7 Key Marketing Steps When Opening a Hair Salon

Marketing Checklist for Opening a Hair Salon

So you’ve decided to open your own hair salon or spa. I’m happy for you! It’s a big undertaking that’ll ultimately bring you many rewards.

What follows are the top seven marketing strategies to implement as soon as possible in order to generate clientele and create immediate cash flow. These strategies are in no particular order, since they’re all essential.

Note that I’ve included a special consultation offer specific to hairstylists and salon owners at the end of my post.

Without any further delay, here are my best marketing ideas on how to open a hair salon or spa:

#1 — Prepare Outdoor Signs

Aside from your salon’s location, your outdoor sign will be the single most important long-term marketing decision you’ll ever make. Why? Because your outdoor sign is the most powerful ongoing advertising tool, promoting your salon 24/7, and it’s free once it’s paid for. Therefore, don’t skimp on it or you’ll come to regret it several months from now. In fact, be prepared to spend as much as $1,000 or more on your outdoor sign, including the cost of installation.

Most importantly, be sure that whatever sign you’re creating has a tagline that explains what is going on in your salon, e.g., Hairstyling & Skin Services. The only exception to this is if your business name stands alone, e.g., Casey’s Hairstyling Services. In this instance, you don’t need a tagline.

However, if your salon’s name is: Luscious, Hello Beauty or Gorgeous You, then you do. Let me say it differently. The names Amazon and Apple meant nothing until these two companies spent millions on branding.

[See #7 for more information regarding naming a salon.]

Lack of sign preparation is the single greatest mistake I see small retailers make. Instead, they get caught up in the creativity of the sign, failing to optimize the sign’s functionality. Remember, you have less than 10 seconds to capture the attention of a drive-by.

Splurge on Lighting
If allowed by your town, spend the extra money to make sure your sign lights up. This way, even when you’re closed, passersby will know what happens inside your business, increasing the likelihood of more appointments and revenue. The most cost-effective method is pointing a spotlight at your sign.

Also, be sure to use the spinning barber sign inside your front window, assuming you offer these services. This marketing tool stands alone. If I see it, I know you offer barber and shave services. Of course, your town will have restrictions. Make sure you find out what they are before you spend money on any outdoor signs, or window signs, especially indoor lit signs. Assume that your town has restrictions unless you find out otherwise.

Plan for Sign Permitting, Construction & Installation Delays
Keep in mind that you’ll need to get your artwork concept(s) pre-approved by your town. Unfortunately, this can sometimes take weeks. However, working with a sign company that knows your town’s restrictions will help the process move along quicker.

Also check to see if your town will allow temporary outdoor banners while you’re waiting for your final sign.

Consider using temporary pre-opening banners.

Hairstylist Marketing IdeasFor Example:

  • Sal’s Barber Shop Coming Soon
  • Hair Salon Grand Opening [insert date], 50% Off First Haircut

I recognize the 50% discount may sound steep. Still, in order to draw new clients away from other salons, you need to be aggressive with your grand opening special offer. If this sizable discount scares you, then include a tight expiration date. What’s more, stagger your grand opening special offers, i.e., the first two weeks a first appointment is 50% off; the third through sixth weeks, all product sales are 40% off; and so on.

You’re spending a ton of time and money to open your hair salon. Therefore, your primary goals are to get clients in the door, win them over and retain salon clients for life using your customer loyalty program and by providing outstanding service.

Quick Tip: When negotiating with your sign vendor, once you’re close to settling on a final price, ask that she throw in a complimentary roadside reader board or A-frame sign. It can’t hurt to ask, especially if the vendor isn’t moving on price. Get them to throw in a value-added item to acquire your business. At the end of the day, no matter what it is you want, ask. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get it.

RELATED: Check out my blog post Hair Salon Sign Ideas for additional sign strategies [includes videos]. I talk a lot about how to increase walk-ins using roadside reader boards and suggest fun, seasonal ways to dress up the frames.

Resource: I found this article regarding average outdoor sign costs and sign examples helpful.

# 2 — Find Kickass Staff

Whether you hire individuals as employees or contractors, you need to find professional and experienced individuals who will make you look good. You’re far better off hiring someone who has excellent customer service skills and so-so hair styling skills, simply because you can teach the latter. Not true for personality.

