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Deck the Halls

Tis’ the season to creatively promote skin care! Well into the early fall, most salons and retailers start to get ready for the holiday season. They ramp up inventory, consider hiring more staff and plan special deals and marketing for the biggest selling season of the year. Once it comes time to start making the important marketing decisions that attract shoppers and clientele, all too often the busy season can force marketing to the back burner. The ideas were there in the beginning; however, the hustle and bustle of clientele and holiday appointments can get you off track.

You need to have a good idea as to what salon promotions will work – and with which clients.
Dan Kliska, President of JOE Grooming Products headquartered in McLean , Va. understands just how important marketing is over the holidays. To help with your holiday marketing approach, Kliska offers his expertise and insight on the top five missteps that business owners often make during the holiday season. According to Kliska, “If you jump these hurdles with the creative and successful options I have come up with, you are more likely to celebrate the coming year!”  

Mistake 1: Relying too Heavily on Discounts to Boost Your Sales
Do not assume that low prices are the only route to your clients’ hearts and wallets. As a salon, skin care clinic, or spa business owner, it is important to grasp the fact that cheap products and discounted services are not nearly as attractive to clients as getting value for their dollar. “If you cut prices too deeply, especially early in the holiday season, you are teaching your year round clients to wait for bargains,” says Kliska. A great alternative to drastically cutting prices is placing appropriate prices on your wares. According to Kliska, “As a business owner or entrepreneur, the key to correct pricing is to make sure you are not merely increasing volume; instead, you must turn a profit on each sale.”
When it comes time to find an alternative to discounting packages or services, keep in mind that the holidays are a time when clients’ wallets are looser than usual. This is a great time to customize packages from “special” services not found priced individually on your menu. You can design unique body, facial, and nail services that are much like, but slightly different than, your standard offerings. This can be done without adding cost or time. Give these services an alluring name and then build your skin care and spa packages with them. Now, charge more for the package – at least 10 to 15 percent more than you would for standard services grouped together as a package. This way you profit from package sales as you should. The client cannot add them up as separate services because they are not sold outside of the package.
A great way to incorporate retail products into holiday promotions is building the items into a few of your specialty service packages. This can be done by selecting fun products that reflect the package themes, yet are not specific to skin type or require regimental use. For example, “A spa or salon package that is geared specifically toward men could include a product [that] is a refreshingly simple and natural all-in-one gentle cleanse from head to toe. An easy to use product that works with all skin types will attract consumers,” says Kliska. “This is a great opportunity to thin out your slower selling retail products and build the price into the package itself.”

Mistake 2: Taking a Casual Approach to E-mail Marketing
The Internet is a marketing tool that should never be avoided, especially over the holiday season. The Internet offers you the option to provide your clients with solutions for their gift-buying dilemmas, as well as to offer recommendations and seasonal promotions. The first step to an effective e-mail blast is collecting e-mails from all of your clients. One way to do this is to have your receptionist ask your clients for their e-mail addresses when they book their appointments or if your appointments are booked online, require your clients to enter an e-mail address. Once you have your e-mail ready to send, you can use a broadcast e-mail program to send the e-mail to all of your clients at once.
A common mistake with Internet marketing is failing to recognize your clients’ special needs. The Internet is used so often to send out messages that it is imperative to send your clients messages, which they will be likely to respond. A great way to do this is to alert your clients a few weeks prior to your special events with promotional e-mail campaigns. Tell them that within a few weeks you will be sending special prices, gifts with purchase, gifts with services, and value added or discounted promotions. This will give you a better chance of getting recipients to open e-mails later.
Another great way to catch the attention of clients is with interesting e-mail subject lines and headlines within your letters. The closer you get to the holiday season, the more urgent your subject lines and messages should become. Each e-mail message should have some ‘call to action’ to attract the buyer to click onto your website. You might offer gift buying advice, a holiday contest, charity information, or gift package specials. Another way to direct clients to your holiday promotions is through a web ring. If you have the opportunity, create alliances with other local businesses that are non-competitive, such as florists and restaurants. You can ask them if they will promote your salon on their website in exchange for you promoting their business on your website. “All too often, business owners send out e-mail marketing with misspelled words, typographical errors, or just plain boring content. Make sure your email is professional and compelling in tone and looks. Add photographs of your skin care services and products. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time and money,” says Kliska.  

