Hot trends, Internet buzz, and Pinterest postings could have salon owners scurrying to add new services to keep up with the demands of clients. From rock star and stiletto nails to chip-free polishes, the hot trend is continuously changing. When clients see something new, they want to have it. As nail techs, you can most likely create what clients want, but that doesn’t mean you want to print a new menu to offer the trend as a permanent service. Then, on the other hand, you might. How do you know when it’s time to add or remove a service?
We asked two veteran techs and salon owners who have been down this road before to see how they introduce new services to clients and when they make those services part of the permanent menu.
Meet Shari Finger: Finger has been in the nail industry for more than 25 years. As the owner of Finger’s Nail Studios in West Dundee, Ill., Finger has navigated her staff through multiple changes and seasons, responding to and driving trends to successfully service and educate her clients.
Meet Reneé Borowy: Borowy has been in the industry for nearly 30 years. As the owner of V.I.P. Salon and Spa in Riverview, Mich., Borowy orders 10,000 copies of menus at once, so she’s careful about what makes it into her main menu. But her large menu order doesn’t prevent her from keeping current; she’s learned how to introduce new services to keep clients interested.
Both women offer monthly or seasonal specials so clients always see something new. Finger creates her own scrubs and lotions, so she changes her manis and pedis by offering unique scents such as snickerdoodle, evergreen/orange, or lavender. It’s basically the same service clients love, but the language used in the description, along with a limited-edition scent, makes the service feel and sound trendy and interesting. In a similar way, Borowy offers a service-of-the-month in her nail department, printing shorter runs of the marketing material to promote the special. Borowy uses the service-of-the-month specials to test new products so she can see how clients respond to them.
These specials don’t make it into the core menu. They are promoted throughout the salon and on social media sites, but they aren’t added as a unique service to the nail spa menu. “The monthly specials can be characterized more as fluff changes, rather than changes of substance,” says Borowy. In other words, a peppermint pedicure is not significantly different from a coconut pedicure. The main spa menu advertises the cost and descriptions of standard pedicures across a variety of price points, while a seasonal menu, flier, or postcard advertises specials that are temporary. They may be “temporary” based on a special price to highlight a particular service or to introduce a new one.
In order for services featured on the temporary menu to become part of the main menu, they must pass a battery of tests. First, it must be a clearly distinct service, rather than a repolished, repackaged adjustment to one of the salon’s core services. If it is a distinctly different service, the service is then analyzed on the basis of four main factors to determine when (or if) it’s time to add the service to the main menu.Those four factors are industry trends, customers, staff, and software.
“We don’t update our service menu on a schedule,” says Finger. “We make changes in response to trends.” Finger says she studies industry sources, such as NAILS, to learn about new products from manufacturers. She studies them, researches them, and tries to predict if the product is a wave or if it’s a permanent shift in the industry, such as with gel-polish or the rise in popularity of pedicures and natural nail services.
When she believes there’s a true shift in the industry, Finger tries to get out in front of it. She wants to make sure her staff is prepared and educated so they can educate and, in turn, service their clients.
Borowy also pays attention to industry sources. “If we hear about something new, and we all decide we love it, we’ll offer that service,” says Borowy. But the service will be featured as a monthly special rather than added to the main menu in order to test it for longevity of profit and interest.
Nail art, trends in the shape of the nail, or stylized gel nails are all examples of services that clients see as unique services, but that techs realize are just variations of the same service. Techs learn to talk with clients to get their feedback on actual shifts in the industry. Listening to them complain their polish doesn’t stay on long enough communicates to techs there’s a market for gel-polish. Hearing clients get discouraged as they transition from enhancements to natural nails signals to techs the need to offer a service that helps them make the transition better.
