“Many times advertising is reactionary,” says Steve Gomez, professional development manager with Milady/Cengage Learning. “It ends up being done in a rush, as a solution to a problem.” Examples of this would be advertising to fill the schedules of newly hired staff, to move product, or because it’s a particular holiday, such as Christmas. The problem with reactionary advertising is that little time is spent on reflection, preparation, and analysis. “Advertising is a 365-day-a-year proposition,” says Gomez. “Salons should have a marketing committee, a marketing budget, and a marketing calendar.” Plus, after every marketing campaign, the results should be reviewed and analyzed to determine its success.
Even then, it’s not always easy to know what form of advertising will work best for your salon. Some people have fantastic luck with print; others see great results from online outlets. Of course, all of us benefit from word of mouth. To determine what will work best for your salon, take a minute to first decide what you need: Is it necessary to get a quick influx of clients to fill the book of a brand-new tech or to keep a multi-tech salon supplied with a steady stream of business? Maybe you need only a few new clients to fill the block of consistently slow hours during the week. What you need from advertising will help determine the type of advertising you need.
A second thing to consider is the motivation of the clients you are trying to attract. What service or special will you offer and why would the client want it? “When you advertise, you have to ask the question, ‘What solution or benefit am I providing to the end user?’” says Gomez. This way you can advertise the solution, not just a service. If you’re located near the university and want to attract college students, for example, you would advertise differently than if you’re located in a downtown business district and need to draw in the lunch-hour and after-work crowd. Even if you offer the same service, you might need to choose a different advertising method or use different language depending on your audience. For example, a mani/pedi special may be advertised to college students as a way to prepare for the weekend, but to working women as a way to escape during a lunch hour or decompress after work.
Be sure you understand not only your target audience but also the demographic scope of the advertising vehicle. Be ready to ask questions, and be clear about what you see as a measure of success. For example, your local newspaper may offer you ad space through its online site, claiming your ad will be viewed by 5,000 people a day. That may sound like a sweet deal, but it doesn’t provide enough information. You want to know not only how many viewers the site gets, but also how responsive the viewers are. Can the newspaper provide you with stats to show businesses similar to yours that have a substantial number of readers click on the ads to land on the salon site?
Once you determine what your campaign must accomplish, who you’re trying to reach, the demographic of an advertising vehicle’s audience, and the measures of success, you’ll be in a better position to mix and match these different advertising mediums to achieve the highest rate of return on your investment (ROI).
Print advertising still works, but often it’s the most expense option. If ad rates of your local paper are cost-prohibitive, think of other print media that gets into the hands of your clients:
> School programs (plays, sports, fundraisers)
> Coupon books targeted to your zip code
> Every Door Direct Mail program through
the U.S. Post Office (14.5 cents/postcard)
> Local magazines
What you need to know:
Coupon books suggest you offer the reader a discount on services, but direct mailers and school programs offer you the chance to advertise your business without necessarily including a discount (though everyone likes a deal!). Raise your profile among local readers by using these venues to list services you offer, location, and hours of operation.
Design matters. Make sure your salon is accurately represented in your print material. Readers have an immediate reaction to graphics, font, color, and the overall feel of an ad. Print materials should be consistent across all touch points of the salon (business cards, website, salon menu, shelf talkers). This can be done through online resources, such as Vistaprint.com, or by working closely with a graphic designer. (Hint: Save money by offering nail services in trade for graphic materials.) If your marketing materials need work, but you don’t have time to revamp them before you begin advertising, then work closely with the advertising venue to choose graphics that portray the true feel of your salon.
It’s the least expensive, and it can be very effective, but many of the most successful online tools take time because they’re built on interactions that develop into relationships with clients. Used well, these online resources can be powerful tools to draw clients to your business.
> Google: Make sure the info about your business is accurate on Google maps (support.google.com/places).
> Review sites: Encourage your clients to Yelp, check in, review on Citysearch, or Tweet about you. It’s the best advertising you can receive, because it’s from real people.
> Salon blog: Blogs can be linked from your website and maintained for free. The advantage of advertising in this way is it allows your personality to come through. Blog about beauty, fashion, your salon’s fundraisers, new staff, staff profiles … the topics are seemingly endless. Cost is paid in time, as consistency is key here. An outdated blog communicates apathy (or worse).
> Facebook: Certainly by now salon owners realize the power of Facebook. The basic steps — setting up a business page, updating statuses, asking clients to “check in,” and persuading staff to request their friends “like” your page — are all free. More advanced Facebook advertising comes at a minimal cost and is easy to use. You can also promote your page with a Facebook ad, where you set the amount of money you want to spend and your target audience. (You pay per click up to X amount of dollars.) Suddenly, your ad will appear on the page of exactly the type of person who would be your client. In addition, using companies such as Wildfire (wildfireapp.com) to run contests using your branding can cost as little as $25.
> Twitter: It’s free, but Twitter, done right, does take some time. However, more and more people turn to Twitter to find recommendations on anything from restaurants to service providers.
> E-mail blasts: Easy-to-use, companies such as Constant Contact allow you a 30-day free trial where you can design and send beautiful, professional looking e-mails to up to 100 clients. Rates are still incredibly reasonable after the trial period has ended.
Your clients are your best advertisers. They bring in the most new clients, and they bring in the best clients. Reward them for bringing in new business and promoting your salon. Build loyalty by creating a culture where the client feels it’s “her” salon — that she’s a part of its community, its success, its personality. To do this, consider some of these in-house advertising ideas:
> Client referral program: Offer your client a discount for every new customer she brings in or a free service if she refers multiple new customers.
> A drawing: Clients can submit the name of a friend to win a service. Both the client and the drawing winner get a prize.
> Discounts for VIPs: Customers choose the VIPs among their friends when they hand out $5-off cards. Give the cards to clients and let them know when they pass the card on to a friend who becomes a new client, they both receive a $5 discount on the service of their choice.
> Checking in and posting pictures: This doesn’t go under the “online” section because the only way to advertise in this way is by advertising in realtime — from the salon! What’s nice about this way of advertising is it doesn’t cost any money, it inherently builds client loyalty, and it’s guaranteed to hit your target audience.
What you need to know:
Don’t feel uncomfortable about asking clients to talk up your salon. Social media sites wouldn’t have exploded if people weren’t dying to give their opinions and communicate with their friends. However, be careful how you present it. You don’t want to look desperate: The tone “please, please, please help me get new customers” doesn’t inspire. Instead, present referrals as a great opportunity for clients to save money, “Here’s our way of thanking our customers when they tell their friends about us. You both get $5 off any service in the salon!”
Setting Your Ad Budget
The best way not to advertise from a reactionary position is to plan well. Steve Gomez says 2% of your total income (sales and services) should be put aside for advertising. Some months you may not spend that, but other months you’ll spend more than that, and since you’ve put the money aside, you’ll be able to use it instead of charging the ads to a credit cards. From the 2% that you’ve put aside, 80% should be on internal promotion and marketing, 20% should be on external advertising.
Read more about advertising and marketing your business: