From Halloween to New Year’s Day, most salons are fully booked; some even add temporary staff for the holiday rush. Once January arrives, though, it’s as though your clients have flown south for the winter. Business slows down and new clients are almost unheard of. Many salons report that client bookings slack off during January and February as clients begin feel the effects of Christmas shopping sprees.

Cold weather help much either - winter hibernation applies to more than four-legged creatures. Face it. It’s cold, it’s dark early, it’s raining or snowing; wouldn’t you think twice about heading outdoors? A warm fire and a mug of hot cocoa are much more appealing than going in for a nail appointment.

Instead of just waiting for the weather to warm up and draw clients out with the spring thaw, shrewd salon owners start planning now to fuel the spring rush. Since promotions take 30 to 60 days to plan successfully, you need to start planning now for the first day of spring. Promotions can be simple short-term discounts or packages that combine services offered in your salon. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Planning on Success

Planning a promotion may seem quite daunting, though it needn’t be if you take control and make detailed plans.

Start with your spring theme. Involve the salon staff in a brain storming session to come up with promotion ideas. Don’t reject any ideas at this point, no matter how absurd they seem. The most ridiculous suggestion can evolve into an inspired promotion.

After the meeting, review your notes. Which of your services or products needs a boost? You can promote products and services individually or you can combine them for special packages. Nail clients visit the salon on average every two weeks, which means you need to develop six promotion plans for the three-month spring season . Simplicity, creativity, and cost-effectiveness are three key points to remember when developing promotion ideas.

Plan each promotion with a specific objective in mind. You can increase new clients, retail sales, or regular client services, but you can’t do all three in one month-long promotion. What services are in the greatest demand during spring? What services do nail technicians, estheticians, and hair-stylists feel deserve more attention? What services can be combined for attractive discount packages? What retail products need boosted sales? The answers will help you create the most popular promotions.

Think about how you’ll advertise your promotion. Besides newspapers, weekly shoppers, direct mailings, fliers, and door hangers, you can also use window signs and displays, banners, and roadside signs. Choose a method that you’ve already used successfully, but don’t limit yourself. You will miss a large segment of the community if you never advertise anywhere except in the weekly shopper.

Don’t neglect interior promotions tailor-made for your regular clients. Discounted services, a free gift with service, or a specially priced package deal can be promoted through in-salon advertising or direct mail campaigns to past and current salon clients. This type of promotion can be used to introduce regular clients to services they’ve never tried, and it may draw past clients back into your salon.

Finalize other details - printing needs, extra supplies, and staff assignments - before you call another staff meeting. Use this second meeting to arouse your staff’s team spirit and involve employees in the added responsibility. Artistic nail technicians may enjoy making promotional posters, painting window messages, or designing retail displays. A nail technician with a flair for organization can be responsible for coordinating tasks and keeping an eye on all the details. A resourceful employee could bargain the best prices for printing needs. Note employees’ talents and assign tasks accordingly or ask for volunteers.

Working with Team Spirit

Salon promotions are a cooperative effort. Schedule time for yourself and employees to work on promotions to turn slow times into grow times. Emphasize teamwork and the opportunity for increased income-for both the nail technicians and the salon.

Honesty and diplomacy are the best policies when delegating promotional duties. Granted, commissioned employees must “donate” time to prepare for promotions, and some services will be discounted, meaning another loss of income for them. Viewed another way, though, these employees are working for higher volume, hence higher income. And, as one salon owner notes, there’s almost always a spare 15 minutes somewhere in the day.

Compromise with commissioned employees by negotiating hourly rates for time spent working on promotions. Or, implement promotions profit-sharing. Say a salon normally earns $10,000 per month, and a month long promotion boots earnings to $15,000. If the promotion generated $5,000 in extra business and cost the salon $1,000 to execute, a $4,000 profit remains. If salon employees agree to split 20 percent of the profits among themselves, and there are eight employees, each person would receive a $100 bonus. Plus, employees will benefit from the new regular clients attracted to the salon by the promotion.

Salaried employees are paid for their presence; they will be doing extra work and should be compensated for it. Sales contests, incentive motivators. You can require participation, but you can’t force enthusiasm. There’s nothing wrong with stimulating employees through healthy competition and excitement. After all, promotions should inject new life, besides business, into the salon.

You can also rotate assignments so employees won’t become bored or resentful. If you have 10 employees, break monthly tasks into five jobs, and have employees rotate assignments. Even if there are only six employees, every month one person is off.

