Business Management

Recession-Proofing Your Salon

History has proved that even during economic downturns, people will continue to pay for a little bit of “feel good.” Here are some ideas to make sure your salon can maintain a thriving clientele even in tough times.

While it’s true that some regions are seeing business closures and downsizing, it’s been seen through the years that beauty services have staying power. For example, during the recession of the 1980s, acrylic nail services not only survived, but established a firm foothold in the monthly household budget for a wide spectrum of clients. A savvy nail tech will not focus on sensationalistic headlines, but will use smart marketing and promotions to forge ahead and -secure her clientele.

Create an Event
After several slow weeks during the summer, Kathryn Pless, a nail tech at Back Door Nails and Hair Care Salon in Dade City, Fla., created a Back-to-School Special with a $5 discount off her regular prices for full sets, facials, and pedicures. She created posters for the front of the salon, her station, and the beauty supply store that is attached to her salon. The week before school started in her area, she did three full sets, and was careful to talk to all of her clients about all of her services. This led to several pedicure appointments with clients who’ve never taken advantage of them in the past. She had a set time this special price was in effect and then reverted to her regular pricing.

Target A Group
1 Dial in on your specific target market. Make a list of descriptive characteristics of your ideal client: young mothers, students, professional women, nurses, bank tellers, etc.
2 Next, think about what would appeal to that group: pampering versus reduced amenities along with reduced prices, easy in-and-out versus standing appointments, etc.
3 Create a marketing campaign that suits your target market. Give them what will appeal to them, and then ask them to help you by referring their peers.
A great example of target-specific marketing is demonstrated by Maggie Franklin, a nail tech at -Attitudes Salon in Visalia, Calif. Franklin says, “Girls who are in high school and college are living at home with parents. They don’t have to pay rent or mortgages. They usually have low, or no, car payments and they don’t buy groceries! Teens have more money than ever now, and a higher portion of their income is -discretionary.” Accordingly, Franklin has targeted her advertising in hip, fresh ways: She uses MySpace as well as her own website featuring “Rock Star Nails.” This has resulted in increasing her “findability” by high-tech teens.

Put Your Clients to Work For You
We’ve all heard that word-of-mouth is the best advertising, but what does that really mean?
1. Perform top-notch services — every time.
2. Tell your clients what to say about you.
3. Make it worth their while to help you out.

Michelle Cordes, a nail technician at Steel Magnolias Salon in Bremerton, Wash., has this concept down to a science. “We have not discounted our services, rather we have refocused on the value we offer to our clients. By continuing to be dedicated to our clientele, offering beautiful pink-and-white sculptured acrylic nails and giving fabulous customer service, the referrals keep rolling in to fill our books.

“We stick to the basics and do them every time: beautiful nails in an hour, free beverages, free jewelry cleaning, exfoliating scrub before you wash, lotion application with light massage. Create ‘raving fans’ and you will continue to build your book,” she says.

Cordes goes on to say, “Educate your clients. Let them understand why you charge as much as you do.” This way they will have answers when someone asks them about their beautiful nails.

Think about what you want your customers to say about you and your services and give your clients “sound bites” they can easily remember when the topic of nails comes up. You want your clients saying things like “She’s the Queen of Clean when it comes to nail services” or “Gorgeous nails every time is their motto” or “I always feel so pampered when I go there.”

Referral Programs Really Do Work
Give your clients a little “thank you” for their referrals. Cordes offers $5 off your next service for a referral, or the client can save three referrals for a free pedicure. She says this has been a popular feature of her salon for more than 11 years.

Adrienne Schodtler of Hair, Body & Sole Salon and Spa in Apex, N.C., has a couple variations on the same theme: “I have done referral rewards a few ways: one is a basket of goodies that clients look at during every appointment. Another is with mystery gift envelopes. I usually run the contest for about two months. For the goodie basket, each referral gets an entry into a fishbowl and we draw one out the last day. For the mystery envelopes, I put out a basket with about 30 to 40 plain envelopes. I write the gifts out and place a certificate in the envelope. When the client comes in, she gets to choose an envelope for each referral. I give away free services, free retail, and miscellaneous $5 and $10 gift cards. The grand prize is in one envelope — usually a $50 certificate. This is a little more work, but the mystery seems to draw a lot of excitement. All in all, I try not to spend more than $150 on either contest, and I’ve had great luck at retaining those referrals for the most part.”

The Last-Minute Waltz
Athena Elliott, owner of SPAthena -inside K. Renee Salon in Houston, was disturbed by unfilled blocks of time and decided to do something about it. She launched an e-mail blast with her clients who wished to be included. She would take a look at her schedule in the evenings and send out a note stating what openings were available for the next day. This was successful in itself, but became cumbersome and she now uses an online service called Constant Contact ( that manages this process for her for a very reasonable fee. To further encourage last-minute bookings, Elliott offers small service discounts. “I give $5 off pedicures (regularly $45) and $4 off manicures (regularly $22). My list for last-minute clients is now up to 35 and this has kept me busy and not sitting around doing my own nails!”

Get Them in Your Chair…and Keep Them There
Use your imagination to create something to talk about with all your clients. Your enthusiasm will pique their interest and is the best selling point of all.
• Give an open house — serve light refreshments and offer drawings.
• Start contests — who can send in the most new clients? Give a great prize.
• Make up your own holiday, like “The First Annual Love My Nails Festival” and offer thematic nail art.
• Buy-one-get-one-free offers and twofers. Bringing a friend means two new opportunities to gain a client.


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