Alligator #1:  Not having a marketing plan, a marketing budget, or both. How can you measure what is successful if you have no benchmark? Even the smallest of nail salons needs a plan, and that plan may be as simple as using online marketing, social media, business card marketing, and networking activities.  Every successful marketing plan contains three essential actions: attracting new clients, retaining loyal clients, and strategizing ways to reach new target markets. If you see yourself in the pond with this alligator, stop now and do not proceed until you have developed both a basic plan and a budget.


Alligator #2: A bad business location. A new client recently asked me where she should locate her business. A friend had offered to share space in a second floor suite and the price was great. Unfortunately, the suite had elevator access a long way from the front door and worse yet, the suite was tucked in a corner of the building. The moral of the story is that a price break on rent is no substitute for a workable location that fits the type of client you want. Locate your business close to the clientele you want to attract.


Alligator #3: Not being easy to reach. One of the most common alligators to avoid is not listing all the ways for a potential client to contact you. How can I book your services if I cannot find you? Consider adding online booking from your website and Facebook page. List all telephone and cell numbers, your  email address, social media sites, and your website link consistently. Don’t forget the physical address — and a link to a map. Women tend to navigate by landmarks. Include that in your location description. Clearly state your hours of operation and mention if you will accept after-hours appointments.


Alligator #4: Not having an internal marketing system in place and using it. One of your best business assets is your current client base. Every client has friends, coworkers, family members, and contacts that could create new business for you. You must have a systematic program that promotes new referrals and rewards your most loyal and valuable clients. A single loyal client has the potential of referring many new clients to you. Word-of-mouth advertising works and your current clients are your best resource and the most likely to write positive reviews. How should you say thank you? The reward for referring new business to you can be as simple as a complimentary add-on or upgrade.


Alligator #5: Not tracking your current marketing efforts, so that you know what works. Do you consistently ask all potential clients how they heard about your business? This is the first step in tracking your efforts, and to be successful it has to be done every time with every new client or caller. If your time and resources are limited, it is critical that you direct your efforts where they have the best chance of producing results. Tracking and monitoring your ratings, reviews, and comments on popular review sites is a way to begin to identify the source of new clients. Many reviewers will mention if they responded to an ad, a coupon, or a referral. While you are monitoring those comments be sure to thank anyone who provides a positive comment and address all complaints or concerns promptly.

While on a recent trip I had a nail emergency just before an important meeting. Searching frantically on my phone, I was able to locate a nail salon close to my hotel. After checking its website (which was last updated in 2011) and a local review site, I discovered the salon had five one-star reviews. Its overall rating was very low. There were no responses from the owner to anything negative or positive. I passed on calling them and attempted my own repair.


Alligator #6: Not converting the phone, walk-in, or email potential client into a new appointment. Everyone needs new clients. People move away, have a change in circumstances, or simply leave you. Every potential client is not just a quick polish change — they are a potential long-term relationship. Remember, products fulfill needs; personal services fulfill desires. The client who calls, walks in the door, or  emails you has a desire and it is your job to identify it! Natalie Hochstetler, owner of Beyond Bliss Nail Salon and Day Spa in Boerne, Texas, goes the extra mile to convert a potential client to an appointment — even offering to stay late to accommodate a special request. She offers this advice to increase conversions. “A professional nail technician should always be dressed trendy, not trashy. You never know who will walk through the door.” In addition to a warm greeting, she feels that clients need to be educated about services and products while assuring them that their safety is of the utmost importance.


Alligator #7: Not staying in touch with your customers. Once you gain a new customer, never let her go! Sending a text message, group email, or leaving a quick voice mail takes a few minutes. Most software systems have automated features you can personalize with your message. Clients want to know you care about them, not just getting the next appointment. Other methods include newsletters, birthday cards, and hand-written thank-you notes.  Kathleen Cantu, CEO of Red Salon and Spa with two locations in the Fort Myers, Fla., area offers a complimentary birthday manicure with any retail purchase. The offer is good during the entire week of the client’s birthday and includes a special surprise birthday gift. This is a way to book more manicures, engage the client, and boost retail sales at the same time.

Top-of-mind awareness helps the client think of you first. When you stay in touch frequently, your clients will return sooner, book more services, and refer more new clients to you. Rebooking is also a way of staying in touch. Make the effort to rebook the first-time client for a return appointment. Being proactive produces return appointments. Always try to rebook clients before they pay. Psychologically speaking, once someone pays for a service, they are out the door mentally. If they don’t rebook, you can follow up with them by text, phone, or email to invite them back and inquire about their satisfaction with your services. Not only are you inviting a return visit, you may also be able to avoid any negative or unpleasant reviews. 


Patti Biro is the owner and founder of Patti Biro and Associates (, a consulting firm specializing in planning and providing innovative coaching and education in the spa and wellness industry.


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