Promotions should be mentioned to clients every time a new appointment is booked, and promotional products should be used with each service. Many clients will purchase the product once the technician explains its benefits and mentions the limited-time promotional special. If an employee avoids participation, don’t immediately berate her. Choose a time and place you can talk privately and address the problem. She may feel shy or pushy, and any anger on your part will only worsen the situation. Instead, practice retailing techniques in the next sales meeting. Set up mock sales opportunities and let technicians practice selling to each other. People become more comfortable selling once they know how to suggest purchases for home care and how to respond to questions.

Promotions That Work   

As important as preparation and participation are, you first need an idea that works. Be innovative-what are you currently not doing for clients? Think of themes that will fulfill a fantasy or need of potential clients.

Once you’ve determined your objective and theme, take stock of your salon. What services do you offer clients and how to these services complement each other? What retail products do you carry? Look at services through your clients’ eyes, and see what they do. To the nail technician, a pedicure with a foot massage cleans, relaxes, and moisturizes the feet; reduces calluses; and maintains, shapes, and polishes the toenails. To your client, a pedicure makes her feel sexy, beautiful, and ready for those spring-time strappy sandals. Tell the client how what you’re offering will fulfill what she wants.

Sharon Esche of Sharon Esche and Associates has handled public relations for companies in the beauty industry for 23 years. Esche suggests full-service salons offer complimentary total image consultations for working women. Give your client “The Collected You,” a 10-minute color design team analysis with the hairstylist, nail technician, and an esthetician. Half the clients will book additional services right then, says Esche, and an additional 25 percent will book an appointment later.

Another highly successful way to increase clientele is to host a “Spring Shape Up for Nails” open house. Invite regular clients, friends, or the whole community (just be sure you have space to accommodate everyone who shows up). Offer refreshments and invite a guest speaker to talk about new seasonal colors, and how nail colors are part of the total picture. Trends, tips, technology, tools - share some of your technical world with the client, says Esche.

 “Consider inviting a guest speaker from a manufacturer or distributor. Give away a little nail care package filled with products, new colors, etc.”

 “Spring Out of Winter” with a promotion emphasizing warmth vibrancy, and natural beauty. Esche suggests asking manufacturers and distributors for seasonal nail fashion visuals - photos, posters, etc. Display visuals in the windows, reception area, work-station, everywhere in the salon. Esche also advises salons to create a portfolio of nail looks, fashions and care articles for clients to read. After all, most hair salons offer hairstyle books for clients to peruse while they wait for appointments. Take photos of everyone’s best work, clip articles from magazines, and include color charts and guides for the products your salon carries.

Keep with the spring themes and offer clients something special. The salons we spoke with suggest manicures, pedicures, waxing, French manicures, and seasonal polish colors. Combine two or more services: “Cool Spring Fever” can include a manicure/pedicure or leg wax special. A nail and training salon can offer a free manicure with purchase of five tanning sessions. Nail and skin salons can promote skin care with a half-price facial when you receive a manicure or pedicure. Offer any combination of services already popular with clients.

Give your promotion an enticing name: Spring Fever, Spring Out of Winter, Spring Break, Vacation Getaway, etc.

The Envelope Please

Was the promotion a success? So-so? A complete failure? Review everything the salon did- and didn’t do- to make the community aware of the promotion. However well, or not so well, the promotion went, review all the details and note what did and didn’t work. Think about area where you need improvement. Maybe clients really liked the special but no one knew about it because you advertised in the wrong place. Maybe everyone saw the ad but they weren’t interested I what you were selling. Ask clients and technicians for their input and implement necessary changes for the next promotion.

Pay attention to every detail of a promotion’s success. Was February’s promotion a success while July totally bombed, even though the promotions were similar? It’s possible the service was wrong for that time of year. Paraffin dips are more popular in colder months, while French manicures are hot in summertime. If the service was suited to the season, look elsewhere. Is the service unpopular to begin with? Was the ad or flier difficult to read? Did employees suggest the promotional service to all clients? The failure could even stem from something as obscure as the color of paper used to print the flier.

Even though promotions are emphasized to spur growth, income, and a client base, they also revive the salon with intangible benefits. Excitement, enthusiasm, and a sense of purpose motivate everyone in the salon to perform better. A sense of direction and action allows everyone in the salon to enjoy high self-esteem, which reflects in all aspects of work-technical services, client relations, and retailing. Carefully planned promotions tell potential customers, “Come in and find out just how good we are.”

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