1. The most important impression is the first one. Do not leave your new client waiting. Do not forget to greet her and welcome her to your salon. Offer her a beverage. Compliment her on her cloths, hands, purse, anything you see and admire. Ask her if she’d like to book her next appointment when she leaves.

2. The number of people who complain just to receive some kind of monetary compensation is very small. That’s why you must treat every complaint seriously. People look for an immediate response (an apology, a discount on the next service), respect, and an assurance that the problem will be fixed the next time.

3. Do not move from salon to salon and keep inconsistent hours. People are creatures of habit. They like to get services done at the same time of day on a consistent basis. In the service business it’s important to be there when your client’s available, not the other way around.

4. Teach yourself or your employees to really listen to clients, especially if they have a complaint.

5. Treat each client as though she is a celebrity.

6. Show clients that you care about them as people.

7. Have clients listen to motivational tapes while being serviced.

8. Use touch (hand massage), eye contact, and smile.

9. Be there! You’ll never get walk-ins or callers if you left for the day just because you didn’t have any appointments on the book.

10. Teach clients about something.

11. Excellent customer service is when you have exceeded your client’s expectations.

12. Remember your clients are professional women and men, and so are you.

13. Hold weekly staff meetings to discuss problems, new products, and techniques so that employees are equipped to give the clients the utmost in customer service.

14. Do anything you can so that you will be prepared to accommodate a client: take CPR classes, change tires, start cars, release emergency breaks, strap the client in, open car doors, or call AAA or the police if needed.

15. Be honest with your clients—they will remember when you’re not.

16. Ask the client to give you advice. People like to discuss things they are familiar with.

17. Always follow up with new clients—call to see how their nails are doing.

18. Work as a team within the salon. Refer and share clients.

19. Make a (late) New Year’s resolution to call 10 old clients who have dropped out of sight and ask them why they have stopped coming to your salon. Then encourage them to give you a second chance.

20. Keep yourself up to date on current events. Your customers will enjoy good conversation.

21. Keeping the lines of communication open is most important. Always ask the client as you’re doing her nails if the length and shape are okay.

22. Home has become a concept. Just like the bar where “everybody knows your name,” make your salon a comfortable, friendly place to be.

23. Guarantee the client’s nails for two weeks and don’t charge for repairs, which may encourage clients to make regular standing appointments. Clients will feel as if you’re giving them a little extra something that the salon down the street may not be giving.

24. Treat your clients like lifetime partners.

25. Remember or review every client’s history prior to an appointment.

26. Display a positive attitude at all times. Even if you are in a bad mood, acting positively will help to bring you out of it.

27. Share your knowledge with your customers. It lets them know that you take your business seriously, and they will feel they can rely on you to care for their needs.

28. Learn how to spot nail disorders and have a referring physician to recommend should the client need treatment or medication. You will earn a grateful lifetime client.

29. Do the service that’s best for your client’s nails, not what is easier for you.

30. Remember: The client is “always’ right, even if she isn’t. Apologize to your client and ask her what you can do to straighten out a difficult situation immediately.

31. Encourage client-to-client relationships.

32. After a client has her first service, set up a complimentary manicure for one week later to check the client’s nails and answer any questions she may have regarding her new enhancements. It is also a way to get the client more familiar with coming to your salon on a regular basis. At this time, book her two-week maintenance appointment.

33. Respect and learn about clients who have diverse ethnic backgrounds.

34. The more a client feels “rewarded” by her visit to your salon, the more likely she will return. Rewarded clients come back for another visit and to buy retail items.

35. Send a complimentary pedicure gift certificate to standing clients after they have a baby.

36. Be sure to encourage your clients to speak up and involve them in various decisions during the service, unless the components of the service are completely understood by the client beforehand.

37. Clean the client’s jewelry during her service.

38. Don’t fall prey to success—make sure that you offer consistently great service to clients no matter how busy (or famous) your business gets.

39. Don’t let a client leave your salon with a product or service that does not meet her satisfaction. If you don’t carry the product and don’t have a good replacement suggestion, suggest a beauty supply store or other location where your client can find it. She will reward your honesty and integrity with a return trip to your salon. Then consider adding the missing product or service to your salon.

