We Are Sunshine

Straight to the Point: Advertising that minimizes cost, maximizes return

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Advertising during tanning season is tricky business. It’s the best time to reach new tanners and drive more sales, but you also don’t want to spend too much or discount when so many people are already coming in anyway. So, when you do pay for advertising during busy season, it needs to really pay off.

Especially this time of year, you don’t want to waste time and money on brand advertising simply to generate awareness. You want to get straight to the point with compelling ads and offers that lead directly to new customers and more revenue. The key is understanding the difference between an “offer” and a “discount.” By strategically targeting your efforts to elicit the right types of purchases and displaying value rather than slashing prices, you can minimize cost and maximize return.

We’re frequently reminding you that online advertising platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Google have opened new doors for small businesses, allowing them to target and reach the right customers effectively and efficiently. Whether the start of your busy season has been better, worse, or about the same as usual, you can undoubtedly benefit from a strategic online advertising approach that focuses on driving purchases. Then, you can, and should, always supplement with virtually free social media and other online communications that increase engagement and support your brand identity.

Think it Through

If you’re slower than normal right now, the need for advertising should be obvious. But, no matter how busy you are, there are still ways to make more money. You’ll just need consider a more tactful, targeted approach. Even if you’re so busy that you can’t handle any more customers, consider if you can use ads and promos to sell more or more profitable options to those who are coming in.

Can you shift client routines to improve sales on slower days and enhance convenience on the busier ones? Can you sell skin care and beauty products to people who don’t even tan? If there are regular waits for UV tanning, can you get more people to spray? If your high-end sunbeds are overwhelmed, can you still bring in more base-level members and give yourself the opportunity to upgrade them later?

You’re not likely to see gyms ceasing advertising in January even though resolutioners are crowding their facilities. Resorts aren’t going to stop advertising before spring break just because they’re expecting a crowd. Like those businesses affected by seasonality, you need to “get it while the getting is good.”

It’s also never too early to plan ahead. You surely don’t want to start thinking about the days when you’ll be less busy, but a dollar in July is worth just as much as a dollar in April. Every new customer now is one you might not be able to appeal to in July, but they might stick around if you can show them the value you provide now. And why should you let people keep paying your competition now and, in the future, when you know you have more to offer? Not leaving on the opportunities on the table now can help you sustain your busy season as long as possible and set yourself up for a better year overall.

Pay to Play

If you’re primarily trying to reach new clients, paid advertising is really the only option. You simply won’t reach many new clients with unpaid social media posts.

But, when you hear experts talk about social media, it’s frequently said that you should be posting engaging content and seeking to build relationships with followers rather than constantly selling. In fact, in Devoted Creations’ 2021 Smart Tan Virtual Educational Conference session, Social Media Specialist Bailey Johnson cites the 80/20 rule for social media: Only 20 percent of posts should be sales oriented. That’s undoubtedly true and that approach is vital to growing and maintaining your presence, but obviously the end goal is to get a return on investment on your social media efforts. Engaging content and ads that promote brand awareness should increase revenue to some degree over time, but when you’re paying for promotion, you probably want to see some more direct results, which will also give you the confidence and motivation to keep doing more.

The next question is, how do you know if your social media advertising is actually driving revenue? The most obvious answer is to promote deals and use redemption codes to track how much they’re used. Even if you’re already busy and you don’t want to discount, some deals are still worth the benefit, and there are many ways to include offers that can be tracked in your promotions but minimize the decrease in profit margins. What margins you do lose, you can consider a sound investment as part of your marketing budget, as long as you’re confident that you’re reaching new customers and exposing people to more services and products.

“The most successful campaigns are when we offer something free and have a specific call to action, such as, show this ad in location to receive a free sunshine session. We use these ads to get people in the door so that we can sell to them from there. Plus, we get proof that ads are working when we ask the client to show us the ad. Ads with offers have been much more successful than just brand awareness ads,” says Rosanna Stewart, Director of Brand Management & Labour Relations for Fabutan, Canada’s largest salon chain.

