It can only be the money. I can’t for the life of me imagine what else could possibly be attractive about running a business like a bank, where an entire army of customers almost universally loathe you.

I actually feel a bit sorry for the banks. The fact that they’re in business to make a profit – just like every other business – appears lost on media and government, who relish in taking a shot at this soft target every time interest rates hi the news. Pity nobody in the banking industry has the balls to stand up and say ‘Hey, wait a minute, we’re a business not a charity, it’s our job to make money…!’

(Isn’t it funny how most bank customers moan bitterly every time their mortgage rate goes up, complain about the ‘greed’ of big business when the banks publish their billion-dollar profits – but don’t twig that their own retirement savings are heavily invested in bank shares.)

But that other public whipping boy – the airlines – deserve every dose of doggy doo thrown at them. Dumber than a bagful of hammers, for years they’ve competed with each other on little more than price, a strategy that – in any business – can only lead to death.

According to figures from the US Bureau of Transportation, US airlines collectively lost only about $145 million in the last quarter of 2012, compared with $602 million in the corresponding period the previous year. For some years now, they’ve been fighting back with an almost-universally despised trick of ‘un-bundling’ air fares so that passengers have to pay extra for things that have traditionally been included in the price of a ticket.

More and more airlines are charging an average of $25 to check in a bag. Several will slug you an extra $8 for a blanket. It’s now common for cut-price airlines to charge extra for exit-row seats which provide a bit more room for tall passengers.

Airlines are beginning to charge extra for what was previously part of the deal – like $8 for a blanket. Oh well, at least you get to keep the blanket….

After years of cutting their own throats by discounting, these big dumb companies have suddenly realized they need to make money. But the way they’re doing it smacks of desperation, and worse, complete ignorance about the concept of adding value, packaging, differentiation and giving themselves an ‘unfair advantage’ over the competition without discounting.

Salon owners who are Members of Worldwide Salon Markeitng could give the airlines a much-needed lesson in such market-making processes.

In Australia, I fly Qantas exclusively. Of all the competing airlines, Qantas is regularly the most expensive carrier. That’s why I fly with them. The food is free, and good quality – even in Economy Class – unlike the inedible trash on US domestic airlines. There are no extra charges for blankets, checked baggage, headsets, movies or anything else. On many flights, even beer and wine is free in Economy. It’s all included in the price.

Where even a profitable airline like Qantas falls down is in its failure to capitalize on this competitive advantage. They still attempt to compete on price alone, too timid to shout from the rooftops

“Hey, we’re the most expensive – but there are no hidden charges, sneaky extras or nasty surprises when you get to the airport. When you buy a Qantas ticket, everything is included in the price!”

Here’s what’s instructive for your salon business:

Take a lesson from bumbling mistakes of the airlines. Instead of constantly trying to compete with rivals on price (discounting), figure out a way to package your services. Don’t allow your customers to ‘cherry pick’ your treatment menu on price alone. By learning to package – as our member salons have done using the templates and tools in the Essential Salon Owner’s Marketing Toolkit® you’ll find yourself attracting customers who are more interested in value than mere price, want service above perceived (often phantom) savings, and are prepared to pay for it.