40. Be a need-fulfiller and problem-solver for your clients.

41. Offer helpful consumer information in your salon. Educate clients about sanitation practices and questionable products. It will help them to make better purchasing decisions and add to their faith in you and your services.

42. Think, talk, and act with enthusiasm when it comes to your work. Clients like to be around people who are happy and satisfied with their profession. Develop a genuine interest in your client and her interests.

43. Be responsive. Take action immediately once you hear of a problem. If your client’s nail breaks or another problem arises, take care of it immediately, even before serving a new client. The new client will see herself in the first client’s shoes and respect that you took the time to help her solve her problem.

44. Act as if you are the client’s only contact with your salon and behave as if the salon’s image rests in your hands.

45. Give regular clients Christmas gifts that are imprinted with your name, address, and phone number, and gift wrap the gift especially for them.

46. Make helping the clients get what they want from the service or the product she buys the number-one priority of your job.


People want what they want when they want it. Have an inventory of at least 25% of all the items you expect to sell. The faster you get customers their merchandise, the better customers they become.

48. Sales and service are everyone’s job. Every staff member, from nail technician to receptionist, should be informed about products and services.

49. If you treat your staff well, they in turn treat the clients well and then the clients are sure to return. Make sure you are clear about what to expect from your staff and offer all the resources and tools at your disposal to make sure they are properly trained about the latest products and techniques.

50. Always under-promise and over-deliver.

51. Remember that every part of business is show business. Entertain, relax, and amuse your clients, and they will come back.

52. Call clients ahead of time to remind them of their appointments.

53. Involve your customers in your business; when trying new products, ask for their opinions on the performance.

54. Write down questions that clients frequently ask and then write down thorough answers to each question. Be prepared should a client ask something about a product or service.

55. Never underestimate the value of listening to a client and concentrate on what she does say, doesn’t say, and what she does not put into words very well. Read between the lines. 56. Every nail technician has had an unruly client. Be sure to act in a professional, empathetic, and helpful manner with this client. Onlookers will be impressed by the way you handle the situation and you may not lose the angry client.

57. Try to remember the value of customizing your menu of services for reasonable specific requests. It shows that you really care about your clients, is great for repeat business, it overcomes the client’s defensiveness, and quickly eliminates the competition in the client’s mind.

58. Never tell your clients your problems. Sharing experiences is fine, but don’t use the client to vent any of your troubles or difficulties, especially with co-workers or salon management. Clients usually come to escape from daily hassles, improve their own self-image, and to release the tensions. Do not add to their difficulties or block them from enjoying their service.


59. It is worth investing money and time into a good salon sign. Make sure it is bright, colorful, and in good taste.

60. Come up with a catchy slogan. Think about slogans like “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” and “If you paid full price, you didn’t buy it at Crown Books.” They get people’s attention, and they generate visibility for the company name.

61. A small ad doesn’t have to be lost in the crowd. Using big, bold type for the headline, bullets to list salon highlights, and an eye-catching graphic for the middle of the ad.

62. Color sells. Add either a spot of color or full color to your ads and fliers.

63. Buy inexpensive advertising in local high school and college newspapers around September for Homecoming or during May or June in time for the prom.

64. Be aware of positioning for display advertising. Sometimes the most expensive ad is not the most effective. Be sure to research your placement thoroughly and ask for the sales manager’s advice before you buy.

65. Make sure your offer is not too “cheap,” creating the image that the work will also be cheap. Remember to emphasize both price and benefit.

66. Make sure that your ad catches the reader’s eye with a photo and then answers the question what, why, and where. Anything more than basic information is too much. Make the copy included in the ad in large print, rather than filling it up with wordy paragraphs.

67. Using only one ad in each advertising medium, such as radio, TV, or print, once will not work. Run an ad at least 5-7 times. Ask your advertising representative for their advice on frequency.

