To help maximize your sunless tanning revenue potential, ist Magazine asked the experts to share their knowledge on the topic. To their credit, this group traditional tanning and sunless-only salon operators were more than willing to share their tips for the benefit everyone wishing to increase their sunless sales.
8 years industry experience
10 years industry experience
Crystal Lake, IL
4 years industry experience
7 years industry experience
5 years industry experience
2 years industry experience
Having become incredibly popular with nearly every tanner demographic, the sunless tanning “season” now lasts all year long. Are you ready for it?
When sunless tanning first burst onto the scene, it was initially marketed as a great add-on service for salon owners to offer from June through September. The thinking was that this nearly-instantaneous tanning method was perfect for the salon guest looking to develop a golden glow for a special occasion. Then, tanning professionals began noticing that some tanners wanted to keep their gorgeous sunless glow all year long and sunless became a season-less phenomenon. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any tanning industry veterans; UV tanning used to be considered an activity only for those preparing for a tropical vacation. What all this means is that salon pros now have two services to offer their clients throughout the year!
While many salons offer some type of sunless tanning option, some operators are better at marketing and promoting this service than others. In every case, those who aggressively promote sunless enjoy the most success. The key is to consider your sunless services as a separate entity and aggressively promote it within your community. After all, those who can’t or won’t use UV tanning might not think to look for sunless services at an indoor tanning salon, especially if they’ve fallen victim to the media’s anti-tanning hype. An aggressive sunless campaign, however, will attract these people and help you turn them into year-‘round (sunless) enthusiasts.
Never underestimate the power of networking says sunless entrepreneur Brandy Gisela. Making connections in her community has helped build her clientele and made connections for her business, Haute Bombshells Beauty & Tan in McHenry County, IL. “Charity and community events are a great place to start,” she says, “as well as marathons and other fitness related events. You never know how making just one connection can branch out into other successful connections down the line.” For example Brandy met an art show curator at a charity event who mentioned she was looking for a reputable local tattoo artist. Brandy was able to connect the curator with a tattoo artist she knew and to show her appreciation, the curator provided Haute Bombshells with opportunities for photo shoots at local historical hot spots. “Many of my clients have resulted from my relationships with photographers I met at that art show,” she said, “and photo shoots are a large part of my business.”
The art of successful networking, Brandy says, combines generosity and strategy. “Don’t go passing your business cards around to everyone at these events,” she explained. “It’s better to get to know people and show a genuine interest in them and what they have to say. And don’t be afraid to be the first to give; people will be more apt to help you this way.” Her networking efforts have connected her to many people, including Mrs. Illinois candidate Mandy Garcia, who is now sponsored by Haute Bombshells. “Mandy is in charge of a large beauty pageant in a neighboring county,” Brandy said, “which is a source for additional clients.”
Offering group rates is one of Nikki Medina’s most effective ways to build clientele for Sun Kissed Mobile Glow in Fairfield, CT. “Getting a group of girlfriends together for a spray-tan party cuts down on the cost per person,” she said, “and keeps my travel expenses down, as well. It’s become one of the best ways for me to get referrals from my clients who eventually become long-term spray-tanners.” Nikki’s group rates are rather straightforward – the party host tans for free while up to three guests pay $50 per tan, which is $15 off the single-session cost. For each additional guest over three, the price continues to drop another $5, and maxes out at $28 a tan for ten guests or more. “It’s great for proms, homecomings and bridal parties,” Nikki added, “but it can be offered all year because women want to look great for their special occasions such as a girls’ night out.”
Nikki’s advice for marketing a group discount is simple – promote it early and often using everything you have. “I highlight them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everything else I do,” she explained. “I focus on the fact that a spray-tan party is the most fun and affordable way for women to get a spray-tan, and many of them call me up wanting to make a night out of it.” When ladies get spray-tanned in a group, she adds, it helps them overcome their reservations about it. “There’s no better testimonial than seeing a beautiful spray-tan or hearing about the experience from a friend you trust.”
If you have it, flaunt it says Tara Munoz, owner of Otown Tan in Orlando, FL. “When I decided to add a sunless spray-booth,” she said, “I placed it in our front room near the lobby, and contracted with a plumber to run a pump and water line from the back of the store to service it.” Tara markets her sunless booth as boldly as she displays it in her salon and says the results more than justify her efforts. Her single spray-tanning booth easily provides more than 300 sessions each month. “We have a lot of older clientele who are phasing out of UV tanning,” she said, “so it makes perfect sense to offer something that keeps them coming back.”