Mistake 3: Underestimating Your Website Holiday Influx
If your marketing and holiday promotions are effective, your clients will begin to visit your website more frequently. Imagine the horror if your online store’s shopping cart doesn’t work properly or if your website crashes. According to Yahoo.com, a great way to prepare your site for holiday shoppers is to first make sure all your fees, restrictions, and schedules are transparent and above board. It is important to avoid hiding additional costs, such as shipping or taxes, on the last page of the cart program. Surveys from Yahoo.com have also shown that offering several payment options tends to boost sales.
One of the best ways to efficiently market your holiday promotions and prepare for website influx is to work in advance. Salons and spas should start thinking about holiday promotions in early fall, around September and October. By giving yourself an early start, you have plenty of time to brainstorm and plan many creative ideas and ways to bring existing and new clients to your website and into your business. Another reason to work in advance on your website promotional materials is to be able to work out all of the logistics ahead of time in case you hit any snags. According to Kliska, “During the holiday season, we want our online customers to enjoy a fast, streamlined shopping experience. We thoroughly check every page, every link, and every automated tool. It is easier to solve a problem before the problem is encountered by a customer, not afterward.”  

Mistake 4: Forgetting to Follow up with Your Clients
Consumers will always choose to buy from companies that make them feel valued. Over the holiday season, business owners can find themselves caught up in making sales and producing revenue and forget to recognize their loyal clientele. It is important to follow up with your clients and customers throughout the entire year and a great time to do so is over the holiday season.
Follow up with a personalized thank you card. There are times when e-mailing a message, especially a thank you message, can be cliché. The holiday season is the perfect time to personalize messages to your existing clientele. With the increase in e-mail messaging and full inboxes all over the world, paper mail can be surprisingly effective.
Another great way to follow-up with your clients is with a telephone call. This may range from simply checking in with your client to see how they are, to confirming their next appointment, or thanking them for their recent holiday gift card purchase. Clients enjoy regular and seemingly inoffensive contact; it heightens their experience of dealing with your company and creates a good impression. The customer experience does not end when they receive your service or product. You can find out how they are enjoying it and discover whether you can make their next purchase experience even better. According to Kliska, “You may want to use this follow-up opportunity to find out what the customer feels are your business’ strengths and weaknesses, what makes them choose you over others, and discover what else they may benefit from, which you could provide.” Asking for customers’ opinions will keep them in tune with your business and will let them know that their opinions matter.

Mistake 5: Ignoring the Last-Minute Shopper
Every year it seems more and more gift-buyers wait until it’s practically too late to purchase their presents. This is becoming even more increasingly prevalent with the popularity in online shopping and online gift card purchases. This crowd is probably a mix of bargain hunters, procrastinators, distracted relatives, and overall busy individuals – just about everybody out there. Technology, of course, has helped fuel this trend. Just-in-time shopping and delivery is now possible almost everywhere. As a result, shoppers are buying gifts later and later in the season. To make the most of down-to-the-wire buyers, you should never ignore the last minute shopper.
A great way to catch the attention of your late shoppers is to send out a late-breaking e-mail that lets tardy buyers off the hook. Send it as late in the season as you can while still being able to fulfill orders. For salon or spa owners, this is a great time to promote your holiday gift cards. Make your subject line forgiving; saying something like: "It’s Not too Late to Find Great Gifts” or “Still Trying to Find the Perfect Gift…A Holiday Gift Card is Perfect for Everyone on Your List.” Offer targeted gift suggestions that will make it seem as if they put a great deal of time and thought into their choices.
Keep in mind that the year-end holiday season goes on well after December 25, especially with Valentine’s Day right afterwards. Increasingly, gifts are being exchanged for Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and for New Year's as well. When the season shutters to a close, stay alert. You should now be primed for the post-holiday sale tradition. Because after the decorations are packed away, smart sale prices and products just might put you over the top – until next year.

Be the Leader of the Pack!
The year-end holiday season can be stressful with and without preparation. Being the leader of the pack includes keeping your business in check and keeping your personal life organized as well. The stress of the holidays from a professional standpoint can often wreak havoc on business relationships as well as personal relationships. As beauty professionals, it is our job to take a step back and map out businesses for upcoming holidays. Planning in advance and understanding the tools that can help you get things done can not only help make your business run more smoothly, but it also lessens the overload that the holidays can bring. In the end, a happy holiday is a successful holiday; with these fresh approaches, planning for the holiday season can be fun and profitable!

Kerrin Delaney is a Marketing Coordinator at Marketing Solutions, located in Fairfax, Va. Marketing Solutions offers complete marketing, advertising, graphic design, PR, and consulting services for salons, spas, and beauty care entrepreneurs. 703-359-6000, www.mktgsols.com

Dan Kliska is the President of JOE Grooming in McLean, Va. Joe Grooming offers a complete line of professional hair care, skin care, and body care products for men. 703-847-1880, www.joegrooming.com

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