Here are some ideas to start with:

New Customer Offers: There’s never a bad time to offer a free tan for first-time customers. The value of having the opportunity to keep them coming back is well worth the free tan, advertising cost, and more. If you already offer free tans for new customers and decide to promote that on social media, make a separate code for the ad so you know how many people it brought in specifically. Remember, it’s true that your time is more valuable now, but a free tan offer is also more valuable to the customer, when they’re more likely to want to tan. Paying to promote free tans in the summer will likely bring in far fewer new customers.

Target the most valuable customers: EFT members are almost always your most valuable customers. Every membership sign-up is a tremendous opportunity that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Even now, it’s worth considering the value of motivating more membership purchases with ads and promotions. If you know your numbers, there’s no reason to be afraid of leaving money on the table now. Look at the lifetime value of your members and decide what you can afford to sacrifice to get more. Yes, it hurts to sacrifice money now on a membership you might have sold anyway at full price, but how many people can you get to purchase a membership rather than a package and how many can you expect to stick around?

Packaging/Bundling: You can also find ways to create “deals” without actually giving much of a discount. Create attractive product bundles that meet all the needs of certain clients and offer them at a very modest discount. The higher-dollar sale is most always worth the discount anyway, and that way you’re able to track it. Or, look at ways to bundle services or packages and present them in a new way. Create something that’s not already on your menu so it’s easy to track and you don’t even need to discount. Right now, a “Build your Base Tan” package of, say, 10 tanning sessions would make sense, or ““Tan at every level for $X” is another one you could use anytime to make a bigger sale with a limited discount. You could also package services with product discounts and maintain your margin on the service purchase and still make money off the product that you might not have sold at all without the promo. Adding value rather than cutting price creates a win-win situation any time of year: You get a bigger sale and they get a better deal.

Use inherent value: In most all cases, your memberships and packages will already offer great value compared to single sessions. That makes those options easy to promote without discounting. For instance, if you already have an all-inclusive membership that includes all levels of tanning, sunless and more, that price point should already provide great value. Create an ad that clearly displays that inherent value and consider throwing in a free product with sign-up just to make the promo trackable and add some incentive. I bet you’d consider a top-level membership signup worth giving away a product that cost you $10-$20 any time of year!

Contests/Giveaways: Giving something away for free is always one of the best ways to reach more customers with a paid promotion – even if you’re only offering one unit. A free package or product that only costs you $10-$20 is enough to increase the reach of your post by thousands of people. Just ask people to comment on the post and tag a few friends, and your reach will soar. You will want to promote the post to get it started, but in total you can easily reach an audience of thousands at a total cost of less than $50 for the prize and promotion. Consider making the most of the opportunity by coupling the contest with a message that you want to get out or a consolation prize. Follow up “Tag three friends who love tanning to enter to win this tan extending moisturizer” with a selling point of your salon or “Even if you don’t win, come in and show us you commented and get a free product with membership sign-up.

“We use contests and giveaway to keep customers engaged. We usually time them around events or holidays. We always get hundreds if not thousands of entries. Then, we do a live social media broadcast to read the entry and why we feel it’s the best. Sometimes there are three winners or just one,” says TANgerines Tanning owner Brad Sudekum.

 Utilize your advantages: Think about what tangible aspects separate you from your competition. What would convince someone who has tanned at another salon to come to you instead, based not on a discount but simply that you offer something better? What would be enough to excite someone who doesn’t tan much or at all to give it a try? In most cases, it probably comes back to equipment. If you’ve got the equipment to back up your claims, highlight it: “The best tanning experience in town for just $X a month.” Or maybe your advantage is more advanced sunless technology. Again, the value is inherent, but consider offering a small incentive with your ad to drive more results and make them trackable.

Carousel Ads: If you’re looking to simplify your paid social media advertising and cover all the bases with one ad, Carousel ads on Facebook and Instagram are likely your best bet.

According to Wordstream: “Facebook Carousel is an interactive ad format which allows you to display up to 10 images or videos on ‘cards’ within a single ad. Carousel ads are effective not only because they encourage prospects to interact with your ad, but because they just flat out allow you more room for products or portions of your brand story. They’re a favorite among e-commerce advertisers for precisely that reason.

