Salon Marketing Strategies: How Much Should I Spend?

Running a successful salon requires more than just delivering excellent customer service and being a professional at your craft of styling hair or providing other esthetician services – it means that you need to be a savvy business owner and stay on top of the latest salon marketing strategies. Fortunately, today there are lots of great online tools and updated techniques for nurturing customer relationships, finding new customers and growing your salon business.

We talked with Lindsay Joy Higgins, a former hair stylist who now runs her own marketing consulting business in Boston called “Leave it to Lindsay,” specializing in social media marketing and email marketing for small businesses like salons, restaurants and retail stores. Lindsay has some great ideas for how salon owners and independent stylists can implement smart, efficient salon marketing strategies to get more customers in the chair. 

What’s the biggest marketing challenge for most salon owners?

Salon owners and stylists are very busy and pressed for time. Salon marketing is hard when you’re behind the chair all day and already taking your lunch breaks in the laundry room between clients. I’ve been there!

The number one thing I tell my clients looking to fill their books with more appointments is that to grow your business, it’s essential to have a relationship with your existing clients so they can spread the word for you. You know those nice, pretty emails with pictures you get from your favorite beauty brands like Sephora or Victoria’s Secret? Salon owners can use this same concept – but at a small business price point. At $20 per month (the cost of one men’s haircut) a salon can stay in touch with their clientele via email with a subscription to Constant Contact email marketing software. See for yourself and try a free demo here.

What are some apps or online tools for customer loyalty programs or customer relationship management (CRM) that salons should consider using?  

As I mentioned, my number #1 marketing software that I recommend to all of my salon clients is Constant Contact. Although known for being the leader in email marketing, Constant Contact has so many additional marketing tools available in their platform for salons to engage their customers and cultivate customer loyalty.

For example, you can use their Facebook Fan Promotions tool to increase your Facebook likes, collect new email addresses and hold your own Facebook sweepstakes like “Enter to Win A Salon Gift Bag!” You can organize special events at your salon like “Bubbles & Blow Outs,” by collecting event registrations, integrating the event with social media, encouraging guests to bring a friend to enjoy champagne and learn how to do a stellar blow dry. You can even send a survey to clients to find out what social media network they utilize most or find out what they really think about your business.

As for CRM software, a lot of the salons I work with use HairMax or MindBody.

What do you think are the biggest marketing mistakes that salon owners/stylists make? 

One of the biggest mistakes I see salons making is not focusing on taking care of their existing clients or the new clients who have recently visited the salon. By taking care of your existing clients and by providing a consistent, phenomenal salon experience, you’ll never need to worry about finding new customers. Let’s say a new client, Jill, has an appointment for a haircut with your stylist, Susan. Susan was very pleasant to Jill, gave her a great haircut and then sent a personalized thank you card to Jill after her service. Jill then wants to tell every one of her friends about this phenomenal experience with Susan. I think a lot of the time stylists and owners don’t realize that 80 percent of your future revenue will come from 20 percent of your existing clientele.

How do you feel about offering a referral bonus to existing customers? For example, if an existing customer refers a new client who pays $100 for a haircut and coloring, isn’t that worth a pretty big bonus – like $50 to the referring customer? Or how do you decide where/how to draw the line for how much to “pay” your existing customers to reward them for new business referrals? 

Your clients are a marketing department for your business and a walking billboard for your salon. If you do good work, then your client is going to want to tell all of their friends to go see you. Whether you have a structured referral program in place with handout cards, or you ask every client in your chair to write you a Facebook review, every salon should have some sort of strategy in place to motivate your existing clients to spread the word about your business.

Before you can determine the amount you’re willing to give a client who refers a friend, you need to know your numbers and know how much a client is worth to your salon. Take a look at your last five clients that were referred by an existing customer. How many appointments have they had in the last year? How long have they been a customer since they were referred? How much was their average service? Identifying some of these numbers will give you better insight on what you can afford to offer as a referral commission.

One thing to keep in mind when coming up with your referral amount is to think like your customer. Is 10 percent off enough to get a customer excited about spreading the word? Or would $25 off their service get more traction? It’s about seeing what works for your salon financially and understanding the profile of your clientele.

Are there any “overrated” social media techniques for salons? For example, is Instagram too cluttered, is Pinterest played out? Should successful salons just keep their marketing simple and focus on the work that’s going on in the chair, instead of trying to be on social media all the time? 

If you’re looking to prioritize where to spend your time, I recommend putting email marketing at the top of your priority list because it’s still the best way to reach your client directly. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, all the social media networks out there all have one thing in common – they require an email address to log in to your account.

As far as whether to spend your time on networks like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. take a look at what social network you have the most fans currently and focus your efforts where your fans are spending their time. If you aren’t sure, this would be something you could ask your customers about in a survey. If your average client is age 50-70, then Instagram or Twitter is probably not the best network to spend your time.

Lindsay Joy Higgins is a former stylist turned marketing CEO of a Boston-based social media agency, Leave it to Lindsay.  Lindsay is a Master Certified Constant Contact Local Expert specializing in email marketing and social media strategies. Say hello on Twitter @LindsayJHiggins.

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