Starting a business is never easy and, in an industry where competition is constantly growing, spa owners are struggling to cut through the clutter and retain a strong client list. When used efficiently group buying sites offer a medium that allows you to make your voice heard, says Jerliee Lahey of Hidden Cove Day Spa Retreat, who, despite having an idyllic location nestled in seven acres of land in Hobart, discovered the difficulties of attracting business when based off the beaten track.

Marketing was never Jerliee's strong point and she needed initial clientele to spread word-of-mouth. She explains how she turned to group buying site LivingSocial and leveraged her luxury treatments to kick-start her business and nearly double her client base.

What services do you offer?
The salon performs many varied types of treatments including massage, reflexology, facials, spa, manicure and pedicures, body treatments, tinting and bleaching, spray tanning and makeup artistry. We also have luxury accommodation and provide meals and entertainment.

Who are your main clientele?
Local returning customers for monthly treatments, couples on romantic getaways, girly weekends and bridal and hens’ parties.

Why did you choose to run a deal on a group buying site?
As my business is set within seven acres of land it is off the main street and therefore I don’t have the traffic walking past and seeing my services. I tried letter drops but these weren’t getting me anywhere and I heard that group buying is a good way to attract word-of-mouth.

What deals did you run?
I have run four different deals since the business launched at the end of 2009. The initial deal was to spread word-of-mouth about the business and I offered luxury pamper packages. I then grew the overnight stay side by offering weekend accommodation deals.

How did this help your business?
It kick-started my client list with over 40 per cent of those purchasing a deal returning as regular customers. It also gave me the opportunity to upsell my treatments once the clients were through the door. The spa is not only well known for its treatments but also its accommodation and meals, so I really needed something that would allow people to try the full experience and not just a treatment here and there, group buying helped me achieve that.

Has group buying been a major element to the expansion of your business?
Definitely, in fact I had been planning to build more chalets on the land and initially was questioning if this was the right move. LivingSocial allowed me to take advantage of its merchant services following the deal and I was able to source feedback from customers. The positive praise I received has given me the confidence to continue with the expansion and I plan to begin the build in the next 12 months.

What tips would you provide anyone considering using group buying?

• Know what you want to gain out of it before you begin
• Work out what you can afford to provide in your deal and if you have the manpower to provide the services once these are purchased
• Be prepared to upsell – you have the client in front of you, now show them everything you have to offer
• What makes you unique? – showcase your best assets
• Have a follow up plan in place, i.e. offer return discounts, source email addresses for your database, etc.

For more information on group buying visit www.livingsocial.com