Loyalty and Referral Cards
The most overlooked place to get your client’s attention is within your own business! In addition to your basics (menus, business cards, et cetera), referral and loyalty card programs are a simple add-on. It is no secret that it is less expensive to market to current clients than it is to new clients. Referral cards are a great way to engage and encourage your team members to self-promote. Setting goals as to how many they should hand out per work week will include them in growing the business and is a good way to create partial accountability for how booked each employee is. The way a referral card works is that your employees give the cards to their current clients. The current client writes his/her name on the back of the card and gives it to their friends and family. When a new client brings in the card, both the new client and the employee who gave them the card receive an incentive. The incentive is at your discretion and typically printed on the back of the card. When choosing an incentive, think about what you personally would like to receive as a consumer. What would make you give a referral card from a business to your friends and family?
Loyalty cards are also great tools. Your regular clients like being rewarded for their loyalty and that is exactly what these cards do. Many salon/spa software systems have bar-coded cards you can scan (just like at the gym or grocery store) that track client purchases. Your clients will be rewarded according to the terms you set (such as spending a certain amount or having a certain amount of treatments). Common rewards include: “Buy five treatments, get your sixth one free” or “Spend $100 in products and get a $10 voucher towards a future product purchase.” If you do not want to invest in electronic software for your loyalty card program, use the back of your business cards. They can be stamped each time your client comes in for a treatment. Stamps are available at local craft stores; however, make sure to choose a stamp that is not easily duplicated.
Direct mail marketing is ideal for reaching specific target demographics. Before you can begin, you need to have an effective information collecting system set up within your own business to know which demographics you need to target in the first place. Your intake form should include questions that cover a lot of this information such as, but not limited to: date of birth, gender, et cetera. Although this is an option with direct mail demographics, more invasive questions such as income range may be best left off your intake form, as consumers often view this type of question negatively. If you are working with long-term clientele, you may consider getting Update Your Information cards printed so you can start to collect the information you need.
In addition to the cost of the postcards or mailer being designed, keep in mind that you also have to pay for postage, making this a costlier form of marketing. Direct mail options are highly recommended for the opening of a new business and can be tracked effectively by including an offer that expires within 30 to 60 days of when the mailer goes out. If you cannot handle a high volume, consider sending the same direct mail piece to different zip codes two months apart until you have mailed to all the relevant zip codes you were initially targeting. Change the expiration date with each mailing accordingly – something to consider before they are printed in mass quantity.
Newspapers and Magazines
Advertising in your local newspaper is a good way to target a specific audience in your community and is much less expensive than direct mail marketing because the need for postage is eliminated. Advertising placement is important so try to negotiate a page on which you are comfortable. This option still allows you to target an audience by zip code, but not so specifically by demographics like direct mail marketing.
Magazines are another great way to advertise. Unlike newspapers that usually print in black and white, magazines typically offer full color advertising options, making them automatically more appealing to clients. By advertising in industry related publications, you increase your chances of reaching your intended audience and/or gain the general perception of being associated with a reputable industry magazine. You also have the ongoing advantage of using catch phrases such as “Look for our ad in xx magazine” or “As seen in xx magazine” in all your future marketing efforts (mailers, postcards, et cetera). Many advertisement sizes are available, from full page to much smaller, which makes it an affordable marketing option for most budgets. Some publishers offer discounts for committing to advertising in multiple issues. Furthermore, people typically keep magazines longer than newspapers, especially with the digital editions of magazines, which have gained popularity due to the increase in electronic tablet use by consumers.
A decade ago, the Internet was where businesses were heading. Now it is there! Never underestimate the power of your website – it is the face and voice of the biggest market in the world – the online market. Have you ever walked by a restaurant in which you just did not want to eat? Your website has the same effect on potential clients. If it is outdated, slow or inaccessible on mobile or tablet devices, you are losing your biggest audience. Websites are a great way to build your brand image. They are also a great way to gain an edge over your competitors. Your website can contain detailed information that will not fit into a typical advertisement. It provides around the clock client access and if your website includes selling gift cards and/or products, it may even increase your profits. Websites usually come with tracking features that allow you to see which pages your website visitors are spending the most time on – providing good insight into what clients are looking for and/or like. Online booking is another great feature that makes life convenient for your clients and works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A good website is the foundation for your business and brand image.
Social Media Marketing
Social media: to like or not to like? Like! If you do not know what a “like button” is, you are in dire need of “Social Media 101,” but no worries! The next time you catch your employees meandering on Facebook in the break room, you can ask them for a tutorial. Do not be thrown off by all of the terminology in the beginning. It is okay to not know where to use a hashtag (or what a hashtag even is), the difference between fans and friends, how to tag someone (yes, this is different than using a hashtag), post on a wall, retweet your followers, or get a mention. Why would you even want to take the time to learn any of this? Between the two bigger social media sites alone, you would be missing out on FREE marketing to over 1.1 billion potential clients that regularly use Facebook and more than 550 million who regularly use Twitter. With increasing users every day, the statistics are constantly climbing. If that is not enough reason, 38 million people in the United States (ages 13 to 80) said their purchasing decisions are influenced by social media.1 If you are not comfortable setting up your own page or want to be sure your brand image is professionally presented, there are social media management companies everywhere who can design, set up and even manage the content on your page.
Giveaways are the number one thing fans respond to. Make sure that you are familiar with each social media website’s terms of agreement. This will ensure contests you are presenting to fans are within each specific website’s guidelines.
