Between the winter blues and covered shoes, you may think pedicures are reserved for the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. But, we’ll show you five salons that still sizzle even when it’s freezing.
In his book, All Marketers Are Liars, author Seth Godin says that all successful marketers (that’s you!) tell a story. Not a lie — a story. (In fact, the “stories” he’s talking about won’t spread if they’re lies.) Instead of thinking flashy, expensive advertising or discounted services, think “buzz.” Create a buzz in your salon by talking to your customers about what you have to offer ... and then have them tell your story to their friends — and your potential new clients.
In the summer we tell a story that goes something like this: Come to the salon to enjoy a pedicure that will have you leaving the salon feeling light and flirty with beautiful, sandal-ready toes. It works because it’s true. Women do leave the salon feeling better — and they’re willing to tell their friends the story of how great they feel because of their experience at your salon and how much better their feet look and feel. The experience causes them to book another appointment. But it’s the story (not the pretty feet and soft skin) that brings their friends in to the salon to book an appointment too.
But how do you frame a winter pedicure story? Following are five true stories. From each, we’ll see why the story spreads and how to apply it to your salon so your pedicure business won’t be singing the winter blues.
Case Study 1: Portsmouth Harbor Inn & Spa (Kittery, Maine)
Average winter temp: 20s
Marketing concept: An escape
Storyline: It’s cold and harsh outside, but if you come inside we’ll take you away from all that.
How the experience supports the story: Deanna Webber, nail tech extraordinaire at Portsmouth Harbor Inn & Spa, says she wants her pedicures to go “from the soles of clients’ feet to the souls of their hearts.” To Webber, circumstances in life can be just as harsh as the winter weather. She wants to “create a soothing, comforting, escape for the client.” At the door, clients drop their concerns as they do their bulky winter boots — and move to the waiting area in slippers to warm up by the wood stove, where they’ll be served spiced herbal tea and handed a warm neck wrap filled with lavender and spices. Once in the pedi area, clients experience a hot stone massage “to warm the bones,” says Webber. She replaces the smell of exhaust from outside with warm, comforting scents such as cinnamon and apple spice or chocolate by adding essential oils to the foot soak and warmed lotion.
Make it your story: The story “escape the world” can be personalized for your salon by remembering it’s an experience, not simply a pedicure. People are withdrawn and reclusive in the winter. It gets dark early and they keep to themselves and head home early. Make your salon warm, scented, inviting — an escape. That means when you tell this story, stop focusing on facts (a pedicure makes your feet look better and moisturizes winter skin), and start focusing on feelings (You’re feeling as miserable inside as the weather is outside — but we’ll change that.). Touch the whole person, not just her feet.
Case Study 2: Allure Day Spa (Anchorage, Alaska)
Average winter temp: 15 degrees (it can dip as low as 34 below)
Marketing concept: Relief for dry skin
Storyline: Winter doubles the incidence of dry skin, but you don’t have to have rough feet and ankles
How the experience supports the story: Owner Susan Hoedel explains: Clients walk into the salon, shed their boots and winter coats, change into a snuggly robe, and then submerge their feet into a warm foot bath. Special attention is given to the dry areas of the feet, such as the heels and cuticles. Clients experience an exfoliating scrub up to the knees, and techs use a file on areas that are especially dry. The next step is a spearmint mask, followed by a leg and foot massage with moisturizing lotions. Techs are trained to talk about the health benefits, telling the story of the rejuvenating effects of the pedicure.
Make it your story: Don’t assume clients know the benefits of pedicures. When you notice their dry, cracked cuticles during a fill appointment, start telling them the story. Winter skin is painful. Winter skin is red and ugly. Ankles, knees, and legs are white and flaky. These are facts — and won’t be a hard sell. But then change course and begin telling the story of soft skin. The story of smooth ankles and legs. Remind them that healthy, moisturized skin maintains the youthful look. It’s a true story — and one they’ll tell their friends. Make sure the story is authentic by using products known to be deep moisturizers.
Case Study 3: Cascades Day Spa (Bedford, Nova Scotia)
Average winter temp: 30s
Marketing concept: Comfort and warmth
Storyline: Nothing lifts the winter blues like a fresh set of toenails. It’s like sunshine.