A good way to flaunt your sunless tanning services, Tara says, is using them yourself and allowing your staff to do so, as well. “When you do this,” she added, “you have a conversation starter with every potential client. Seeing a flawless spray-tan on one of us helps assure them that they won’t streak or turn orange.” Tara also plays the manufacturer’s promo video in the lobby, which helps explain the spray-tanning process and what her salon guests can expect from it. Posting before and after pictures – as well as pics of the booth, itself – on her social media outlets helps get the word out about these services. “We include one free spray-tan,” Tara added, “with the free week of tanning we give all new guests.”
“Go big or go home!” is Adrienne Ritchie’s advice to salon owners considering adding sunless tanning services. As the owner of Baked, a sunless-only salon, she sees how some salon operators in Philadelphia market their sunless services and says they’re not doing themselves any favors. “Most tanning salon coupons and advertisements I see are completely focused on their UV services,” she said, “with only a small mention of sunless tanning. This type of marketing isn’t being noticed by the people who can’t or won’t tan in UV units and these salons are missing out on that market.” If more salon owners considered their sunless services as worthy of strong marketing and promotions, their sales would skyrocket. “You can’t market it like it’s an afterthought,” she added.
If they want to sell sunless sessions, Adrienne says salon operators have to make it accessible. “One of the salons in my area offers spray-tans only two days a week,” she explained. “This is hardly enough availability for people who want a last-minute spray-tan.” She recommends having as many staff members trained to deliver spray-tans as possible, so that it’s always available during a salon’s business hours.” Spray-tanning your staff, she adds, is also a great way to get salon guests asking questions about the service.
Bodybuilding competitions are a gold mine for Maggie Smith, owner of Tropix Tanning Salon in Lilburn, GA. “One day, two guys from the gym down the street came in asking for a spray-tan,” Maggie said. “They told me that they needed to be as dark as possible so I sprayed each of them twice.” The men told her they were preparing for a bodybuilding competition and a super-dark tan helps to highlight the symmetry and definition of their physique. Maggie discovered a brand new market for her spray-tanning services and today, she and ten staff members travel to various bodybuilding competitions in Georgia, as well as Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. “We charge $108 per person,” she added, “and we typically tan between 80-100 competitors per show. “Our backs and arms are aching by the end of the event,” she added, “but it is well worth it.”
Since bodybuilders want the darkest color possible, Maggie recommends researching sunless solution manufacturers to find the perfect shade for these client’s needs. She also recommends partnering with a local gym that caters to bodybuilders and offering to tan a few for free to get a better understanding of this unique process. “Because of their activity levels and special diets,” Maggie said, “competitive bodybuilders’ skin tends to have a higher pH level than the average person; if you don’t know what you’re doing, their color can end up becoming green, red or dark orange. She suggests reaching out to fitness show promoters and arranging to become their “official spray-tanning provider.”
Reaching out to people during “sunless season” helps keep Brenda Wooley’s appointments filled all year long at SunKissed by Brenda in Gainesville, TX. She takes a very personal approach, contacting former clients individually via social media, email and even phone calls to offer them a free custom spray-tan. “Many of the schools in our area are very small,” she said, “so freshman, sophomores and juniors are all allowed to go to prom. As we approach the time for these dances, I offer a free spray-tan to any high school student who’s tanned with me during the previous year.” Tanning these young people about a month before their event allows them to appreciate how they look with a tan and it advertises Brenda’s services to all their classmates. “As we get closer to the dance,” she added, “I usually have all of them come back for another tan, as well as many of their friends.”
Potential new clients aren’t immune to Brenda’s personal marketing approach. “I give a free tan to all the cheerleaders, dance teams and homecoming courts in my area,” she said. “I usually do this six months before their games and events so they can get used to what they look like with some color. By the time their competitions or dances roll around, they want another spray-tan and so do many of their friends.” Brenda backs it all up with a solid referral program that rewards clients who recommend friends and family. She also says her free lip balm, which has her salon’s logo and information printed on the tube, continues to be an effective promotional item. “I give them out to people wherever I go,” she said, “so they can carry a little reminder of SunKissed in their pockets and purses.”
There are many great tips for increasing your sunless tanning revenue in this story and we encourage you to utilize them. What’s more, we’d like you to tell us about it when you do. If any or all of these concepts help to increase your sunless business, tell us all about it with a phone call or email. Who knows? Your comment might make it into a future story in the pages of ist Magazine!
A 14-year industry veteran, John "Ribby" Ribner has written hundreds of
articles for IST Magazine and, as Director of Editorial Content, has also
helped guide the publication's evolution. Ribby is a graduate of Central
Michigan University's journalism program and has brought many years of newspaper reporting experience to his position of Head Writer. He is also the author of three novels, "Legacy of the Bear," "Prophecy of the Bear" and "World So Dark."
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