“Another statistic, this one unique to Carousels: according to Facebook, advertisers have seen Carousel ads drive 30-50% lower cost-per-conversions and 20-30% lower cost-per-clicks than single-image link ads. That’s a lot of bang for your buck in exchange for a little more creative.”

Carousel ads are easy to create and they’re perfect for multi-faceted tanning businesses. For instance, especially if you have different pages on your website for each category to direct them to, you can do a carousel ad with individual slides for UV Tanning, Sunless Tanning, Spa Services, Skin Care Products, and anything else you offer. That way, you offer something for everyone with just one paid promotion. And, like any other ad, you can include your new customer offer or any other to incentivize action and allow you to track results.

Google Ads: When it comes to Google, Ricky Bobby’s famous words ring true: “If you’re not first, you’re last.” When people are actively searching for tanning services this time of year, you definitely want to be first when people search for “tanning” or “tanning salon.” According to Search Engine Journal, “A study of billions of search results finds over a quarter of Google searchers click on the first organic result. The first organic result in Google Search has an average click-through rate of 28.5%, according to a newly published study.” If your offerings and website are up to par, that should lead directly to client visits in many cases.

If you already come up first in searches in your area, that’s great! If not, it’s well worth looking into how much it will cost you. Visit to find extensive resources that make it easy to get started.

But, in any case, you should also consider adding Google Display ads to your repertoire. Google uses search history to direct ads to people who are actively searching for the keywords and interests that matter to you. That allows you to reach customers who are definitely interested in tanning with attractive image and video ads on websites on Google’s Display Network (websites other than Google). And the real beauty of Google advertising, like Facebook and Instagram, is the Pay Per Click structure. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad and is directed to your website or landing page.

 Stay Engaged

It’s true that results from posting on Facebook and Instagram without paying for promotion will pale in comparison to the results your paid ads will garner at a minimal cost. But, going back to the 80/20 rule mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean organic reach isn’t a huge part of the equation.

Whether you think it will drive sales or not, posting engaging and educational content regularly will help you build your online presence and strengthen relationships with your audiences. If you look at how big brands advertise on social media, much of their paid advertising is still centered on brand awareness, but as we’ve discussed, most small businesses with limited marketing budgets will want to reserve their paid advertising for posts that will directly drive revenue. But, since you need to continually update your feeds and keep content, you still obviously want to maximize the benefit.

One way to think about this type of content is reminding people why they should want to tan (or purchase other services or products you offer). This time of year, most tanners are already tanning, but some might just need a little reminder that it’s time to get in the salon. Especially this year, people might be doing things a little differently than normal (or just not leaving the house very much). The right post can get them off the couch and into the salon. Even if an unpaid post might only reach up to a couple hundred of your followers, it’s worth the effort in brand awareness and engagement alone, and it will hopefully get at least a couple people through your doors.

It’s not that complicated! You can post about the benefits and value you provide in a number of ways, but the best way to remind people to tan is always to show off a great tan! Utilize your staff and customers to make it personal and show off those great results on the regular.

According to Sprout Social: “Customer photos are noted to increase conversions and engagement among social followers. Your customers want to talk about their latest purchases, granted you give them a chance to do so. For example, Target encourages followers to @mention them within posts which allows followers to be featured in their feeds. Meanwhile, Anthropologie uses the branded hashtag #myanthropologie to entice customers to post their photos.

“Whether it’s for an influencer marketing campaign or simply encouraging user-generated content, retailers these days are expected to create their own hashtag to encourage organic promotion on behalf of their followers. Doing so provides yet another avenue for customers to engage with your brand and vice-versa.”

And, there’s one more “content category” that deserves more attention right now in particular: As New Sunshine Regional Sales Manager Jordan Stamper pointed out in this month’s Inspired Ideas article, the “self-care” movement is trending right now. You’re selling tans first and foremost, but you’re also selling relaxation, skin care, wellness and more. Frequently remind your followers that you offer a “self-care” experience, and most likely at a much lower cost than most traditional spa environments.

