June 2009

Building Your Clientele

by Debbie Doerrlamm

Is your book a little empty? Then it’s time to learn all about client referral.

Eventually you will have to learn when to stop your referral program and start turning away clients in droves. It may not be the fastest way to build your book, but it works and works well consistently.

Retaining clients: Always pre-book before the client leaves. Never let them go out your door without booking their next appointment or you may not hear from them again.

Send thank you cards to every new client as that will keep your name in the forefront of their address book. Offer an incentive to rebook within a certain time frame.

People love something for free or discounted, especially around their birthday. Send your steady client a postcard offering a small upgrade or a free gift about a week before the date.

An appointment reminder call, email or text message is a sure way to keep the no-shows from no-showing you.

Getting new clients: My own referral program was using a local high school girl’s popularity status. I adored this kid and she adored her nails. I made a deal with her. Every warm body you send me -- you get a free fill.

Then I made a deal with each of those referred. Every warm body you send me -- you get five dollars off your next fill. Cost: Your time and a few business cards. Within nine months my book was solid and I hired someone to pick up the overflow.

Within two years these kids started to leave for college; they also started to refer me to their mothers, aunts, boyfriends’ mothers, boyfriends’ sisters, and the list goes on.

Posting to places such as Craig’s List or Yahoo Local can help bring in new clients. Cost: Your time. Do your research before posting to see what other similar business have posted in these ads.

Give each client five of your business cards at each appointment. Ask them to hand out your card to anyone who compliments their hair/skin/nails/toes or mentions they need a new salon. Offer them a free upgrade to a premium service for each referral that comes in. Cost: A few business cards.

Donate gift certificates to local fundraisers. Your business name will be announced and possibly listed in the program for every attendee of the event. Cost: Your time.

Network, Network, Network - Join your local Chamber of Commerce. A little bartering can lead to big business! Always carry your business cards and a salon menu. Your nails and hair should always be in tip-top condition. Anyone who comments should be handed a business card and an offer of a free gift or service upgrade.

Setting yourself and salon apart from the others is a constant task. If your client list is not growing the way it needs to be, you need to start evaluating your menu and surroundings as the client sees it.

Sit in the client’s spot for a few minutes. Look around and what do you see? Is your shop, tidy and clean or does the client see a pile of stuff over your shoulder or in the mirror? The most important thing the client should be seeing is your retail area. You should mention at least one item you retail during each service.

Evaluate your service menu every six months. Make your services stand out by being creative in the descriptions. Keep the menus fresh and up to date, getting rid of services that have not sold.

With each client at your station, review a home care plan, and offer suggestions of recommended products to purchase for home maintenance. Keep any conversation middle-of-the-road. Gossip, religion and politics should never be discussed at your station with your client.

A nice touch would be a follow-up call to the client a few days after the initial appointment to inquire how their nails or hair is holding up.

Your salon website should be kept fresh and up-to-date with full contact information on every page. Today it does not cost a fortune, nor do you need to be a computer expert to create and maintain a professional looking website that showcases your salon.

Keep the fire burning by continuing your education at classes and trade shows. When you are excited about what you do, the client sees or senses this and will refer you to her friends.

Overall do not be afraid to experiment with different types of referral programs and promotions. If it works, great, if not file it in the “chalk this one up to experience” pile. Staff input and networking will help keep your promotions, salon and you fresh and motivated.


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