July 2009

Elizabeth Brown

Three Months of Marketing | Elizabeth Brown


Diversion-Proof Marketing

You cannot use the “D” word without evoking emotion, from the defeated, resigned shrug to quiet, steely resolve to passionate resistance.

No matter your reaction, pretending it does not impact our business or ignoring the consequences does not negate them.

As a salon professional, you may feel as though the reality of diversion is out of your hands; after all, what can you do to stem the tide when big players release ‘professional’ products into mainstream retail outlets from the drug store down the street to the big box outlet – not to mention on the internet.

Consumers have never had access to such a wide variety of product choices available from such a wide variety of purchasing points. From inexpensive mass-produced brands to products previously available only in the most exclusive salons and spas, if your client can Google it, they can get it.

The good news is that you can do more than work around the reality of diverted products. There are actions you can take to make your business diversion-proof, ensuring that clients will come to you for products as well as services.

Marketing is much more than the ads you place or the promotions you run. Marketing encompasses every message that you send to clients, from the ones you intend to send through your overt messaging to the ones you may not even be aware you are sending – the atmosphere in your salon, the attitude clients sense from your staff, the products they see on the backbar, and more. When it comes to retail products in the salon, often there is a huge, gaping hole where your messaging should be!

Do you carry products in the salon that are truly professional-only products, or do you carry products that you know are available in your client’s grocery or drugstore? If you knowingly carry products available at local retail stores, you need to put a strategy in place through promotions, add-on services, etc., to give clients incentives to purchase from you, rather than a retail competitor.

You may need to do reconnaissance at local stores to see which of your products are available there and where they are priced, and you may need to make changes to your own retail strategies accordingly.

Remember though, with the purchasing power large chains have, you cannot compete on price. So how do you give yourself an edge?

One of the most obvious answers is to carry products whose manufacturers have elected to sell exclusively through professional distribution and salons only. But this is only the first step; you also have to communicate the unique benefits these products have to your clients. You must identify legitimate client needs, problems and conditions, and then you have to tell them how the products that you carry meet their needs and solve their problems better, faster, more efficiently, more luxuriously – than the products they can purchase elsewhere can do.

To create true exclusivity for your clients, you may elect to carry your own salon-branded line of products. This may be simpler than you think. You do not need a degree in chemistry or your own lab to have a private line. Advances in technology have made print-on-demand and other short-run labeling options more possible and more affordable.

This may be the time to contact local professional-only manufacturers with questions about creating a private label line of hair, skin, cosmetics, waxing or other products for your salon. This can work especially well for salons with a boutique feel whose client base is especially attracted by the idea of exclusivity, personalized attention and the idea that they have access to items that are not available to the general public. Remember, it is not just having the products, it is in positioning, merchandising, signage, promotions, messaging – in other words, through on-going, consistent communication throughout the course of your business with clients that you establish these perceptions.

You can apply the same principles of marketing messaging when it comes to services; specifically when it comes to the products that you use in your services. No doubt in the present economy some of your clients have gone to the drugstore for their hair color. When it comes to color, what is it about the line you carry that sets them apart from the drugstore lines? If it is only in your personal ability to apply the color, you have lost the messaging war when it comes to clients who want all-over color – because they can apply this themselves.

You must identify, differentiate and communicate the benefits your products carry - from color line to products you use for massage, waxing, nail or skin care services, to services provided at the backbar - in the same way you communicate the unique, powerful benefits your retail products possess.

Elizabeth Brown is the founder of Be InPulse Marketing and Design in Auburn, Washington and the author of 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa. Email the author at elizabeth@12monthsofmarketing.net.