What should I do to get the paying, loyal clients I need?


I am a seasoned nail tech and have just opened a nail salon. I need help sustaining new and regular clients in this economy. I have done many coupon sites (Groupon, Living Social, etc.) to build business and it has been a pain — plus my price point is higher than neighborhood discount salons. I’m not sure what to do to get the paying, loyal clients I need.


As a salon owner for over 20 years, I find that coupon sites tend to bring in the bargain shopper who skips from shop to shop looking for a deal. Sometimes they come in once, or maybe even several times, but it isn’t long until they leave looking for a cheaper deal. In my salon we are not the cheaper deal, so this type of advertising is simply not a good fit. The type of customer I want in my salon is one who has her nails done as a lifestyle.

The first thing you need to do is change the way you think about your business. Stop competing with the discount salons! Unless you want to do $15 full sets and mani-pedis for $25, you will never beat them. Make your salon and the customer’s experience the polar opposite of the salons that are discounting every service to get customers in their doors. Once you do that you are ready to start bringing in clients who never miss appointments and book standings that last for years.

Now let’s talk about how to get those types of customers. First, start off with a website that is fun and edgy. My site (www.fingersnailstudios.com) is simple, but it brings in the majority of my new customers. Be sure that your site contains more photos than words. In our business, photos sell. Next, get your fans working for you. My best customers always come from the word-of-mouth of others. Also, partner up with non-nail salons and get your nails on every stylist and colorist you can; they love to talk (and yes, give them a professional discount). The people in their chairs are stuck looking at the professional’s hands and listening to them like an infomercial. Finally, get your salon name and photos of your work on everything you can so people start recognizing your salon name. Don’t be afraid to sing your own praises. Call and talk to every publication you can from newspapers to magazines and even local radio stations and tell them why your salon is so different. Take every opportunity to put your salon name out there.

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give is to make sure that each and every customer who walks through your door feels like she is appreciated. Give out small gifts or run promotions for regular customers. I like to play games and make it fun. One of the craziest things I have done was giving every customer a neon pink nail polish antenna ball. My staff and I would write down the license plate numbers of the cars we saw with them and we would pick one number and post it in the salon. When the customer would come back in for her next appointment and see her license plate posted, she would win a free pedicure for herself and a friend. What I gained by doing this was:

1. Customers had a chance to win something of value because they were a customer.

2. I had a chance to get a new customer by them bringing in a friend.

3. The neon pink antenna balls got noticed by the public (each one had our name on it).

4. The only way the customer would know if she had won is if she returned for another appointment.     

— Shari Finger is the owner of Finger’s Nail Studio in W. Dundee, Ill.

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