68. Ask every client how they heard about the salon as a simple question at the start of the eservice or by using in-house or mailed surveys. Divide your advertising dollars spent by the number of responses you get from the ad and you will get the cost per client. You’ll find some failed promotions will cost you $50 per client! 69. Market on the backs of other well-known names. Take advantage of the advertising that your suppliers do; ask if they have co-op arrangements to help lift some of the advertising burden off your salon.

70. Sponsor a race car. Several nail technicians are themselves drivers and the publicity has paid off for their salons. However, you can sponsor a car that you do not drive. Many smaller circuits are very affordable and studies show that race-car fans are extremely loyal customers.

71. Rent a billboard or bus bench. Pick a location that is on the way to your salon and plaster it with your name, services, and hours. These options are not as expensive as you think.

72. Are times rough? Don’t stop advertising! Studies show that companies that continue to advertise during recessions actually increase their sales. The reasons? A less crowded field makes your ad more visible, and the ads give your salon an appearance of longevity and success.

73. When you list your salon in the Yellow Pages, use red ink to make your salon stand out.


74. Set goals for yourself. A good specific goal is that you will have 100 new regular clients by the end of 1997.

75. Talk to three prospective clients per day.

76. Get current clients into your salon more often by offering different services, such as a buff and polish, a manicure between rebalances, or a special-occasion consultation and manicure.

77. Go mobile. Take your services on the road and cater to mothers with young children and homebound elderly, or even make a bi-weekly visit to an office building for lunch-hour manicures. (Check your state board for you state’s mobile salon rules.)

78. The average credit card purchase in a recent survey was $50, about twice the average cash purchase. Establishing a merchant account for accepting credit cards can be difficult, but the convenience to clients could mean more business.

79. Consort with the competition? It might help you both build your clientele. Approach some neighboring salons about the possibility of a client referral system. If a walk-in client can’t be accommodated by you, call the nearby salon and send her over there. That salon then does the same thing for you.

80. Daydreaming can actually help your business, if you do it intelligently. Be open to your daydreams, pay attention to them, and write down any ideas that come to mind.

81. Odors can actually enhance a client’s perception of her service. Nice odors, that is. Women tend to prefer floral scents, while men favor spicy scents.

82. Offer other parallel products in your salon, such as clothing, jewelry, artwork, and gift wrap.

83. Have gift certificates available with a list of salon services.

84. Recruit doctor’s offices front office staff, as well as the doctor’s themselves. It is a big part of their bedside manner to have nice, well-groomed hands.

85. Don’t forget about the local law office staff and the lawyers.

86. Cultivate a referral relationship with local bridal shops and wedding photographers.

87. Consult your local chamber of commerce. Many chambers publish membership directories, conduct informant networking functions, and some even provide membership lists for promotional mailings.

88. Promote nail care as a practical necessity. Regular manicures enhance a woman’s appearance at the workplace; they also cut down on maintenance.

89. Offer your services, maybe in a barter agreement, to accountants, CPAs and their staff.

90. Understand niche marketing: targeting small, specialized market segments. Some examples include sports-related manicures and pedicures that you would market at the local fitness center, and special occasion nails, for wedding and formal attendees.

91. Look the part! Decide what type of clientele you want to attract and dress appropriately.

92. Pre-book all appointments. (Develop a list of standing appointments.)

93. Think of places and people that have continuous public contact and you have found a market. Examples include the hotel front desk staff or catering staff.

94. If the client is a nail biter or has other nail-related problems, put her on a program and show her photos of past clients who followed your program successfully.

95. Instead of cutting back when times are tough, expand. Diversify into tanning, facials, permanent makeup, or wedding packages.

96. Does your city have strong advertising or film industry? Offer your services as a studio nail technician.

97. When you create a mailer, make the most of the outside as well as the inside. For example, underneath the destination address, write a one-line teaser, such as “If you don’t want beautiful nails, throw this away.”

98. Keep the fun in your marketing efforts. Have a funny message on your answering machine. Offer Rice Krispie Treats or animal crackers as salon refreshments. Appeal to clients’ sense of humor.

99. Barter! Provide nail services in exchange for child care, ice skating lessons, legal services, salon cleaning, paper supplies, tax preparations, etc.

