June 2013

Clive Lamb

Food for Thought | by Clive Lamb


When PR Means More than Public Relations

Traditional advertising is fine for branding big companies like Pepsi and Coke, but it's not very effective for salons.

Anybody can put out an ad saying "we are the BEST!" It doesn't mean that you are, in fact, you're probably not and consumers are savvy enough to know that.

Finding the right tools to help grow your business can be challenging. If I had a dime for every time someone tried to sell me a traditional advertising program, I'd be a rich guy.

So, what does work? In my opinion, PR does. And by PR, I don't just mean public relations, I also mean personal referrals.

The very best way to grow your clientele and business quickly is by getting personal referrals from your existing clientele.

To do this, you must have a good referral program in place, and make sure every client knows about it. You should be generous with what you give your clients as an incentive for referrals, but be careful not to fall into the discount trap.

Some salons are offering discounts just to get new customers in the door. They'll place an ad offering a discount that is "valid for first-time customers only." This is like a slap in the face to your existing customers.

You're going to discount your services to someone who may not end up being a loyal client, yet you're not extending the same offer to clients who are loyal? That just doesn't make any sense to me.

One of the very best PR tools to help build your business is to get a publication to write a positive story about your salon.

Many cities have local magazines featuring a list of the best places in their local areas. These publications have a loyal following and people trust what they have to say. If someone writes a positive story about you or your salon, it's like getting a personal referral that hundreds or even thousands of people hear about.

Of course, nobody's going to refer you or your salon if your business is a mess. To get referrals, your quality of services must be above average consistently. Clients must be able to identify with your brand and know they will have the same outstanding level of customer service, professionalism and quality every time they visit.

That consistent level of professionalism brings me right back to my favorite subject: training and education.

We all know you can't have quality and consistency without having an education and training program in place at your salon. Your clients are walking business cards for your salon's expertise. If your work is not good, you will never get a referral and it will be difficult to grow your clientele. However, if your work is exceptional, your client's appearance will literally bring clients to you.

Another way to keep your brand consistent is by taking good care of your staff. My success comes from my philosophy that my staff comes first, the customer second. If you take care of your staff by providing opportunities for education and advancement (higher salaries) you will retain these employees longer.

They will also be more likely to share your philosophy and that adds even more cohesiveness to your brand. It also keeps your client base stable as clients won't leave to follow an employee to another salon. Plus, clients can tell if your employees are happy or not and they are more likely to refer someone to a salon that has a positive, drama-free environment.

Besides client referrals, another great tool to help you build your clientele is with social media. Facebook, Twitter and e-newsletters are a great and inexpensive way to get the word out about you and your salon. Chances are your staff already uses these forms of social media, so go ahead embrace it.

Recruit one of your staff to be responsible for your Facebook page or Twitter account and pay them a little extra to do it. You'll be surprised how many great ideas your staff will have and it will bring the team together.

E-newsletters are also a great way to inexpensively communicate with your clients on a regular basis. There are also many programs out there for electronic booking, appointment confirmations and more. Technology can be a great tool, so don't be afraid of it.

Clive Lamb owns and operates Clive and Co., a modern, thriving salon based in Dallas, Texas. In addition, Clive was appointed Chairman of the Texas Cosmetology Advisory Board in 2006, a position he held for five years. Clive has over 30 years of international exposure to the vast and constantly evolving hairdressing industry. Connect with Clive at Facebook.com/CliveandCo.