Call them freebies, gifts, or giveaways; whatever term you choose, everyone loves getting something free. “Whether you’re looking to create a new database, revise an old one, or service existing clients, freebies are a great tool,” says Derek Crowe, director of operations at Williams & Associates, a marketing firm in Tucson, Ariz. Giving away a nail file or pen with your salon’s name imprinted on it can help you do all those things.
Giveaway items can pique a potential customer’s interest when the item is inserted in a direct mailing piece. They can encourage receivers to fill out a questionnaire or convince people to visit your salon. They’re a great way to renew interest and excitement in your services while introducing or reinforcing your business name. According to Tanya Baugus of the Promotional Products Association International in Irving, Texas, over 15,000 types of promotional products are handed out each year. “The largest category of giveaway items are wearables,” Baugus says. “The second largest category is writing instruments. Other popular products include desk, office, and business accessories, jewelry, clocks, watches, glassware, ceramics, calendars, sporting goods, buttons, badges, ribbons, stickers, and magnets.”
“There are many different ways salon owners can use this type of advertising,” Crowe says. “People are always complaining about breaking their nails when they try to open envelopes and packages, for instance. So why not create a promotional or direct mail campaign around a catchy slogan such as, ‘Stop breaking your nails, along with a free letter opener that they can use over and over again? That’s a great way to grab new clients and keep old ones walking through the door.”
Some popular items Crowe has obtained for Tucson salons include letter openers, pop top openers, and sunglasses. “One salon owner we worked with sold a lot of retail items,” he says, “so we imprinted the business name on plastic bags.” Other ideas that have garnered a positive response include sunshades, small plastic garbage bags, and air fresheners for hanging inside cars. Portable-sized nail adhesive, perfect for emergencies, is another client-pleaser.
Freebies don’t have to cost a lot of money to the salon. Crowe says he can easily help salon owners create a promotion for as little as $300, and many salon owners report they’vde spent $500 or less on successful campaigns.
Peter’s Nails in Kensington, Md., for example, gives away several different items each year, ranging from inexpensive to more costly purchases. “One of our most popular winter giveaways was an ice scraper with our name on it,” says Patty Ovando, the salon’s manager/receptionist. “That was more expensive item, but well worth the cost because of the excitement it generated. We’ve also made up key chains with bottle openers and pull-tab openers that our customers really appreciate, as well as calendars, daily planners, magnetic plastic refrigerator sheets that come with a special pen to write and wipe, coffee mugs, watches, two types of key rings with flashlights, and water bottles--- to name just a few.”
To help develop novel ideas, Peter’s Nails works with a local advertising company. Crowe recommends that salon owners selecting items should consider spending a few dollars more for useful, memorable ones so their promotional item doesn’t windup in the trash can. In today’s business climate salon owners have to do everything they can to keep their steady clients. Purchasing a more expensive but more durable giveaway may be a wise investment in the long run because it may cost $25 in advertising costs to grab a new client, but it takes a lot less than that to keep an old one.”
Shelly Gerig, owner of AAA Classic Nails & Tanning in Fort Wayne, Ind., says it’s important to reward steady clients for their continued loyalty and patronage. She purchased 250 coffee mugs at $2 each for the holiday season. “I designed the cups myself,”Gerig says, “With the words, ‘Customer Satisfaction’written in a circle around the words ‘Rule Number One.’ That’s our motto. The other side has our salon name.”
To make the gift extra-special, Gerig is going to fill each mug with specialty coffees before giving them as presents to her steady clients.
While Gerig intends to tuck an added gift inside her freebie, other salon owners have generated excitement by hiding freebies inside something else. One salon ran a promotion where clients who spent over a certain dollar amount were entitled to choose among the many helium balloons resting on the salon’s ceiling. Inside each balloon was a gift certificate for a free service or a take home nail item, such as a file. Clients loved tnhe drama of popping a balloon to see what prize they won.
Brenda Sweat, owner of Nails by Brenda & Bridal Boutique in San Jose, Calif., ran a successful promotion by placing a surprise inside each of her handmade purses. “I do a lot of bridal conventions,” she says. “At one show, every bride who purchased one of my white carry-on purses found a free nail gift inside. The brides really liked it and it generated a lot of nail business for me.”
Other items clients don’t throw away are punch cards. “When the card is full and they’ve earned a free service, they get so excited,” says one technician. “Maybe it’s because they’re not paying for it. I don’t know, but they seem to enjoy that free service more than the others. Clients are always asking when we’re going to run that promotion again.” Equally popular are punch cards used for referral programs where clients receive a free service or product after they bring five or relatives to the shop.
Other irresistible promotions are those centered around free nail art or paraffin dips. “It’s an inexpensive way to introduce potential clients to both your touch and style,” Sweat says. “It’s also a great way to introduce clients to a new service.”
Sabrina Evertz, owner of Nails by Sabrina, part of Gwen’s Salon in Los Gatos\, Calif., offers her clients a potpourri of free services, products, and novelty items in the form of an innovative, monthly calendar. “It’s about the size of a daily planner,” Evertz says, “so clients can carry it with them or post it under a magnet on their refrigerator Steady clients receive a laminated calendar in the mail each month, while clients I haven’t seen for a while, or new people, receive one that isn’t laminated.” Each calendar includes Evertz’s business name, phone number, page number, and salon hours. Graphics and nail specials change monthly. July, for example, was decorated with the American flag, August featured a full-color design. Specials included a Saturday bring-your-friend offer, a free gift Sunday where clients could choose from a grab bag of items including nail files, lotions, and cuticle oil, and a weekday that touted a free manicure with every pedicure. “Usually I have alternating manicure and pedicure specials,” Evertz says. “I’ve gotten such a good response to my calendars that I’m constantly coming up with new ideas to keep clients asking and anticipating, ‘What is she going to do next month?’”
Still another successful freebies is one that enhances your salon’s image while giving to the community. “At least three times a year I make up baskets for charity auctions and other local events,” Sweat says. “I give away several $30 gift certificates for a manicure/pedicure package, and once a year, I create a $100 gift basket filled with gift certificates and products for the local PBS fundraiser.”
With companies spending an approximate $5.2-$6.2 billion on giveaways each year, one thing is certain: There’s profit in those pens, magnets, and other freebies that most of us have tucked in one or more drawers, displayed on our refrigerators, or hidden in our car glove compartment. In a society where it’s getting harder to get something for nothing, the best promotional tool of all just might be that little word, “FREE.”