Marketing & Promotions

Get the Word Out

These days, quality work isn’t always enough to get clients into your salon. Advertising your wares can help attract new business and keep your existing customer base aware of new offerings on your service menu.

When you purchase a product, quality is often the reason you keep going back to that same bottle of hair spray or facial moisturizer. But while there is something to be said for quality, it’s not always a guarantee that it’ll make that product a smashing success. The same thing goes for your salon. Just because you offer quality service with a smile doesn’t mean clients are going to rush through your doors.

That’s where advertising comes in. These days the question isn’t whether a salon should advertise; the question is how can a salon owner better promote her business? Advertising helps to inform potential customers of the most important things they need to know in the clearest way possible, in the shortest amount of time, and in a way that is (hopefully) memorable.

“You need to stand out in today’s increasingly crowded marketplace,” says Lisa Starr, a spa and salon consultant with East Coast Spa Services in Runnemede, N.J. “How can consumers find you otherwise? You want to define your niche, your unique service proposition that will attract the customers that you are looking for and then let those customers know what you have to offer.”

And keep in mind that advertising doesn’t have to take a big chunk out of your budget, nor does it necessarily mean putting big, splashy ads in newspapers and magazines.

To Spend or Not to Spend

According to Kate Troc of Naperville, Ill.-based 20/20 Foresight, an agency that helps salons and salon owners develop better business-building and customer service skills, not all salons need to participate in media advertising, such as print and radio promotions. “If you are a new salon, then certainly you should do media advertising to build awareness,” she says. “There’s a time and place for media. But that isn’t always the way to go with established salons.”

Regardless of what you choose to do, you should establish a realistic advertising budget. A budget helps you remain within your means, and it provides a figure by which you can measure your results.

Some salons simply fund their ad budget with any money left over after the bills have been paid and the salon owner has drawn a salary. But this approach only leaves a few resources for building a clientele and profit margin. Other salons choose to advertise when the salon owner sees a good opportunity, and as a result promotes itself haphazardly.

“How much you spend on advertising depends on other factors, such as rent and payroll,” says Troc. “But if your salon makes $ 1 million a year, you should be spending 2% of that on advertising. That goes for every salon.”

Focus on advertising more when business is slow. However, don’t think that just because your salon is busy during certain times of the year you have no need to promote yourself “Lots of salons make the mistake of advertising when it’s slow and they forget to advertise during the busy times,” says Christine Turner, owner of Body & Sol Tanning, Nails & Day Spa in New Westminster, British Columbia. “Take advantage of clients while they’re coming in.”

Once you establish a budget, stick with it and increase your advertising as the salon grows. Certain circumstances may merit spending more money, such as another salon that’s aggressively advertising in order to compete with you or if you’ve got a new service to promote.

When Salina Rush, owner of Studio 10 Hair & Nail Design in Wooster, Ohio, wanted to get the word out on a new infrared body wrap her salon was offering, she didn’t think twice about putting up a roadside sign in front of her salon.

The sign is in a high-traffic area and there’s a stoplight nearby, so drivers can’t miss it. The sign cost $400, but Rush can change the lettering to promote other services.

Hitting the Target

After establishing a budget, it’s crucial that you choose an advertising medium that targets your ideal client profile. What kind of client do you usually notice walking through the doors? Do you tend to attract stay-at-home moms, busy professionals, or a combination of the two?

If you’re a high-end salon, for example, then advertising in an upscale local or regional publication might be your answer. If you’re a fun and funky salon, then doing cross promotions with local clothing boutiques might be a good way to make sure your salon is in the limelight. Whatever you choose to do, make sure it reflects the look and feel of your salon. If your clientele tends to be older, for example, you wouldn’t consider handing out flyers at high schools, would you?

A big mistake many salon owners make is to simply forget about their existing clientele and try to lure in new customers. And the great thing is that focusing on your existing clientele gives you the type of advertising that costs nothing. If your clients know you’re looking out for them, they’ll let others know about your services. Make sure you have their addresses for direct mail promotions and other offers.

When she wanted to drum up more business for one of her salons, Diana Ahem teamed up with an exercise clothing store and did a joint e-mail promotion. “We provided names and e-mail addresses of our clients and the clothing store did the same,” says Ahern, vice president of inSpa, with several locations throughout Washington. “We offered a bounce-back coupon that encouraged the receiver of the e-mail to enter a contest for both stores. It was very successful.”

