February 2012

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck

 

Build Your Own Online Presence

Selecting a favorite online resource would be easy if there were one that offers everything. That's not possible.

I will, however, take a more pragmatic approach and admit that my favorite resources belong to financial institutions (my bank, credit card companies, etc.).

There's nothing connected to the beauty industry about their websites, but they serve their purpose well. These sites provide personalized, timely and necessary information, as well as functionality like online bill payment, that I depend on as a business owner. I visit them regularly to update my finances and make decisions that affect my salon. 

Speaking of my salon, it has an online presence also, and I'm not referring to a Facebook page. Many salons have websites; that's not uncommon. However, there's a distinction to be made between a simplistic and static site that includes little more than contact information, and a complex and dynamic one that provides visitors more relevant and unique content.

Some salon owners will not, or can not, make the investment required to have a more substantial website, if any at all. What a missed opportunity! Building and maintaining a website that others consider a resource is a great way to promote your salon.

The most affordable (at only about $10 a year) and simplest step in the process is the first one, registering a domain name. Lucky for me, my salon name with a .com address was available back in 2000. Had it not been, I would have been very reluctant to hyphenate, misspell or otherwise vary the name. Consistency and convenience are important considerations when registering a domain; it needs to be easy to find.

To build the site, I initially considered doing it myself, but quickly determined that I had neither the time, talent nor desire to master the existing software. Assuming that a professional web designer would be too expensive, I made a critical mistake and hired an enthusiastic college student with limited experience.

When the process stalled after a few months, I did my research (better late than never) and learned that the design services of a local, emerging firm were more affordable than I thought. I quickly corrected my hiring mistake, and the process restarted in earnest.

Working with a professional web designer proved a very positive experience. Our collaborative process involved many discussions about the purpose of the website: to provide a convenient way for potential clients to learn about the salon.

To this end, I wrote all the content (service descriptions and pricing, salon policies, nail care advice, etc.) and the designer did his part to create an attractive and navigable website. In the years since its launch, the website has expanded with the addition of FAQs, a blog, online booking, a shopping cart and consulting information. Regular updates keep the content fresh for visitors who find us through search engines, links from other websites and emails. 

As expected, my salon website became the most cost-effective way to reach potential clients. But even when something appears to be working, improvements can be made. At a certain point, updates and minor revisions are not enough to get the job done.

For example, this time last year, my salon marketing materials (brochure, gift card, business cards, etc.) needed a complete redesign. In the past, I'd always managed without a graphic designer by working directly with a local print shop. But when my expectations outpaced my capabilities, I knew it was time to hire another professional. Together, we produced new materials with a more cohesive, vibrant and sophisticated appearance. Having done that, the website obviously needed a redesign also; it looked tired in comparison.

Thanks to the hard work of my graphic designer, the design of the website (colors, fonts, images, layout, etc.) now aligns with the new salon materials. More important, the website serves multiple purposes; it contains information tailored to potential clients and beauty professionals, separately and collectively. For clients, we simplified the services menu and reservations process, reworked the FAQs, added a complete listing of our polish selection and recommended local services, organizations and businesses. 

For professionals, we created an entirely new area accessed by login. Previously, I'd shared product recommendations, service procedures and upcoming events by sending newsletters upon request. Because email marketing has its limitations (timeliness, reader/list fatigue, inbox deliverability, list churn, etc.), it seemed a far better solution to post this information directly on the website.

Once registered, professionals will find: nail-related articles from the Stylist, my favorite professional products and services, a comprehensive schedule of beauty shows, networking events and classes and step-by-step instructions for my most popular services, like waterless spa manicures and pedicures.

I don't expect my salon's website to be anyone else's favorite. It certainly won't please everyone or meet all their needs, but as long as it serves my purposes, it's worthwhile. Check it out at www.precisionnails.com.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at info@precisionnails.com.