He thought I was crazy. "We don't give our services away", he flatly told me. "Our clients pay for them!" Well, yes, except that with make-up services clients hadn't been paying because they hadn't been buying them. Our so-called in-house make-up artist was perpetually on call and almost never in the salon. The make-up testers were in bad shape due to neglect and disuse. Foundations had separated and open lipsticks had grown a beard of dust and lint. Pencil waxes had hardened into graphite and heaven only knew the last time those brushes had been sanitized. Yuck!
Realizing that a salon owner who didn't know his make-up business was terrible would probably not be aware of a sudden improvement in it, I embarked on a career as a guerilla make-up designer. First, I cleaned up the department, refreshing old testers and arranging simple-to-sell items within easy reach. Next, I drew facial clients into the make-up chair using hot new lip colors and a super lengthening mascara as lures. I figured, who wouldn't prefer to leave the salon with fuller lips or well-defined eyes? It was the rare woman that turned down a free few minutes of personal enhancement and some professional tips on brow shaping, or a help selecting a correct blush color. And more rare yet was the woman that didn't buy at least one item I used on her, with three or more items a normal post-service result. After all, here's a man that gave them a better approach to routine make-up wear, free of charge! If you've done a good job of making the session fun and fast, your customer will find it hard to resist owning the products you used. It was nothing to turn 15-minutes of breezy brush and stroke into a $100 retail sale. Of course our manager didn't notice the sales increases, just that my checks were growing faster than my scheduled treatments! When the day came to open my own small skin care salon those complimentary make-up sessions became a standard post-treatment feature for the next 20+ years of business growth. That was well over a million dollars in make-up sales ago.
During these sessions I would ask customers to show me any of the products they were carrying. Out would come a motley collection gathered from major cosmetic lines but without a discernable preference for any one in particular. From home party brands to those sold in the most glamorous department stores, all were represented (and mixed together) in the purses of make-up wearing women. A Chanel lipstick circled by a Wet ‘n Wild liner; Mary Kay foundation supporting a swath of Clinique cheek color; Maybelline mascara defining the lashes fluttering above MAC painted eyelids. All of these products had been fiercely marketed against one another and yet there they were all together in a mismatched heap created by the target customer. What a magic revelation that is! No matter how hard they try and how much money is spent on achieving customer brand loyalty I never saw it achieved with the countless make-up shoppers I worked with. Over many years of cosmetics retailing one fact was crystal clear: make-up sales had far more to do with in-the-moment inspiration than actual product need. And the one key advantage I had over all those multi-million dollar make-up lines was that for a moment at least I had the customer's full attention on what I was doing, saying, and selling. Here in this setting I could out-promote and win business from the world's largest and best-established brands. You may be doing battle with a mega-company, but one-on-one you've got fair fight and even odds!
Ready, set, sell! Here are just a few things you can do with even minimal artistic skills to grow your make-up business among your many eager and willing customers. You've allowed them to be served by the big girls long enough. Take back your rightful place as a true aesthetics professional!
Foundation color check: Did she buy her product under the greenish fluorescent lights of a make-up counter that was located far away from natural light? If she did, offer to check its color for skin tone correctness in the full spectrum of daylight. Don't be surprised to find that product leaning heavily toward pink or coral, well outside the proper shade for your client's face. She'll have your choice in her shopping bag in seconds!
Make-up audit: This is one of my favorite professional services! I ask my clients to bring in all of their make-up for a color evaluation by me. You'll discover a trove of odd and ancient product, many bought on impulse or received as gift-with-purchase from the majors. Does she really want to wear that brown lip gloss? Is she hooked on that hot pink blush a la Valley Girl 1984? Glittery eye shadow at 60? This woman needs your gentle guiding hand and will appreciate the professional advice. You can bet she'll replace every tossed-out item with a better choice from your inventory. Repeat at least once a year, preferably at the beginning of spring or fall when fashions evolve and sales pick up.
Mascara miracle: I've watched legions of women struggle to find a clean way to build up layers of lash thickening mascara only to comb out chunks and wipe it from their lids. Take a mascara brush and load it with a reasonable amount of product. Then scrape the brush over the mouth of the tube, trying to reduce and evenly spread the product you've collected. Now, begin to apply the mascara to the lashes. Slowly and evenly it will begin to build up and produce dense but well separated lashes that require no combing or wiping up after. Repeat the process if needed. This is an excellent way to win a sale and open the door to more suggestions.
Lipstick refresher: I almost never permitted a woman to leave my spa without full, colorful lips. There's something just so radiant about a rich and well-shaped mouth, and for many women lipstick will be the only product they'll still use in later life. See a client about to depart with dull lip color? Stop her! She'll love the consideration and buy the product if the shade is a good suit. Lip color is a very low-commitment product and an extremely common impulse purchase.
Shall we match the nail color, too? An obvious idea often overlooked by many a make-up designer. Keeps those nail colors close by the lipstick display and catch that easy add-on sale every time!
Now you have the tools you need to attract new business and diminish the allure of your mightiest retail competitors. Remember, most make-up companies offer skin care products, too, and they want those sales just as much as you do. They'll be all-too-happy to serve your clients where you fail to, so don't make that easy for them!