Seven ways to fill your schedule

By Chris Parker

If your appointment schedule is full for the next three years and you have no plans to expand to more branches or more stations in your salon and you are happy with your current turnover then the following information will not be that useful to you.

However, if you still have space in your appointment book that you would like to fill then perhaps some of these tips may come in handy.

Book their next appointment before they leave

This practice is nothing new but very often is not used. When a client walks out make sure it is with some sort of retention plan in place. Try and not ask a closed end question like “Would you like to book your next appointment?” to which a client can simply answer no and close down the discussion. Rather ask “When would you like to book your next appointment for?” If the client says they will get hold of you when ready then ask if its ok for you to send them a follow up reminder, just keep the door open.

Remind them of their appointments

A client who does not show up for their appointment means empty slots that will be harder to fill on the day. Two SMS notifications should go out, one when their appointment is first made that confirms the fact that you have in fact scheduled them and secondly a reminder the day before. Ideally this should be automated so that its not up to staff members to remember to do it.

Work harder to find an opening

If you are fully booked don’t let the conversation end there. If it’s a new client then work hard to make a plan because the cost of acquiring new clients is very high and may be worth your while to offer an incentive to come at a different time. If it is a regular client then work just as hard to make a plan as regulars are your bread and butter throughout the year. Encourage staff members to check a clients profile while they are on the phone to give them a sense that they know the client and make them feel important to the salon. If you are anticipating a busy time ahead and perhaps a lot of tourists then a good practise would be to send out an SMS to your regulars to encourage them to book early to avoid disappointment during busy times.

Find out what their goals are

The consultation with your clients is the focus area here. Finding out what their desired outcomes and goals are regarding their hair implies a journey rather than a once off stop. A journey implies future visits and the question “What are we doing today?” starts to feel a little bit out of place because it has no greater context and it’s almost like you are surprised they came back to see you for another haircut.

Flag first time visitors

Take special note of first time visitors. These are your most expensive to acquire and so you want to make especially sure that they come back again. All of the other points in this article are especially true for first time visitors and you want to get some sort of sense of how many first time visitors you are retaining.

Give them a chance to complain

I recall getting my car serviced recently. When I collected the car I asked the service advisor if all the headlight bulbs had been checked as I recalled that one was faulty. He advised that it is a standard check and that they were all fine. I asked him to double check as I was sure there was a problem. A technician from the workshop re-assured him that the bulbs had been checked and were all fine. However, we all went over to my car to check and it was confirmed that there was actually a problem with one of my bulbs. The concern for me was, if such a simple problem had been overlooked what else had they missed. Nevertheless the service advisor was very apologetic and advised me they would order the bulb and call me to bring the car back when the bulb arrived. I left without kicking up much of a fuss.

A few days later I received a machine generated follow up SMS to find out if I was happy with the service received. At that point, when I was not face to face with the service advisor I felt the need to say something, and I did. I then received a follow up call to further understand my dissatisfaction and take further measures.

Now, the point here is that they found out about two things, one the fact that poor service had been offered, which they could address internally and two,  that I was actually an unhappy client even though I didn’t say anything at first.

It takes very little to get a follow up SMS going out to your clients each day and in most cases your clients will not respond to them if they were happy. However, if they were unhappy it gives them a safe way to complain and gives you an opportunity to save a client. 25 cents for an SMS versus the cost of losing a client..? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

And one more thing … if a client complains then give them something as an incentive to come back. Start with a “sorry” but finish with something enticing like a freebie or a discount of some sort. Nothing tells them you actually mean it like when you put your money where your mouth is.

Contact them if they don’t come back

Follow up with clients who do not come back to your salon. Your methods should be slightly different for different types of clients. For example, in one process you want to know of any of your top spending clients who have not come back and then follow with them with one particular message. Then, in another process you want to know which of your first-time visitors have not been back and then follow with a different message. Then for the general population of your clients who have not been back you may follow up with a more generic bulk message.

Conclusion

A full appointment book is not the only way to generate revenue but it plays a large roll and very often we have more control over this than we think. Some of the requirements can be automated with technology but others rely on the efforts of your staff members. Therefore it is critical that your staff are trained on what is required of them in order to play a deliberate roll in your salons successful retention of clients.