How the experience supports the story: When owner Kim Hayward describes her salon’s winter pedicure, she uses words such as “fresh, sunshine, and lounge.” It’s clear she’s telling a story that while it’s cold on the outside, clients can experience warmth and heat on the inside. “People are rushed and depressed in the winter,” says Hayward. They’re trying to get where they need to go, finish what they need to do, and get back home. Her salon gives them a place to “totally decompress” — with heat.
When clients walk in, it’s off with the coats and boots and on with the Sensi sandals and robes. “Paraffin pedicures spike in the winter,” says Hayward, but even in the dead of winter, clients have the summer scent of peach. Hayward takes advantage of her location on the river by placing a hot tub on the riverside deck so clients can relax in warm comfort. “Clients arrive early so they can spend 20 minutes lingering in the hot tub.”
Make it your story: You may not have a hot tub, but you can certainly make the hour feel like summer. We often go to warm, earthy scents as soon as the weather changes in September — and that’s a great idea — but to put a twist on the experience, pick a summer scent, use brightly colored towels and buy a sun lamp that combats Seasonal Affective Disorder. Clients will tell coworkers the story of their trip to the Isles — that they took on their lunch break.
Case Study 4: Stillwater Spa (Toronto, Canada)
Average winter temp: 20s
Marketing concept: Sexy, club atmosphere while you’re pampered
Storyline: Your night on the town begins with beauty.
How the experience supports the story: Marcelo Olenewa, assistant spa director, says clients come to the spa during the day to escape the cold by warming up to a hot-stone pedicure and therapeutic massage. But the story changes at night. At about 4 p.m. the lights are dimmed and the spa is flooded with candles. Even the music changes from relaxing spa sounds to contemporary, down-tempo music. Olenewa takes advantage of the bar and restaurant located on his property by offering clients appetizers and cocktails. They call it Stillwater Nights. “We’re an urban spa catering to urban needs,” says Olenewa. “We change the experience to accommodate the night environment.” The story is that the nights are longer in the winter, but that’s not something to bemoan. It lengthens the party — starting at the spa.
Make it your story: Look through the calendar of events in your city and plan a party alongside an existing event. Is there a wine tasting? A charity fundraiser? Approach the organizers of that event and ask if you can offer to expand the experience for their guest list with a visit to the salon. Or go out on your own. Start with one night and advertise it as a “Celebrate the Night” party. Decorate with darker colors and use soft lighting and candles to bring warmth to the salon. Tell the story that the nights are long and cold, but that helps to usher the party in early. You can begin your party as early as 4 p.m. and still have the mood of an after-hours event. It could turn out to be the place to go on the weekends.
Case Study 5: Atmosphere Spa (Telluride, Colo.)
Average winter temp: 30s
Marketing concept: Health for the feet
Storyline: People with healthy feet make better skiers.
How the experience supports the story: The clients are health conscious at Atmosphere Spa, so manager Amy Winfrey tells them a story about the health benefits of pedicures: “Ski boots provide a warm, moist, and bacteria-rich environment. It is important for the health of our clients to clean, exfoliate, and moisture their feet.” Winfrey explains that “because the foot communicates ski direction through the boot, the slightest abnormality will affect skiing performance. It’s important to keep feet healthy if skiers want to reach their peak performance.” Because clients are educated about the health benefits, the pedicure appeals to them first as a necessity for their goals. The pleasure of the pedi is a secondary benefit.
Make it your story: What drives your community? Do you live in a health-conscious community, a busy city, or a college town? Tell a story to that demographic. Market a soothing escape to college students during exams; market a package deal for friends or couples who lead busy lives and need to reconnect. Whatever story you decide to tell, make sure you believe it, and then make the experience consistent. If it’s the healthy angle, serve natural tea and use lotions that offer natural benefits to the skin. If it’s a friends’ escape, provide a lot of extra pampering with juice or coffee and treats. Weave a story around the winter pedicure, and you’ll find pedicures are not just a summer treat.
Michelle Pratt is a freelance writer and licensed nail tech based in Johnson City, N.Y.