Is Your Salon Marketing ‘Brass Balls’?

waitingSo what IS the difference – the unique, significant, compelling difference between your salon and any number of competitors within walking distance? I’ve been having this conversation repeatedly with many Members in our  lately.

It’s THE issue that bedevils almost every salon owner I’ve ever talked to. And I’ve advised and coached literally thousands over the past ten years.

Most bang on with the usual platitudes. We give great customer service. Yawn. Our stylists/therapists are fully qualified. Sigh. You mean, other salons don’t have qualified staff??

Yet when I ask salon owners to list a handful of things that aggravate customers about going to a salon, guess what wins Top of the Pops almost every single time?

Being Kept Waiting!

And that’s where it gets interesting. I then suggest that perhaps the key clue to their uniqueness lies not in all that drivel about how wonderful their business is, what great customer service they give, how terrific their stylists/therapists are….but in their answer to the very issue that almost ALL salons identify as the most common complaint from customers.

Great marketing is about the unexpected, not the expected. Customers expect they’ll get good service. (Well, these days it seems more of a hope than an expectation.) They expect your stylists and therapists to be competent, able to perform their job. They expect you’ll use professional-quality products and technology.

Delivering the expected ain’t no foundation for a sizzling marketing statement.

So I suggest to these salon owners that they might just want to consider actually delivering on the one promise they implicitly make when a customer calls up and makes an appointment for 10am next Thursday.

And that promise is: 10am means 10am. Not 10, 15 or 30 minutes after 10am. In other words,

“The Most Amazing Guarantee You WON’T Get from Any Other Salon in (Your Town): If you’re on time, and we keep you waiting more than 9 minutes past your scheduled appointment, it’s FREE!”

Almost every time, my suggestion is met with choking, spluttering exclamations of disbelief.

“Wha…what???? We can’t guarantee that!!!”

Well, think about it. You’ve just identified the ONE thing that pees people off more than anything.  You’ve sold the customer a 10 o’clock appointment on Thursday morning. And yet, you’re telling me that the customer has to wear the risk of you not delivering on that promise?

I’ve recently had plenty of time to mull over this line of thought. Forty two minutes, actually. That’s how long my doctor kept me waiting past my appointment time earlier this week. But doctors – who are, in essence, merely expensively-trained body mechanics – are in high demand. They have customers queuing up for their services, day after day. They don’t have to guarantee anything.

My dentist, however, is entirely different. Dentistry is an intensely competitive industry. My dentist never keeps me waiting. He calls his patients customers, not patients, “because the very word ‘patient’ has negative connotations.” Last time I saw him, I asked him about this.

“Firstly, it’s plain rude to keep people waiting,” he said. “If you can’t organise and manage your business to give people what they’re actually buying – prompt, competent service – you shouldn’t be in business. If I got a reputation for keeping customers waiting, sooner rather than later they’d find another dentist. It’s not as if there’s a shortage of dentists.”

Neither is there a shortage of hair salons or laser hair removal clinics. The country is lousy with them. Customers have almost limitless choice. They’re busy. They have appointments to keep too. Yet salon owners tell me they can’t guarantee the one thing people actually want, ‘because things happen out of our control.’

Yes, they do. Customers arrive late. (Or not at all, but that’s another story.) And if you let your customers dictate how you manage your business, that’s going to disrupt an entire day. My dentist has the same issues.

“I always allow 15 minutes ‘fat’ for each appointment that’s an hour or longer,” he says. “If a customer has a 10am appointment and doesn’t turn up till 10.30, I politely tell them I won’t be able to see them because I have another customer at 11, and I simply won’t keep another customer waiting because the previous one hasn’t had the courtesy to turn up on time.

“Funny thing is, ever since I implemented that policy, only two customers have ever been more than a few minutes late. One had a heart attack and died. The other had a bad car accident on the way to the surgery. Even then, she called from the accident scene, profusely apologetic.”

brass ballsStrong, bold marketing is about having Brass Balls. It’s about making and keeping promises that your competitors are not prepared to make. And it’s about being accountable for those ballsy promises. Anybody can offer a limp-wristed, ho-hum guarantee. “We guarantee good service.” Big deal. But it only grows balls when it carries an accountability rider, such as “….or your money back.”

And, at the risk of sounding like that broken record, the value of such accountability in your marketing message far, far exceeds and outweighs the tiny risk you’ll ever have to make good on it.

But I’m probably wasting my breath. Who really has the balls to actually deliver what customers consistently tell you they want?