Whether you are a seasoned nail tech or just a beginner, there are several things within your power to hold on to — and even build — your clientele. These ideas have emerged over my 20 years in the beauty industry and kept my appointment book thriving even when the economy was not. And definitely don’t underestimate their effectiveness just because some of them may seem simple.

Start a salon scrapbook.
Of all the little things that I shared with my clients through the years, I believe this is what they enjoyed the most. My scrapbook started out as a photo album that grew and grew. More than an album, it was our story — theirs and mine. From my beauty school days through several grand openings, my clients and I shared my treasured moments of success. I went from my early 20s to midlife with my clients right beside me. Along the way we were constantly amazed how intertwined our lives had become by looking at our photographs of not just salon news, but their special times shared with me such as marriages, graduations, birthdays, holidays, and even those appointments when I was asked to manicure a loved one’s nails at the end. Give your clients, yourself, and your salon this extraordinary tribute to continually love and share together.

Start a plant exchange.
When your clients have more than just gorgeous nails and pampering services to look forward to, they develop proprietary feelings about their salon and appointment time, even on a tight budget. I know that one of the first things to go when I’m short on funds are my fresh flowers. So I ask generous clients with strong backs, extra time on their hands, and gloves (of course!) to offer their services of cleaning and thinning out the flowerbeds of clients that lack the time and energy. In exchange for their labor, they receive lots of free plants. (Or each can do their own thinning and exchange the results at the salon.) Cuttings and seedlings can also be exchanged. Once the fever starts, the plants take over, and clients begin to introduce new findings, share coveted heirlooms, and try to outdo one another. I once had such a competition going on with orchids that I considered doing a show!

Hone your listening skills.
Make yourself the person your client looks forward to visiting during the week. It’s so easy to forget all those rather humdrum rules you learned in beauty school, but they still apply — now more than ever. Things like: Let your client do the talking. If you give her the chance, along with your interest and undivided attention, you’ll be surprised how much she’ll reveal to you. It’s an age-old and trusted rule: People like to talk about themselves! Learn the art of asking leading questions with a genuine look of anticipation for the answer. Forget about yourself and give it a try. You’ll be surprised how much people will come back, again and again, for that concern and regard you show to their feelings, their life, and their problems. You will probably get the added bonus of forgetting about your own problems for a while.

Trade books and pass on the savings and reviews.
I formed a book club in my salon years ago that served as a mini library for my patrons and their families. Only books that each contributor considered five stars could be loaned or donated. I attached a library pocket inside and slipped in a card to provide loan information. When clients wanted a certain topic or just a good read, they often checked with me first as unofficial librarian. When a client was really passionate about a new book, I provided index cards to insert their written reviews inside the book jackets. Your space for books can be as small or as large as your salon provides, but I’m warning you: The power of the written word can get out of hand so set limits for your library! And don’t forget the bookmarkers and totes with your salon logo. This could even grow into a coffee club.

In lieu of cash ...
One of the most popular things in my salon throughout the years was the “tip book.” It was first offered for clients when their money was tight; they could leave a “tip” inside my tip notebook instead of adding monetary appreciation to their bill. The notebook had many chapters that were shared by everyone, such as decorating and cleaning tips, recipes, vacation spots, pet advice, and even in-law etiquette (or revenge). Through the years, my tip book evolved into a treasured possession that belonged to my community of clients as much as it did to me. Each chapter evolved from tidbit to information storehouse, reflecting intelligence and professionalism from diverse and skilled individuals. Create your own tip book filled with valuable input supplied from your own clientele and their individual fields of specialization. You’ll be amazed at their know-how! Not only will your clients be able to save a few pennies and show appreciation, they’ll be able to offer things from time to time that have so much more value than the customary 15%-20% tip.

Remember the golden rule and embrace the minutiae.
Remember her birthday, her kid’s name and sport, her hubby’s pet name, her dog’s breed, her favorite nail color, that secret that brought a tear to her eye, and make her feel as important as a client should feel. In a rushed, sometimes hostile world, your salon should be a haven, projecting an image opposite to the impersonal day-to-day grind. Of course, you should concentrate on doing her nails perfectly — that’s a given — but what’s not a given is the genuine interest and concern you place on her happiness during her visit with you. Buy her favorite magazine, pick her up a little party favor for no special reason, and call her from time to time in between appointments to check on her if she’s sick, elderly, or sad. The special discount price down the road can’t compete with steadfast coddling, and there is deep satisfaction to be gained from making someone feel truly valued. During the cold winter days in Tennessee, many times I brewed a special gourmet coffee and raced to the door to hold it out to my client the moment she opened the door and chirped, “How’s that for service?” The look on her face was always worth every harried step I took to get it there.


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