One thing to keep in mind is not to go overboard and advertise anywhere and everywhere. This haphazard approach of trying any and every advertising medium without consideration for consistency, target audience, and budget is only a waste of money. Also, track your ads. When a new client comes in, ask her how she heard of the salon. That way you’ll know how well your advertising efforts are working and whether you should try a new strategy.

Choose the Right Medium

So what type of advertising should you go with? That really depends on you. There are many methods of advertising depending on your particular area and they may range from newsletters, movie theater promos, radio, or promotional cards placed on cars. Regardless of what you go with, make it look professional. Homemade ads can tend to look cheap and only result in attracting negative attention to a business.

“People see ads that aren’t professionally done and think it looks bottom of the line,” says Bert Carder, CEO of YourBeauty Network. “When you do create an ad or a promotional piece, make sure your logo is clearly visible.”

As mentioned before, you don’t have to spend a lot on advertising. Many salons choose to promote themselves through their websites, for example. Others donate services to charities or place ads in yearbooks and school play brochures.

And then there are the Yellow Pages. Almost every salon owner we spoke to said they have an ad in the Yellow Pages. “The Yellow Pages are great if there are people who just moved into the area and are looking for a salon,” says Troc.

In fact, a study conducted by the Yellow Pages Publishers Association found that 58% of adults still use the Yellow Pages weekly.

Just as important as the medium you choose is the approach of your campaign. Steady advertising will promote the stable growth of your clientele. Some salons, however, choose to hold large promo- ions, especially during the holidays.

Rosemary Weiner, owner of The Brass Rose Salon & Spa in Blairstown, N.J., puts ads in local newspapers ,when she wants to promote her gift- certificate business. This comes in handy, especially during holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Christmas, when busy husbands are scrambling for gifts for their wives.

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that advertising does pay off in the long run. Although you may feel discouraged because an ad you placed in a newspaper two months ago doesn’t seem to be garnering much response, there is hope.

“If clients stop seeing your name in the papers they sometimes forget about you,” says Starr. “And even if you are turning business away, we know how fickle clients can be.”

Remember, there are different methods of getting the word out. If you find one method isn’t working, then try another tactic.

“You can’t give up because you feel you haven’t gotten a response from an ad,” says Turner. “I know we wouldn’t have attracted as much business if we hadn’t advertised.”

Advertising on a Budget

So you say you don’t have much money to spend on advertising? Not to worry. Here are some ideas that make sense and are easy on your pockets.

Suggest story ideas to the media. Make sure you pitch a story that’s newsworthy. This is your chance to position yourself as an expert and with the current fascination the media has with beauty salons and nails, and is a good way to get some publicity. And if you have something that’s press worthy, even better, says Kate Troc of 20/20 Foresight “The stranger things are, the more memorable they become,” she says. “You can do a combination cut-a-thon and carwash, for example, and get something written up about it.”

Set up a referral system. Lots of salons use it and with reason- it can be the easiest way to bring in several new customers “Every single client who walked out of our salon walked out with three of our cards in their hands,” says Bert Carder of YourBeautyNetwork and a former salon owner “If a client gave those three cards out to other people arid they made appointments, she’d get het next haircut free.” Or, approach any business that could offer you referrals such as bridal shops, restaurants, or doctor’s offices and work with them.

Join a business-networking group whose members fit your client profile. These groups help you build relationships and become your best word-of-mouth advertising.

Check Out That Ad

Here’s a checklist of something an ad should contain:

  • Name of the salon
  • Large, visible logo
  • Less words, more graphics
  • Your phone number with area code
  • Anything that makes your salon unique, such as sanitation practices or specialty services
  • Your address and a map or cross street so customers can easily find you Hours of operation
  • Guarantees and important policies such as free repairs

Make Yourself Visible

Before you start working on promotional material for your salon, keep the following things in mind.

Think of advertising as an investment. It’s a well-known fact that is takes repeated exposure to a message for it to “sink in.” The dividends on regular advertising pay off in the long term.

Know Your clientele. In order to successfully advertise, your need to know your target audience. Take a look at your clientele and find out their ages, lifestyle, and economic backgrounds and gear your material accordingly.

Be aware of the competition. Just as you compare one brand of lipstick to another, you should be doing same with your salon. Find out what makes your salon unique.

Consistency counts. You don’t have to spend huge amounts of money on advertising, but you do have to spend whatever amount you choose consistently. Successful business cultivate long-term goals.

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