It's oh so quiet

Winter is approaching, but that doesn't mean you have to give the quiet times the cold shoulder. Suzanne Braithwaite speaks to the experts to find out how to fill your columns during quiet months

IT’S GOOD TO TALK
The quieter months might be a scary time for your overheads but a bit of downtime could also be seen as a positive. You’ll have time to find out what your clients really want. Sarah Cross, managing director of customer care consultancy Uber, advises using the few months post summer and before the festive season to get personal with your customers and find out what they love. “You can’t give customers what they want if you don’t ask them,” she says. Customer focus groups are a great way of doing this, as well as communicating with clients online. “Make sure you communicate regularly and relevantly with your customers. Build a relationship with them through all forms of communication – Facebook, Twitter and email,” she adds.

DATA CAPTURE 
So you’re about to contact your existing clients but when was the last time you checked you have their details up to date? Adam Chatterley, founder of salonbusinesssecrets.com, says being prepared is paramount. “Your existing client base is your best source of new clients and new bookings. Be prepared for the quieter times by capturing mobile phone numbers and email addresses diligently.” He adds, “Make sure your team understands the importance of this and ensure they are capturing data correctly, even if it takes a few seconds longer when making a booking or taking a payment to get the client to spell it out letter by letter.” 

Cross also advises making supplying contact details something that clients want to do. She says, “Make the proposition compelling, and invite them to become a member of something exclusive: like anything, it’s all about the way it’s sold.” 

TRAINING DAY
Your employees are the face of your business and key to making it a success; so get them involved in business initiatives. They can also help find new clients by tapping in to their social circles. 

Hellen Ward, owner of Richard Ward Hair and Metrospa in London, encourages her team to take ownership and think of lost time as lost money. “Unlike the retail environment where the commodity is product, in the salon time is our commodity,” she says. 

quiet timesFrancesca Noretta, founder of FLN Consultancy, suggests asking staff for their input and ideas to boost client bookings, while looking to give them something back as well. “Contact the brands to see when they are launching new products, which you may be able to preview. Training your therapists and keeping their knowledge up-to-date helps them feel part of the business,” she says. 

READ ALL ABOUT IT
PR and marketing can get expensive so why not speak to the press in your local area and let them spread the word for you? “Get involved in your local area by promoting yourself and your experience in local newspapers, magazines or community newsletters,” says Anderson. She recommends that you offer to write an article on the benefits of your salon treatments, or invite journalists in for a treatment in return for coverage. “Make sure you give them your normal VIP service and talk to them about the full benefits of the treatment,” she adds. 

IT’S COMPLIMENTARY, MY DEAR 
Who doesn’t like hearing the words “It’s free”? Offering a short, complimentary version of a new treatment is a great way to introduce it to your clients. Clare Anderson, managing director of distributor Shared Beauty Secrets, tells her salon accounts to do this when launching the Lava Shells massages. “It can be done by setting up a portable massage chair in your reception; this will spark interest in passing clients as well,” she says. 

Ward also endorses complimentary add-ons when clients book a full-price treatment. “The resulting retail sales that are often triggered by a complimentary treatment can be a tangible benefit that means the treatment cost is covered,” she says. 

Another technique, Ward advises, is to create express treatments that are easy to up-sell and can be redeemable against any retail purchases. “This business model is often used by skincare brands on the floor of retail stores, so salons can use the same practice. The consumer feels rewarded because she gets to enjoy the service and purchase product,” she says. 

POST-HOLIDAY PACKAGE
Pre-holiday your clients are knocking down your door to get waxed, tanned and polished, but your salon services are just as needed after the holiday season. Clue your clients up about which treatments can help prolong their tans and nourish their skin after sun exposure. 

Quiet times2Noretta suggests putting together a unique package of treatments to focus on skin hydration and exfoliation to boost your bookings and retail sales after the busy pre-holiday season. “After any time spent in the sun, it is important that your clients understand the damage that can be caused and how, with your therapists’ knowledge and expertise, dehydrated skin can be brought back to life. This can be just a facial treatment or a full body treatment, with an aftercare plan based on the products used.” 

She also suggests that contacting your loyal client base to tell them about this special package you have put together will make them feel valued and show you are thinking of them. “The personal touch will always bring your clients back for more,” she says. 

THINKING AHEAD 
January is a notoriously slow month in our industry, but you can avoid the blues by planning for it now. Sam Pearce, owner of Eastthorpe Hall spa and The Potting Shed salon, recommends identifying the clients that have been the most loyal throughout the year, and rewarding them in January with a product or treatment offer. “There are numerous tools on salon software that allow you to be client specific,” she says. “Target them individually to remind them of their value to your business.” 

Pearce also recommends targeting clients that have a birthday in January, automatically introducing them to your loyalty points system, which will encourage them to invest in your services. “Include a birthday card and a glass of champagne. Show that you have remembered and encourage them to spend their special day with you,” she says. 

SEASON OF GIVING
It’s not quite the festive season yet but that doesn’t mean you can’t hold a party to get your clients in the mood. Maria Mason, owner of Bristol salon Beauty Time, suggests inviting groups of six or eight ladies to an evening to talk about the latest treatments over a glass of wine and nibbles. “Keep it simple; charge £5 a ticket for an hour and half and return the ticket price back to them as a voucher worth £10 off anything you’ve demonstrated during the evening. Advertise it as something that’s sounds fun,” she says. 

Cross agrees, but suggests making it more exclusive. “Why not invite your biggest spenders, or perhaps those who have the potential to be your top spenders, to an invite-only VIP evening,” she says. “Give them the feel good factor, way before Christmas but with some Christmas inspiration.” She also suggests sending out personalised gifts to specific customers. “Make them feel special and encourage them to come back to collect their gift.” 

AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE 
Offers will always make a client look, but Chatterley recommends spicing your deals up by injecting some urgency or scarcity to the mix to make them act on it. He says, “If you have sent out an offer to your client list for ‘Half price facials in October’, then people might think about booking one, later. Instead make it ‘Book a facial in October by the end of this week to receive 50% discount’ and it suddenly sounds exciting and forces the client to act now. Likewise ‘First 10 treatments booked in October will receive 50% discount and an exciting FREE gift’ will have people banging down your door.” 

Similarly, loyalty cards and membership programmes work well, but Cross suggests adding value to them to entice clients to keep coming back. She says, “Our purses are full of loyalty cards and collecting points can be dull so stand out from the crowd by adding gifts if they join.” She also says you need to incentivise your staff to promote the schemes. “Remember a loyalty programme lives or dies by your staff so get them excited!” 

PHONE A FRIEND 
To secure new business in quiet times, consider tapping into your clients’ contacts. Mason suggests asking your best clients if they would like to treat a friend who has never been to the salon before to a half price treatment. “Give your existing client a product gift as an incentive and a thank you. You could ask your skincare companies to support you with this as a product promotion,” she says. 

Pearce agrees with offering refer-a-friend incentives. She suggests creating reward points that can be redeemed on a future appointment. Meanwhile, Cross takes it one step further. “When your customers are in salon, ask them to invite six good friends to join your exclusive community, in return for a treatment,” she says.