To find qualified staff, look and post here:
Beauty schools, vocational high schools, career days, community Facebook pages, Indeed and Craigslist. What’s more, be sure to have a specific page on your website describing the type of person you’re seeking and the excellent working atmosphere at your salon. Make sure when you post your job opportunity, that you write it from the point-of-view of the hairstylists you’re seeking to hire.

Benefits of Working for You
Describe the benefits of working at your salon. Also, include verbiage that describes open communication, and how your employees’ ideas make up a large part of how you operate your salon. Said a different way, employees want to belong to something greater than just a job and, more importantly, they want to be heard.

Keep in mind that your prospects and customers will see this page. Make sure you’re marketing to your targeted staff, but be aware of your customers’ interpretation of your posting. Finally, if you’re having difficulty finding the right staff, consider offering a sign-on bonus after 90 days of employment.

Special Note Regarding Chair Rentals
It’s perfectly fine to rent chairs in your salon. However, keep something in mind. Even though the hairstylist is technically running his/her own business, they’re still a reflection on your business. If one of their clients arrives for an appointment and the stylist is a no-show, this reflects poorly on you. The client is standing in your salon and now leaves with bad feelings.

What’s more, many stylists who rent chairs often have limited branding, leaving the above client to write a poor review about your salon.

I do support the renting-chair business model. Frankly, it’s a lower risk model when first opening a hair salon. Instead of permanently hiring staff right away, you rent first. It’s a professional approach, but does come with disadvantages, such as the one I mentioned. Chair renters are tenants. Be picky who you rent to, and have a short contract that includes operational, marketing and payment expectations. As an aside, make sure you get paid on time. Don’t give a chair renter even an inch for being late on their rent. Remember, if you give them an inch, most will take a mile.

# 3 — Transition Current Clients

If you’re currently working at another salon, and you haven’t signed a non-compete agreement, then make sure you’re prebooking your clients at your new location.

Transitioning Client Communications Should Include No Less Than:

  • Phone or in-person, one-on-one
  • A personalized email
  • A handwritten note, mailed through USPS

What’s more, if you’re increasing your prices, then I recommend you grandfather current clients in regards to pricing for the first service at your new hair salon. Then, once you’ve finished their cut, style, color, etc., at your new salon, take payment, book their next appointment, and only then educate them about your new pricing effective for all future appointments.

RELATED: If you’re considering increasing your salon prices, check out my special report: How to Increase Prices without Losing Customers.

#4 — Obtain Yelp Reviews 

It’s important to know that Yelp frowns upon encouraging people to post reviews. Why? Because they want reviews to be authentic. Here’s the thing: there is absolutely nothing wrong with reminding clients to post a review about your small business.

Keep in mind that when a prospective client is deciding to try a new hair salon or spa, they’ll either ask their friends or check out Yelp reviews. Period. You must be on there! In addition, be sure to earn Facebook and Google reviews. All three are equally important.

If you do not have reviews, then prospects will wonder why, and keep looking for another hair salon.

Proactively encourage reviews and get your staff to do so as well. I discuss exactly how to get your staff involved in your marketing in my eBook: Salon & Spa Marketing Strategies: 16 Ways to Involve Your Staff & Ignite Profits.

#5 — Build a Sexy & Professional Website

I can’t stress this marketing tool enough. You need a professional and sexy website. If you splurge on anything (besides the sign), definitely spend a great deal of your marketing budget on building out a professional and easy-to-navigate website.

Why? Because after your customers check your hair salon out on Yelp (or similar), they then head over to your website. You either have a helpful and inviting website, thus, you get them booking an appointment, or prospects keep looking. You do have control over this.

Also, be sure to include the following on your website:

— Clear, concise and highly visible address and contact information.

— Online appointment scheduling. [See #6]

— Google Analytics (Easy-to-place HTML code that tracks your visitors and their demographic information, so that you can make informed marketing decisions). Also, set up a Google Search Console account, so you have detailed access to what search terms clients are using to find your services.

What’s more, be sure to claim and manage your Google My Business account.

Finally, be sure to have an individual page for each service you offer (or want to be well known for). You’ll want a main page to list your overall services; however, if you’re trying to capture a lot of coloring business, then you’ll want a specific page on your website addressing this service. By doing so, your website will perform better at search engines. On this page, you’ll use the various coloring terms that prospects search for, including: foils, balayages, corrective color and so on. By assigning a specific page for your coloring services, the page is more likely to appear in local searches when a prospect searches for “Balayage [Town Name].”

