As our coaching & marketing members would know, I’ve rarely been accused of being anything less than direct. When it comes to writing about what works in marketing & business, I don’t tend to soften my words to avoid offending those with delicate sensibilities.
In business, reality IS harsh. If that offends you, stop reading now.
It obviously offended the managing editor of the country’s biggest beauty industry publication. I’ve written for this magazine many times, but when she read the following article, she emailed back
“…I think it might be a little too honest for us to run and get away with!”
Make up your own mind…
Salon Marketing Heresy: Turn Customers Away.
How often have you silently wished ‘Gee, if only I didn’t have to deal with customers like that miserable penny-pinching old cow…’? Here’s a novel proposition for you: tell her, gently but firmly, ‘that’s the way we run our business, Mrs Splonge. But I’m sure if you try the salon down the road, they’ll more than likely do it your way.’
The more you decide exactly who you want to do business with, the more people want to do business with you.
I know, I know…it’s a very difficult concept for owners of most small businesses to get their heads around. But a lot of people have asked me about this, so stay with me, ‘cos Greg’s got answers. When you’re new to business, or when your business is in early start-up phase and you’re desperate for customers – basically, anybody with a pulse – you’ll take whoever walks through the door, dance to their tune, and thank them for it.
Our business was no different. Back in the early days, we’d take on any salon owner who’d take our call. When the phone rang, we jumped. But we soon learned the hard lesson: the louder a customer plays that tune, the faster you dance.
Nowadays, we decline more applications for the membership than we accept. We never cold-call for business. Don’t even so much as talk to a salon owner unless they’ve jumped through a bunch of hoops to get to us. Same applies to distributors. In the early days, when we were desperate for growth, we had lots of inquiries from all over the world from people who wanted to sell our stuff, or represent us in some way. We took on quite a few, with very little due diligence, and lived to regret it, as their failure to perform threatened to give us a bad name in the market.
It’s about positioning.
When wet-behind-the-ears college marketing graduates talk about ‘positioning’, they’re invariably talking about dinky, meaningless Mission Statements so many direction-less companies dream up in wasted hours of boardroom brainstorming sessions. Like
‘Leaders in Customer Service’ and other such claptrap.
But that’s not positioning, that’s just empty promises. Customers soon see through it, because the mission statement and actual experience is further apart than the brain cells in Britney Spears’ head.
Positioning is actually about two distinct, but linked things:
1) Deciding exactly who you want to do business with – for example, prospects chosen by age, sex, socio-economic background, career demographic, geographical area, or a combination of all.
2) Then deciding the Terms & Conditions under which you’ll do business with these chosen people.
Example: In the Essential Salon Owner’s Marketing Toolkit that Worldwide Salon Marketing members get, there is a very carefully-crafted letter called
‘You and Us – a Beautiful Relationship’
which deliberately and clearly sets out how the new customer is expected to behave – essentially, turn up on time, and pay on time – and in return, the commitment the business makes to that customer. And it’s important that the ground-rules are set right from the very beginning of the relationship. It’s hard to move the goal posts half way through the game.
For most salon owners, particularly those who’ve just opened the doors, the concept of limiting yourself to a particular type of preferred customer might seem like business suicide. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.
There are riches in niches. Try to be all things to all people, and you end up being nothing to nobody. The middle ground is death.
Example: the world is overflowing with marketing experts. Google ‘marketing consultant’ and the screen will almost melt down. They are almost all ‘generalists’, seeking business from anybody who needs help with anything to do with marketing. Which is why, years ago, I decided I couldn’t and didn’t want to compete with that great unwashed slop. I decided to focus on a niche market that’s
an inch wide… but a mile deep.
How many salons are there that cater to everybody who wants to walk in the door? Virtually ALL of them. But imagine if you positioned yourself as the inner-city salon that specializes in say…
You cover the walls in lawyer-like posters, decorate the place like a library, put Judge Judy on endless loop on the flat screen TV…. I could go on, but you get the picture. Pretty soon, you’d become known as the place where lawyers (men and women), judges and clerks get their hair styled for that big court appearance.
There’s a million niche markets. Working mothers, DINKS (double-income-no-kids), debutantes, secretaries, mining industry workers, yada yada yada…
(And there’s nothing to stop you creating a business within the business, i.e., creating marketing that only appeals to your chosen niche, as well as continuing to accept anybody and everybody.)
But the best advice is from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, America’s biggest retailer, who decided he would
Go where others ain’t!
He was talking in the pure geographical sense, setting up in small towns the competitors had ignored.
But the principle holds. Go find markets your competitors are ignoring.
It’s there you’ll find riches.