.

The two-day event, which was held at Wyboston Lakes hotel and conference centre in Bedfordshire on Tuesday and Wednesday saw spas and suppliers meet via a conference, discussion groups, buyer meetings and a mini exhibition.

In the CEO summit, spa owners and managers discussed cuts in the education system and how that is affecting the quality of therapists coming into the business.

During the conference the following day, Liz Holmes, spa director at Darlington's Rockliffe Hall, spoke about the way marketing values have "come full circle and returned to word of mouth". Recommendations and reviews are your most powerful marketing tool, she said, and spa managers and directors must take control of their online offer rather than outsourcing it.

The phone habits of spas was the focus for Lesley Aitken of customer service training company Nurturing Skills, who shared some interesting market research based on calling UK spas. She revealed that when the researchers rang to make an initial enquiry, only 13% were asked if they wanted to make a booking. Many were directed to a website or told a brochure would be posted to them.

Gentlemen's Tonic founder Olivier Bonnefoy shared his secrets for marketing to men. He emphasised the importance of explaining what the treatment does in basic terms rather than using the emotional language associated with women's treatments. Express treatments are "absolutely key," he added, also flagging anti-ageing as the key trend that will drive growth in the men's market over the next few years.

Lopo Champalimaud, managing director of Wahanda, advised spas on how to maximise the revenue potential of the internet by embracing online bookings and promotions. With the majority of customers preferring to book out of hours – 8pm being the most popular time – offering online booking, is, he said, becoming increasingly important.

Bridget Rosser, director of Rosser Consulting, gave delegates insight into how to use Disc (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness) personality profiling to manage and motivate your spa team and treat and sell to customers. She emphasised the importance of adapting our own behaviour and the way in which we relate to others in the workplace, based on their personality type.