Salon Marketing That Sells - How to raise your prices and still out-sell your competition
Just out of curiosity, I had a casual glance through the Yellow Pages the other day, under “Beauty Salons”, looking for something that would catch my eye, fire my imagination.
Looking, in vain as it turns out, for something that would compel prospective clients to call.
Advert after advert, column after column, they all seemed to merge into an amorphous mass of sameness. A blur of “business cards”, big and small.
Some were splashed with colour. Others sported pictures of glamorous women. But there was nothing - not a single one - with a message that even faintly said “Here’s a great offer you won’t be able to resist.”
To tell the truth, I wasn’t at all surprised. Like most small business owners, beauty salon owners get all tied up working ‘in’ the business, and find themselves too frazzled, tired, and just plain too snowed-under to work ‘on’ the business. It happens, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
But there are some quick and relatively painless steps any salon owner can take to liven up the response to advertising and other marketing. I’ll give you some examples in a moment, but first, a point or two about marketing in general.
1. All businesses are the same. In my work, consulting in the salon industry as well as more than a dozen others, from health and cosmetic surgery to accounting, manufacturing and retail, I often get this plaintive cry when I take them through the basics of direct-response marketing.
“But my business is different. My clients are different, more sophisticated, they won’t go for that kind of stuff.”
Well, actually, all businesses are the same when it comes to the principles of marketing. Doesn’t matter what you’re selling, you still have to a) get their attention b) generate interest c) create desire d) and spark some action.
2. Claiming the high ground. There’s no point in marketing at all, if the most remarkable thing you can say is ‘hey, we’re at least as good as the next guy, how ‘bout trying us?’ You need to claim the high ground, claim some unclaimed territory. Who says you can’t claim to have ‘North London’s Most Sought-After Day Spa Treatments’? Has anybody else?
3. There’s no law against being outrageous, and having some fun. Most small business marketing - doesn’t matter which industry, but the beauty salon industry is as good a place as any to demonstrate this - is so unutterably dreary it should be used by parents as a sedative for hyperactive children. Yes, the atmosphere in a salon needs to be calming, soft, nurturing. But you have to get the clients in there first.
4. Make a Big Promise. To paraphrase ad guru David Ogilvy, there’s absolutely no point in marketing at all unless you’re prepared to make a big promise. Why would you bother spending money on advertising if all you could effectively say was “You will look quite normal.”?
5. Make an Offer. The offer, in any marketing, for any business, is the most important thing. Bar none. You can have all the fancy graphics, lovely swooning models, strong copy that says how wonderful you are, but if there’s no offer, what’s going to make anybody pick up the phone?
Okay, some examples.
On being BOLD. I wrote an ad for a salon client for the Yellow Pages. Small salon, small ad, so I didn’t have a lot of space to work with. I pondered…what was the biggest promise we could make, in such a tiny space. What about a bold headline that said….
“You’ll Be Delighted…or it’s FREE!”
Result? That one small change to the ad this salon owner had run in the previous year’s Yellow Pages increased response by no less than 30%. She tells me the ad paid for itself inside three months. Everything after that was pure cream.
A note about guarantees…for some strange reason, many business owners are terrified of them, afraid the customers will ‘rip us off’. Here’s the truth:
A strong guarantee’s ability to drive sales far, far outweighs its potential cost.
In fact, a guarantee full of conditions and fine print isn’t worth running at all.
“Money back guarantee, provided you bring back the widget on a Tuesday morning at 2.30am, accompanied by both your great grand-parents.” I call that kind of guarantee a…
And here’s another interesting thing about guarantees: most salons already refund purchases if there’s a complaint - they just don’t tell anybody about it. My contention - proven time and again to be valid - is that you should use a strong guarantee to make the sale in the first place, rather than using it as a fall-back in the event of an unhappy customer.
On making an OFFER. I’ll show you in a moment how to construct a compelling offer - after all, it is the most important part of any advertising. Yet so many business owners make the mistake of not bothering to make an offer at all, or thinking that discounting is actually an offer. It isn’t, and it will only harm your business.
