When commercial UV tanning first came on the scene in the 1970s, marketing the service wasn’t as simple as just putting an ad on the radio to remind people to come to your “tanning salon.” Half of them wouldn’t know what the heck you were talking about, and the other half wouldn’t know when, why or how they should use a “tanning bed.”
Today, while most people have at least heard of a spray tan, promoting the service is still similar to the early days of UV. The idea might not be totally foreign, but that doesn’t mean they’re just going to come take a chance on something they’re not sure about just because they see a Facebook post.
Like UV then, your best strategy to grow your spray business is to do whatever it takes to get people to try it. Accomplishing that often requires a more personal touch than a radio ad or Facebook post can provide – either that, or an incredibly compelling offer.
“Back in the day, I remember we launched our tanning salon and had free tanning weekends, and there would be a line down the street. It’s the same thing with spray. You have to have an introductory spray that’s inexpensive or free – something to attract people,” says Dennis Ligon, owner of Sunday’s Blue Box Sun Spa Shop.
“It’s like at the mall food court. There’s an Asian place, and somebody hands you a toothpick and you go ‘Wow, that tastes good!’ Next thing you know, you’re there. You hadn’t had that food yet, so you weren’t sure. The problem with promoting spray is if it’s done right, nobody’s going to notice it’s a spray tan. So, I think it’s very important to introduce them.”
Introducing substantially more people to sunless tanning requires approaches that differ from traditional marketing. To maximize the potential of the sunless industry, tanning businesses around the country need to increase the spray tan market by taking a page out of the book of the person at the food court with the toothpick. That’s a quintessential example of grassroots marketing.