100. Perform demonstrations at clothing stores.

101. Give demonstrations for residents in apartment building party rooms.

102. Give demonstrations at senior citizen homes.

103. Pass out your business cards and network whenever possible.

104. View every social situation as an opportunity to meet new clients.

105. Keep a portfolio of awards, certificates, and events you have hosted.

106. Display your nail art in a portfolio or by other methods accessible to all clients.

107. Don’t be to shy to say, “I have a nail business.” Never say, “I’m a nail technician,” or “I do nails.” Whether you are the owner of the salon or not, it’s true you have a nail business. Building your business is your responsibility.

108. Go with your gut instincts. Don’t overdo or underdo something that will affect how the customers feel about your business.

109. Promote yourself on a defined schedule. If you can contact 10-20 new people in two hours each day, it can add up to 400 new contacts per month.

110. Provide neighboring merchants business cards, coupons, or fliers advertising your services. You can do the same for them.

111. If you work in a full-service salon, do the nails of the hairstylists. If they like your work, they will refer clients to you.

112. If you want to promote pink and white nails, wear them. If you want to promote sales of nail jewelry, wear it.

113. Ask people getting hair services if they’d also be interested in nail services.

114. Offer a range of services: acrylics, wraps, gels, manicures, and pedicures. The more services you offer, the more customers you attract.

115. Are your nails on the receptionist? Everyone sees her nails and will ask who did them.

116. Offer to put nails on the cosmetic staff in major department stores.

117. Create surprises. Adjust your polish colors according to the season.

118. Offer polish mixing services to match a customer’s outfit.

119. Target women in private cosmetic businesses like Avon and Mary Kay and offer to do their nails.

120. Use adjectives when describing your services. Our “natural-looking nails,” our “luxurious manicures,” and our “therapeutic pedicures.”

121. Put in a video. Take your services and videotape portions of them. Offer the tapes to local high schools to show students what is involved with a career in the nail industry. Use them to host nail parties and show what types of services are available.

122. Anything that a client sees, touches, or feels shapes their opinion of your salon for better or worse.

123. Hire a public relations agent.

124. Remove purchase obstacles by adding value to your services. Make sure the client understands why your prices are higher and what value she gets from paying the price.

125. People are persuaded by the depths of your feelings and experience for a product or service. Use the products you carry in your salon and make sure that you believe in them and their abilities.

126. Offer a choice of product colors, such as white or non-white tips and various powder colors.

127. Get some ink! Speak at a local community college, hire disadvantaged employees, or celebrate an anniversary, and then send the information out in a press release to newspaper and radio stations.

128. Do a radio talk show for a ½- hour once every other month. You may receive good response from callers asking questions on nail care.

129. Send a monthly or annual newsletter to past and current clients. Write articles discussing new trends, techniques, services, and products.

130. Get involved in industry publications, which many clients read while in the salon. Seeing your name will help them measure your commitment to the industry and to being the best in your trade.

131. Win them with especially savory treats. Work out a cross promotion with a local bakery or candy shop. You offer their goodies (which they provide at a discount) and they let their clients know their products are featured at your establishment.

132. Offer your services to men’s organizations; they enjoy a manicure and pedicure too.

133. Target the friend or family member that comes in with the client to wait while a nail is fixed. Put her dry hands in a special soak and follow-up with a quick lotion massage for free. She’ll think about coming back!

134. How about creating a not-so-ordinary business card? Make it out of some other material, such as an emery board, or how about a Rolodex card with a mirror attached to it? Don’t forget to put your salon name and phone number on top!

135. Take advantage of the popularity of gourmet coffees. Feature a new and exotic flavor each week (the salon will smell great), advertise the local coffee house and let them provide you with the flavors at cost.


136. Your voice is the first thing new clients hear over the phone or at the salon counter. Speak clearly, enunciate, and vary your voice’s volume, pitch, and tone. 137. Improve your communications skills. Omit slang and poor grammar from your vocabulary.

