You know the names of her children, where she works, when she and her husband fight, and what she plans to do on her next vacation. A personal relationship with a client is wonderful... it makes your job pleasant and helps build a loyal, standing clientele.
But what do you say to the young woman who comes in for a one-time nail repair? You probably make small talk and get right down to business. She could be telling you valuable information about her buying habits and reveal what it would take to get her as a full-time client. How often does she get her nails done? Does she choose a salon based on price, convenience, salon reputation, or what? Why did she come into your salon? You don't have to do the big sales pitch about booking the next appointment, but you can thank her and say you hope to see her again.
Market research is something you can (and should) do every day. It's not some vague business term you keep hearing about in those classes you take at trade shows. It all boils down to simple conversations you have with clients while you're sizing their tips or pushing back their cuticles. Here's an example:
You: I think I've seen you around before. Do you work close by?
Her: Yes, I work in a boutique a few blocks from here.
You: Do you get your nails done regularly somewhere?
Her: Yes. (Hesitates). I used to come here, but I stopped because the place I go to now is more flexible.
You: You mean no appointment is required?
Her: Yes, and they also stay open late on Thursdays. I usually have to work until 9 p.m. on weeknights.
And there you go. You have just found out two reasons why one of your customers ended up somewhere else: She prefers to walk in and she needs evening hours. This doesn't mean that you should change everything around; it just means that you have been given information on which to build with future conversations. As you talk to more and more clients, some patterns may begin to emerge. Perhaps many of your "walk-in" clients are in a certain age group or profession. Or maybe you've turned down at least five potential bridal clients in the last two months because you don't do permanent makeup. Maybe it's time to consider a change.
Companies spend thousands of dollars getting consumers to tell them what brands they buy and why. You are in a unique industry where valuable information is yours for the asking. Ask, and learn!