woman holding open sign smallAfter more than a decade of coaching and advising thousands of salons & spas around the world on marketing & sales, there’s one question cropping up repeatedly that I simply can’t answer. Not because I don’t understand the question, but because it’s the wrong question.

Typical is this version. It lobbed into my email inbox today from a subscriber in Nicosia. (Look it up. It’s the capital of Cyprus, off Turkey. But it’s essentially the same question I get from Sydney, San Francisco, Dublin and a hundred other places.)

“I need your help, I am opening my salon and I need a good name so that I can make a good logo…”

Kyriakos, I’m here to tell you – and anybody else who’ll listen – when you’re starting a business, the last thing you need to spend your time and energy on is a damn logo. Good grief. In the six-inch-thick “How to Set Up, Market and Run a Super-Successful Salon Business” manual, the appropriate ranking for “Designing a Logo” is approximately Chapter 114.

Picking ‘Logo Design’ as your first, all-important priority is akin to the general sending his troops into battle with the first order of business being the colour of their socks.

So here it is, for Kyriakos and tens of thousands of starry-eyed hopefuls all over the world, many of whom have been inspired into business by the misguided words of encouragement from an aunty of their best friend’s second cousin who said “Oh, you’re so good at facials, you should start your own salon…”

The 10 Rules of Engagement for Would Be Salon Owners (and plenty of others already in the salon business.)

Do you really think even McDonalds would sell a single hamburger if all they did was stick their logo out front?

Do you really think even McDonalds would sell a single hamburger if all they did was stick their logo out front?

Rule #1: The Logo.

Forget about the bloody logo design. Outsource it on Elance to a graphic designer in India for 20 bucks. In terms of its value to anybody but you, it’s actual, measurable ability to attract customers to you who are willing and able to give you their money, it’s worthless. There are hundreds of far more important tasks you need to accomplish.

(Need a new name for your business? Go to http://www.salon-business-names.com/)

Rule #2: The List.

As my colleague and chief technologist at Worldwide Salon Marketing, George Slater is often heard to say, ‘the money is in the list.’ That is, building, nurturing and constantly adding to your list of prospects, customers and clients. And I mean a proper list, with full contact details, not just a lazy mobile phone number.
Your database is gold. Having a solid, well-maintained and growing list gives you options. It allows you to reach them in many ways – by email, by SMS, by ‘push notifications’ to your app on their smart phone, and most important of all, by direct mail – yes, that old-fashioned, clunky but still devastatingly effective form of media almost everyone ignores these days.

(But, done my way, almost everybody opens and reads.)

There are lots of ways of building a list of prospective customers, and you should be using all of ’em, but one of the most effective is online search. In its simplest form, it’s some kind of landing page where you offer visitors some kind of reward – a free series of ‘beauty tips videos’, a downloadable report, a free ‘introductory Gift Voucher’, a free sample you pop in the mail to them, to name a few – that potential clients get in exchange for their valuable contact details. In other words, an opt-in form that puts their name and precious contact details straight into a database on your salon computer.

(Effective online name capture is part of what we do for Members of our My Social Salon marketing & mentoring program. Go here to find out more.)

Rule #3: Your USP, or Unique Selling Proposition

Nobody except you gives a toss about your logo, or even the name of your business, except in so far as it tells them instantly exactly what business you’re in. (Hint: resist the temptation to be ‘clever’ or ‘arty’ with your business name. Make it clear what the business does.)
What prospective clients actually care about is ‘what’s in it for me?’ They want an answer to the unspoken question, “Why should I, your prospective customer, want to do business with you in preference to any of a dozen other salons?” And the answer is not “…because we’re really good at what we do.” Work hard, agonize, write lists, spend time and effort identifying things about you, your salon, your location, your advantages, that speak directly to the customer about what’s in it for them. (Clue: make your USP about the customer, her preferences, desires, fears, needs – not about you, the business, how many qualifications you have, the awards you’ve won, how wonderful your customer service is. Sure, they’re all important (kind of) but only as support for a great USP.

Rule #4: Forget ‘branding’.

Branding for its own sake might make you feel all warm and fuzzy, swooning over the compliments showered on you by friends and family about your wonderful colour schemes, pretty posters and wow fixtures and fittings. But relying on pure ‘branding’ to drive customers through your doors with their wallets wide open is an absolutely guaranteed way to send you broke before you start. What I call ‘direct response’ marketing is the only proven, measurable, accountable (over many decades) way for small businesses to spend their marketing dollars effectively and efficiently. At Worldwide Salon Marketing we constantly hear “I spent $150,000 on my logo design, decorating my salon, buying furniture, products, machines etc etc and I have no customers!” But how much on effective marketing? “Er, I didn’t have anything left over for marketing.”

‘Branding’ says ‘let’s put up some lovely logos, expensive ads with pretty pictures and not much else, and hope that if we throw enough mud against the wall, some of it might stick and eventually, people might recognize my brand and come see me.’ You don’t have the luxury of ‘eventually’.

Direct response is what it says – identifying a narrowly-defined target market (your list), crafting an offer supported by your story (with your USP as its cornerstone), distributing that offer as efficiently as you can (using several media, not just one) to as many people in that target market as possible, and measuring the response to that specific marketing campaign.

Rule #5: Be somebody, do something, be everywhere.

