How Brand Journalism Style Storytelling Transformed a Spa Franchise

Steven Smith, CEO and founder of Planet Beach, a popular spa franchise with 300 locations, sagged in his chair when he read the January, 2010 edition of Entrepreneur Magazine. The magazine, which publishes an annual list of the top franchise systems and reports on trends in the franchise industry, listed ‘tanning franchises’ in its list of what’s not hot for 2010.

The problem?

Planet Beach started out as a tanning franchise and quickly grew into a vibrant and prosperous franchise system. In 2004, Smith had the vision and foresight to change the business model and switch the system from a focus on tanning to automated day spa services – push-button spa treatments performed in private rooms.

The new model, which he calls the Contempo Spa, started a movement in the day spa industry. Automated day spas, which customers pay monthly memberships to join much like a health club, became popular. Customers loved that they could visit the spa for one low monthly fee as often as they wanted. The model took off and the franchise grew while the tanning industry began to diminish.

Entrepreneur Magazine is considered the bible for most business owners and it carries and amazing amount of influence for franchise systems. In the world of franchising, public perception of a brand does more to determine what brands grow and which ones struggle. The January 2010 trends article proclaimed that tanning franchises were out and listed Planet Beach as a tanning franchise.

For Smith, this was problematic. Franchise leads for new locations dropped way off and customer perception of the brand focused more on the tanning heritage of the brand vs the innovative day spa franchise it had become.

The solution?

Planet Beach engaged Brand Journalists to redesign its franchise development website, launch an aggressive business blogging effort, launch social media for franchise development and begin national PR to create buzz and build brand awareness.

A Planet Beach Spa Service

The goal: change public perception of Planet Beach from a tanning franchise to a growing and popular day spa franchise and begin generating higher quality engaged leads for franchise development.

Results: In January 2011, one year later, Entrepreneur Magazine listed as What’s Hot in Franchising for 2011: Day Spa Franchises. The magazine listed Planet Beach as a best bet in this growing segment. INC magazine followed suit shortly thereafter. Ask people who work in the franchise industry, and they’ll tell you that Planet Beach is a forward thinking franchise system with good numbers that caters to a really attractive niche.

Throughout 2010, Planet Beach’s new franchise development website, www.myplanetbeachfranchise.com, gained larger and larger numbers of visitors. Pulled from aggressive blogging and organic SEO monitoring with social media mentions, leads began coming in again and sales began to take off.

In 2012, Brand Journalists added a downloadable brand story document that potential franchise candidates could download in return for filling out a lead form. The document, called a franchise report, was a success and lead flow doubled from 2011 to 2012.

Throughout 2011 and 2012, company website leads made up almost 70% of closed franchises, out performing all other advertising sources. Leads were better educated, more engaged and willing to respond to recruiter phone calls and emails. The number of closed franchise sales increased sharply from 2010 to 2011, despite the difficult economy and scarcity of business lending.

To learn more about Planet Beach’s Spa Franchise, visit www.myplanetbeachfranchise.com.

Want to learn if this approach will work for your franchise brand? Start a conversation with us to see if we can make things happen for your franchise system.