Archive for March, 2008

Why I don’t bother spending money on TV or radio advertising

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: marketing | Tags: , , , |

A couple of years ago I wrote a book.  As publicity for the book, I did almost three dozen radio interviews.  I was on big stations with big audiences.  I was on shows with big guests (one morning I was the guest immediately preceding Gene Simmons.)  Not once was I able to see an increase in book sales based on those appearances.

The local NBC affiliate featured me on their local show Evening Magazine (watch the video here.)

I am grateful for the publicity.  The bottom line, however, is that it didn’t result in more clients for the salon or more book sales.

I got the radio and TV spots because I ran an ad in RTIR, a publication that goes out to radio and TV producers.  I spent a fair amount of money on the ad, and if I gauge the effectiveness of the ad on how many spots I got, then I would say it was a success.  But if I gauge the effectiveness on new business or book sales, then I have to say it was a failure.

Advertising is an interesting game and I have tried to play it many ways.

What I tried that didn’t work:

  • Co-op advertising with Aveda in the newspaper (It cost a fortune and rarely produced results.  Perhaps it produced results for Aveda, but we didn’t see new business because of it.)
  • Slide shows at the movie theatre (The only people who seemed to notice were existing clients.)movies ad
  • Fliers left on door knobs and car winshields (I think people were more annoyed than interested.)
  • Coupons in bulk mailers –  i.e. Val-Pak (The only new customers we got were people who came just for the discount and did not become regular clients)

What I tried that worked:

  • CitySearch (We first started using this as our co-op advertising with Aveda.  They discontinued offering this as a vehicle for co-op benefits and it was one of the reasons we decided to stop being a Concept Salon.)
  • Chevy Astro Van (I bought a used cargo van for about $3000 and had vinyl graphics put on for another $3000.  We used it for business trips to supply houses, Costco and popular restaurants.  It was a moving billboard that we used for 10 years.  That’s only $600 a year…WAY cheaper than a billboard and I got to use it to haul things, too!  I stripped the vinyl off and sold it a few years ago and I still have new customers say they saw the van.)va

What it has all boiled down to (for me and my salon) is this:  What does it cost and does it work?  Some advertising makes me (the business owner) feel good, but doesn’t bring in new customers who we can convert to loyal clients.  That would be a waste of money.  If I want to spend money to make myself feel good, I would rather go to the spa and get pampered.  It’s a better return on my investment.  The only reason to spend money on advertising is to get more clients or to get the clients you have to spend more money.  Otherwise you are throwing money away.

What have you tried that worked or didn’t work?

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Haircolor education on YouTube

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: staff | Tags: , , |

One of the challenges we face as a small salon is keeping our staff educated.  The internet is making that easier!  (If you don’t have a computer with an internet connection at the salon, you are missing out on FREE education!)

My buddy Jessee Skittrall (The Kadus Guy) has a collection of videos for you and the staff.  You can watch PK about Kadus haircolor, and check out the monthly techniques demonstrations.  Jessee shows you the sectioning, the formulating, the application and the finished result.

YouTube tip: You can subscribe to the channel and be notified of new additions.

Check it out.

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Getting and Keeping the Clients You Want (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: customer service, marketing | Tags: , , , , |

Running a small business is less fun than you think. I talk people out of opening salons all the time. When I explain to them the details of payroll, inventory, taxes and the like, all but the most determined think better of the idea. But many of you didn’t ask me before you started your salon. So if you are already in too deep to get out, here are some tips (from my workshop: Getting and Keeping the Clients You Want).

The average salon only keeps 30%-50% of the first time clients who walk through the door.

If you can control who comes in, you can significantly increase your odds!

  1. You need a website. The day has passed where you could put this off. I used to think I didn’t need one because, as a service business, I didn’t need to reach the whole world. The thing is, the people in your community want to be able to check you out anonymously and at odd hours. At the very least, give them some basic info: hours, prices, location, contact info, staff names, payments accepted, products you carry. You probably have a client who can do such things and would trade services with you. Put a note up on your mirror asking “Can you help us build a web page?”
  2. Our salon and our clients LOVE our online scheduling. It cuts down on phone calls and decreases the chances of no-shows (it sends a reminder the day before.) The one we use, Flash Appointments, is very affordable for small salons.  There is an interesting service I have read about, but not tried called Salon Service Central that can take the place of a receptionist.
  3. Every business has a personality. Does yours have a personality disorder? Don’t try to be all things to all people. Not everyone is your target client. I know you think you want anyone with a pulse and a credit card, but you will be much happier (and more successful) if you determine your business personality and embrace it. Azarra is the salon where you can wear your pajamas and cuss. What makes your salon different from the 300 other salons in your town?
  4. Don’t waste money on advertising your target client won’t see. If you are an upper-end salon, discounts and coupons that come in a bulk mailer are unlikely to appeal to your target market. We use CitySearch. It lets you set an advertising cap and we pay what we can afford. It allows clients to leave reviews and we get tons of new clients from it (way more than we ever got from our yellow pages ad which we have now dropped.)
  5. Build relationships with your vendors. They have tools to help you grow. Partner with the ones who can be the most help.
  6. Get an accountant you can trust and understand. It is crazy to think that you can keep up on all the tax rules. If you ever have a problem with a tax agency, you will be glad you have someone who can back you up.
  7. You do not want pissy clients. If a customer is pissy, give them back their money and send them on their way.
  8. Under-promise, over-deliver. Don’t promise the moon if you don’t think you can hit Mars.
  9. Detoxify the staff. Staff who sabotage your goals and vision will cost you more than you will ever make from them. Let them go. You know who is poisoning your environment. Get rid of them.
  10. Live your brand. Once you figure out who you are, be sure that all your materials reflect it. Business cards, menus, website and advertising should all be cohesive and should help prospective customers determine if you are the right salon for them. If you do a better job of appealing to only your target market, then you will be more likely to keep the clients you get.
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Get you own damn blog! (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: marketing | Tags: , , , |

