Men and women are different. It’s true, if somewhat politically incorrect. Salon owners need to embrace this difference and realize it’s more than skin deep. It’s not difficult to show your male clients you’re aware of and respect those differences. Start by making small, but important, choices.

Begin to look at the salon experience through the eyes of a man. Why would a man — any man — be drawn to a spa or salon? Douglas Coburn, director of esthetics at Bodé Spa in Ottawa, Canada offers his perspective. “The modern man is concerned with his health,” he says, meaning health in the areas of skin, hair, feet, and mind. He suggests concern over health and appearance is what drives men to the salons — not the hour or so out of a busy schedule. Did you catch the subtle difference there? Women need time at the salon — the service is relaxing; the conversation is stimulating; the experience is energizing. Men need their cuticles trimmed.

Now, don’t think that’s all men want. A man can enjoy the experience as much as his female counterpart, but he seeks the service out first, and the experience second. Generally, his psyche is more task-driven. What does that mean to you? Be on time. “Men want to come in and get something done, but they want to remain on schedule,” says Coburn.

In addition to the schedule factor, a male client will be less likely than a female client to enjoy sitting in the waiting area. Some female clients may say they like to arrive early because it gives them a few minutes “away from the kids, with a little time alone.” If a guy looks around and realizes he’s the only man in the salon, he could begin to feel like everyone’s looking at him. Be aware of his awkwardness and alleviate it by being ready when he arrives.

Conversation with male clients will be different than conversation with female clients, at least initially. Don’t expect to jump right in to personal conversation and family history. Start off light and friendly. As with female clients, let them guide the conversation at their own pace. Make the salon experience an escape from the pressures of work and home, not a place where he feels he has to become one of the girls. Brenda Kocak, owner of Modern Male in Dublin, Ohio, suggests techs keep the conversation light. Stay in tune with business and sports news. Discuss current events.

AREA 2: AT THE DOOR You can say men are welcome in your salon, but men won’t believe it if everything about the salon is soft and feminine. (And neither will your female customers when you suggest a gift certificate for the men in their lives.) “Create your message from the point of entry,” says Coburn. He suggests something as simple as including images of men in the wall art or on your sign to communicate that your salon welcomes men.

Know your audience. Services geared toward men should sound like manly services. The Better Man in Cincinnati knows this, and so lists their services with names such as the Sports Manicure and the Executive Manicure. How different do you think that service is from your current Deluxe Manicure? But it sure sounds different, doesn’t it? And because of that, men view the manicure as a maintenance service instead of an indulgence. Salons like Bliss, with multiple locations, know the importance of correct wording and have gone so far as to trademark the name of their manicures for men: They call it the Manly-cure.

If you’re just breaking into the male market or trying to increase your current male clientele, you could start by printing a separate, small service menu listing options that are “for men only.” Give the services creative, male-sounding names even though the treatments (though maybe not the scents) are similar to the ones offered to women. If it’s difficult to come up with creative names for your services, you could model your menu after Modern Male. While they include creative words such as detailing and polish in their menu, they also name services (such as facials or massages) after the benefit they give, such as Revitalize or Calm.

But, the name may not be the only thing that needs changing. “Our men’s services are similar to our women’s services,” says Karrah Creek, salon director at The Better Man, “but men want more conditioning of their hands and cuticles.” Also, techs may encounter more problem nails in male clients. Services intended for men could be modified to include problem-specific treatments, such as intense skin treatments or nailbiter’s manicures. Techs may find they want to invest in continuing education (or check out your back issues of NAILS) to learn more about how to handle disorders such as calluses, fungus, and sports-related nail injuries.

The atmosphere and colors of a salon speaks volumes to clients. Create a soothing, calm environment through use of neutral colors and decorations. Be aware of areas that make a silent statement: the bathroom and waiting area, for example. Avoid a soap that leaves a flowery scent. Choose magazines specifically for a male audience. Pay attention to the program on TV— not every man loves watching Oprah.

Many salons and spas offer refreshments. This is another place silent statements are made. Instead of offering wine only, offer a male guest a beer. Ask yourself what it would take to attract men to your salon. “It’s not science,” says Pat Murray, owner of Black Tie Spa in Norwell, Mass. “Give them a couple of leather chairs, a wide-screen TV, and a beer.”

You may not be able to turn the waiting room into a sports bar, but you can offer some privacy to men who are brave enough to schedule services such as pedicures and manicures. If you can’t designate floor space, consider an appointment block that’s exclusively for men. This could be after hours, early hours, or even at a two-hour stretch on certain weekdays. To get the word out, ask current clients to tell the men in their lives. Run a “male sale,” offering 10% off services scheduled during that time frame. The important thing to remember is that it’s awkward for many men to get a haircut in a predominately female setting. Now imagine him rolling up his pants and soaking his feet in bubbles. They may enjoy a pedicure as well as we would — but they are dealing with apprehension that doesn’t accompany our experience.

Think that’s an exaggeration? Female employees asked Murray if they could move the manicure table out of the pedicure room and in front of the fireplace during the busy Christmas season to allow for double bookings. “No freakin’ way!” exclaimed Murray. “No man is going to get a manicure in front of other men!” We need to remember that the salon industry has unwittingly pushed men away from the salon experience, offering barbershops as the male alternative. Now that we’re inviting them in, we need to take deliberate steps to think of the salon from their point of view. Kocak says the need for privacy is especially acute in a salon that offers acrylics. Men don’t want to sit next to two women chatting while acrylic nails are being applied. It simply looks like too feminine of a service to most men, and they don’t want to sit nearby at an identical desk receiving what could be perceived as the same service. If you don’t have the space to create a permanent “men’s room,” consider a mobile nail desk that could be moved behind a room-dividing screen. Create privacy. “Just put it in a place where they can still see the TV,” adds Murray.

* Be on time. Men don’t like hanging out in the waiting area .
* Keep conversation light. Discuss current events and business and sports news.
* Include images of men in the salon, on your website, and in promotional materials.
* Give male services manly-sounding names. Consider a separate service menu for men.
* Use neutral colors in your decor.
* Avoid flowery scents in the bathroom.
* Include magazines for men in the waiting area.
* Pay attention to the TV programming.
* If you offer alcohol, include beer as an option.
* Offer privacy, even if it’s just a screen.
* Consider an all-male appointment block

Read Get Him In The Door ... Back for More (NAILS Magazine, April, 2007) for business techniques to attract and keep male clients.

Originally published in NAILS Magazine, April, 2007.

KEYWORDS: male clients, clientele building, customer service, marketing, salon marketing, building your business, talking to your male clients, manly services

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