A salon owner wrote to me a few weeks ago, bemoaning the fact that “I’ve run out of salon marketing ideas. Everybody’s doing package deals now, value-added offers and so on. It’s frustrating, if we all do it, there’s nothing to help the customers differentiate between us any more….”

That kind of thinking betrays a dangerously narrow view of what marketing is, and what makes a business successful.

Yep, everybody’s doing special deals. The daily deal sites, bless their black and bleeding hearts, have made an entire industry out of it. And it’s bitten a lot of businesses on the backside.

But to concentrate all your marketing focus on the next package deal, the next offer, and ignore everything else in your message is akin to expecting a perfectly baked cake when the only ingredient you’ve used is sugar.

Apple's new iPhone - will it maintain the company's cult status?

Apple’s new iPhone – will it maintain the company’s cult status?

Let’s be clear; your offer is only the tip of your marketing iceberg. All the other ‘below the surface’ stuff is what holds it up in clear view, above the waterline. Imagine if all Apple did was build mobile phones and offered a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal. Sure, they’d sell a bunch of cheap mobile phones. Until somebody else came along with a better offer, a cheaper deal. It’s shallow, creating little more impact that a stone skipping across the surface of a lake. The ripples fan out, and just as quickly die off.

No, what Apple has done for decades is build a cult, it’s nurtured a culture, created a massive below-the-surface support structure that turns mere customers into raving, evangelical fans. The most fanatical, tub-thumping born-again Christian ought fear for his life if he gets between a gospel-preaching Apple fan and a new MacBook Air. It’s Apple’s culture, its below-the-surface iceberg, that’s allowed it to enjoy the fattest profit margins in the business. Apple charges more than any other company producing similar products. It never discounts.

(But even Apple isn’t infallible – the launch of the latest iPhone has hardly set the world on fire. Evidence that without the theatrical inspiration of it’s spiritual leader, any company can slide down to ordinary.)

So, let’s roll up our sleeves and examine for a moment what your iceberg might look like below the waterline. And there has to be a LOT of it, otherwise the tip of the ‘berg will sink.

First, what stories do you tell your clients, customers and prospects about you, about your salon, about your beliefs, successes, failures, achievements? People want to do business with real, flesh-and-blood people, not faceless entities. In your client newsletters, in your website and social media posts, do you tell stories about yourself, your family, your kids, your dog? Do you present a human face, or do you retreat self-consciously behind the front window of a pretty, stylish website and a salon facade that holds customers back behind a wall of ‘professionalism’?

Do you invite your customers into your life, or do you hold them at arm’s length?

Second, what is it about you and what you do/say/deliver that is unique, that cannot be found at a competing salon, that cannot be ignored, that is compelling, magnetic, attractive…or are you just another ‘me-too’ business, doing/saying/delivering pretty much the same as everybody else? What’s your Unique Selling Proposition (or propositions plural)?

Third, what kind of customers do you want, and what do you do to attract them? Are you trying to be all things to all people (and therefore nothing special to anybody in particular) or do you deliberately and carefully filter out the kind of people you don’t want, and only let in the kind of people you do want?

On my local TV news last night, a perfect example – a gym that deliberately makes it difficult to join. They have a long waiting list. If you don’t jump through all of their hoops, you don’t get in.


Fourth, what interests do most of your customers have in common? Are they from a recognizable niche? Smart business owners will forensically examine their list of clients, collecting as much useful data about them as is possible to do. And then identify key factors which might give them a clue as to why certain types of people are attracted to the business – vital information that gives the business owner the ammunition to go after more of those types of people.

It’s niche marketing at its most basic.

Fifth, what intellectual capital do you have that you aren’t using? Qualifications, awards, photos of you with ‘celebrities’ (or, people who are well-known within perhaps a very narrow circle of people/professions/groups).

Trying to build a viable, profitable, in-demand business based only on the ‘tip of the iceberg’ special offers and package deals is going to give you a shallow result at best, a grass castle easily blown away by the lightest puff of breeze from a rival salon.

Spend time and energy on the basic foundations. When you do that, you won’t need special offers. People will queue up. And pay top dollar.

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