Do you want to communicate with the clients you have and attract new ones?

Get your own blog!

It’s FREE!

It’s easy!

It’s effective!

I like WordPress. Other people like Blogger. Check them both out and see what you think. As I read in Business Week today, any dolt with a working computer and an internet connection can have a blog up and running in ten minutes. There is no reason NOT to. What are you waiting for?

Here’s an example of another salon’s blog.

And another.

(If you have a salon blog, please leave the link in a comment so we can all visit!)

Here is a “how to” guide about blogging for beginners.

Here is an article from Wells Fargo about blogging for small business.

Here is an article from ShoeString Branding with all the details of setting up a self-hosted blog.

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Employee or Independent Contractor? (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: staff | Tags: , , , , |

I would like you to read this whole article if you have (or are thinking of having) booth rental in your salon.

If there is one thing you don’t want, it’s to piss off the IRS!

Here’s an excerpt:

A sticky issue for many small employers revolves around who is an employee versus who is an independent contractor.

Many smaller companies use independent contractors to keep employee expenses lower. Independent contractors are engaged for specific projects, so there are only costs to the company hiring them when there is specific work to be performed. In addition, independent contractors do not have to be covered under workers’ compensation insurance or other employee benefits, and the company does not have to pay the employer portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

However, the Internal Revenue Service and the courts have established strict guidelines on who can be considered a true independent contractor in recent years. This has come in large part because of employers who used the status of independent contractor on people who were really employees simply to reduce their costs by saving on benefit costs and the expense associated with the employer Social Security match. The status of independent contractor versus employee is not guided by a specific law, but by a series of court cases. There is no simple checklist, but rather a growing list of criteria that help determine independent contractor status. Therefore, a certified public accountant or an attorney should be consulted to help assure that a business is in compliance with the current interpretation of this area of tax law.

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Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 31, 2008. Filed under: customer service | Tags: , , |

We had a customer service incident today.

I answered a phone call from someone who had not yet been into our salon and was very irritated that she had received her reminder email only to learn that we thought her appointment was for Saturday and she thought it was for today. I asked her if she had gotten the email confirmation that is sent when the appointment is first made and she said she got it but didn’t read it.

I offered her a time today and she was unable to take it. I told her I would have the stylist call her and see what could be done to get the time she preferred. When the stylist arrived, he/she (I have been asked not to give too much info so as to not hurt any feelings, so I have adjusted gender) called the client and left a voice-mail in which she/he made a point to remind the client of the conversation and how she must have asked for a Saturday appointment.

An hour later, I got this email from the client:

I am cancelling my appointment on Saturday, 10/6 @ 4:30.

I have a funeral all day Saturday, why would I make an appt. that day?????? I don’t appreciate (X’s) claiming (she/he) specifically remembers me telling (him/her) Saturday, because I did not. It’s pretty funny too, (she/he) started off by saying, “I talked to you a couple days ago”… nope, just yesterday. I think (he/she’s) a little off on (his/her) days. Ever heard ‘the customer is always right’? I’ll be giving someone else my business.


When I spoke to the stylist about this, there were raised voices and hurt feelings. I was not irritated about the scheduling error. Things happen. Life is like that. What irritated me was the way it was handled. Once the confusion occurs, it makes no sense to fight over who was right. The question isn’t who was right, the question is, can the client be accommodated? I think they were both more interested in being right than they were about getting her hair done.

I tried to explain to the stylist that this lesson needed to be learned not just to be a successful service provider, but to live a happy life.

It hardly ever matters who was right. Really. I promise.

As to the “customer is always right” philosophy, our regular clients know that we don’t necessarily subscribe. We aren’t here to be doormats, and while I wish this incident could have been handled differently, I am not going to try to woo this client into giving us another chance.

I did reply to her email with an apology for being unable to solve her problem, a list of four salons that might be able to help her today, and our best wishes.

Feel free to discuss similar incidents and other solutions!

