That’s why we asked salon owners, and salon marketing experts, to give us the primary tactics that are responsible for the majority of their business. Then we asked them to walk us through the process of executing those strategies, step by step.
Here’s what they told us:
1. Get Referrals
Getting referrals is the meat of your salon business and the most important part of your marketing strategy. Over 80% of salon owners say that most of their clients come from referrals. It may seem that referrals are an accidental stroke of dumb luck, but there’s nothing accidental about salon referrals.
How often does your return client return? Is it six times a year? Maybe eight? If you average $50 per visit, you stand to earn $300-$400 each year from that client. This is the value of your client.
But what if your client could return two or three times that amount just by talking positively about your salon to their friends? This is the power of referrals, and this makes up the majority of your marketing.
Heather Lemere, marketing director for SalonSuccessStrategies.com, says that reputation building is a constant process. Through her work of brand-building and implementing a client referral system, the Beautique Medical Salon was able to see a 1000% roi and an increase in sales from $443K to $1.43 million.
Let’s take a look at some strategies to market your salon through word-of-mouth.
It’s one of the most vulnerable and terrifying things to do, but it’s the most important. According to salon expert Kristi Valenzuela of Crystal Focus, you should ask the client for a referral directly and eye-to-eye immediately after the client is satisfied with your service. Before the client leaves the chair, and as they’re admiring their hair in the mirror, stand between them and the mirror, and offer a pitch similar to this one:
“Thanks for being such a great client, Jane. I love doing <name of service>. If you know anyone who’d needs <type of service>, please send them my way. I’m always looking for great clients like you, and if you do provide a referral, I’ll be sure to thank you with 25% off of your next salon visit.”
The most important components of this pitch is that you’re thanking the client, you’re empowering the client, and you’re giving the client something in return for their action. This leads us to an important point:
Give an Incentive
You may know that you need to provide an incentive, but are you offering enough? Many salons make the fatal mistake of offering 10% or below as a referral award. That’s not enough to get anyone invested or excited about sharing your salon with their friends.
Do you know how much your clients are worth?
Before you can determine the amount of an incentive, you should calculate the lifetime value of the client. For example, if you have a client who’s worth $400 per year (based on the above example), giving them 10% off of one visit is only $5.
If your client brings in one additional client via referral who’s worth $400 also, that means that you’re only providing a $5 incentive for $800 in sales.
Instead, if you give a sizeable incentive, such as a free salon visit for every referral, which represents $50 in our example, you’ll receive more traction. Or you can provide them with a 25% off card that is activated after each referral.
Think of the bigger picture.
Use a Tracking System
It’s great to get referrals, but you should also implement a dependable tracking system so that you can keep on top of the referrals you receive.
Although you can use spreadsheets, there’s so many great software options made specifically for salons, such as Booker, TouchSuite, and Vagaro . You can use this software to track your referrals and see the top referrals. Clients who consistently bring in more referrals should be rewarded accordingly.
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It’s easy to overlook your loyal clients when you’re on the hunt for newer clients, but remember that every paying client in your chair is valuable. Not only that, each client is potentially worth two to three times their current value, when they market for you and bring in new referrals.
Gush over your current clients. It doesn’t have to be grandiose displays of gratitude. Offer clients a goodie bag with free trial sized hair products specific to their needs. You can also offer clients a percent off after every few visits as a way to say thank you.
The ultimate goal is to build client loyalty through generating positive emotions.
Walk-ins Not Welcomed
In the spirit of referrals, get rid of the “walk-ins welcome” sign. According to salon and branding expert Jeff Saylor at Salon Hero, a walk-in sign reeks of desperateness. He suggests that you use a one to two minute commercial that highlights your salon and provides testimonials for your prospective clients. Prominently place this commercial on your website, link to it through social media, and inbound marketing. For salon marketing, seeing is believing.
2. Create A Strong Front Desk
How important is your front desk to your salon? Would it surprise you if salon experts agree that the front desk agent is the most valuable person in your salon?
Let’s change how you look at the front desk.
Who to Hire
First, let’s start off with who not to hire. Hiring the wrong person for the face of your salon can kill your marketing efforts before they get started. Why? The front desk is responsible for growing your business through marketing your services and your retail. If you hire a disinterested kid who’s only there to get a paycheck, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Instead, you should hire someone keen on sales– a person who understands your salon’s products and services, and can match them up with clients.
The person you hire needs to possess all the things that make a successful sales agent, including:
Friendly- Outgoing is a must for a front desk position. The agent should be friendly, and able to connect to clients immediately.
Inquisitive- A good salesperson should ask lots of questions to route the client to the best stylist or product for their hair. Front desk should ask questions like, “What type of styling tools do you use regularly?”, “Do you color treat your hair?”, and “Are you willing to change your hairstyle?”
Knowledgeable- After asking questions, the front desk should be able to direct the client to the appropriate stylist or product. The client comes to you because you are the expert. Don’t expect them to understand what looks good on them or what product works best on their hair. The front desk should be educated in hair. Consider hiring a freshly graduated hair stylist for your front desk. This person knows and is passionate about hair, which makes them a great choice, assuming they have a sales drive.
Implement a Salon Tour
The salon tour is a great idea introduced by Kristi Valenzuela. A salon tour is not simply pointing to the bathroom and the coffee station. Instead, it’s a way to introduce your salon services and products to new clients.
So, how does a salon tour work?
