With a degree in chiropractic and physical therapy, experience in the military and in massage, as well as being passionate about helping people feel better, Dr. Melody Itliong had a vision to launch a business that would focus on fostering wellness through therapeutic massage and customized facials. After assessment of a variety of locations, Dr. Itliong decided to open a Massage Envy Spa in Modesto at the busy intersection of Briggsmore and McHenry. With Massage Envy Spa’s vision to provide a pathway to wellness, well-being, and worth through professional, convenient and affordable massage therapy and spa services, she assembled a team of 20 people and, after several months of construction and preparation, Massage Envy Spa Modesto Briggsmore opened in May 2013.
Corporate parameters established specific monthly performance objectives for the clinic, but after the initial opening efforts, Dr. Itliong found her business struggling to achieve target membership numbers and revenues. With 20 people’s jobs on the line, she was determined to overcome any obstacle, and explored a variety of marketing approaches to attract clients. As months passed, and numbers continued to significantly lag performance requirements, Dr. Itliong faced the very real possibility of business failure. In April, 2014, the Sacramento Regional Developer suggested Dr. Itliong contact the Alliance SBDC for assistance.
Working closely with SBDC consultant Claudia Newcorn, Dr. Itliong conducted an in-depth customer analysis to better understand what was causing limited “conversion” of trial memberships to annual memberships. She identified high levels of reticence to commit to a full year due to financial risks, reflecting the region’s lagging economic recovery due to the recession and demographic characteristic.
By conducting an expanded socio-economic market analysis, and a detailed competitive analysis, Dr. Itliong discovered that the market was saturated with a range of massage providers, ranging from spas to dedicated massage, many whom had served the market for well over a decade and were “entrenched” with a loyal customer following. Her net takeaway was that she needed to adapt the Massage Envy Spa business model to better fit the needs of the local audience. “Claudia helped us to realize that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work, especially in Modesto, and that we were at a significant competitive disadvantage, because it is a largely word-of-mouth community,” Dr. Itliong explained. “The problem was, we didn’t know what to do next.”
Through monthly meetings with the regional developer, assisted by Claudia, Dr. Itliong developed and implemented a detailed Marketing Strategy and Plan which mapped out specific themes, offers and advertising components that would leverage seasonality patterns and present value-added offers that would stimulate trial in the Modesto market. The results were immediate. Business turnaround commenced by June 2014, and “never looked back.” Within six months, the business was fully on track to meet performance objectives.
As a result of Dr. Itliong’s determination and passion to succeed, her openness to new ideas, and working with the Alliance SBDC, Massage Envy Spa Modesto Briggsmore did not close, and 20 jobs were preserved. Dr. Itliong is looking forward to financial growth in 2015, and implementing her 2015 Business & Marketing strategy.
“Claudia Newcorn has provided me with a wealth of knowledge of the Modesto Market, the community and what it takes to have a business in Modesto. With her expertise and changing our marketing strategies to best suit the local market, we were able to target the right audience and appeal to those who would best benefit from our services. Her efforts and coaching helped us increase interest and awareness of our services, as well as customer traffic. She taught us how to be proactive vs. reactive and plan well-ahead, and how to properly assess media opportunities. Most importantly, we now know how to look at our local customer needs, and develop programs and promotions that will satisfy their specific wants and needs.”