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Salon Marketing That Sells Like Crazy

Salon Marketing That Sells Like Crazy

How to Get More Clients Spending More Money with You More Often

Greg Milner 

Just out of curiosity, I had a casual glance through the Yellow Pages the other day, under Beauty Salons, looking for something that'd catch my eye, fire my imagination.

Looking, in vain as it turns out, for something that would compel prospective clients to call.

Ad after ad, column after column, they all seemed to merge into an amorphous mass of sameness.

A blur of business cards, big and small.

Some were splashed with colour. Others sported pictures of glamorous women. But there was nothing – not a single one – with a message that even faintly said “Here's a great offer you won't be able to resist.”

To tell the truth, I wasn't at all surprised. Like most small business owners, beauty salon owners get all tied up working ‘in' the business, and find themselves too frazzled, tired, and just plain too snowed-under to work ‘on' it. It happens, so don't beat yourself up about it.

But there are some quick and relatively painless steps any salon owner can take to liven up the response to advertising and other marketing. I'll give you some examples in a moment, but first, a point or two about marketing in general.

1. All businesses are the same. In my work, consulting in the salon industry as well as more than a dozen others, from health and cosmetic surgery to accounting, manufacturing and retail, I often get this plaintive cry when I take them through the basics of direct-response marketing.

“But my business is different. My clients are different, more sophisticated, they won't go for that kind of stuff.”

Well, actually, all businesses are the same when it comes to the principles of marketing. Doesn't matter what you're selling, you still have to a) get their attention b) generate interest c) create desire d) and spark some action.

2. Claiming the high ground. There's no point in marketing at all, if the most remarkable thing you can say is ‘hey, we're at least as good as the next guy, how ‘bout trying us?' You need to claim the high ground, claim some unclaimed territory. Who says you can't claim to have ‘North Ryde's Most Sought-After Day Spa Treatments'? Has anybody else?

3. There's no law against being outrageous, and having some fun. Most small business marketing – doesn't matter which industry, but the beauty salon industry is as good a place as any to demonstrate this – is so unutterably dreary it should be used by parents as a sedative for hyperactive children. Yes, the atmosphere in a salon needs to be calming, soft, nurturing. But you have to get the clients in there first.

4. Make a Big Promise. To paraphrase ad guru David Ogilvy, there's absolutely no point in marketing at all unless you're prepared to make a big promise. Why would you bother spending money on advertising if all you could effectively say was “You will look quite normal.”?

5. Make an Offer. The offer, in any marketing, for any business, is the most important thing. Bar none. You can have all the fancy graphics, lovely swooning models, strong copy that says how wonderful you are, but if there's no offer, what's going to make anybody pick up the phone?

Okay, some examples.

On being BOLD. I wrote an ad for a salon client for the Yellow Pages. Small salon, small ad, so I didn't have a lot of space to work with. I pondered...what was the biggest promise we could make, in such a tiny space. What about a bold headline that said....

“You'll Be Delighted...or it's FREE!”

Result? That one small change to the ad this salon owner had run in the previous year's Yellow Pages increased response by no less than 30%. She tells me the ad paid for itself inside three months. Everything after that was pure cream.

A note about guarantees...for some strange reason, many business owners are terrified of them, afraid the customers will ‘rip us off'. Here's the truth:

A strong guarantee's ability to drive sales far, far outweighs its potential cost.

In fact, a guarantee full of conditions and fine print isn't worth running at all.

“Money back guarantee, provided you bring back the widget on a Tuesday morning at 2.30am, accompanied by both your great grand-parents.” I call that kind of guarantee a

“weasel guarantee”

And here's another interesting thing about guarantees: most businesses already refund purchases upon complaint – they just don't tell anybody about it. My contention – proven time and again to be valid – is that you should use a strong guarantee to make the sale in the first place rather than using it as a fall-back in the event of an unhappy customer.

On making an OFFER. I'll show you in a moment how to construct a compelling offer – after all, it is the most important part of any advertising. Yet so many business owners make the mistake of not bothering to make an offer at all, or thinking that discounting is actually an offer. It isn't, and it will only harm your business.

Why? Because if you resort to discounting, there'll always be somebody who'll do it cheaper. Discounting is what I call ‘distress marketing'. Yes, it might work initially to drive sales. But it'll have two disastrous effects: 1) It'll put a big hole in your bottom line 2) Your clients will become conditioned to it, so they expect it all the time.

Now, some little-known secrets about building an offer. The key here is to offer massive perceived value – without the extras actually costing you much if anything at all.

For example, let's say you're a permanent makeup specialist, charging say $800 for eyebrows, eye-liner and lip-liner. It's a high-margin sale, but so many practitioners seem compelled to discount at the first hint of buyer resistance.

Much better, instead of discounting, is to add extra value.

“Book Your Permanent Makeup and Receive a $95 Microdermabrasion treatment Free!”

The cost of providing that microdermabrasion treatment is negligible. But you've retained the full-price cosmetic tattooing and you've given yourself an opportunity to up-sell your new client on a full course of say, 6 microdermabrasion treatments @ $95 each, less the one you're giving away.

These are just a few of an infinite number of ways to build an offer. What a really strong offer does is ‘re-invent the business' from being a commodity that prospective clients compare with your competition based on price alone, to a provider of a unique service that simply cannot be compared with what your rivals are offering.

Finally, on having FUN. As I said, most small business marketing is so dull it'd make Jim Carrey weep. Here's a headline I wrote for a salon newspaper ad that's still running, and still gets the salon a 2 to 1 return on investment every time:

“Beauty Expert Swears on the Bible Her Permanent Makeup Treatments Contain No Illegal Sexual Stimulants”

A headline has only one job, and that's to make people read the rest of the ad. That's it, plain and simple. This one intrigues, it begs the question, “Mmmm, how about some of those legal sexual stimulants then...”

The ad goes on to make a limited time value-added offer, a money-back guarantee, and it contains a picture of the salon owner with the caption. “Number #1 Beauty Expert”. It's a strong ad, and it works. Now, a confession: I stole that headline from an ad written many years ago by Gary Halbert, promoting a new perfume range by Tova Borgnine (wife of actor Ernest) in the Los Angeles Times.

I stole it, and modified it for my client's use – and there's nothing to stop you doing the same...looking around at other industries, pinching a good headline or idea, and migrating it across to your own business. Word of warning though, don't do a straight steal from your own industry, or you could end up in court.

Hint: The name of your business is NOT a good headline for an ad. Yet how many Yellow Pages and press ads do you see committing precisely this cardinal sin of advertising? The name or logo of a business has never sold anything. Ever. Would McDonalds have sold a single hamburger if all they ever did was run ads showing those golden arches? No, of course they wouldn't. Toyota has never sold a single car by headlining their ads with the company name. Neither has Microsoft. So why is it that tens of thousands of businesses waste money on expensive advertising with their name at the top of the ad?

I call them ‘advertising victims'. And there's no reason why you need to be one, if you just put a little thought into what you're selling.


About The Author

Beauty Salon Marketing

Greg Milner is based in Perth, Western Australia. He is a sought-after marketing consultant specialising in copywriting and direct marketing.

Recognizing a need in the salon industry for pre-written sales letters and ads, he joined in 2004 with sales guru Jill Groves to develop The Essential Salon Owner's Marketing Toolkit, the world's first and only complete 'off-the-shelf' marketing resource for the salon industry.

The Toolkit is now sold world-wide and has become the industry-standard marketing resource for salon owners.

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