Resource: Check out this reputable blog post before you write one word for your website: Tips for Your Local SEO Content Strategy. It’s imperative that you write sales copy that corresponds to how your clients search for you on Google. There is NO REASON your website can’t dominate on Google for organic searches. Own the salon business in your backyard by being strategic with your website from day one.

#6 — Select Useful & Flexible Salon Software

I can’t stress this enough: you need to automate all elements of customer interaction and salon operations. To do so, choose a reputable and flexible salon software program. Do not skimp on this program. (As an aside, if you’ve found one you like, would you please email me the details? I’m looking to write a roundup review regarding the top salon software programs and need your input. Thanks! My email is: Sharron@SharronSenter.com.)

Salon software is an investment, and as we all know any good investment pays off.

At minimum, you want your software capabilities to easily:

— Schedule appointments, in-person or by phone, or allow clients to schedule their own appointments at your website

— Inventory products

— Integrate with payment processing

— Integrate with social media

— Manage a customer loyalty points program

Finally, ensure that your software is able to monitor all cash flow generated by each customer, including: revenue by customer, service and products sold by customer, and revenue generated by each employee and the individual breakout of their financial performance, including the products they sell, their average sales versus other stylists, etc.

How to Sell a Hair SalonBusiness Exit Plan

One strategy that many new hair salon owners often overlook is their business exit plan. Not to overwhelm you, but when you’re opening any new business, you need to identify your business exit strategy within your overall business plan. Why? Because knowing the latter will help you make more efficient business decisions as you grow your salon clientele and add more employees.

I’ve written an eBook that talks about this very thing, called: Farewell Scissors: Insights & Strategies that Help Hair Salons Sell Quickly. I encourage you to use it to establish your business exit plan. What’s more, it gets into the details of financial and customer data that buyers want to know. This coincides with purchasing the right salon software.

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#7 — Choosing a Salon Name

It’s not a coincidence that I’ve saved my favorite subject to the end. 🙂

More than likely, you’re a highly creative individual. Most hairstylists are. Frankly, I’m a bit jealous of your creativity. This said, avoid being overly creative with your name, whereby, you sacrifice clarity. Clarity always trumps creativity when it comes to communication. If I, as your prospect, have no idea what you sell or how you’ll help me, then I won’t buy from you.

Unless you have millions of dollars to spend on promoting your salon’s name, you must create a name that prospects can understand and, even better, relate to. Essentially, after reading or hearing your salon’s name, I should know intuitively the services you offer. The only exception is if you’ll always include a tagline, elaborating on the name. However, this can be cumbersome on some marketing vehicles, such as signs!

Related Resource: Marketing Consultant Marcia Yudkin does an excellent job walking you through the business renaming process in her self-paced, online course Renaming Your Business. It’s only $37. Definitely take a look. I’m a huge fan of Marcia’s. She’s who I go to when I need a sounding board.

Additional Business Plan Resources

What follows are two excellent articles that talk about what financial reports you should include within your business plan. One key mistake new business owners make is that they spend a fair amount of time developing their business plan, but rarely revisit their financials once they launch their business. This is a huge mistake. You should be reviewing your financial projections once a month. If you’re not regularly reviewing your salon’s finances, then you really don’t know if you’re profitable.

5 Items to Include in Your Business Plan Financial Projections

How to Write the Financial Section of a Business Plan

Special Offer for Hairstylists & Salon Owners

If you’re considering opening a hair salon, are in the throes of it or maybe you’ve been at it for some time, I invite you to take advantage of a very special offer: Receive my initial, 30-minute professional business coaching session for only $79 as many times as you need. We can discuss whatever you want — salon marketing or operational strategies, hiring, job descriptions, financing, signage, chair rental issues, and so on. Typically, I only offer this introductory rate one time for initial consultations. However, for hairstylist business owners only, you may use this rate for all 30-minute consultations.

Note that I may end this offer at any time. Although, I would not do so in the middle of our relationship.

Why am I offering this ongoing reduced consulting rate?

Because there are several hairstylists in my family, and I endeavor to support them and their peers indirectly by making myself available to others who are trying to make a living within this exciting, yet challenging, profession. I love my marketing career. But, if someone told me, “Sharron, you can no longer be a marketing consultant, what’s your next move?” I’m pretty certain I’d retrain myself to be a barber. While not a hairstylist, I think I’d make a great barber.

Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing.

Independently yours,