138. Handle new client calls properly. Many clients call and ask, “How much for a manicure?” Answer the phone enthusiastically, and answer with price and benefit. For example, say “The charge for a manicure is $20, which includes [list features].”

139. Call your new clients after their service, and ask them how they like their new nails or manicure. Thank them for their business, and invite them back (maybe even suggest booking an appointment then and there).

140. How you answer and use the telephone is critical to your client-building success. Never put anyone on hold longer than 20 seconds, take careful messages, and return phone calls promptly. Use positive instead of negative responses; change “We can’t do that” to “Let me see what I can do.”


141. Send thank-you notes (with a discount off the client’s next service) for referrals.

142. Offer existing clients an incentive price for a new set, usually $10 over your fill price.

143. Start a year round “pedicure club.” The club rules are that a client must get a pedicure at least once every two months. Once a client has paid for five pedicures, the sixth one is free.

144. Whet the client’s appetite for more. A salon on the East Coast offers a French manicure tip on one finger for free. Many of its customers like the way it looks so much better than their own natural nails that they come back for a full set.

145. Raffle your services at women’s organizations, at events such as silent auctions. The organization earns money and you receive new clients and free advertising.

146. Offer a discount to customers if they pay for a group of services in advance. For example if you charge $20 for a fill, offer the fill at $17 if the client pays for 10 services in advance.

147. Hold a nail party for a local college sorority before a big formal. Offer the same to a high school before a prom.

148. Make people feel they are getting their money’s worth. Include a maintenance kit with all new full sets, give a small gift to first-time clients, or create informative handouts that describe nail services and between-visit care. Design coupons to give to each client to pass on to a friend.

149. Offer free 10 minute “try-me” services.

150. Make one evening a week “bargain night,” when customers can get their nails done at deep discounts. Everyone in the salon can participate, and you might even choose to use that evening to try out new products or do technical training with technicians.

151. Adorn every doorknob in town with a small bag that contains information about artificial nails, a small soda-can opener or other nail-related gift, and a discount coupon for a first set of nails.

152. On Mother’s Day, do a special promotion that invites clients to bring in their mother for a half-priced service or a free gift with her service. Sell gift certificates reflecting this promotion.

153. Discount the first fill for a new client to make sure she comes back to your salon and keeps the appointment.

154. Use the holidays to come up with exciting promotions. For instance, give your client half-off on her service if she brings in her boyfriend or husband for a manicure on Valentine’s Day.

155. Offer a special that reads “Free Introductory Nails!” The offer is valid if the customer prepays three maintenance appointments two weeks apart. The initial set is then free of charge.

156. Give each client two of your business cards with your name and the client’s name on them. Ask the client to give them out. When the cards are returned, reward her with a $5 gift certificate. Track all referrals and after a client has sent five, send her flowers. Everyone will want to know who sent the flowers and she will tell them it is her nail salon.

157. Give clients an incentive to be punctual to their appointments…and to make return appointments! If clients are early, take $2 off their fill or set. If they are right on time, take $1 off.

158. Keep track of clients’ anniversaries and encourage a new kind of togetherness with a two-for-one anniversary special. It’s a great way to introduce a wary spouse to the wonders of a salon service.

159. When you announce an upcoming price increase, allow clients to buy a series of services at the old rate, providing they pay in advance.

160. Offer a discount to grocery store cashiers. Their nails are seen by a wide variety of potential customers.

161. Fine jewelry stores are a good source of referrals. Arrange for the store to give gift certificates for your services with every ring sale, or offer the clerk discounts in exchange for customer referrals.

162. Realtors are always looking for gifts to say “thank you” to clients. Since nothing destroys a manicure like moving, a gift certificate for your services is perfect.

163. For clients who keep sending you referrals, do something special. Write them a note at the holidays, telling them you’ve donated a teddy bear to a local children’s charity in their name.

164. If you are approached to participate in an entertainment/coupon book, do it. These books are extremely popular, and people actually do use the coupons. Ask to see a sample of the book and/or a list of confirmed participants.

165. Try to include elements of amazement in your marketing pieces. Things that may seem ordinary to you may really impress clients if they knew about them.

