May 2008

Joe Howe

Off The Top | by Joe Howe


Client Diversity — Importance of a Wide Appeal

In the beauty industry, one of the most important factors to being successful is to have a diversity in your talents.

As a new stylist especially, it’s important to appeal to a broad spectrum of individuals in order to build your client base.

When you’re newer to the industry, you’re a bit hungrier than someone who may be seasoned in their career. Having a broader diversity in your talents makes you more marketable to an immediate client base and once your clientele is more stable, you can start to define a specialty.

When I was new to the industry I realized not many people were comfortable doing longer hair and even more so, they hated doing formal occasion work. I set my sights on polishing my skills to capture that market and over the years have built a good reputation within my community for doing proms, weddings and other formal finish work. I wish I had the ability to track the amount of money I’ve made from other stylists handing me their formal work.

A demographic often overlooked is the aging market. Perhaps it’s our youthful arrogance, thinking we’ll never get “that old,” but the truth is we will all be there someday. People are living longer. Science is attempting to develop new technology that might allow humans to exceed 150 years of age, for those who want to. However, as our clients become older their needs often change and so does our need to adapt to those changes.

Several companies today offer anti-aging products that address the physical changes in our bodies as we move forward in life. Hair and skin often change in texture and appearance as we get older and a product that worked well for a client who was 45 may not work as well at the age of 65.

I’m not one to believe that any man or woman with grey hair needs to color it. In fact, I think some people with grey hair look stunning and it compliments their skin tone. However, with that said, one of the best clients you can capture is a client who gets his or her hair colored.

I’ve been doing hair for over 25 years and some of my clients have been with me for a majority of that time. It’s interesting to see the progression of services that I once offered to those clients as compared to what I’m offering today. For example, I have a client whose hair I did for her wedding 18 years ago and I have been highlighting her hair for several years. What started as an accentuation to her look transformed itself into a camouflaging of her new grey hairs and then morphed itself into the necessity to cover them up. We just recently started to do a full color service on her.

For most of us, this is probably the natural progression of such a service. It’s rare for someone with completely grey hair to walk into a salon and suddenly decide today is the day they’re going to start to color their hair. Going from grey to colored hair is often too much of a transition.

However, if I have a client who mentions that perhaps she is not happy about seeing the grey come in, that is my opportunity to open the conversation and offer services that will lead to coloring her hair. Few people like to draw attention to the fact they have started to color their hair. Perhaps a good opening service to introduce them to color and hiding those grey hairs would be a demi-permanent color or a low lighting that helps to blend out the grey. Demi-permanent colors are what I like to refer to as a try-on color. It helps to ease a person’s mind knowing they are not committed to the service. However, I also explain to my client that if they enjoy the results of demi-permanent color, I can easily flip it into a permanent color formula in the future.

For men, I find most do not like to see the usual line of demarcation that is evident after a few weeks from a color service. I find it most natural looking and comforting to them to match their natural color level and comb the color through the grey areas of their hair. This leaves behind a lot of the grey (or a little depending on how much you comb through) but tones it down so that it’s not as heavy or apparent. The best part is that the line of demarcation is much more subtle as the hair grows in.

Other such amenities to take into consideration within your salon to facilitate an aging client base are the structural features of your salon and the products you carry. Do you have a wheelchair ramp at your curbside and handrails in your restroom? For most cities, this is a required feature in construction, although some buildings are grandfathered in and are therefore not required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The products on your shelves should also reflect a welcome solution for aging clients. Color enhancing shampoos, make up geared toward different skin textures and promotional material that make older clients feel youthful and welcome are great additions to your reception area.

Keep in mind that even your youngest client today in time will become a golden treasure. Our industry strives to serve the needs of all clients, including those who have been here long before us.

Joe Howe has been a licensed cosmetologist for 23 years and self employed since 1987. He’s worked as a booth renter for the majority of his career and currently co-owns a booth rental salon in Maumee, Ohio. You can reach Joe via email at