Here are some additional digital advertising strategies that sustain your online presence, but also stand a better chance of driving traffic and sales for free or very limited cost, along with some reminders of best practices for other digital advertising media.

Stories on Facebook and Instagram: With Facebook and Instagram limiting organic post reach to make you advertise, using the “Stories” feature is another way to connect with more people for free. When a user clicks on a Story, they’re cycled through the available Stories from all their Friends and Pages they follow, so many people will see yours without even meaning to. This option is perfect for “flash sales” or quick reminders. Post a daily discount on a slow Tuesday or just your best sunbed or an employees’ smiling face to remind people to stop by.

As Referral Candy explains it, “Instagram Stories allow users to post multiple pictures and videos in a slideshow format that will disappear after 24 hours. Brands can take advantages of this feature to improve engagement, brand awareness, and post more content without overwhelming followers’ feed.

You can use Instagram Story as another way to send marketing messages to your brand’s followers, or inform them about upcoming sale, events and promotional campaigns. You have a few seconds only to display your message, remember to make it clear and memorable.”

Email and text: Email marketing campaigns are almost always worth the very limited cost. You can easily your social media strategies with email to create a cohesive campaign and reach more people.

Like social media Stories, text marketing is particularly useful for flash sales or to get people in quickly during a slower day or time.

“We do mass texting every Tuesday – the “Text Club Tuesday” promotion. They have to sign up and we give 10 percent off to sign up. Tuesday is our slowest day, but not so much anymore. Flash sales on lotion, or 15 percent off entire purchase…just keeping our name top of mind for those days and gets people coming in. Then you can show them any new products or upgrades. There’s an all-around benefit from mass text messaging and utilizing that one day every week seems to help tremendously,” Sudekum says.

Google My Business: In the Smart Tan Virtual Educational Conference marketing session, Bronze Sol owner Ivy Potter says that she doesn’t use Google advertising because they already come up first on search results. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t keep a close eye on their Google presence.

Potter emphasizes that when people find your business on Google, you need to make sure you’re presenting the right image. Make sure all your information is up to date and you’re regularly updating your photos and monitoring and responding to reviews. Potter even organized a professional photoshoot of the salon with a primary goal being to make their Google My Business listing as attractive as possible.

Getting staff involved: Tanning businesses tend to employ young, vibrant individuals – the same type of people who thrive on social media. While you shouldn’t require staff to promote your business on their social media accounts, consider how you can make it worth their while. If you have a strong commission structure, that may be enough in itself. They can benefit personally by reminding their followers when they will be working and why they should stop in. You can also appeal to their vanity by organizing professional photoshoots and producing content that you can use on your business accounts and they will also be excited to share with their followers. Or, if you have staff members with more substantial followings, think about how you can motivate them more aggressively.

Step up your referral program: It’s true that you want to avoid discounting for your current customers this time of year, but getting new customers is always tremendously valuable. You should always promote a referral offer online and place reminders around the salon, but you could also take your referral efforts online to really step it up. If you can identify clients who are interested in working for free tans, you can take advantage by turning them into small-scale influencers. Along with giving them plenty of referral cards to hand out, you could create a coupon code for those highly motivated customers so they could take their referral efforts online. You might be surprised how much social media reach and influence some of your clients have in your community.

Look Ahead 

If you’re already quite busy, as you should be right now, you probably do want to be someone reserved with paid advertising and discounting. Unfortunately, prime tanning season doesn’t last forever, but setting the stage now by reaching even more clients and hopefully locking them into memberships or providing enough value that they’ll keep coming in even during the summer and fall will help with that too. And, as busy season begins to tail off in a couple months, becoming more aggressive with your marketing and promotions can help lengthen the season and raise the floor during J.A.S.O.N.

Start thinking about how you can be more proactive as business slows, and still ensure that your efforts are garnering a ROI. Identify promotions that will keep your EFT members active as long as possible, as well as content strategies that remind your audience how your services and products can still benefit them in the summer and fall.