BransonSir Richard Branson built a multi-billion dollar business called Virgin thanks to his willingness to do things, be places, re-invent himself in a way very, very few people are prepared to do. You may not want to create an empire like Branson, but to succeed in any business, you need to do what your competition is not prepared or willing to do…become the recognised, go-to expert in your field. And that means writing articles, recording videos, getting interviewed, publishing your knowledge and expertise in as many places – online and offline – as you can. Sales coach John Lees used to say “Our knowledge is ours to give, not ours to keep.” You have talent, education, knowledge, expertise that your prospective clients do not. Don’t be shy about it.

(As part of our flagship My Social Salon marketing & mentoring program, we coach and advise salon owners on exactly how to do this. Check out My Social Salon here. But be warned, we don’t take prisoners, and we expect Members do what it takes to achieve success)

Rule #6: Get off the tools

You will never, ever have a real business if it relies either wholly or mainly on you to earn the income. That’s not a business, it’s a job. Or even worse, a hobby. If you want a real business, start it with the end clearly in mind. Ideally, to build a saleable asset – real business equity. At worst, a business you can walk away from, take a holiday in Tuscany for a month, while it runs on ‘automatic pilot’. Yes, that means you must have staff, and you must have systems in place, for all aspects of the business. (Clue: if you ever get a phone call from a staff member asking “Mrs Splonge has complained, what should I say to her?” then your systems need fine-tuning.)
You need systems for everything; stock ordering, retail selling, re-booking, opening and closing procedures, complaints policies, treatment procedures, and most important of all, marketing systems in place that bring a constant and steady stream of new and returning customers through the doors.

Rule #7: What marketing actually is.

Marketing is ‘any and all activity which brings a customer to you who is willing and pre-disposed to buy from you at the price you want to charge.’ Simple outcome, complex challenge. Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, used to say “clean toilets is marketing”. So is a smile, an unexpected small gift, a simple thank you, a hand-written word of congratulations or gratitude, the opening of a door. But too many business owners come to me and ask for a single, one-size-fits-all, set-and-forget solution to a complex problem. “Write me an ad or a sales letter that’ll turn my business into a raging success, and I’ll never have to do any marketing ever again, so I can concentrate on doing the job and running the business.” In the history of the known universe, that’s never happened – for any business – and never will.
Marketing IS the business. You’re not in the beauty business, or the hair business, or the massage business. You’re in the marketing business. Get your head around it, or you’re doomed to fail.

Rule #8: Marketing is a process, not an event.

Not everything you do is going to work. Yet a big mistake almost every salon owner makes is doing one thing, running one ad, sending out one set of mailbox flyers (usually, to too few people), writing a single email, putting all their effort into a single big event three months from now, and expecting a stampede of customers. And, of course, being bitterly disappointed when that one thing doesn’t produce a flood of cash.

Successfully marketing a business – any business – is about doing a dozen, twenty, a hundred things, simultaneously, knowing and understanding that not everything is going to produce great results. The number ‘one’ is the most dangerous number in business. Relying on one of anything – one staff member, one supplier, one customer, one form of marketing (you Facebookers, I’m looking at you) and you’re destined for a fall when that one thing fails, or is taken away from you. In 1997, I spent months working with a major mortgage broking company planning a street parade to generate publicity for a product launch. It was going to be a real knockout. Come the day of the big parade, a Sunday, the entire side of a mountain collapsed all over the ski village at Thredbo in the Australian Alps on the other side of the country, burying 18 people alive. How much publicity do you think our little street parade got? We’d put everything into a single stunt, and it failed through circumstances beyond our control. But that’s Murphy’s Law. Don’t let Murphy run your business.

Rule #9: back yourself.

That means giving your prospective customers the comfort of a guarantee. A strong one, not full of ‘weasel words’. You don’t have to guarantee results, if those results depend almost entirely on the customer dieting properly, exercising a little bit, using the product in the prescribed manner. But you’ve got to guarantee something, to take away the single most important factor that stops people picking up the phone and calling you, rather than your competition. And that is fear of making the wrong decision. Remove the fear, reverse the risk. In all my years of coaching salons on their marketing, those who shouted a strong, money-back guarantee from the rooftops have enjoyed the most success. (And have you noticed? Almost nobody actually claims on a guarantee!)

Rule #10: Meaningful specifics beat meaningless generalities.

Too much marketing is full of fluffy, meaningless words and images. The term ‘anti-ageing’ has been so over-used it’s become a cliche. Does your product or service make your customer look younger? How much younger, in years? If you guarantee not to keep your customers waiting long, what is ‘long’ – 3 minutes and 24 seconds? Seven minutes and 42 seconds? Say so! Be accountable. Few things enrage me more than warm, fuzzy motherhood statements like ‘join us for a night of fun and games’ (what fun? which games??) or ‘relax and de-stress with a one-hour Indian Mystic hot stone massage…’ (Which Indian mystic? Is it an Indian from India, or a Red Indian from North America? How will it de-stress me? Where do the stones come from? How hot are they? Will they burn me? Grrr!)

The more you tell – about you, your service, your customers – the more you sell. In marketing, less is not more. More is more.

Salon Marketing ToolkitNEED HELP WITH THIS STUFF? Members of our My Social Salon get all this – and a LOT more. It’s an exclusive, elite group of salon owners all over the world who want their businesses to work for them, not the other way around. And, if you qualify, you could get a 30-day Money Back Guaranteed Test Drive of the entire system, including the one-on-one coaching support.