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Help from the Small Business Administration (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 30, 2008. Filed under: resources | Tags: , |

The Small Business Administration has come a long way since I first looked to them for help when I started my salon.  Now they are all about the internet and there are LOADS of resources and TONS of information there.  Not a bad place to start if you are in the “Should I open my own salon?” stage of planning.

There is a great article at Small Biz Trends that breaks down what is available and where to find it online.

Remember, there is no reason to feel alone when starting a business.  You are not the first one to do it and there is no shame in taking advice and assistance from people who have blazed the trail before you.  Save yourself some headaches and read up before you jump in, or use their resources to re-focus if your existing business has drifted off course.

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The Customer Is Sometimes Right (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 30, 2008. Filed under: customer service | Tags: , , |

We have talked before (and I have taken some guff) about my belief that the customer is NOT always right. Customers are human.

They sometimes are wrong. I know. It seems crazy and counter to everything you have read about how to succeed in business. But it is the honest truth.  You cannot please everyone.  Some people cannot be pleased no matter how hard you try!

This sign is from a shop in Beijing, China.


Today I have found an article for you (read the excerpt below, then click over to read the rest) that backs up my belief.

The article shares stories from companies large and small who have realized that not every customer is right for their business.


The customer is always right?

When the customer isn’t right – for your business

One woman who frequently flew on Southwest, was constantly disappointed with every aspect of the company’s operation. In fact, she became known as the “Pen Pal” because after every flight she wrote in with a complaint.

She didn’t like the fact that the company didn’t assign seats; she didn’t like the absence of a first-class section; she didn’t like not having a meal in flight; she didn’t like Southwest’s boarding procedure; she didn’t like the flight attendants’ sporty uniforms and the casual atmosphere.

Her last letter, reciting a litany of complaints, momentarily stumped Southwest’s customer relations people. They bumped it up to Herb’s [Kelleher, CEO of Southwest] desk, with a note: ‘This one’s yours.’

In sixty seconds, Kelleher wrote back and said, ‘Dear Mrs. Crabapple, We will miss you. Love, Herb.’”

The phrase “The customer is always right” was originally coined by Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of Selfridge’s department store in London in 1909, and is typically used by businesses to:

1. Convince customers that they will get good service at this company
2. Convince employees to give customers good service

Fortunately more and more businesses are abandoning this maxim – ironically because it leads to bad customer service.

Read the rest here.

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Marketing Secrets (from the GSH archives)

Posted on March 30, 2008. Filed under: marketing | Tags: , , |

We all know there is business advice available on the internet, but for many of us, we don’t know where to begin looking for the answers.  I found a publication put together by Hewlett Packard that is a collection of advice from online business writers.  Not only is the publication full of good advice, it is a great list of experts (full of links to their websites where you can get even more help!)  I am a big believer in taking advantage of all the free information you can find.

It is always easier to travel the road if you have tales and tips from those that have gone before.

A Letter from the Publisher of Small Business Trends
Welcome to our first—but not last—eBook featuring tips and advice learned from 100 savvy readers.
It was humbling to see the breadth and quality of these reader-contributed pointers. The knowledge of many is far greater than the knowledge of one. No matter how much one person might know, it pales when compared to the wisdom of those who live and breathe the need to go out and get and retain customers every day in order to put food on the table.
I’m reminded of the narrow margin for error under which most small businesses operate. As one reader said, “Market or die! When you’re a small business owner, if you don’t succeed at marketing, your business literally could die.”
And small businesses have to make everything count. As George Langan, CEO of eXpresso ( told me, “When you’re on a tight startup budget, you can’t afford a $2,000-a-month marketing mistake.”
Throughout the submitted tips, I noticed three themes over and over:

1. Simple and inexpensive tools are more popular than complex or pricey approaches.

“Duh!” you might be thinking. “Isn’t it obvious that entrepreneurs and small businesses, being on tight budgets, would favor low-cost approaches?” Well, yes and no. What was surprising is just how many of the tips cost literally nothing but your time. A large proportion of others, such as those that focused on using business cards or blogging, can be done for hundreds, not thousands, of dollars. So don’t be tempted to throw up your hands and say “I can’t afford marketing.” You can.

2. Authenticity, friendliness and relationships matter.

When you count your customers in the single or double digits, as opposed to the thousands or hundreds of thousands, relationships tend to matter much more deeply. The importance of smiling and being friendly was brought up again and again. Doing something nice for others and being yourself were common themes. Most small businesses are NOT about mass marketing campaigns. Instead, we rely on attracting and retaining a relatively small number of customers to be successful. A solo consultant or small Web design firm may have as few as five or six regular customers. For small businesses, investing in relationship building goes a long way.

3. Creative online marketing plays a key role.

We drew tips from those who are active online, so on the one hand you might think that the results would naturally be skewed toward online marketing. And to a degree I suppose that’s true. But I was surprised by the sophistication of the online marketing—especially on limited budgets. Some of the online approaches are very detailed and go far beyond the plain-vanilla “create a nice Web site” type of advice. A number of the small-business marketing techniques represented in this document get into advanced online marketing, including social media marketing.

Read (or print and save) the entire publication here.

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