As an enhancement guru of the late ’80s and early ’90s, Finger had to re-educate herself to learn how to care for natural nails. She saw the natural services trend coming so she got ahead of it by educating both herself and her staff. When her clients approached her to get their enhancements removed, Finger was ready with a solution. She had added a Lavender Field Healing Manicure to the service menu, and she was ready to sell the benefits of it to clients. “Because I saw the trend to natural nails and educated my techs, we could continue to service clients,” says Finger. “Now, we have a very successful natural nail business and a reputation for helping clients grown healthy, beautiful natural nails.” This was an example of not just listening to the trends, but driving the trend to the clients in her salon.
You’ve seen the changes, your clients are buzzing with excitement, you’ve tested the service through a seasonal special and have received decent feedback. Are you ready to add it to your permanent menu? “It depends,” says Borowy. “Before I add a service to my permanent menu, I need to know it’s going to be cost effective, most of my staff will be able to perform the service, and it isn’t going to confuse my clients. The main menu must remain simple or the clients can get overwhelmed with the choices.”
Take for example, the hot stone pedicure. Borowy offered it to clients as a special, and they responded well. But if only one or two techs liked performing the service, it would have never made it onto the main menu. Conversely, even if techs like the services, if it isn’t cost-effective to stock all the necessary products, Borowy wouldn’t add it to the main menu. Finally, if the service takes longer than a standard service, which could cause scheduling conflicts, the service wouldn’t make it to the core menu.
“We use Millennium software,” says Borowy. “Whenever we introduce a new service, we use the software tools to analyze the results.” Borowy says she tracks which services sell best, how many are being sold, and which types of upgrades clients respond to best. “The software can tell me which services clients choose and if the service is profitable to the salon,” she says. Some services seem to generate a lot of immediate attention, but the software reveals those services aren’t getting re-booked. This means clients thought the service sounded interesting, but it didn’t impress them enough to switch their preference from their regular service to the new one. When this happens, the service may reappear on the seasonal or promotional menu, but it won’t become a permanent offering on the main menu.
The Main Menu
With all these checks and balances, it’s easy to see why the main menu often appears static. However, there is a caveat. Even if you’re not ready to add or subtract services from your menu, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not time to tweak the menu in the form of an update.
“I haven’t had to remove services from the menu,” says Finger, “but I’ve definitely re-positioned the services.” When acrylic nails were popular, the menu listed acrylic services first. Now, chipless manicures are what clients see first. New techs may find this hard to believe, but there was a time when the demand for pedicures was minimal. Now, pedicures are featured front and center on most service menus. “We still offer enhancements,” says Finger, “but we’ve moved that service down in our menu.” Clients see the menu as fresh and current, even though the content lists the same services.
A second way to update the menu is to modernize the language. An example would be the dated use of “artificial” nails with the more modern term “enhancements.” Small changes keep the menu interesting to clients without overwhelming salon owners and techs with constantly changing services. It’s an update without the overhaul, and it may be exactly what you need to make an impression on current and prospective clients.
Getting the Word Out
Let customers know about your new services by teasing them about what’s coming next. Marketing statistics say customers need to have a point of contact or hear about a sale, event, or service three to five times before it sticks. Without proper planning, you won’t have the lead time to “talk” with customers about a new service — and the service may fall flat. In cases like this, it’s difficult to determine if the service wasn’t interesting to your clients or if it simply wasn’t promoted well. With every new service:
> Put a sign on your desk or at the front desk so they can see it in the salon.
> Announce it on your website, Facebook, and all other social media sites you manage.
> Mention it to your client during the appointment.
> Ask directly if they want to schedule the new service when you’re booking their next appointment.
> Send them home with something in their hand.
Print It Professionally
With the online resources available to help small businesses, even single-operator nail techs can produce customized, attractive marketing pieces. Places like VistaPrint allow you to print as few as 50 rack cards, for example, for only $15. These can be placed at the front desk, in the restroom, waiting room, and nail stations, and handed out to nearby businesses. Use the digital graphic (or take a picture of the cards) and promote the new service on your website and social sites. You can print the promo piece in a variety of sizes so your marketing literature — whether in the salon or in the hands of your clients — is consistent at all touch points.