Keeping Your Color Clients in the Salon

by Jayne Morehouse

One of the most common questions salon owners have been asking since the beginning of the year is how to get the color clients back they lost during the economic downturn.

The answer takes more than a new marketing strategy – it requires a different approach to your business.

Why is this? Even though people are feeling more confident in their spending ability, most are not returning to their past spending habits. They are spending more, but only on products and services they believe provide an excellent value and experience for their money.

Many believe haircolor is one area where they can go it alone. Why not? Many of their friends are doing their own color and they look great. In addition, gone are the days when most home color products produced results that looked like they came out of the kitchen. Many of today's products are just as gentle and conditioning as what you have in your dispensary and often, the same companies make them.

On top of that, retail companies spend tens of millions of dollars every year to market their products to your clients. The retail companies have inserted the most repeated slogans, from the days of "Only her hairdresser knows for sure" to "Because I'm worth it!" into our conversations. These slogans carry a special power.

So, how do you keep clients' haircolor dollars in your salon -- or get them back if you have not seen them for a while and fear they have gone the home haircolor route? I checked in with two of the most successful colorists in the country, to get their perspectives. Here is our strategy:

Communicate your professional expertise at every point of contact. "Colorists lose clients to home hair coloring when the clients feel they can produce as good a result or almost as good as their colorists," said Beth Minardi, haircolor educator and owner of Minardi Salon in New York City. "If the colorist never suggests soft alterations in shade, depth or tone every few months, the client starts to think there is no big deal to doing her own color. Placing random pieces of highlights or lowlights through the hair periodically keeps things interesting and beautifies color in a way color from a box cannot."

Suzie Bond, owner of Perfect Fifth in Mooresville, North Carolina, and one of the most requested platform artists and in-salon educators in the country adds, "Our current economy has proven that we do not retain or gain clients based on our hair talents alone. Clients are looking for an excellent experience. It is our responsibility as professionals to provide that. Some clients are lost to fast re-growth. Try offering an in-between face framing gray re-touch for a low price."

"I have banished the term 'single process' from my salon — it is not sexy nor is it exciting," said Minardi. "Saying 'a color refresh and glaze' sounds so much more interesting and hints at an experience rather than a service."

Bond recommends putting your signature on their head by using techniques, language, and tools that are not available in a box.

Educate clients about service combos. Straightening and smoothing services have surged in popularity, and depending on the product, many are safe to apply to hair before or after it has been colored – when a professional handles it. Regardless of the type of service, it is critical you educate your clients about the potential dangers of combining those services with home color. Finally, make sure they understand the importance of "fessing up" if they do take their color into their own hands, before you perform another chemical service, color or otherwise.

Look like you are in the haircolor business. Make sure your salon looks like a place where gorgeous haircolor happens. From the color each of your team members wears, to your lighting and your retail product shelves, make sure each positions you as an expert for every stage of the haircolor process.

The same goes for your service menu, your website and even your Facebook page. Think twice before filling your reception area with magazines that sing the praises of home haircolor products every month. Toss them and replace them with marketing and education materials that reinforce the messages you want your clients to receive.

Reach out. If you have not seen some of your regular color clients for a while, sometimes a simple phone call to let them know you miss them can bring them back. Bond says, "Don't be afraid of starting the conversation to find out why they left – whether to home color or another salon. If the issue is strictly financial, offer a service that is less expensive and / or requires less maintenance than what you were previously providing. Most importantly, remember you cannot win them all. Make the offer and remember NO means NOT RIGHT NOW. Leave the door open for a revisit and move on."

Concludes Bond, "As professional colorists, we have always had a love / hate relationship with home haircolor. On one hand, home haircolor gone wrong gives us clients who need repair work, but on the other hand, it can also keep potential clients out of our chairs. As professionals who have a passion for our art, we want to help everyone look gorgeous!"

Jayne Morehouse is president of Jayne & company, a brand communications agency specializing in the beauty business, and a frequent contributor to The Stylist & Salon Newspapers. Learn more at

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