Maybe you started your own salon because you always wanted to be a small business owner, or maybe you fell in love with working in a salon and wanted to take your earning potential to a new level and establish yourself as a leader. Whatever reason you had for getting in the salon business, you obviously want your enterprise to be successful. But, what exactly does a successful salon look like?
Imagine a large, regular, devoted clientele base that relies on you and your staff for all of their salon needs. Imagine a close-knit staff that works as a team to deliver the best possible experience for your clients, offering a wide variety of salon services to attract new customers and keep your regulars coming back. Finally, imagine a steady income for you and your team, and a comfortable standard of living that you can depend on. That’s what success in the salon business looks like when all the pieces come together correctly, and everything goes like you dreamed it would when you got in the business. And that’s what happens when you have an effective salon business plan on how to grow a beauty business, which we give tips on how to create below.
Whether your salon is struggling and you haven’t reached all of those goals yet, or you are doing well and just want to ensure that you will continue to be prosperous in the future, there’s one magic word that will help guarantee all of these signs of success and more: growth. When your salon and your clientele base can keep growing, you will be able to keep doing and earning more. This is why we’ve put together this ultimate guide on how to make your salon business grow, to help you succeed.
The Biggest Mistakes to Avoid That Could Jeopardize Your Salon’s Growth
In the majority of this guide, we will share some practical, hands-on tips on how to run a successful salon to help your business succeed. Before that, we want to warn you of some big “red flag” mistakes that could take your business under before you even have the chance to grow and thrive.
As a small business owner, you WILL make some mistakes throughout your tenure managing your salon, and you shouldn’t let your stumbles get you down. Every business owner makes mistakes. But the more time you spend thinking ahead and looking out for major obstacles, the more smoothly your business will run overall.
Here are five of the biggest mistakes to avoid in order to give your salon the chance to grow. We will include a lot more information on how you can act proactively to avoid these mistakes in the next sections of this guide, but for now take note of these major pitfalls that can stop your business’s growth cold.
- Mismanaging Your Staff
No matter how talented you are at providing salon services and how devoted you are to your business’s clientele, you won’t be able to handle all of the demands of your salon alone. You will need a team of beauty technicians you can rely on to deliver a quality experience to your customers, and you will need to be able to manage them well if you want to ensure you can grow.
From the start of the hiring process, there are some big mismanagement mistakes you can make if you aren’t careful and aren’t accustomed to assembling and managing a team. For one, it is easy to take someone at their word and hire people who you “feel” will work well with you, but under-screening your potential employees is a huge error. Check their references, and make sure they have solid work experience. Also be careful about hiring overqualified technicians. There is such a thing as having too much experience, depending on the position you are offering.
Once you have properly screened your potential team members, don’t make the mistake of paying them too much right from the start. Paying a competitive rate in comparison to other salons in your area is important to attracting talent, but it’s just as important to let potential team members know a bit about your business plan, and show them how they can grow alongside your business. Hiring the wrong people and overpaying the people you do hire are two of the best examples of mismanaging your staff – a huge mistake you need to avoid to grow your business.
- Obscuring Your Business From Foot Traffic
That old saying “location, location, location” is hugely relevant in the salon industry. Almost just as important as the address of your salon is how you use that space, and how you make your business’s presence known to passing foot traffic. Don’t make the mistake of obscuring your business from potential customers that pass your area by making your salon invisible or hard to find.
To avoid this critical mistake, make sure that you have enough signs to lead someone who has never been there before to your salon. If you are located in a shopping center or strip mall, make sure to include signage for your business near the plaza directory or common areas as well as at the front of your salon. Good signs are important for small businesses, and can be a constant source of marketing that you don’t have to keep paying for. So, be sure to invest in some nice looking signs for your salon, and put them where people can find them easily so your business doesn’t get obscured.
- Not Investing in Advertising
Being a small business owner means there will be a lot of expenses that you simply can’t avoid, from paying rent to compensating your employees. It can be hard to justify expenses like advertising, which might feel more “optional” than rent when your profit margins are probably already thin. However, choosing not to invest in hair salon advertising is a huge mistake that can thwart your business’s growth.
Even if you provide amazing services, deliver a top notch client experience, and have tremendous salon advertising ideas, you won’t get the chance to if no one knows that your salon exists. Growth depends on bringing in new clients, so advertising your salon really isn’t an option if you want to succeed in the long term. How you choose to spend your salon marketing dollars is up to you, and we will cover a lot of different ways that you can and should market your salon later in this guide. Just don’t make the choice to skip advertising altogether and still expect to grow, even if it is tempting to do so to boost your short term profits.
- Avoiding Computers
If you’ve been in the salon business for a long time, you may remember an era where computers and tech tools weren’t necessarily essential to succeeding as a small business owner. Those days have come and gone. Avoiding computers and technology in this day and age is a huge mistake that will sabotage your potential.
There’s a reason that Forbes’s list of the “20 Must Have Tools For Small Businesses” is totally dominated by apps, technology, and the power of computing. Computers can help you do everything from balance your books to attract new clients, and we will share some thoughts on the power of technology throughout the rest of this guide. Computers can feel overwhelming, but don’t think that you will be able to compete by avoiding them all together, even if you were once able to do so and run a successful salon in years past.
- Approaching Your Business as an Artist Rather Than a Salon Owner
Most salon owners started as beauty care technicians at some point in their career and came to fall in love with providing services to happy clients. As you continue to advance in your abilities, there’s definitely a level of artistry involved in relieving people’s stress, providing great services, and enjoying yourself while you do so. There’s no reason you can’t feel satisfied by this aspect of being a salon owner. However, if you want to succeed and grow, you need to run your business as a salon owner first and an artist second.
You need to keep in mind all of the mistakes that we discussed above and think proactively about how to avoid them. You need to be able to make hard decisions, and you will often need to sacrifice in the short term for long term gains. You need to keep a constant eye on your bottom line and think about how all of these elements of your salon are working together. To accomplish all of these tasks, you need to approach your salon with the right mindset.
Remember, you are the boss. You started a salon for a reason. Yes, you love the artistry of providing great services. But, beyond that, you started a salon to earn more, be a leader, and control your own life. In the rest of this guide, we will share tips on how to take control and help your business grow, but the worst mistake you can make in pursuing growth is forgetting that your responsibilities as a business owner come first. Which means avoiding all of the mistakes above, and closely considering the tips for growth that follow in this guide.
Putting a Plan in Place for Growth
Now that you know about some of the biggest mistakes to avoid that can stop your small business from growing or force you to shut down altogether, it’s time to start looking closely at the things it will take to make that potential growth happen. What’s the number one thing that you will need to do to see growth occur? Make a plan.
Even if you aren’t usually a very analytical or strategic thinker, having a plan in place to approach growth is one of the most important things you can do as a small business owner. In this section, we will share some tips on making a strategy, and look at the big picture of what it takes to make a plan that leads to growth. In the sections that follow, we will get more specific about the singular areas you can focus on, but for now think about your plan in broad terms. A strategy should help you determine where your business is, envision where you want to go, and help you figure out what decisions you need to make to get there. We’ll share thoughts on those specific decisions later.
Getting Analytical About Costs, Profits, and Ratios
In order to see real growth, you must constantly be analyzing how much money your business is taking in and how much you are spending as a business owner. If it isn’t in your nature to be analytical or it’s not a skill that you practice often, you will need to force yourself out of your comfort zone on this one. Getting analytical about your costs and profits is essential.
If you aren’t constantly thinking analytically about your business, you won’t be able to see immediately when things aren’t going well and adjust your practices. You won’t be able to see when things are going well either, and reproduce historical growth you’ve seen in the past. The more time you spend analyzing what you are doing and keeping detailed records, the better chance you have of developing a strategy that will produce the results you want to see.
Specifically, you should keep track of a few specific ratios in order to more easily analyze how your business is doing over time. Each of these ratios will give you a snapshot of your business that you can more closely evaluate.
- Profit on Services Ratio
This ratio will show you how much you are making overall on the services that you provide as a whole. To calculate this ratio, plug your relevant data into the following formula:
(Net Profit From Services-Cost of Providing Services) / Net Profit From Services = Profit on Services Ratio.
By keeping an eye on this ratio, you can see when your operating expenses start climbing higher than your profits, and decide if it is time to raise prices or make cutbacks on your expenses.
- Efficiency Ratio
Like its name suggests, this ratio helps you determine efficiency, and see if your costs are climbing higher than your profits overall. To calculate this ratio, use this formula:
By tracking your efficiency ratio over time, you can compare how much your business is making based on how much you are spending, even if the raw values of both changes dramatically.
- Cash Flow to Debt Ratio
This ratio will help you keep an eye on how much you are earning monthly compared to the total amount of debt you are carrying over in the longer term. Calculate it like this:
Cash Flow/Total Debt=Cash Flow to Debt Ratio
This will help you be realistic about how much debt you are taking on, compared to how much capital you are bringing in.
Why ratios? Using the ratios above, you can more easily compare how your business is doing over the long term. Plus, calculating ratios like these will force you to gather and keep an eye on valuable data that you should be tracking anyways. Many people like using ratios to analyze how their business is doing, but if you prefer looking at raw data, that’s fine too. Whatever works for you, just make sure that you are being analytical about your profits and expenses over time. Otherwise, you won’t be able to measure the success of any plan that you develop for growth.
Knowing When to Outsource
Being a small business owner, it can be tempting to feel like you can handle everything on your own. However, the more time you spend trying to do everything, the less time you can spend focusing on the things that you do well. As soon as you can afford to do so, think about these few key areas where you should be outsourcing or consulting a professional.
- Hire an Accountant
When do you know that it’s time to hire an accountant for your salon business? Any time you have a question that you can’t answer confidently on your own, you should consult a professional. You could spend a lot of time researching accounting concepts, or you could ask someone who knows what they are doing and won’t make any errors or steer you in the wrong direction. If you can afford to hire an accountant to manage your books and file your taxes for your business, all the better. But definitely reach out to an accountant when you are feeling confused. The advice they can provide you is worth the peace of mind.
- Hire a Lawyer
Likewise, you should be relying on a lawyer whenever you can’t find a legal solution confidently on your own. There are some issues that you can handle, like naming your business and creating agreements with suppliers. But, if the threat of litigation rears its ugly head, it’s time to reach out to legal counsel. Another great time to hire a lawyer is if you are planning on buying or selling your business, or bringing on a partner to help you cover costs and share in revenue. You will know when you need a lawyer when you can’t say confidently that you can handle things on your own.
- Consult an Advertising Firm
We will be sharing a lot of information on marketing and advertising your small business in two later sections in this guide, but sometimes it’s still good to check in with a professional consultant. Look for advertising professionals in your area to consult with, since all of your marketing questions will be easiest to answer in person.
Why are we including information on outsourcing in this section on making a plan for growth? As you put a strategy into place for where you want your business to go, start thinking about who you can consult and where you should be relying on others. The more you grow, and the more revenue you bring in, the more you will be able to afford the luxury of professional help in areas where you aren’t very strong. Thinking about areas of your business that are not your strengths and knowing when it’s right to reach out, even when it is hard to afford, should be a key part of your growth strategy from the start.
Getting Insurance to Protect Against a Worst Case Disaster
No matter how well you plan for growth, your salon’s bright future could be ruined by one major disaster if you don’t have insurance to protect you. For many small businesses, you need insurance to protect your assets, your staff, or other potential expenses. But, as a salon owner, your business itself is your largest asset: your practice is what you have built, and you need a specific insurance plan that is designed to protect your salon against potential threats.
The biggest disaster you will have to worry about is potential litigation against you and your business if a mistake is made or a client is injured through the provision of your services. If you’ve never considered your personal liability before, there are a few common instances when client could sue you and potentially end your business. Here are a few of the most common.
- Injury Caused By Chemicals
If your salon handles haircuts and styling, you are probably using a lot of chemicals that could potentially react with each other negatively and cause burns or other injuries. Even if you don’t cut and style hair, some of the products you use to provide other salon services could harm your clients if they are allergic or prone to skin reactions.
- “Slip and Fall”
“Slip and Fall” accidents aren’t unique to salons. In fact, they are the most common type of injury that can happen at any small business. But, at your salon, there is a lot of potential for someone to trip or slip on a footstool, due to water on the floor, or because of other obstacles and hazards.
Even if your beauty technicians are very well trained, accidents do happen, and clients can be cut during either hair cutting or nail services fairly easily. Cuts can range from small and harmless to major and painful, and can lead to very serious injuries depending on the circumstances.
There are countless other ways that clients could be injured during the regular provision of services at your salon, and many of those reasons are completely out of your control. However, if you don’t take proactive steps to protect yourself, even a minor slip and fall injury could lead to major legal issues for your business. Settlements can be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that doesn’t include legal fees. If you want your salon to grow, you have to do everything you can to avoid this kind of disaster.
Getting the Right Insurance for Your Salon
When you get an insurance policy for your salon, you need to look for an insurer that knows the ins and outs of the salon business well enough to know how and where you should be covered. A good salon insurance policy should protect you against general liability issues like “slip and fall” injuries, as well as professional malpractice related issues. A great policy will also protect you against legal fees related to abusive acts, protect your property against damages, protect you against liability issues related to off-site services, and cover your independent contractors under your policy as well.
If you don’t invest in an insurance policy preemptively, you will wish you had if a lawsuit ever comes your way. When planning for growth, it’s a lot easier to pay for an insurance policy every month then it is to operate with the huge danger of a liability hanging over your head. Getting insurance for your salon will not only protect your from a disaster brought on by a lawsuit, but it will also allow you to more confidently spend in other areas without worrying about how the “worst possible scenario” could bankrupt you and end your business.
Making a Strategy for Growth
All of the considerations above will be crucially important when you are putting a plan in place to grow your business. How do you actually go about forming a strategy that will lead to real bottom line growth, and that will ensure your salon is turning a profit? Here are a few different types of proven strategies for growth that can help your business be more profitable.
- Market Penetration
This is the most basic strategy for business growth and simply means selling more of your services to your existing customers. This strategy takes the smallest investment, but isn’t likely to lead to that big of an increase in profits. While it won’t cost much, this strategy will take some creativity, as you will have to think of a way to incentivize your existing customers to come to your salon more frequently.
- Market Development
This strategy involves selling your services to new customers and increasing your salon clientele base to keep your business busier and boost your profits as a result. This strategy often takes some substantial investment and a lot of effort but has a huge potential to pay off in growth if you can consistently find new customers interested in your services. The most basic way to pursue this strategy is by advertising and marketing your business more aggressively, which we will cover later in this guide.
- Product Development
With this approach, you will plan to boost profits by offering new products to new and existing customers. This approach will help you boost bottom lines, but it will also help you remain competitive and on the cutting edge of your industry. You can look for more products and pursue a product development strategy by being responsive to your customer’s needs, and by doing your own outside research. We will share some specific ideas on how to find new products and services to offer later in this guide.
Constructing a plan for growth isn’t something that you will be able to do overnight. It takes a lot of forethought and planning, and you have a lot of different variables to keep in mind. Start with the considerations we have shared here. Get analytical about your costs and profits, and track diligently how your business is doing. Think about when to outsource and consult professionals, and when you can handle things on your own. Invest in insurance early, instead of waiting until it is too late or constantly operating your business with the fear of disaster creeping over you. Lastly, think about a concrete strategy for growth based on one of the proven approaches above. If you base your plan on these concepts, your business is much more likely to succeed and grow. Here’s more information about what is needed to turn that plan into a reality.
Assembling the Right Technician Team
Before you invest the time, money, and energy into marketing your business, developing new products and services to offer, and aggressively pursuing a strategy for growth, you need to be sure that you are working with a team that can help you succeed. We mentioned mismanaging your team of technicians as being one of the biggest mistakes that salon owners can make, and here we will give you some more specific tips and strategies to make sure that your team is top notch.
Independent Contractors vs. Hourly Employees
If you worked as a beauty technician before owning your own salon, then you are probably somewhat familiar with the way that most salons rely entirely on independent contractors to fill technician roles. Data shows that 90% of salons have no direct employees, and instead rely on independent contractors to operate. Looking into what this means, it will become clearer why this should be an important consideration when assembling your team.
From a legal definition, independent contractors do not work for you, even if they work in your salon. Independent contractors technically work for themselves, pay their own taxes, and are in charge of managing their own time and schedules. Since they will be working in your salon, you will have the ability to designate what parameters they can schedule their time around and share some tips on how they operate, but overall independent contractors will take very little management from you.
From an economic perspective, this is good news for salon owners. Independent contractors are a lot cheaper to employ, especially in the salon business, because you won’t be paying their health care or employee taxes, and won’t be paying them an hourly wage in most circumstances. When assembling your team, this kind of working relationship will provide some specific things to keep in mind.
Since your beauty technicians will be in charge of their own schedules and effectively be their own bosses, you want to hire people that are strong independent workers and are driven to succeed on their own. You will want to look for technicians that don’t need too much guidance or supervision, since they will be working in your salon for themselves. You also want to find people that you can trust to keep working hard, even as business at your salon ebbs and flows. Keep this kind of working relationship in mind when looking at applicants, and screen for these personality traits.
Screening Potential Technicians
When screening potential team members, there are a few steps you should take to make sure that you are hiring reliable people. Part of assembling a team depends on “relying on your gut” and finding people with personalities you connect with, but there is a lot more to it than that.
- Background Checks
It will cost you a small fee to have potential team members screened by a background check agency, but it will definitely be worth it. If you find something out about your potential team members that they didn’t tell you themselves, you should be very concerned about their motivation for hiding things, and probably move on to the next applicant.
- Check References
Make sure that every technician you consider submits references to you based on their previous work experience and take the time to check them diligently. If a potential team member doesn’t have previous work experience in a salon, make sure they have character references and ideally ask them to provide contact information for their cosmetology instructors as well.
- Offer a Trial Period
Even after screening your potential employees diligently, there’s always the possibility that they seem like a perfect hire but aren’t a good fit. This is why offering a trial period is a great way to further screen your employees, and determine if potential team members are a good fit and as reliable as you hope. After checking references and doing a background check, offer team members who you feel good about a two-week or month-long trial to see if they fit well on your team.
Which Technicians to Keep?
After you’ve hired team members, you are only halfway through assembling the perfect technician team to help your business grow and succeed. You will have to constantly evaluate how team members are doing, and decide when it is time to let people go and replace them. Part of this, again, will depend on your instincts and how you feel you about the fit of each individual. However, it’s good to get analytical as well.
The biggest factor you should be analyzing when determining which team members to keep is how well each technician is able to bring in return customers. Keep track of which technicians have regulars, and how often those individuals come into your salon. If a technician is not able to maintain and grow their own client base, they probably aren’t a team member that will help your business grow.
Finding the Right Balance of Experience
When assembling a team, you want to be sure that each technician has some experience working or training in the industry and is able to work independently to provide the services your salon offers. To determine these factors, you should again be checking references and looking at the education and training levels of each potential team member. While there is nothing wrong with hiring fresh technicians that don’t have too much work experience under their belts, you shouldn’t need to train anyone extensively on basic practices. Hire people that are experienced enough to know what they are doing.
Assembling the right team is also about finding the right balance. There is such a thing as being “too qualified,” and if you are on the fence about whether or not a technician will be overqualified to work in your salon, giving them a trial is your best course of action. If they seem inflexible, stuck in their own ways and not open to suggestions, or if they seem to have attitude problems about their own superior experiences, they probably are too qualified for your team and you are better off without them.
Once you have a team that you feel comfortable with, you can be a lot more confident in investing in your business to pursue a growth strategy. Of course, constantly reevaluate your team if things are feeling off, and make sure that you are happy with everyone’s performance. As you feel more comfortable with the team you’ve assembled, it’s time to move on to seriously investing in your salon.
Marketing Part 1: Traditional Marketing Techniques That Work for Small Businesses
With so much buzz about digital marketing and online advertising options, it is easy for small business owners to forget about or overlook more traditional, old school, marketing techniques that still work for small businesses. We will cover some digital advertising ideas for your salon in the next section, but there are quite a few non-digital advertising avenues that are still worth investing in. Here’s a look at a few of the best for your business to consider.
Getting Started With Marketing: Branding, Slogans, and Personality
Before we jump into the specific ways that you can spend your money to market your business, it’s important to quickly touch on some marketing fundamentals that will help you succeed, no matter which advertising avenues you invest in. Before constructing and running ads on any digital or non-digital advertising platform, you should think about what you want to say about your business, and how you want to say it. Here are a few things to plan out before thinking about where to advertise.
Your business’s brand encapsulates everything you want to say about your business to the world, in one easy-to-digest, quick-to-communicate, all-encompassing package. It’s a promise to your customers. When someone buys a Nike tennis shoe, they expect quality. Your brand should convey your business’s excellence in a similar way. Your brand will consist of your logo and slogans, the fonts and designs you use to communicate and advertise, and everything else that you show the world. The most important thing to think about when branding your business for advertising purposes is consistency. All of your salon’s advertisements should have similar basic information on them, and should be conveyed in a similar tone and style.
Does your business have a slogan? If not, you should think about creating one. Your slogan will be the first impression that many potential customers have of your business. Your slogan will set you apart from other salons that are seen advertised, and should encapsulate as much of your mission and values as you can fit into a short phrase. Slogans can be a bit abstract, as long as you keep them consistent and they say something about who you are and the value you offer.
Your advertisements should not be offensive or crass, but they should have a bit of your personality injected into them. If you run a casual community-friendly salon, convey that fun atmosphere. If you are looking exclusively for more professional, upscale clientele, write your advertisements with a personality of sophistication in mind. Injecting your personality and the personality of your business into your advertising is a way to have some fun, and a way to make your ads less forgettable.
Traditional Techniques that Work
We will discuss some digital means of advertising your business soon, but there are quite a few more traditional advertising techniques that are still worth investing in for small business owners. Here are a few of the best that can do the most to help your salon grow.
- Direct Mail Advertising
Direct mail advertisements are those that go out through the mail and target potential clients in their homes. You should print up specific direct mail advertising materials, like handouts or flyers, and design them to be eye-catching and impactful. After designing a mailer, you will need to look for a direct mailing agency in your area that can provide you access to mailing lists to send your mailables to. While direct mailing may seem like an old-fashioned way to reach customers, research shows that direct mail actually has a higher response rate than just about any digital advertising channel.
- Yellow Pages
The idea that phone books are dead simply isn’t true, and the yellow pages are especially likely to be browsed by older clients that have the time to come and visit your salon and enjoy your services. A well-designed Yellow Pages ad should include more than just your business’s name and contact information. This is a great place to put in your slogan, offer deals, and share other promotional material about your salon that might lure in customers.
- Offering Coupons and Deals
Coupons can be offered through digital platforms too, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up on good old-fashioned mailed and handed out coupons and deals. Offering a coupon for your salon is one of the best ways to bring more people through your doors And, if you are able to impress these new customers, they may turn into regulars. You can include coupons and deals in direct mailing inserts, in your Yellow Pages ads, or hand them out in person to encourage customers to return.
Deciding When Traditional Advertising is Working
Every decision you make about your salon needs to keep your budget in mind, and advertising is no exception. However, one of the reasons why fewer small businesses are investing in traditional advertising approaches is that it can be hard to determine if your advertising efforts are working or not.
The best thing you can do to decide if your investment in traditional advertising techniques is helping your business grow is to screen your customers and keep a tally of how they heard about your business. It’s easy enough to ask each client how they heard about you as they pay and record their responses. Pay special attention to customers who say that they saw your advertisements in the Yellow Pages or wherever else you decide to advertise. If you haven’t heard anyone say that they saw your advertisements, re-evaluate whether you want to run more of the same kind in the future.
Just because there are lots of new and exciting digital avenues for advertising opening up every day doesn’t mean that there isn’t still value in some more traditional approaches. Try some of the ideas we highlighted above and watch your business grow.
Marketing Part 2: Essential Digital Marketing Principles
There are a few distinct benefits of digital and online marketing practices that have made this avenue of advertising so popular amongst small business owners as of late. For one, many online marketing options are free or cheap, though we will discuss some ideas about when it’s smart to pay for digital advertising later in this section. More importantly, digital marketing techniques make it a lot easier to see and analyze your reach, since each of the digital marketing techniques in this section produces real-time data that you can see and use to re-evaluate your strategies. Here are a few of the most important places you should be advertising online.
Social Media: Making Accounts and Keeping Them Active
Creating profiles for your salon on each of the major social media sites isn’t too hard. Once you get the basics of social media marketing down, you can see huge exposure on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media allows you to interact with your regular customers in an easy and informal way, reminding your clientele of the great services you provide. It also opens the door to help you discover and bring in new customers, as everyone who uses social media will have the chance of discovering your business.
There are a lot of things to learn about social media marketing, but the most important thing to keep in mind when getting started is that you will need to be consistent in order to see results. Make accounts on as many social media platforms as you can consistently keep up to date with, and post things at least a few times a week. Make sure that each of your profiles is complete, and that you have filled out information about your business on every platform. Then, start posting things regularly.
What you post is up to you, though it is a good idea to at the very least post updates and information about your business. Doing so will let your followers know when you have new deals, are offering new services, or have important news to share. From there, sharing articles and posts about your industry and community can be a good way to keep followers engaged, and show people that you care about your salon.
Independent Websites are Essential
While it may cost you a bit to get an independent website set up for your salon, doing so is really not optional these days. Every small business should have a website since quite a few of the benefits of running your own independent website can’t be found in any other form of marketing. An independent website can act as a hub for all of your social media accounts, giving you a place to link out to all of your other homes around the web. Most importantly, it will give you another way to be discovered on the internet.
Your website doesn’t need to be very advanced to benefit you. A basic, business card style website with information about your salon and services, contact information, and information about where you are located is a good start. Remember to use your slogans and keep your branding consistent, as we discussed in the last section. If you put more effort into your website, the payoff can be huge. This leads to one of the best ways you can market yourself online: content marketing.
SEO, Blogging, and Content Marketing
“SEO” stands for “search engine optimization,” three of the most important words you can learn about in the realm of digital marketing. Your website’s SEO rank determines where you will show up on Google and other search engine’s results for key terms. The higher you show up for terms that can bring you customers, like “salon in your area,” the more business you will see. So, how do you score higher SEO ranks and show up higher in Google search results? Content Marketing is the best place to start.
Content marketing involves putting content on your website that is intentionally created to help boost your SEO rank. SEO ranks are based in a big part on keywords: the more you use a specific keyword in your website’s content organically and naturally (and Google can tell if you are just trying to cheat the system), the higher your website will rank for specific terms. Content marketing is all about thinking of specific keywords that you want to rank for, and then putting up content on your site to help you do so. A good place to start with keywords is focusing on your business, your area, and the services you provide.
Once you have a few keywords that you want to rank for, you can engage in content marketing by running a blog on your website. Blog about the specific terms you want to rank for. For example, if you want your site to show up high in Google search results for the phrase “nail care in your area,” you could write a blog about “the top secrets to nail care” and include the name of your town several times in your writing. Blogging for content marketing purposes will take some creativity and experimentation, but once you get it down, the traffic that Google drives to your site and subsequently your business can be huge.
Groupon and LivingSocial
Both of these sites are a great way to share deals and coupons, which have many benefits as we discussed above. People will come to these sites specifically looking for the services you provide, so you can find some great new customers by offering deals there. However, don’t be too generous with your coupons, and only offer deals you can afford to honor because Groupons can be seen by a huge audience of people.
Paid vs. Free Digital Marketing Ideas
While part of the charm of digital marketing is that you can get a whole lot of exposure for free, there are a few places where it can make sense to invest your advertising dollars in digital channels. Here’s where it makes sense to spend money when you can afford to do so.
- Paid Social Media Ads
Once you build up a good amount of followers on your social media profiles, they will be mostly self-sustaining and will keep gaining new followers as you go. But when you are first getting started, it can be a good idea to invest in paid social media advertising to let people know you have a home on Facebook, Twitter, and the other big sites. Facebook ads are especially powerful, and you can get a lot of exposure for little money.
- PPC Ads
“Pay Per Click” ads charge you every time that a potential customer clicks on them, so you will only pay for people that are sent your way. You can run PPC ads on the big search engines, though doing so can be expensive. A great way to run PPC ads for your salon is to contact local newspapers in your area and see if they offer PPC advertising on their websites.
- Paid Content Creation
If you are a good writer and have the time to spare, you can certainly do all of your own blogging and content creation. But, if you are finding that you aren’t seeing your site move up in Google’s search results or don’t have the time or energy to blog regularly, paid content creation can be a great way to market your salon.
Do You Really Need to Pay For Online Advertising?
The short answer is: no. Most of the best ways to gain exposure on the internet, through social media profiles and content creation, are free if you have the time and energy to invest. However, just like our discussion on outsourcing, you have to remember that your time is valuable. Sometimes it makes more sense to pay someone else to manage these aspects of your business. Or, it might be a good idea to invest in advertising just to get your online presence off the ground.
When answering the marketing questions overall, investing in advertising is really an essential step in helping your business grow. It’s the best way to pursue a “market development” strategy for growth like we discussed above, and will help bring new customers in through your door. Whether you put your advertising dollars in traditional non-digital areas or invest in your online advertising is up to you, but don’t skip out on an advertising budget altogether.
New Offerings, New Ideas
Advertising can help you pursue the growth strategy of market development. However, in order to pursue the other two strategies we discussed above of market penetration and product development, you will need to be on the search for new ideas and new things to offer your clients. Offering more services will help you bring in more revenue, but it will also help your business stay relevant and modern – all of which helps your salon grow. Here are a few ideas for finding new things to offer to increase your salon’s profitability.
- Look for Premium Product Offerings
Instead of just stocking the basics of each product you offer, look for a premium option that you can charge customers more for. Look for premium nail polishes, hair products, and any other products based on the services that you offer. It’s easy to upsell people into a premium product when they have already asked for a service by simply stating something like, “We have this great new high-quality version for only a couple of dollars more.” Train your technicians to up-sell and offer the premium versions of products. Your per-customer profits will rise.
- Broaden Services
If your salon can become a “one stop shop” and offer multiple different salon services under one roof, you will find that a lot of your regular customers will come back more often to peruse the other services you have available. This could involve renting space out to a beauty technician with different specialties than you, or training yourself to learn new things and offer new services. Offering a wider variety of services will also help you bring more people into your shop, as you are able to advertise more services offered.
- Sell Related Products
Every time you use a product on someone inside your salon, you should have the option of selling them a related product to take home. This could be as simple as offering premium shampoos to people who receive haircuts or premium nail polish to anyone who gets a mani-pedi. You don’t have to function or advertise as a retailer to benefit from offering products for sale, as many of your customers will ask if you have versions of products for sale after they’ve received services from you.
Where to Find New Ideas for Growth
We can’t share too many specific ideas on different products or services you can offer since every salon is different and anything we recommended may be obsolete by the time you read this. But there are some great ways that you can keep yourself educated about what’s new in the salon business.
- Network Online
Use LinkedIn to find other salon owners and experts, and stay up to date on information that they post on their LinkedIn profiles. Or, send them a direct message and ask outright if they have heard of any new products that you should be offering to your customer base. LinkedIn is a very helpful community, and it’s a great place to learn from other salon owners and experts.
- Attend Trade Shows
Depending on where you live, trade and beauty shows may be common or hard to find. If there aren’t any regular shows in your area, it could be worth it to budget in one or two trips a year to go and check out beauty salon conferences, as you will get a lot of tips on new products and services in addition to lots of samples of things to try out in your salon.
- Ask Your Clients!
One of the best ways to offer more products and services that your clients will actually use is to ask them directly. Ask clients you know well in person, and use your social media profiles to poll your online followers as well. Be realistic with what you can incorporate, but try your best to offer things that your customers would like to buy.
Offering new products and services is a constant battle. It requires constant research and efforts to learn about what is new and trendy in the salon world. But, if you devote yourself to offering new things, your business will grow as a result. Your existing customers will spend more, and you can advertise yourself to more new clients. Make an effort to be proactive about the products you offer. It will pay off.
Conclusion: How Your Salon Will Grow
What it will take to make your salon business grow is hard to say. Every salon is different, and every client base responds to different things. Start with the considerations in this guide, and you will be well on your way to finding the growth you need to keep your business prosperous.
Check our list of mistakes to avoid, and constantly be on the lookout for other big obstacles. Invest in salon insurance to help you mitigate a disaster. Assemble a team you can count on. Invest in marketing to bring in new clients, both through traditional and digital channels. Constantly look for new products and services to offer. If you incorporate all of these principles into a solid plan to grow, you’ve done all you can to help your small business succeed.
If things aren’t going as you’d hoped at first, experiment! Try new things, from this guide and from anywhere else you find new ideas. Just be analytical and honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working. As long as you remain proactive and engaged, do your best to help your company grow, and make your business is insured correctly, your salon can be successful for years to come.