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:
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
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!