Communicating to your clients

By Rina McKellar for SA Hairdressers Journal

We’re bombarded by marketing and advertising messages every day. 10 years ago, The Guardian in the UK estimated that Londoners were exposed to over 3500 ads in just one day. I remember when I lived there – my 30 min commute into the city was littered with glamorous faces on large billboards and quirky video ads in taxis and posters plucked in every conceivable corner of the tube station. They all told me about upcoming theatre events, some miracle beauty cream or the new holiday destination I should be trying. My favourite was always the one that told a little story up those L-O-N-G escalator rides. They made the smelly tube stations lightly more bearable and put a little smile on my face for about 2-3 mornings until they lost their lustre and stayed up way too long.  They all wanted the commuter’s attention and were all offering me and every other poor London creature something more promising.

We have seen advertising get more clever, more entertaining and more engaging over the years. Mass advertising has its benefits and appeal and there will always be some commonalities that people share. e.g. a tropical beach scene complete with colourful cocktail, palm trees and soft white sand will for sure capture the attention of every London-living individual wanting to escape the sombre greyness of a cold English February.

Fast forward to 2016 and now we have the added luxury of super smart technology, coupled with endless personal data. Ever wondered just how Facebook knew you were in the market for a new car? Try changing your status from “in a relationship” to “single” and you’ll suddenly be bombarded by dating sites galore. I loved the story from a close friend who managed to change her age from 40 to 75 (with great difficulty might I add) – she stopped getting ads about “mature dating sites” and ads for wheel chairs popped up instead. We laughed out loud at that one!

Actually most apps these days require you to log on using either Google or Facebook or something similar and it’s actually just downright scary the amount of info that can be collected on you, your connections and links. It so often feels like big brother is watching our every move. Makes me want to sing an adapted version of Sting’s masterpiece right now: “Every breath you take, every search you make, every bond you break, every friend you take. I’ll be watching you.”
Ha – this sounds just like FB’s personal love song to each of us.

Google and FB are masters at this and run way ahead of the curve. For most businesses and products, it is still advertising old school style – good message combined with traditional means e.g. a beautiful glossy ad in a well- respected magazine and there, advertising and marketing ticked. Done and dusted. Many haven’t quite figured out how to use technology in their mix, let alone understand how to use social media to drive their business. It can be incredibly confusing and even daunting to close the massive gap in your marketing mix.

So let’s start with the mere basics and take a few steps back. There are 2 things that is required to make such specific targeting and advertising possible – data and technology. Google and Facebook have both by the bucket load. In simple non-powerhouse terms for you and me this means:

  • As much information about an individual (the more the better)
  • Mechanism to reach that person (hardware – cellphone/computer and software – application etc.)
  • Many of you are already deploying this in your everyday business practise. You may be emailing your clients useful info or you may be sending out an SMS to remind your customers of an upcoming appointment.  In both cases you have data (their email and the cell number) and then using some form of technology to reach them.
    The question then remains: Why are you not doing it more or taking it to the next level?

    To have personal information about your customer is really a beautiful and rather rare thing. It has only recently become quite a new phenomenon that’s exploded. I don’t think this fact is truly appreciated in many industries who simply take it for granted and do nothing with it. The mind still boggles at the restaurant industry that handles this info so glibly. They go to all the trouble to ask for your details when you make a reservation and then simply throw it away at the end of the night. To hold personal information of another is a great gift. As a salon owner, I urge you not to fall into that same trap.

    Just think: You can still just walk in to any grocery store, buy a litre of milk and 2 bags of apples and walk out anonymously. They have no idea how to reach you or talk to you again. That shop will not have a clue about your age, your name or your needs – no idea about your buying patterns or that you may have an apple addiction J. For years, large retailers were left with few options to attract and talk to customers –  they were limited in many instances to publish big inserts in newspapers to announce of specials and promotions, then they’d hope and pray that those nameless people came in to buy. It was impersonal. Cast your minds back a few years and you were simply greeted at the checkout counter. Now, you barely get a hello, but get a snappy “do you have a ………. card” instead. Yes, this once limiting barrier has been overcome by shopper cards and loyalty programmes.

    This has really changed the marketing and shopper landscape. Suddenly retailers not only knew the names and locations of their customers, but they also knew how regularly they were coming in and what they were buying. They began to see patterns and links and correlations and the science of buyer behaviour went to new levels. It could dictate trends, showed learnings and even influenced business processes like the lay- out of shelves and the placement of products. Data become information became powerful knowledge. Business Intelligence became a household term and industry boomed all round.

    It also meant targeted advertising and speaking a specific message people wanted to hear. It wasn’t just blanket advertising – one message to the masses. The pendulum however has swung and now the problem is we have far too many cards and schemes from far too many retailers and they are impossible for a consumer to keep in a standard wallet. The loyalty market has become yet another bandwagon for companies to hop and sadly some have no clear strategy as to how their data should be effectively mined and used to radically enhance their business as it did in the grocery business.

    Again, this is an example of large scale industry change – but what about in a small business? The good news is, is that most of you are already holding the keys that is needed and the rest is quite close by. Even if you do not have data about your clients and your business – you still have the basic information, perhaps not the best information (yet) – but at the very least you have names and numbers and it is a start. This means you can at a very nominal cost communicate with your clients on a regular basis. A simple example is an SMS telling them of a special or offering a discount can be at your complete control and discretion. You can choose to send to your top 50 clients or 500 clients. It’s your choice of message and quantity.  You can monitor uptake and see the ROI. It really is a no- brainer and while rather old technology, it still works. Your software provider can help with this. In fact, what I am saying is not that new, Chris Parker, MD of ESP Salon Software, has made mention of this in several of his previous articles and can be found on their website for ease of reference. They have a module aimed to do just this and use it effectively and often for many clients.

    You can construct your campaigns based on what info you have. It may well be an incentive for you to collect more RELEVANT information – take your lead from the big grocery stores out there. How often does your customer come in? What treatment do they normally have? Do they have a time or day preference? We all like to be offered something – but it has to be RELEVANT. When we get offered something totally irrelevant and we have no interest – it’s SPAM. We all get highly annoyed with SPAM.

    The do’s and don’ts

  • Use your data and business intelligence to drive your campaign
  • Communicate with relevance
  • Communicate at regular intervals (one hit wonders are not cool)
  • Get familiar with POPI (The Protection of Personal Information Act)
  • Ask their permission if you can send them info
  • Don’t SPAM
  • Don’t communicate too often
  • Don’t only send blanket messages – show that you know your customer
  • The permeations of groups and messages are endless. You can target new clients or send birthday messages with a discount. You could send out an incentive to your top clients. You could send to clients you haven’t seen for months. Let your business mind flow – I am just going to encourage you to try and do something a bit more with the precious personal information you have. Let it help you increase your presence and awareness and generate even more business for you. All the best!

     

     

     

    The difference between Strategy, Tactics and Magic Bullets

    By Rina Mc Kellar for SA Hairdressers Journal
    The mighty Holy Grail – for centuries people have searched and yearned and even killed for it. Legend claims it to be the chalice used at the last supper, but we all know this is far more than just a mere golden goblet. Its contents are believed to be magical, mythical … even super natural and the very elixir of life is said to be contained within.

    Today’s Holy Grail seems to have morphed into many shapes and forms. Each person has their own interpretation and their own secret desires – some for potions, concoctions and magical methods. Some for eternal youth, fame, fortune and deep abundant happiness. Whatever. Everybody is looking. Everybody is searching for something (some even for Sugarman).

    And business is no different. Every CEO, every director and owner is wishing for that winning formula or magic bullet that will take their business to the promised land of success. We can all relate. We’ve all been sold or told something that was going to deliver unbeatable unbelievable results and yet more often than not there was nothing more than disappointment and disillusionment. We have all been suckers for someone else’s promises at one point. More often than not however, we’ve just been suckers of our own high hopes and unrealistic expectations. Don’t get me wrong please, I strongly believe in the mythical and the magical. I also just believe in a little bit of planning, preparation and structure. After all, that magical mythical grail was still just a beautiful cup of gold that someone had to design and mould and form. Someone planned and someone spent hours making and casting it. Until it ended up at the infamous table, it was however just a chalice. But put that chalice on the right table with the right people with the right wine and voila …. MAGIC happened.

    Strategy really is no different. For many this is a daunting word. “oh it is too complicated” they cry. And, defining a marketing strategy is a rarity for many a small business. But strategy is no more than planning and designing what your “vessel” is to become and allowing the opportunity for the magic to occur. It is you designing your cup. What would you like your cup to look like? Will it be a chalice, a shot glass or a chunky mug? There is no right or wrong. It’s about defining who you are and what you’d like to do and be in the world.

    If strategy is the vessel design, then think of tactics as the many things that can be held in that cup – tea, soda, vodka or even bleach, it can contain any one of the million forms of liquids out there. For marketing this translates into things like an ad in a magazine or a newsletter or a brochure or a website or the million other promotional-type options out there. And here is often where it gets confusing. What liquid belongs in my cup and when and why!

    A campaign strategy is no more than marrying the right vessel to the right liquid at the right time. We like tea in cups and brandy in snifters. Yes, we can mix and match when desperate, but nothing comes close to that magical moment of sipping ice-cold Veuve Clicquot from a tall crystal stemmed flute. It’s just not the same in a polystyrene cup! Find your vessel and fill it with the right liquid and the magic will unfold.

    There are endless definitions of marketing and a quick google search will spit out impressive sounding phrases like “the science and art of exploring, creating and delivering value….” blah blah. And yet, my favourite and most basic version is simply this: Marketing is getting more people to buy/use more stuff. BAM. DONE.

    In essence there really are only two streams to increase your business and they both relate to the above. 1) get more feet through your door or 2) get the same feet to come in more often. All campaign strategies will boil down to one of the above or a combination thereof. It is important however to separate them because each will require a different set of tactics. They are different looking cups. Sometimes you can kill two birds with one stone, but it is important that you have a clear map in your head of how it all relates. So, decide which you’d like to focus on. There is an endless amount of expensive very enticing tactics out there and an army of agents ready to sell you the magic of their service. But until your tactic has a cup or a vessel to fall into you’ll just be pouring it on the ground and breeding more room for disappointment. Before you embark on any marketing tactic it is critical you get the right container in place.

    Try thinking about what you’d like to achieve? And how does your tactic help you achieve that? Get specific by setting a business target. Choose one of the categories above as a starter. Perhaps you want to embark on a drive to attract new business. So set something specific like “I want to get 25 new clients per month over the next 3 months”. It is important you give yourself something that you can do a check list against to see if you have achieved your goal. Perhaps you’d like to set a revenue target or a retail target. It doesn’t really matter what you set but make sure that it is done with the SMART approach.

    S – specific. M – measurable. A – attainable. R – realistic. T – time based.

    After you’ve decided your goal, think about what tactics you need to do to make this work. So let’s flesh out the new clients’ objective. There are endless marketing tactics you could explore to achieve this. You could draw on anything ranging from a referral campaign to a discounted introductory offer to flyer drops in your neighbourhood to an emailer and countless other ideas. It could be all of the above and more. The idea however would be to evaluate each from a cost and relevancy point of view and see what potential they could deliver. You may have valuable resources at your disposal that cost little to extract extra value from e.g. a strong loyal client base you could tap into by offering a referral incentive or you could have access to a designer who could help you with banners for your store entrance or develop a simple classy flyer to distribute in the mall. You may even try something daring and creative like show casing your work just outside your salon. In isolation or as one offs there is a greater risk of it not working. It’s too much of a shot in the dark. Occasionally you get lucky, but it’s more like logs on a fire -together as a targeted and timed approach, the momentum builds and the magic begins to burn. It is important to keep records of what works and what didn’t. Don’t be hasty. Practise a bit of patience. Find out from new clients why they came to you. Don’t just look at it as a one off, look at the timing of it all. You’ll soon start to see where your silver bullets are hidden. And don’t forget to enjoy the journey – magical carpet rides, enchanted cups and all.

    What makes me SO special? THE DIFFERENTIATION STRATEGY

    By Rina Mc Kellar for SA Hairdressers Journal
    It is a really simple question…. and the answer should be just as simple. It should roll off the tongue. It should be second nature. It should be easy. But it’s often one that causes most of us to stop dead in our tracks. It’s a question that makes many squirm on both a personal and professional level. On an individual level this type of conversation is reserved mainly for interviews at boardroom tables or perhaps flirted with on a first date. But more than that, I doubt it gets much more airtime.

    In the business world it should be a much more comfortable topic. Surprisingly it often isn’t. For many a business owner it only leads to ummn’s and aah’s or perhaps a spout of clichéd slogans like “because we are fantastic” or “we deliver the best service”. But is this really enough? Is this kind of answer enough to set your business apart from the many other salons out there?

    The deeper question is: What makes you unique? What makes you different to your competitor? What puts you in your own league? What sets you apart? And how would your answer differ from that of everyone else?

    One of the most common differentiation strategies used in the retail industry is PRICE. An easy example to illustrate this and where It is clear to see is in our country’s home furnishing or decor industry – in years gone by, this segment was earmarked only for the rich. Cheaper furniture brands existed but certainly not with the same design flair as for the upper echelons of society. Enter companies like Mr Price Home in the late nineties and suddenly this sector saw an explosion and a big-bang-boom. Interior design was no longer just for the opulent. Beautiful contemporary products were made affordable through a strong differentiation strategy: price. Suddenly everyone had access to a previously elite offering at affordable prices. Other brands evolved and today there is no shortage of pretty linens, funky desks and quirky prints at any price level. Pricing formed a part of their marketing ethos and is an integral part of their brand. Mr Price is so unashamedly proud of this differentiation pillar that it is gloriously displayed in their name. CLEVER. Very Clever.

    Obviously with each strategy, there are pros and cons. For example, lower pricing is almost always associated with poorer quality, so brands have had to factor how to turn this to their advantage. So words like “low cost” creep in instead of “cheap” to make it more palatable and marketable and less crass; think low cost housing, low cost airlines etc. There is now an entire category of “low cost” anythings. And yet, while everyone is always looking for a good deal, if something is too cheap, a great deal of scepticism usually lurks not far behind. The old adage “you get what you pay for” has been doing the rounds for decades and will continue long into the future. There is still a deep ingrained belief that marries expensive with supreme quality, service and delivery.

    Another downside is that cheaper pricing is also not always defendable. There will always be a competitor willing to do it for less. Lower pricing is therefore not the only differentiation pillar to build an entire strategy on. It can indeed form part of a formular, but it cannot be the sole distinction factor. It is too easily attacked and a good strategy should be able to stand through many a storm.

    While a pricing strategy may not be completely common to the hair industry in this country, it does highlight the clear distinction between retailers operating in the same area. And perhaps this clarity of a separate industry can be applied. Saying that however, it is also very clear that with brands like Supercuts in the UK there is room for everyone at the table and their differentiation through price is neatly and appetizingly defined as “no frills”. Posters in shop windows display apt slogans like “on trend on budget”. They are defining their difference and owning their space.

    The truth is if you asked the custodians of brands like Mr Price or Supercuts about what makes them special or different, they will know without a doubt. They operate this ethos throughout their branches and divisions. It is core to their brand. It’s what sets them apart. It’s what makes them special and different. They will not ummn and aah. They know their answer.
    So…. What makes YOU different?

    For many creatives (and not just those involved with hair) their answer quite simply lies in their own individual creativity and uniqueness and personality. But here is the conundrum: how does that creativity get translated into solid business practices and marketing activities. How does it become a business pillar or ethos?

    For the above mentioned brands the differentiation chosen is not merely to be different, it is how they operate. It becomes ingrained in business practice. It is how they market themselves and how they communicate their offering. It forms part of advertising campaigns. It forms part of their day to day lives.

    The real challenge is to build your business on more than just the differentiation of only your creativity and artistic style. Like with pricing, we saw it is not the only thing. So what else can you do that sets you apart and that gives you a guaranteed place at the table for the long run?

    Perhaps take some time to jot down a few ideas that make you different. Think about the things that makes your brand/ your salon stand out and what makes it successful. But then answer the following questions:

    1. Is it defendable? i.e. can it be easily copied? e.g. a new service offering like head massages
    2. Is it dependable? i.e. Are you reliant on ONE thing or ONE person?
    3. Is it sustainable? i.e. Is it a winning formula that can still be around in 20 years?

    It may not all fall into place at the right time, but for majority of business owners the answers are in their heads. They intrinsically know but aren’t able to articulate it succinctly. Once you’ve grappled with a few ideas and come to some acceptable solutions ask yourself the following questions:

    1. How does your differentiation form part of your business and marketing strategy?
    2. How does it help you get new clients or retain your old ones?
    3. How does it help to grow your business?
    4. How do you use your difference to get ahead of your competitor?

    It’s one thing knowing your difference and your uniqueness but it is another to use it to propel your business to the next level.

    Looking at all of these things in isolation can be daunting, but think about it like puzzle pieces. Nice big puzzle pieces or building blocks that come together to form a picture. In this series on marketing we will look at those different pieces and how putting them together can help formulate your marketing and business picture or strategy so that you can set objectives, achieve your goals and be what you dreamt of being when you first started out. Here’s to unlocking the magic of marketing.