A lot of different types of independently owned or small businesses signup for online appointment scheduling every day. I speak with most of them about their organizations, their visions as driven by their missions, and how they've adapted to marketing themselves in the internet age. We can all agree that a business's website is a whole new touch point for business-client interactions that wasn't "necessary" 13 years ago but is more than necessary now. What we seem to have endless debates on is how best to structure our websites and how to best put them to use for our objectives.
One group of people I talk to more than most other groups of people are massage therapists. They've come to be some of my favorite people to talk to because, on the majority, they're very kind, patient people who tend to appreciate a good joke. I often ask about their websites and how they've structured them, and for the most part, there's not a ton of strategic thinking.
I hear a lot of, "Well, we needed to have a website so we put one up and it just tells about us, our location, our services, our hours, and how to get in contact with us." This is great and definitely step numero uno, but it's kind of like you're just serving the bottom level of Maslow's hierarchy of needs as it relates to websites.
So I have some advice for any spas that are planning out their websites or looking to do a website makeover. All of this relates to content, not necessarily layout or structure, because I'm of the mindset that content comes first then you get to start in on the "fun" things of design and development (although content can be fun, I promise!). I hope you find these tips helpful in preparing website content for your business:
1. Create personas for your customers and create content for them, not you
I'm hoping to not sound like I'm generalizing here, but you can pretty much split your customer base up into 2 camps: first timers and repeats. You need to understand your customer in order to know what kinds of questions they have. It is then your duty and obligation to answer those questions and your website is an awesome place for it.
To create your personas, I suggest first giving them a character (by which I mean give them a name and write out their demographic background, personality traits, their favorite movie, where they work, etc.) and then give that character goals and challenges that they face in their daily lives.
These goals and challenges all depend on the character, so let's say it is a mom of 3 who works as a business admin. Her goals are to be there for her family, excel at her job, make sure her office staff is organized, and keep herself fit. The challenges she faces are keeping track of so many people's disparate activities, feeling like she has no time to focus on herself, and always having that nagging thought that no matter how much she's done she's bound to forget something.
These are her general challenges. If you can speak to these on your website content, you will convince her that a massage is a good idea for her to relieve some of these challenges so she can better focus on her goals. But you've not necessarily convinced her yet that she should get a massage at your spa.
The next step in creating the persona profile is to get into her objections as to why a massage would help address some of her challenges and make her more prepared to achieve her goals. You could approach an objection she might have by saying something along the lines of, "Before every appointment, we sit down with clients to discuss how a massage could be beneficial for them".
I hope it is clear that the point I'm getting at is that typically web content does not dive deeply enough into what a potential client's objections are. Once you create personas, you can get down to the level of those objections and begin to address them.
2. Make your content original!
It's also tempting to just copy-paste content from marketing material you already have saved. Please. Save us all and don't do this. Print content is 110% different from online content.
Most print collateral is for people to peruse while you're somewhere near them and they can ask you questions in person. With online content, there's no human interaction. You have to adjust your content for this gap accordingly.
There's also a temptation to re-purpose more generic online content to the benefit of your website. Also, not a wise thing. Not only will you lose all the branding and voice you want to establish, you're also not speaking authentically. When you're writing for your spa and business, you're writing with the image you want to portray in mind. This is a powerful place to write from and will get you the clientele you want to serve.
When you just copy and paste from online articles -- swapping out a few words here and there -- I promise it doesn't take long to recognize it. Getting your website together is a lengthy process and most people are apt to skip the content production part if they can (or at least cut corners) but you're doing yourself a disservice if so.
3. Have a voice and use it
There's a 101 different ways to find your brand's voice and the persona exercise outlined in item #1 above can start you down a path toward it. But, allow me to get a bit Seth-Godin-y about business's voices.
Somehow, circa-1949 and Death of a Salesman, we came up with this mentality that we should speak to each other differently when we're in a business setting. Corporations existed and more were growing and we were all kind of shuffled down this path of "this is the polite way to speak". And yet, it's not that it's polite. It's that it is stodgy and far from offensive so it is safe. The language on most business's websites is stuffy.
When I visit peoples' home-pages and have to read the first line of text on their website 3 times in order to understand what they do, I find this frustrating. This can be particularly true with financial services folks, but that's another post entirely.
For spas, it's less that what you do is inaccessible, it's about making the person and business that's going to render the service the most accessible they can be. Break away from the stuffy mold and be familiar while maintaining originality. Speak from a place knowing that you are trying to convince people to let you touch them for an hour. What does that feel like?
Offer online appointment scheduling embedded right on your website. This way you'll maintain full brand control, but clients who are walking into a meeting can book on the go right from their phones. There have been countless times where I would have made an appointment somewhere but wasn't in the right position to call and ask for their availability or it was after hours.
The other benefit is reducing no shows. We can be forgetful sometimes, whether or not we'd like to admit it, and online scheduling helps tie a metaphorical electronic string around our fingers. Sending text message notifications to remind clients before they're scheduled to come in and sending follow up thank you notes are just a few of the huge benefits you and they will receive.