Building/Keeping Your Clientele

by Jayne Morehouse

I am a frequent contributor to The Stylist newspapers, and I have been delighted to call the professional beauty industry "home" for the past 25 years. However, I am not a stylist -- I am a former editor and a brand communications specialist who visits her hair salon every three weeks for at least a color re-touch, glaze and brow shaping / coloring.

Every few months, when my stylist recommends it, I add on highlights / lowlights and a haircut. I treat my feet to a spa pedicure every three weeks and a manicure when time allows. I frequently give my friends beauty gift cards for services that I love. I shop for beauty products from makeup and nail polish to skincare and hair care every week. Okay, I might be sounding a little high maintenance here, but I need that beauty backup in order to maintain a professional image, and you want to be my primary source, don't you?

If you invite clients like me into your salon, day spa or chair and give us a reason to stay, we are not only extremely loyal, but we are willing to buy just about any service or product you recommend. We will also go above and beyond to recommend you to our friends and business colleagues -- once you have gained our trust.

You can read plenty of business articles that suggest you hand out your cards wherever you go and offer clients an incentive -- a free service or product -- in return for referring their friends. These are all great techniques for building your clientèle. But that is not the intent of this article. This is about inspiring an army of clients to spend as many of their beauty dollars as possible with you, and getting them to rave about you to their friends in order to grow your business.

What is the first step? Earn my trust.

Up front, let's agree that great skills are wonderful, but today you need more. Share at every visit what you have seen that is a new, growing trend or something that you think I would like. It can be as simple as a new nail polish or lipstick color that works with my hair color, or a new color application technique you recently learned. Perhaps my favorite products are now available in travel sizes -- let me know and offer to hold a set for me. Tell me what you have learned in the classes you take.

Communicate with me between visits — and make it easy for me to share your expertise.

Find out how I want to receive information from you, whether via phone, email or Facebook -- then send it to me every week or two. The more personal the communication the better, but I do not mind a newsletter or group email, as long as it contains information that is relevant to me. I want to know about your new and / or featured services and products, what you learned at a recent class, or if you are participating in a charity or community event.

The most lethal line a hairdresser can say is, "What are we doing today -- same as last time?"

This question immediately transfers credibility from you to the client. When I am in your chair, ask me what I have in mind, but always add a recommendation or two of your own. That does not mean you need to suggest a total makeover -- let me stay in my comfort zone, while still trying a little something new. Your guidance in making these subtle changes helps me begin to trust you.

Turn me on to like-minded beauty experts.

If you find an article, newsletter or website that shares beauty information that you think I would like, recommend it to me. It does not detract from your credibility, in fact, it enhances it because you are willing to share, and you are confident enough that I will continue to rely on you as my primary beauty resource.

Invite me to try something new.

During my last visit to the salon, my colorist was running late, so she treated me to a conditioning treatment at the backbar. Her assistant applied a customized potion and then did a delightful scalp massage. The experience enhanced my colorist's credibility because she recommended it. Not only did I love how my hair felt, but it also gave the new assistant the opportunity to establish a relationship with me. Every time someone else in your salon builds a bond with me, the more invested I am in remaining your client. When my friends notice how shiny my hair looks, I will rave about the treatment, and of course, I will purchase it in the future if my hair is feeling dry, or when I just want to enjoy the relaxing scalp massage.

Please show me how to do my own hair.

When I can replicate the gorgeous look you created, that is when you have truly won me over. I promise I will use the products and tools you recommend -- make the recommendation, please -- but if you let me leave without showing me how to use my iron or round brush, I will think you gave me a bad cut.

The bottom line is that consumers today have the opportunity to shop for beauty products and services on almost every block. Even my suburban neighborhood mall has five salons, several retail stores, as well as two grocery stores with beefed up beauty sections, all within a couple of blocks. These companies are spending millions of dollars per year to draw me in and steal your business. You probably cannot compete on price, convenience or selection, but that should not matter, because once you have earned my trust, your credibility, expertise and our relationship trump them all.

Jayne Morehouse is president of Jayne & company, a brand communications agency specializing in beauty and health, and she is a frequent shopper at salons, stores and beauty supply retailers. Reach her at jayne@jayneandco.com.

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