One of the most exciting elements of the ’95 show season was the chance to pull up some chairs with other salon owners and have a roundtable discussion of concerns and challenges facing all of us in this business. Realizing that we aren’t in this alone and that we share so many of the same questions was a great comfort to me – and hearing the diverse responses fellow salon owners had was inspiring.
This month, we have a panel of equally diverse salon owners who, along with myself, share their answers to some of the questions I am most frequently asked.
How do you separate your salon from the bargain shop?
Lulu Benavidez: Our customers see an immediate visual difference because of our modern equipment and quality products. Our personnel is supported by continuing education and certification within our system so that our customers receive a standardized service from all our technicians.
Teri Taylor: The ambiance of our salon makes an immediate impression on a first-time client. Warmth and comfort just aren’t offered at the bargain salon. We have lots of amenities such as gourmet food, wine, and coffee, and you can pick up a gift from our both and bath selection. Combine these value-added extras with high-caliber technical service and you have no competition.
Suzanne Barr-Allamong: Our one-on-one personal greeting and highly evolved communication technique are our secrets. Bargain salons tend to be anonymous. No one knows your name or cares if you become a return customer. We build our business on the repeat client who appreciates our equality product lines and service.
Paula Gilmore: The image we present in our written materials and our involvement within our community and industry are things a high-end client can relate to and appreciate. Being able to communicate our image within the first 30 seconds on the phone so that we can justify the price difference is key
What has been the most important new service or technique that has impacted the profitability of your nail care business?
Benavidez: Adding the “Spa Manicure and Pedicure.” Which incorporates aromatherapy products, has been a huge hit. People are looking for ways to beat their stressful lifestyles, and aromatherapy products do just that. We also added the “Sport Manicure and Pedicure,” which uses deep-heating products and a deep-tissue massage technique.
Taylor: This year I brought a new nail enhancement technique into the salon that clients just love. It’s a permanent French manicure look created by using acrylic with a gel overlay. That fresh, natural look keeps them coming back.
Barr-Allamong: Airbrushing has made us a star. Word of mouth from our current clients has brought new ones in to try air-brushed nails. Our average ticket price per visit has also gone up dramatically since we began offering this service.
Gilmore: The best thing that has happened to our business in years is the new French white tip being offered now. We can do a set of nails in about 15 minutes less time than before, which leaves more time to sell. This bright-while French look has become our “signature nail” at Tips. Our clients say they hear, “Your nails are beautiful, did you have them done at Tips?”
How do you motivate your technicians?
Benavidez: We start with salon meetings once a month. We include guest speakers from the community college to help with communication skills and we have training programs twice a month. There is a bonus program for performance that awards nice gilt certificates to the top achievers.
Taylor: I motivate first and foremost with my own enthusiasm and work ethic. Leading by example gives my people parameters by which they can build their own successes. They are also encouraged by our 25% retail commission.
Barr-Allamong: We start our day by listening to Tony Bobbins’ tapes while we are preparing for the day ahead. He is very inspirational and helps each person to focus on their personal goals. Whatever “baggage” someone brought with them to work is hopefully left the door.
Gilmore: We try to create the culture that we are all equal partners in our own success instead of the boss-and-staff relationship. By empowering everyone to create and participate in promotions and customer service, they take ownership in what they do and sell-govern themselves as well.
How do you market your salon?
Benavidez: Nothing impacts advertising like great photos. We use before-and-after shots in our newspaper ads and as posters in the salon. The makeover approach always works.
Taylor: Since we are still a new salon we are trying lots of things. I had a solid professional reputation before opening my salon. Word of mouth still seems to be number one, but we have also purchased a yellow pages ad and have distributed fliers in the neighborhood and at the community center. We held our first “Toys for Tots” open house and have submitted a press release about the event to the local paper.
Barr-Allamong: We network with either salons and have created seminars for clients that included full-image information and color analysis. Our “Optical Illusions” program even includes choosing the right eyeglass-wear. We also promote the seminars through the chamber of commerce and women’s clubs, and we kick back part of the profit to charily.
Gilmore: A strong referral program helps keep in mind the most important thing when closing a service — to ask that client to give your card to a friend. We use our “Dazzle Dollars” to thank every client that sends someone new in. Our V.I.H. (Very Important Hands) program for local businesses is a low-cost way to attract new clients from local businesses. We are also in our sixth year of involvement with the regional “Toys for Tots” program.
As you can see, there are very different answers to each of these hot questions, all of which are valuable in varied circumstances. Being involved in a focus group with your peers at a show, seminar, or association is really worth your while. You might not always agree with everything, but you can contribute your passion and exchange ideas with others and take some new ideas back to try in your own salon.