From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Marketing Magic: Use Printed Material to Create a Great First Impression,” by various authors, in the March 2009 issue. Article summary: Your marketing materials need to reflect who you are and what you offer—so professional presentation is key. Today, both print and online options are available for gift certificates, greeting cards, posters and signs.

Why offer gift cards? Because they are relatively inexpensive and highly targeted. They can be found in a wide range of cost and choices. Many companies offer nice quality stock designs at low prices. These usually allow for the insertion of your business card, so the receiver can keep your contact information long after the gift card has been redeemed.

Don’t be shy to ask suppliers for samples of their certificates; most suppliers will be glad to help you with your choices. You may be able to find existing designs that complement your office décor. Another option is to have your certificates custom printed. Matching gift cards, thank-you notes and appointment-reminder cards gives the added feature of helping to brand your business.

Who might purchase gift cards? Every client who receives your services is a potential gift card customer. You know you give the very best to your customers, so have confidence in the value of your services and offer your clients the opportunity to share the benefits and enjoyment they receive. When you give top-quality sessions, then the customer will want to share her experience. Bank on the relationship you have developed with each client. A gift card is the most effective client referral. It tells the receiver that the treatment you give your clients is so great they can’t keep it to themselves.

What is the best way to promote gift certificates? Develop this according to your own ideas and customer type. You may display certificates on your counter, or place posters on your window or in your session room. You may offer discounts, or instead choose to add a service on a card. A great way to promote new services is by bringing attention to certificates and recommending the service as a gift.

Anne Marie, manager of Scarlett’s Retreat Day Spa in McDonough, Georgia, says her salon does not have to spend money on advertising to promote gift certificates. “If you have a good reputation, people will just come in off the street and ask for them,” she says.

In addition, she says it is a great time to reach out to the buyer of the certificate if they are not an existing client. You may give a tour of your facility, explain sessions and get the person comfortable with you and your offerings.

Eketrina St. Onge, owner of Mosaic Day Spa in Avenel, New Jersey, has two locations and more than 70 professionals on her staff. She holds training meetings to help her employees become comfortable offering all the amenities on the menu.

“You have to remember you are servicing two clients with a gift-certificate purchase,” she says. The giver must feel absolutely certain the receiver will get the same superior treatment she enjoyed. Within her first two months of opening one of her salons near a holiday season, she sold more than 3,000 certificates. She attributes much of her success to professional presentation and quality services. “You do not have to spend money on advertising gift certificates when your customers know you give superior treatments,” she says.

She also uses certificates as a way to reschedule missed or late appointments. You may charge the client as usual for the missed service time, but build loyalty into your client by giving a certificate she may redeem later. “There are legitimate reasons to miss an appointment or be late, and I do not want to penalize them for something that may have been out of their control,” she says. By placing the charge on a gift certificate, she assures the client will return to her instead of seeking her next session somewhere else.

Massage therapist Mac McDonald of Casablanca Salon in Fort Worth, Texas, uses certificates to sell packages of treatments. He will offer combinations of treatments or series of treatments with a discount for the package. “They not only buy for others, but many of my customers will buy a certificate for themselves to take advantage of the special,” he says.

While no extra advertising is usually necessary to make your gift-certificate program a success, you may find that including the suggestion on your business cards, printed promotional material and appointment-reminder cards result in increased inquiries. Why not jump into spring with a new growth in your marketing plan?

Sandra Ridenhower is a manager of BML Basic massage, a chiropractic, massage and spa supply company (