Radio and Television
Effective, yet affordable radio advertising is a high quality form of advertising. Like being associated with industry magazines, being associated with a popular radio station can also give people a high-end perception of your business. Oftentimes, local on-air radio personalities will be the ones doing the voiceovers for new advertisements and therefore the listeners associate your brand/product with a public personality. This “public profile association” is great publicity. The turnaround time to create a radio advertisement is typically quick and you will see results soon after. In order to create a sense of urgency, make sure you have a strong call to action such as “Call by October 31st.” Radio station genres (such as Oldies, Hip-Hop, Top 40 Countdown, et cetera) will make it easy for you to decide which will fit your target demographic.
Television can engage users in a way that simply cannot be achieved with text and images alone. If a picture paints a thousand words, a video paints a billion. The added visual and auditory elements of a professionally edited and shot commercial brings an audience to a whole new level of brand awareness. Businesses can purchase advertising spots during shows that their intended demographic is likely to be watching. Again, you must know your intended audience/demographic. A medical spa may want to advertise during a show such as Ellen or The Doctors, while a local restaurant may want to advertise on ESPN during a sports game. Television has the advantage of sophistication ahead of any other medium. With production and other associated costs, it is the most costly, so make sure you have the budget for it.
Quick Response (QR) Codes
You know those little square barcodes you keep seeing pop up on everything these days? That is a QR code – short for quick response code. These little gems take efficiency to the max. You can use a QR code to get people to sign up for your mailing list, to vote for you in a local “best of” or “reader’s choice” contest, register for events, take surveys, like or follow your business, pin your photo… literally the possibilities are endless. It does require smartphone users to have a scanner – but there are multiple free scanning applications available to download in any application store. They are convenient; they are quick; and they are inexpensive – a definite must try.
Daily Deal Websites
If a down economy has taught shoppers one thing, it is to be savvy with their money. It does not mean shoppers do not want to buy – it just means they are thinking harder about where to spend their hard earned dollars; as a result, coupons have made a comeback! The difference with today’s coupons? They are online! Daily deal sites such as Groupon (even Google tried to buy them for six billion dollars) and Living Social have re-defined the online coupon industry. The biggest mistake of business owners is going in with the mindset that these deal sites are profit makers. You will not typically make a large profit from advertising with a daily deal website, but you will typically drive in a large amount of traffic you definitely would not have gotten otherwise. Therefore, it should be viewed as a lead generator. This is a huge draw considering one of the hardest parts of a business can be to generate new leads.
The key to retaining the coupon-savvy deal seeker is up to you. You need to have a plan in place to retain them before they come in to your business. A coupon or loyalty program just for these clients should be in place before the deal goes public. You also need to be prepared to handle the volume of new clients. Many coupon websites will let you limit the amount of deals sold, so calculate what your business can handle before signing your contract. If allowed by the website, you may also be able to limit services to specific individuals, which is great if you are only trying to promote new employees. You also need to make sure your staff is aware of the deal and its terms. Remember, you only get one shot to impress this new stream of clients or they will go find the next awesome deal somewhere else.
One of the biggest investments you make as a business owner is in retail products. You should be listed by every product brand you carry under the “find a salon” or “find a spa” feature of their websites. If you have a product representative, ask him/her to get this done for you. Check to make sure it has been done. If not, get on the phone and get listed! One of the biggest benefits of being listed on other websites is that the backlink will typically have a positive effect on your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and drive more traffic to your website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Having SEO for your website is the equivalent of having a storefront on the busiest street in your city. SEO is the process in which search engines (Yahoo!, Google, Bing, et cetera) rank websites. To effectively get your website to appear on the first few pages of search results, you need to know what keywords people are using to search for your business (for example, “spa Los Angeles” or “facials New York City”) and integrate those keywords into your website to maximize the search engines picking up on those terms. Why is this important? Most people do not scroll beyond the first page (sometimes two pages) of listed results when they search for something. Think about it… do you?
SEO is something you should typically upkeep. The reason being is that the search engines routinely change what content makes websites relevant. When search engines make changes to their algorithms, your SEO rankings can decrease in a matter of days. While SEO experts cannot predict when these changes are coming, they can reconfigure your website to stay search engine friendly according to these algorithm changes when they do occur – a feat which most business owners do not have the know-how (or the time) to do on their own. SEO is a costly investment, but gives you the assurance that your one website is being found by potential clients instead of being camouflaged by the billions of other sites on the Internet.
E-mail marketing is one of the most popular forms of marketing today. The biggest asset is saving money on postage when compared to direct mail marketing. They are sent to clients who opt-in – so you know your audience has opted to receive your messages. In addition, you can divide your client lists into very specific sub-lists that allow you to target your clients and cater to their individual preferences. For example, many clients only want to receive sale updates, while some may enjoy a lengthier weekly or monthly newsletter. Most e-mail marketing programs have great tracking tools so you can see who viewed your e-mail, how many times each person viewed it, if they forwarded it, or took other actions from it such as clicking on a link, marking it as spam, or unsubscribing. E-mail marketing is very cost effective and a popular option among companies going green by cutting down on paper use.
Never assume because you have been in business for a long time that you do not need to advertise. Otherwise, your competitors will quickly gain a strong advantage over you in your market. Any marketing plan should be done three to six months in advance. Knowing your target demographics and clientele are absolutely key for client
attraction and retention. Set a budget for marketing and tailor options to stay within your budget. Experiment with different media outlets and see which performs best for your business. Revisit your strategy annually.
1 Knowledge Networks
Jill Donahue has held top management positions for three of the largest spa franchises in the Northeastern United States. With her career spanning over a decade in opening new locations, operational development, marketing, sales and public relations, Donahue ultimately established Boston-based JD Consulting in 2008 where she currently serves as principal consultant.