A friend of mine drives 90 miles round trip every five weeks for a haircut with her favorite hairstylist. This is loyalty. But what about her nail technician? She just pops into any salon that can take her as a walk-in.
The market provides a lot of choices when it to comes to nail salons. Day spas, hair salons, and even wellness centers are expanding their nail services. Even if you offer a superior service it is hard to stand out in a crowded market where prices are competitive and the product is plentiful.
So how can a nail salon create a strong brand? How do you stand out from the competition and attract clients who will rebook? It is not by accident that health clubs, massage studios, and country clubs operate on the concept of services delivered for a monthly membership fee. A monthly membership program may be the answer for you too.
In a nail membership program, a monthly fee is charged in exchange for a predetermined service. Clients pay the set fee each month even if they miss an appointment. The monthly fee may cover unlimited fi lls, repairs, or other services. Additional services or retail products may or may not be discounted. Another option is to charge members a minimal monthly fee that includes a credit toward any service they wish. This approach offers more fl exibility.
Robert Luu and his sister Victoria grew up in the nail business. Their mother owned the business for 20 years before they teamed up in 2006 to lead Sènsé Nail Spa in Shoreline, Wash. The “Polish for Change” program was created to turn one-time visitors into regular clients. Luu began to track the number of rave reviews on local sites from clients who never returned. He also wanted to help the client who delayed her repairs until the next fill by offering an incentive to come in immediately.
“There were no membership programs for us to look at in the nail industry so we looked at examples of membership programs in other businesses such sport or fi tness clubs and built our own version.” says Luu. “The Sènsé membership offers three monthly programs at various price points.” At $39 per month, the Classic Membership level offers an acrylic fill with a 10% discount on salon services. At $59, the most popular program is the Essential Membership which starts with a free acrylic set, unlimited fills, polish changes, and repairs with a 15% salon discount. The Ultimate package includes all of the services found in the Essential Membership but adds a 20% discount as well as a free pink-andwhite upgrade.
Sènsé Nail Spa members are not only keeping their nails in tiptop shape — they are also supporting the microlending efforts of KIVA, a not-forprofit organization whose mission is to support small businesses. A portion of the monthly membership program fees goes directly to KIVA.
CLIENT RETENTION = RELIABLE INCOME
Client retention is important for any business. A successful membership program is built on creating a strong connection with the client. Consider what your clients are asking for. When a client has prepaid for her monthly service she is not likely to visit another salon. The value of a returning client is greater than a one-time walk-in. Retained clients spend more money than new ones; they buy more retail, gift certificates, and add-on services. They become brand ambassadors for your business by inviting friends, family, and coworkers to try the program. A membership program can help you to manage the up and down nature of a business built on walk-ins by providing a reliable source of monthly income. Of course you still need to attract new clients and will always welcome walk-ins, but one of the key benefits is knowing at the beginning of each month what your membership income will be.
Kim Herman, nail technician and owner of Posh Nails in Denver, currently has 300 active members and a target of 1,000. Posh Nails is located in the Cherry Creek Shopping Center and is open seven days a week. Her members each pay a monthly fee of $19.95, which provides them with a $14.95 credit toward any service or retail item with an additional 20% discount on additional services or products. Says Herman: “The membership is a great way to build a loyal clientele — and we can bank on the guaranteed income from memberships each month.” Posh Nails memberships are sold online, by the nail technicians, and at the front desk. Being located in a busy mall is a plus for turning the drop-in customer into a nail membership client. “Creating the membership program has given the business and the nail technicians a more secure base — and we are not just dependent on walk-ins,” says Herman. Herman put her more than 20 years of experience in the nail industry to use in designing the program. She has created a “one-stop-shop where our clients have all their services and retail items readily available.”
The number of members you can support depends on the number of appointments you can book in any given month given your staff, hours of operation, and current level of return clients. If you are already selling manicures or pedicures in a series you will already have a base estimate of how many memberships you may be able to sell to your current client base. Assessing your utilization of space and staff is key to planning your program.
Consider these key factors before beginning a membership program. Taking the time to map out your program can bring you a sound bottom line and happy clients.
- What percentage of my monthly business comes from new clients versus returning customers?
- What percentage of my monthly schedule is pre-booked?
- Do I have adequate staff to fi ll all my open hours?
- What level of discount would be attractive to my potential members?
- Will I discount additional services, retail, or both?
MEMBERSHIPS IN FULL-SERVICE SPAS AND SPA-LONS
Nail salons are not the only location for nail memberships. Anjou Spa and Salon in Bend, Ore., is introducing a monthly membership program that offers a choice every month of a seasonal mani/pedi or other spa services such as facials or massages. “It’s an opportunity for clients to make self-care a priority at an affordable price,” says spa director Lindsey Robinson. Manicurist Melissa Palmer adds: “No amount of polish can cover up hands and feet that are not cared for.” The program promotes selfcare over glamour, which fits well in the outdoorsy Bend area. If your business offers other services such as waxing or facials you may want to include those services in the monthly membership.
DISCOUNTING WITHOUT DOING DAILY DEALS
Many nail salons have turned to participating in daily deal sites to book new business and fill open appointments. Membership programs — even when offered at a discount — allow you to retain a greater portion of the cost of the service. More importantly it prevents you from providing deeply discounted services to those clients who are frequent “deal hoppers” and not likely to return to your salon.
Patti Biro is the owner and founder of Patti Biro and Associates (www.pattibiro.com), a consulting firm specializing in planning and providing innovative continuing education in the spa and wellness industry.
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