Building a client list is difficult. It takes money, time, and a tremendous amount of focus. You need a great website, a promotional strategy, and a clear understanding of local competitors. You can also benefit by aligning yourself with other businesses, taking your client-building efforts to a new level.

Enter the world of partnerships. Rather than selling directly to potential clients, get partners to work for you (and you for them).

Below are three partnership arrangements that’ll help build your client list:

1. Company Partnerships. In the salon business, it is all about how many clients you can get in and out of the door. If you can help save people time and money, and make the service more convenient, you’ll be much farther along than the competition.

Try working with local companies to offer special discounted perks to employees and set the perk to be effective only during your salon’s slow hours. Have the company announce the benefits via email, newsletter, or in-office bulletins. Even if nobody takes you up on the perk right away, they’ll see your name in the office and remember it down the road when they decide to get their nails done.

Alternatively, offer to come on-site for regular manicure or pedicure visits. Ask the company to book a conference room for you during your slow hours, and send a technician to do appointments in-office. Ask the company to cover your transportation costs and maybe a nominal hourly rate as well. Some employers will subsidize the cost of the individual services. Going in-office will save people the hassle of rushing to the nail salon before or after work — giving them more time in their day. Not to mention, companies feel good about treating their employees with perks like this.

2. Salon Partnerships. Some salons specialize in hair or makeup only and could use a manicurist/pedicurist partner. Building a strong network of specialists who collaborate with one another is a great way to keep clients in a partner circle. Clients will see the value and quality in this circle and hesitate booking outside of it. It’s up to you to ensure the partnership circle is strong and delivering consistent quality beauty experiences.

Build partnerships with local (and varied) salon owners who align with your thinking, practices, and values. Develop a revenue-sharing model where you pay the partner 10%-15% for every customer they send to your salon and vice versa. 

Take partnerships even further by selling event packages for special occasions, such as weddings, baby showers, or birthdays; all you have to do is get the client coordinated and deliver the services as a unified beauty team.

3. Charity Partnerships. Doing nails for a cause is a great way to build social buzz and engage community members. Find a charity whose mission you believe in, and co-create programs and events to raise money and awareness.

Create a special manicure, and establish a timeframe of three to six months where 10%-15% of net profits each month go to charity. For the manicure, match the polish color or nail art design with the charity’s brand color or logo. Paint customers’ nails in this color or style as a way of sending a message to the world and standing up for a cause.

Have the charity promote this fundraising effort on their Instagram, Twitter, or email newsletters to customers, employees, and outside followers — and do the same on your platforms. You’ll not only be enabling them to raise more money, but you’ll be getting in front of thousands of potential customers who now view your salon as a socially positive and ethical salon brand — one that does more than just nails.

Lastly, offer to work for free at your partner charity’s events to spread the word about the special manicure. Paint nails on-site, and bring brochures, signage, and free swag with you, and talk about the wonderful things you are doing to support the causes you believe in. Co-sponsoring or doing free work is a delightful way of promoting your relationship with the charity, but don’t neglect to communicate your salon’s charitable impact, which makes it memorable to potential clients.

Moving from a static process of marketing directly to customers, to building a dynamic one with partners who help promote your business takes time. You’ve got to align your goals and objectives with the right companies, professionals, and causes, and get everyone on the same page. It may be difficult to see why anyone besides you would want to go out of their way create partnerships like this. But if you show them the direct benefits — e.g., great company perk, referral/revenue sharing, charitable fundraising — you shouldn’t have an issue selling it. 

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Joseph Orr is the CEO and co-founder of, New York’s Mobile Nail Salon. He works directly with customers who book on-demand appointments in their homes, and also with Fortune 500 clients who want to set up weekly and bi-weekly corporate office visits. Follow him on Instagram or Twitter @maniorpedi.


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