After 70 years of never having a professional pedicure, what might get a potential elderly client into your chair for the first time? The prospect of frequent visits to the doctor for toenail trimming instead. If they know they can depend on you, the pedicurist, they’ll probably come to you instead.


“What we see more often are people who say they can’t reach their feet like they used to,” says Heidi Lamar of The Lamar Everyday Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz. Lamar says the spa has a high number of seasonal retired clients who come to the area for the winter.


These clients may literally need to visit you. Owner of ESSpa Kozmetika in Pittsburgh, Pa., Eva Sztupka-Kerschbaumer says a man walked into the spa and told her that he and his brothers had wanted to take their mother to a podiatrist -because of her long untrimmed toenails, but she wouldn’t go. The children were convinced, however, they could get her to compromise and visit the spa.


“They brought her in a -wheelchair,” recalls Sztupka--Kerschbaumer. “She was smiling, but saying she didn’t want anything.”


When her shoes came off, Sztupka-Kerschbaumer saw that the woman had basically been walking on her toenails because for years she had been unable to cut them herself. She then became too ashamed of her feet to let anyone near them to trim the nails. It was a vicious cycle that meant her nails just grew and grew, eventually becoming so long they -began curling and growing toward the soles of the feet.


“It took me a while to trim them down,” says Sztupka-Kerschbaumer. During the service, she gently told the woman that she should visit a doctor to make sure that her feet — where the nails had been touching the skin — weren’t infected.


The woman went to a podiatrist, and found out that the skin was uninfected. “And now she is a regular client of ours,” says Sztupka-Kerschbaumer.


And this kind of consistency is a benefit not just to the client, but to you as well. Here are seven promotional practices from fellow nail techs and owners aimed at building up this -lucrative, and often forgotten, base of loyal clients:


1. Get offline. To get into the good graces of elderly clients, you should supplement your website and e-mail campaigns with print marketing. Tina T. Albanese-Stauffer, owner of Tina’s Natural Nails in Rochester, N.Y., has about 35 clients over age 65 and says, “Most have found me.” She credits the Yellow Pages for these client discoveries.


Although getting a simple listing in the Yellow Pages (and is free, a paid advertisement will allow you to target your message to the types of clients — like elderly ones who may not have Internet or e-mail access — who use print products to locate service providers. Your local phone company can provide information on how you can update or purchase an ad in the local Yellow Pages directory.


Albanese-Stauffer says she also brings in new clients with her yearly ads in the local newspaper. These ads feature information on “Rules to Sandals” and the “Manly Man’s Pedicure.”


2. Be direct. ESSpa has direct mail marketing campaigns for segments of its local market, which is in Allegheny County. Allegheny contains the largest number of elderly Americans for a large county outside of Florida.


“There is a very substantial population of elderly people here,” says co-owner Scott Kerschbaumer. “You can’t go more than five miles without seeing a retirement community. We send direct mail pieces to the people who live there.”


3. Network with medical staff. Another effective technique ESSpa uses for getting information to these prospective clients is talking with the medical staff who works with the elderly clients. “We also give services to the medical caregivers,” says Sztupka-Kerschbaumer.


“The spa is about a mile from one of the local hospitals,” adds Kerschbaumer. “We do a lot of donations for the foundation of that particular hospital. We also do the local nursing school’s benefit. We try to keep our presence in front of them.”

Sztupka-Kerschbaumer also introduced herself to some of the area’s podiatrists to see how they could work together. She asked them to show her things that she should look for that would require their medical attention and asked if they would be willing to send people between treatments to ESSpa. “I’m not saying all of the doctors were eager, but many were,” she says.


4. Advertise to their kids. “What we really concentrate on is e-mails and direct mail pieces and just talking to clients who have elderly parents,” says Kerschbaumer. “We send e-mails about taking care of your mom and taking care of your dad. When they bring them in, they see how much we cater to them.”


Certain times of year lend themselves to these targeted e-mail campaigns. The upcoming holiday season is perfect to work in marketing to adult children looking for practical presents for their parents. Other times are Valentine’s Day (February), Mother’s Day (May), Father’s Day (June), and Grandparent’s Day (September).


ESSpa also took advantage of a new magazine geared toward primary caregivers of aging relatives. “Pennsylvania Caregiver magazine was started up last summer, and they actually utilized several of Eva’s articles,” says Kerschbaumer. Not only did the articles put ESSpa in the news, but it also helped showcase Sztupka-Kerschbaumer as an expert.

5. Create specific sales, offers, and treatments. “During snow-bird season (October-May), many of our clients are elderly,” says Lamar. “We attract them with great deals and friendly service.”


Lamar says that although her spa’s prices are already about 30%-40% lower than the area’s high-end resorts, Spa Lamar also brings in extra incentives during this time like “Live at Lamar” events, which feature two-for-one spa services, live music, and light hors d’oeuvres during the first Wednesday of each month.


ESSpa also offers specific deals for residents of retirement communities. “Different communities have different deals,” says Kerschbaumer. They advertise these deals in the community’s newsletter or in the community’s buildings.


Heather Goodwin, owner of A Totally Unique Nail Boutique in Palm Harbor, Fla., says, “We also offer medical-type pedicures geared toward diabetic safety and encourage at-home maintenance with products designed for thinning skin and poor circulation.”


6. Promote within the spa. After getting clients in the door for massages or other treatments, staff members can also market pedicures to potential clients. “The clearest tie-in between the nail department and the massage department is reflexology,” says Lamar. “Often during that process someone will make a comment on the beauty of their feet. And it gives the person a chance to say, ‘When we’re finished here, I can see if there is an opening for a pedicure.’”


Even at nails-only salons there are opportunities to promote pedicures to clients. “Half of my older clients do both fingers and toes,” says Albanese-Stauffer. Many of her clients get acrylic or gel nails and “mini” pedicures.


7. Remember word of mouth. Almost all nail techs and owners with a large base of elderly clients agree, though, that word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to reach new clients.


It can be especially powerful in retirement communities where residents come into contact with their neighbors on a daily basis — much more than in communities where members are working 8-10 hours a day. “If one of them goes to the spa, she goes back and tells her friends,” says Lamar.


Some of the things they talk about? The attention of nail techs, their knowledge, the comfort of the salon/spa, accessibility, and the training of the nail techs.

Encourage discussions of your services by providing literature for them to hand out to neighbors or providing two-for-one pedicure services, so they can bring a friend in to try out your services.


Building up a base of loyal aging clients can afford you the same dependability for pedicures as you might get for nail enhancements. So make sure you’re getting the word out that you’re here for them.


What Should You Highlight in a Yellow Pages Ad?
A Yellow Pages ad should be inviting to prospective elderly clients and others as well. Along with your typical features, if you’re seeking these new clients be sure to highlight:

> accessibility; for instance if your salon/spa is wheelchair or walker accessible
> tech training; for instance if your techs have specialized training or extensive experience working with clients of all ages, diverse clientele; for instance if you have previously served male and female clients ages 12-80



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