Marketing & Promotions

Dear Shari Talks About Building a Clientele

How does a new graduate go about building her clientele? Veteran salon owner Shari Finger has 10 tips to get started.

In her “Dear Shari” column, veteran nail tech Shari Finger — owner of Finger’s Nail Studio in W. Dundee, Ill. — fields reader questions in the areas of salon management and workplace politics. 

Dear Shari,

I have been out of school for a little over a year now and have been at the same salon since I graduated. I am still struggling to fill my book and feeling very stagnant. I am willing to do whatever it takes to pull in business, but am out of ideas. Please help!



Dear Discouraged: It may simply be the market. Many salons have reported that right now they are experiencing their worst numbers and lowest client retention rates. So if you’re a new tech just building a book, this may be part of the problem. Before you start marketing yourself, you must be completely trained. If you’re still in the learning stage or practicing on clients, do yourself a favor and get yourself a mentor. You must be able to do beautiful nails in a reasonable amount of time. You don’t want to get a bad reputation. The competition is too tight, and you may lose customers before you even get them. You must be the best! With that said, here are some tips on building a clientele:

1. Let the customers you already have work for you. Every person comes in contact with about 200 people on a regular basis. Give each of your clients something to talk about. Give them an extra-wonderful hand massage after each service, a great polish color, nail art, or a special gift, to name just a few possibilities. Make it your goal that every person who enters your salon leaves just bursting to tell someone about how great you are.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for the referral. At every service when a customer pays, hand her two cards and ask her to pass them along when someone compliments her nails.

3. Make it worth it. Give them something for each referral they send — perhaps a gift certificate to give to another new customer or a free paraffin, bottle of polish, or hot rock massage.

4. Wear your work. Your nails should look perfect all the time — no excuses! Learn how to do nails with nails. Sell your work all the time.

5. Offer free or discounted services to people who will go out and plug your work. Find the people with personality or the right profession such as hairdressers, bartenders, and cashiers.

6. Post your salon info and deal coupons every place you can without being arrested. Name recognition is important. Experts say it takes seeing a business name seven times before the consumer remembers it.

7. Be able to work when the customer needs you. Always be there for a last-minute fix. Don’t let the client try another salon.

8. Offer services that your competition has never heard of. Stay on top of the newest products and techniques.

9. If your competition is doing acrylics, start doing gels. If they airbrush nail designs, you hand paint them. Always offer something different.

10. Never give up. It takes a long time to build a reputation and a clientele you can support yourself on. But it is well worth it once you earn it.

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