Whether your salon is new or has been around for years, getting new clients through the door is a critical component for running a successful business. One of the most classic and effective forms of
advertising for your salon is by word of mouth—or, in other words, referrals from your clients. “Sometimes you have to ask for help, and if a client genuinely likes what you’ve done, there isn’t anything wrong with asking to refer a friend or family member,” says Edwin Johnston, artistic director for KMS California and owner of Cutting Room Creative in Nanaimo, B.C.
Make a lasting impression
To encourage clients to refer you to their family and friends, it’s important to ensure that you are offering them the best level of service. “It’s about creating a standard that makes them want to refer you,” says Johnston, who also sends his clients a follow-up email after their first visit. “As salon owners, we take that into our own hands. As the owner, I have to take the initiative.”
Building a good relationship and rapport with clients can not only helps with getting referrals, but also helps build loyalty. “At the end of the day, all clients want to work with someone they like and trust,” says Rowena Berry, national business development manager for Schwarzkopf Professional Canada. “So the question really is, when does that client become a fan? The difference between a client and a fan is that a fan will follow you and promote you. That’s the foundation behind referrals.”
Presentation is key
Complimentary or discounted services have traditionally been common referral incentives for many salons. However, Peter Mahoney, president of Salon Resource Group in Halifax, says the presentation of the incentive is what often determines its success. “It’s all in the execution—using intelligent verbiage to present it in a way that’s going to get results,” he explains.
For a greater chance of success, Mahoney, whose consulting firm represents more than 20 salons on the east coast, recommends offering incentives for both new client and existing clients. “The incentive has to be significant and compelling to entice new clients to try something different.”
Salons across the country are increasingly using retail products as referral incentives. For example, Johnston created Cutting Room Creative’s referral program, which allows clients to earn reward points for each referral that they can redeem for retail products. Retail products are popular incentives for many reasons. Not only do they provide clients with something beneficial and tangible that they can take home but the products can also help salons build longevity with their clients. “The investment for the salon is very minimal if you measure how much the product unit costs versus what a new customer brings in terms of revenue,” explains Berry, who oversees the development of business seminars for Schwarzkopf Professional Canada’s ASK Education Academy. “If you look at salon business in general, the driving force behind every salon is retail, retention and referrals. I refer to those three Rs as a success formula for a salon. If a stylist can work on those three areas, they are going to be successful.”
Think outside the box
New client opportunities can come in many forms, so Mahoney encourages salon owners to think of creative ways to further promote their business. “If it’s not working, it’s not the program; it’s how it’s being presented and the consistency of it. You have to be looking for referrals 24-7,” he says. “It has to become part of your creative process.”
Being active online and on social media can also help salons and stylists expand their reach to clients’ families and friends. Berry says it’s important for stylists to market themselves to continue to gain new clientele. “The reality is, you’re going to lose up to 15 to 20 per cent of your existing business every year because customers move, try somebody else, etc. If you’re not constantly looking for new customers and you’re not focusing on getting new referrals, your business will start to flat-line and decline,” she explains. “That’s why a lot of hairstylists end up making the same amount of money every year. They get new clients, but they lose clients, so the retention rate they’ve given themselves gets cancelled out.”
With any referral program, making it part of your routine is critical to its success. It’s also important to set realistic goals and monitor your numbers regularly, so if the program is not achieving results, you will know when it’s time to make some changes.
Three ways to increase your salon’s presence among clients.
1. Provide clients with extra business cards that they can share with their family and friends.
2. Ramp up your online activity to increase your salon’s online presence by engaging with your clients on social media platforms, which in turn can help generate traffic for your salon.
3. Remember to add-on services and products, such as colour and retail, to your clients’ regular service to help increase longevity with the client. The longer a client has been with your salon, the more likely they are to refer you to someone.