As co-owner of a holistic health and fitness spa in laid-back West Hollywood, you wouldn’t think Rachael Lucas would be much of a proponent for technology or the internet. But just like the pilates guru and the sports league mavens from previous Tech Picks – or any entrepreneur, really – the easy-going Aussie knows tech and web tools are invaluable to small businesses.
Ironically, she graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Her degree, however, was in Human Movement Science, one she would take with her through 14 years of personal training, fitness instruction, competitive sports and more. Although you’re more likely to see her helping a client sweat it out at the gym or throwing a mean backhand on the tennis court, she spends a good amount of time building the business side of Natural Flair Spa on Yelp, Facebook, her BlackBerry and more.
Must-have for mobility: While most people living in the 21st Century would probably agree that they feel completely lost without their cell phones, Lucas admits that she truly can’t get by without hers, specifically her BlackBerry. (She prefers it over the iPhone because, “while the apps are amazing, the service leaves a lot to be desired.”)
“It has all my client contact information, calendar of appointments, reminders, client photos I take on a monthly basis, access to all my e-mail accounts and, of course, Facebook,” she says.
Favorite app: Obviously Facebook. Says Lucas, “I’m always posting tidbits of information about weight loss, personal training, diets and eating habits, and yapping with my friends.”
Mac or PC: Surprisingly, Lucas doesn’t have a preference, and she actually uses both. “I’m on the fence,” she says. “I love the Mac for the creative side of business and the PC for the practical. The PC is compatible with more programs, but I find the ease of use with the Mac to be a huge draw.”
What Web 2.0 means to her: As a little trainer fish in a big fitness pond, especially in Los Angeles, Lucas looks to Web 2.0 to help build her business’ presence and stay competitive – and do it more cost effectively. “It [gives] smaller businesses exposure to a broader [audience] than traditional marketing resources,” she explains. “It allows for target marketing to consumers who are more likely to be interested in and purchase your product.”
In addition to social networks, mobile apps, a weightless tip widget and Twitter (@australiangirlr), Lucas is a serious advocate for leveraging review sites like Yelp and the review features on mapping sites, such as Google’s. Stemming from the eBay feedback concept and early review site Epinions.com, these sites allow customers to post reviews – good or bad – on a business’ profile. “Referral business is key to developing strong clientele,” she says. “The advent of these newer review-based sites allows people to communicate their good and bad experiences with a business. People who have a favorable experience with a certain product or business are more likely to tell their friends and family to try [it]. But every customer experience is relative and there are always two sides to every story. [These sites also help] the business become aware of the issues that customers are facing and rectify the problems. [Also], if there are numerous negative reviews, customers can make informed decisions about whether to try the business based on the feedback.”
Serious tech snafu: Lucas is one of many victims to the “phone in the sink” catastrophe. Even worse, her incident happened only two days before she was supposed to go on a trip to Australia. She ran to the store to have her client contact list retrieved, something most service providers can do via satellite access. But “they couldn’t retrieve my contacts at first,” Lucas says. “My whole life is on that phone! So I waited in suspense and dread for two hours while they salvaged my memory card and extracted what information they could.”
On her iPod: Norah Jones