How to Create an Effective Partnership Program

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” ~ Aristotle

In order to grow and expand in your spa business, partnerships are an important consideration.  Quite often, synergistic partnerships can form the network and foundation that you can leverage in order to support each of you in your endeavors and ultimately achieve your goals. 

Recently, Spa Week partnered with Jillian Michaels (known as “America’s Toughest Trainer” from the television phenomenon The Biggest Loser) to present the “Get Fit for Summer Giveaway” June promotion, where one lucky winner will win a trip to the world-renowned Golden Door Spa.  I had the great pleasure to speak with Michelle Lapidos, the Social Media Director at Spa Week and Editor of the blog Spa Week Daily to get the inside scoop on what it takes to create an effective partnership program.

Stacy Bergdahl, SpaTrade (SB): So, how did you come up with the idea for the Jillian Michaels + Spa Week Vacation Giveaway at Golden Door Spa?

Michelle Lapidos, Spa Week (ML): Staying fit is one of the key components of the healthy spa lifestyle, so with beach body season in full swing, our CEO Cheryl Reid decided that our summer kickoff promotion would be a get-fit theme.  We wanted one of our readers to experience the ultimate in fitness and wellness, while highlighting the best fitness brands in America to support it. We made a list of the top companies we wished to partner with – at the top of it, Golden Door Spa, which offers one of the most prestigious fitness programs in the country, and Jillian Michaels, a household name and true inspiration to millions of Americans. A few conference calls later, everything fell into place and the Get Fit For Summer giveaway was born.

SB:  Sounds like a great idea. What are the main objectives/goals of this promotion?

ML: Our goals come from two perspectives: consumer and branding/business.  Our goal from the consumer perspective is to introduce them to powerful wellness brands, educate and inspire personal fitness, and ultimately give one lucky winner a once-in-a-lifetime experience with a vacation to jump start a new wellness routine.  Our goal from the branding/business perspective is to align the Spa Week brand with two influential brands such as Jillian Michaels and Golden Door Spa to create a marriage of spa and fitness in a broad, impactful way. Jillian Michaels has a wide audience of fitness devotees, so to put the spa lifestyle on their radar like this, on the same wavelength as their everyday weight loss and health goals, is a big win for the spa industry. This is also a meaningful opportunity to increase our consumer base.

SB: I love the dual approach. So what online and offline tools are you using to promote the contest, and your strategy for each?

ML: This promotion is being run entirely online. The strategy is cross promotion between and and our respective Facebook pages and Twitter followings. We are both advertising the promotion on our homepages and to our email subscribers.  Also, we both have fan-gated Facebook contest pages (only accessible to those who “Like” our pages), and we are both promoting via Facebook status updates and tweets. We have also done a full press pitch to our online media, blogger contacts, and even television stations.

I’d like to add that social media is a powerful tool for running contests. In fact, often, the entire contest can be run via social media to generate new likes, viral awareness, and an increased following. On Facebook, we are using NorthSocial, a very affordable suite of Facebook page applications that allows for easy viral sharing and email capture for a fan-gated page.

SB: Great tip. Consistent online cross-promotion seems to be key.  What is the ideal timeframe a spa would need to plan a promotion like this?

ML: Detailed promotions like this one can take anywhere from one to three months to plan and execute properly.

SB: I can imagine the importance of building a sound strategy. What resources did you need to tap into for this giveaway?

ML: Our in-house resources included two travel directors, a marketing director, a social media director, a graphic designer, a press team, 1.5 million consumer subscribers and the well-established and respected brand name of Spa Week. And then, of course, the next ingredients were securing the right partners to align ourselves with, Jillian Michaels and Golden Door Spa.

SB: Wow, it sounds like you have quite a team in place. What about for a smaller spa – what resources or advice would you give?

ML: Yes, for most spas, the resources at hand are likely much slimmer.  However, it’s not to say successful promotions cannot be done. If this is the case, you need to find the right companies to partner with, and you need to be willing to offer a very generous prize package. Giveaways can go a long way in terms of branding and consumer awareness.  Contact a local publication or blog and see if they’d be interested in giving away a full spa day for two. Contact the gym or bridal shop down the street and see if they’d like to be involved as well to contribute an added element. You want to make sure that, a) one of the parties has proven success in such giveaways if you do not, and b) the other parties have a non-competitive and complementary, yet and distinctly different audience from you so that you have the ability reach new people.

SB: What is your promotion plan post-contest to keep the buzz going?

ML: As long as the winner agrees, we will do a blog post on Spa Week Daily introducing the winner with a quote from them on what this experience means to them. Here is an example from our last Belize Giveaway.  In this case, since the prize seeks to give someone not just a vacation but a jumpstart for their fitness routine, we are especially hoping they are willing to share their progress with us and our readers, making them a mini Spa Week sweepstakes celebrity!

SB: What advice would you give spas, say some “do’s” and “don’ts” in order to create an effective partnership promotion?

ML: These answers are from Stephanie Cavataro at Spa Week, who previously held a job as a receptionist at a spa in Connecticut and doubled as the spa’s social media and press team.

  • DO take initiative. The best way to entice a new partner is to organize the promotion yourself and ask them to get on board after you’ve put in the elbow grease.
  • DO think out of the box. Look to partner with popular/successful businesses in the vicinity of your spa: Flower shops, bridal shops, chocolatiers, gyms, gourmet restaurants, hotels, photography studios, etc.
  • DO partner with a business that shares your same business culture. Whether you’re high end or reasonably priced, partner with another business close to or on the same level. If you are a mom and pop spa, partner with a niche flower shop or bakery. If you are a luxury spa with multiple locations, partner with a gym or clothing boutique that also has multiple locations. People respond positively to familiar business environments.  
  • DO get local press involved. Call the community newspaper and tell a reporter about the promotion. Maybe have them come in and preview/try-out the service or prize you are giving away. This way they’ve experienced the gift and can write all about it and the promo in a (free!) editorial feature.
  • DO create a social media buzz. Tweet and post to Facebook information and images about the promotion. Invite current clients to like and share promotional info with friends, such as “Share this link 10 times get 10% off your next service.”
  • DON’T partner with a business that has the same consumer base, e.g. Spa and Hair Salon. You want to expand your audience and reach out to consumers that have had little interaction with your brand in the past.  
  • DON’T quit. If your first partnership doesn’t bring that many consumers to your door, don’t give up. Just by partnering you have expanded the reach of your brand. People will begin to recognize your brand name and will become curious first-time clients.

SB:  Great advice. I notice on the Get Fit for Summer Giveaway there are some legal terms.  Can you tell us more about what is needed on that front?

ML: It is always necessary to have a legal consultant for wording and details of major giveaways, as well as an “official rules” statement, such as this one. In any case, you must know the laws and regulations of the state in which you are running the promotion, as well as the state in which the winner resides.

SB: So, what will success of this promotion mean to SpaWeek, Jillian Michaels and Golden Door Spa?

ML: Success means excellent co-branding and widespread brand awareness on all of our parts, an increase in our subscriber base and social media followings, driving brand loyalty for our consumers, inspiring our readers to make their fitness goals a reality, and ultimately providing a life-changing experience for one lucky winner.

SB: Do you have any other promotions planned in the future?

ML: Always!

SB: Thank you so much, Michelle! 


In conclusion, in order to create and effective partnership program,it is important to think outside of the box, be proactive and engage others to find a mutually beneficial promotion.  In this case, all parties involved will have a sense of ownership and be pulling for a positive outcome.  From that common ground, you can all work toward the same goals by making them your partner.