166. Offer complimentary services to first-time customers, such as a free paraffin treatment or a free bottle of cuticle oil.

167. Throw a party (no occasion is necessary), and ask each of your clients to bring a friend. Offer great refreshments, and party favors, such as a new polish color or bottle of cuticle oil. Make sure everyone signs a guest book, with their name, address, and phone number for post-party mailings.

168. Lure male clientele into your salon with services and retail products they can really use, like paraffin dips for dried and chapped hands, cuticle cream in handy bottles, or a home manicure kit with clippers, scissors, and orangewood sticks.

169. Focus on superior end results: Post a mission statement for all staff and clients to see.

170. Stand out from the crowd. Is your décor unique, do you use odorless products, offer a service no one else does? Make sure the world knows about it.

171. Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet. Use all the advantages online services can provide.

172. Check out local radio station programming. One salon got involved with a program called the “Radio Shopping Show.” The station sold 10 manicures, five pedicures, 10 full sets, and 10 fills at a discount for a one-week period. In return, every time a service was sold over the air, the station did a mini-promotion for the salon, and the money was credited to radio time for radio commercials.

173. Offer a standard fill price, which includes everything, including replacement tips or even French manicure polish.

174. Offer any service you want to build for free to existing clients. A quick mini facial can be a nice bonus after a manicure or pedicure.

175. Give employees incentives for bringing in new clients. For example, if a nail technician brings in 10 new clients in a month, boost her commission 10% the following month. Or, if salon sales are up by at least 20% over the previous year, treat your entire staff to a cash bonus or trip.


176. Do you compete? Have you won awards for your nail work? Publicize your achievements! People like to associate with professionals with credentials and accomplishments.

177. Emphasize excellent sanitation.

178. Keep your work consistently great.

179. Never malign other salons, only promote yours. Emphasize your salon’s cleanliness, sanitation, seminar attendance, and use of state-of-the-art products and equipment.

180. Keep your workstation neat and clean.

181. If you’re not confident with your skills, it will reflect in your quality of work, and your clients will know it. Go to trade shows, attend distributor classes, read trade magazines, join nail industry organizations, and watch and learn from other nail technicians.

182. Don’t neglect salon ventilation. Customers may be put off by smells and odors, not to mention the health effects of improper ventilation.


183. Offer a cash-back incentive for the receptionist for each new client booked, such as $10 off a full set, and $5 off a fill. The client must first come in and have the service done. 184. Are you in the wrong market? Are you an upscale salon in a working-class neighborhood? Then adjust your prices and salon hours to match the needs and budget of your market, or move your salon closer to the target market.

185. Trend watch: older clientele. The oldest baby boomers are in their fifties now, and they’re willing and able to pay salons to keep them looking younger. Target them with your service menu, polish colors, and the music you play.

186. Trend watch: Kids. Draw in the pre-teen crowd by offering trendy nail colors, manicures, and maybe nail art and polish-secured charms.

187. Be a trend-spotter and move quickly, or your trend will become old hat. Take time to talk to potential clients, friends, family, and other individuals to see if any patterns pop out at you.

188. It is the age of access. Make sure that clients of all kinds have access to your products and services. It is a priority, clients will make the time and money available to sample your services repeatedly.

189. Energy, not time, is the currency of the future. The number-one goal of your client is to preserve their energy and accumulate more. People will trade time for a product or service that cuts down on hassle, concern, and anxiety.

190. Pay attention to people with disabilities. They are becoming a bigger market and if you can serve them better than your competitors, you may be able to capture a loyal and lucrative customer base.


191. Be careful to book clients efficiently. Book appointments back-to-back with no holes so you use your workday to make the most money and service as many clients as possible.

192. Keep good records. You need to have a client card on everyone so you can keep track of what product you used and modifications to your work. Use this information by reviewing it prior to the client’s appointment.

193. Develop a computer database and track client services, upcoming appointments, promotional efforts, even her birth-date.

194. A good computer inventory system will make sure you never run out of your client’s favorite products. Also, you will know whether the higher-or lower- priced items are selling better and can re-stock accordingly.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.