After checking in a new client, the front desk should immediately engage the client by telling them the story of your salon, briefly describe your team of stylists, and give some information on who will be styling the client. The front desk should also share the most popular services in the salon.
Last, but definitely not least, the front desk must highlight what makes you unique amongst your competitors. According to Chris Adams, National Director of Specialty Services for ReachLocal, “Too many people fall short in distinguishing themselves from their competition.”
A script would go something like this:
“Jane, we’re so happy to have you with us to get <name of service> today. I’d love to share with you a little bit about our salon while <stylist> is getting ready for you. Our salon will be 4 years old this November. I’ve been here since the beginning.
“We have a team of 5 stylists, who specialize in cut, color, extensions, and texture. Your stylist, <name of stylist>, has been with salon for 3 years, and she’s really popular with our regulars because of her killer coloring skills. That’s one of the reasons our customers come back– we provide the most natural, but vibrant color in <city> because we’re the only salon in the city to use <name of product>.”
The script you create should be flexible enough that it doesn’t sound robotic or redundant (if other clients overhear it). Rely on it for your key points, but allow leeway in delivery.
If your salon is small, the front desk can still “tour” the salon by going over the menu of services you provide. Make sure they highlight the most popular services over the most expensive.
“You will probably find that 20% of your treatments bring in 80% of the revenue so why spread yourself too thin?” Says Craig Killick of YourSuccessfulSalon.com, “It is very often the treatments that are expensive to service and deliver that make the least money in return.”
The goal of the salon tour is for the client to have a better understanding of who you are as a salon, and how you can accomplish what they need. Oftentimes, a client doesn’t even know their needs until you highlight what’s possible.
As Kristi Valenzuela says, the salon tour is a live and interactive commercial.
Sell the Products
A final word on the importance of selling products: “Salons that find a way to make their hours more profitable by selling retail products will be infinitely more profitable than those that don’t,” says Elizabeth Kraus, small business marketing consultant who specializes in salon growth. “If salons don’t carry the products their stylists say they need – can they really expect their clients to go out and find them on on their own? “
3. Pre-Book Pre-Book Pre-Book
Once you’ve booked a client, it’s time to think about pre-booking them for their next appointment. You shouldn’t cross your fingers and hope that the client will book as they’re leaving the front desk, or call in at a future date. Once a client is out of the chair, they’re off to the next thing, and not concerned with booking. And, if they call at a future date, what happens if you’re booked?
It’s much more secure to book before they leave your chair. Aside from a awesome hairstyle, this is the single most important thing you do with the client.
According to Valenzuela, 50% of your clients should be pre-booked. As your clientele increases, that number should also increase, all the way up to 100%, but for new salons, aim for at least half of your clients.
Want to increase pre-bookings by 20%? Enable your clients to book using their smartphone or through your website. Learn more about online and mobile appointment setting – here.
History Repeats Itself
According to expert Sean LaRusso of Madison Avenue Salon & Spa, you can use a client’s history to jump-start the pre-booking process. For example, if you look back on your client’s previous services, you’ll probably notice a trend. The client comes in for a cut and color every six weeks. You can then suggest that the client return again in six weeks’ time, which they’re probably agree to.
Remember to do all of this while the client is still processing. Once the client is off the chair, it’s a race to get out of the door– don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can hold the client there while you attempt to pre-book.
Offer An Incentive
That’s right– another incentive. This one is to get clients to pre-book instead of kicking the can down the road. You can do this by offering a raffle for clients who pre-book. Sean LaRusso suggests that you ask for the client’s name and email address. You can use that email address later to do a weekly email newsletter of your services, to remain top of mind. If you need help, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide on email marketing.
Clients should feel the squeeze. Impress upon them the idea that other clients are pre-booking to avoid unavailability. Position pre-booking as a benefit to the client. This strategy is particularly useful if you’re approaching the notoriously busy holiday season.
Keep Front Desk in the Loop
The front desk is often the closer. Be sure that the have the right script to close the deal. A stylist could deliver the client to the front desk with special instructions to book client for next appointment at a specific date. This takes less than five minutes and ensures that you’re getting repeat business– the most precious commodity in hair salons.
If You Meet Resistance
Some clients simply don’t want to be fenced in. For these clients, you can share what you’ve learned from their previous visits. Perhaps the client comes in on Thursday evenings every two months. You can offer to pencil that time in and then offer to call them on a week before the appoint to confirm.
Alternately, you can add them to a separate list that you reach out to a few days prior to their tentative visit, and ask to book services. The client may have forgotten, but you haven’t, because you’ve logged all of their information into your trusty salon management software.
We’d like to offer a special thanks to all the experts who helped us with creating this guide for you: Jeff Saylor, Heather Lemere, Craig Killick, Elizabeth Kraus, Chris Adams, Kristi Valenzuela, and Sean LaRusso. These experts are rich in resources and can help you create and employ a successful strategy.
Bonus Tip: Offer Online and Mobile Booking
If you don’t offer mobile and online booking, you’re probably missing out on lots of new business. Clients want booking to be easy and convenient. Booking appointments online or through a smartphone is quickly replacing phone calls as the preferred method of setting an appointment. Smartphones were used to book over 700,000 appointments last year through Booker.
We hope this guide has provided you with actionable ways to market your salon. Salon marketing requires a laser focus on customer service to turn one client into two. Be sure to check out our top 25 ideas for marketing your salon here.
Which one of these strategies will you implement in your salon marketing? Let us know below!
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