Why? Because if you resort to discounting, there’ll always be somebody who’ll do it cheaper. Discounting is what I call ‘distress marketing’. Yes, it might work initially to drive sales. But it’ll have two disastrous effects:
1) It’ll put a big hole in your bottom line
2) Your clients will become conditioned to it, so they expect it all the time.
Now, some little-known secrets about building an offer. The key here is to offer massive perceived value - without the extras actually costing you much if anything at all.
For example, let’s say you’re a permanent makeup specialist, charging say £400 for eyebrows, eye-liner and lip-liner. It’s a high-margin sale, but so many practitioners seem compelled to discount at the first hint of buyer resistance.
Much better, instead of discounting, is to add extra value.
“Book Your Permanent Makeup and Receive a £55 Microdermabrasion treatment Free!”
The cost of providing that microdermabrasion treatment is negligible. But you’ve retained the full-price cosmetic tattooing and you’ve given yourself an opportunity to up-sell your new client on a full course of say, 6 microdermabrasion treatments at £55 each, less the one you’re giving away.
And you can go further. Much further. Here’s a headline I wrote for a salon recently:
“Be Among the First 10 to book a course of Microdermabrasion and You’ll Receive 6 Nights Free Holiday Accommodation Valued at $750″
Does that sound compelling? Sure does. Now, you’re probably asking ‘where’s the catch?’
There isn’t one. I discovered a remarkable little book which entitles the bearer to free accommodation at any of hundreds of hotels and resorts around Australia. The simple logic is that hotels on average are only 60% occupied. If they can fill unused rooms, even for nothing, they’ll at least make some money on food and alcohol sales.
And any salon can buy this little book for under $40 a client and use it quite legitimately to drive sales. Yes, it comes off your profit. But it’s profit you never would have had in the first place. Have a look around, try Google, there’s probably something similar in your area.
These are just a few of an infinite number of ways to build an offer. What a really strong offer does is ‘re-invent the business’ from being a commodity that prospective clients compare with your competition based on price alone, to a provider of a unique service that simply cannot be compared with what your rivals are offering.
Finally, on having FUN. As I said, most small business marketing is so dull it’d make Jim Carey weep. Here’s a headline I wrote for a salon newspaper ad that’s still running, and still gets the salon a 2 to 1 return on investment every time:
“Beauty Expert Swears on the Bible Her Permanent Makeup Treatments Contain No Illegal Sexual Stimulants”
A headline has only one job, and that’s to make people read the rest of the ad. That’s it, plain and simple. This one intrigues, it begs the question, “Mmmm, how about some of those legal sexual stimulants then…”
The ad goes on to make a limited time value-added offer, a money-back guarantee, and it contains a picture of the salon owner with the caption. “Number 1 Beauty Expert”. It’s a strong ad, and it works. Now, a confession: I stole that headline from an ad written many years ago by Gary Halbert, promoting a new perfume range by Tova Borgnine (wife of actor Ernest) in the Los Angeles Times.
I stole it, and modified it for my client’s use - and there’s nothing to stop you doing the same…looking around at other industries, pinching a good headline or idea, and migrating it across to your own business. Word of warning though, don’t do a straight steal from your own industry, or you could end up in court.
Hint: The name of your business is NOT a good headline for an ad. Yet how many Yellow Pages and press ads do you see committing precisely this cardinal sin of advertising? The name or logo of a business has never sold anything. Ever. Would McDonalds have sold a single hamburger if all they ever did was run ads showing those golden arches? No, of course they wouldn’t. Toyota has never sold a single car by headlining their ads with the company name. Neither has Microsoft with software. So why is it that tens of thousands of businesses waste money on expensive advertising with their name at the top of the ad?
I call them ‘advertising victims’. And there’s no reason why you need to be one, if you just put a little thought into what you’re selling. In fact, that’s the most important question you as a salon owner can ever ask yourself:
“What are we really selling?”
No, it’s not makeup, or facials, or skin peels or even any of the dozens of product lines you display in your reception area.
As Revlon founder Charles Revson famously declared, “In the factory, we make lipstick. In the stores, we sell hope.” The more accurately your marketing reflects that sentiment, the more profit you’ll make.