Guest blog: building your brand identity from scratch

Kathy Casey, owner of beauty salon Lalapanzi in Banbridge, County Down, which won Professional Beauty’s Beauty Salon of the Year: Northern Ireland 2016 Regional Award, reveals eight ways you can define your salon’s brand identity.

After moving to Northern Ireland from Africa in January 2001 and working in salons and spas for seven years, I realised the only way to move forward in the industry was to open my own business.

My business partner Laura Rutherford-Jones and I did some serious brain storming about how we would market our salon to clientele and soon realised that we already had a brand identity – we were known in industry circles as “the African sisters”.

We chose our salon name Lalapanzi because it’s a Zulu word which means “to lie down and sleep” – all in keeping with our brand image and the salon and spa market, and our logo has the Baobab tree at its heart which represents the tree of knowledge.

We opened Lalapanzi in April 2008 at the start of the recession with just two therapists and it wasn’t long before the business quickly hit its stride, expanding to include a hair studio and eventually employing 18 members of staff.

Brand challenges
Nearly nine years on and we still have all of our original clients who are extremely loyal and I believe it’s because we have stayed true to who we are and what we do. When developing your salon’s brand identity, there are eight things you need to consider:

1. Understand who you are
Your brand needs to be relevant to your company ethos; it should be all about the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd. You also need to be consistent in delivery of treatments and customer service. CPD is vital to keep you ahead of the pack.

2. Choose the right location
Find the best premises available – this means an area with a client base that suits your services. You have to think ahead and ensure that there’s potential room for expansion as you grow.

Research the age demographic of your area, what treatments are popular and if there’s anything that’s not currently on offer that you could add to your menu. Available parking and good transport links are also key considerations.

3. Benchmark yourself
You need to regularly check out the competition – products, treatments and price lists – and constantly be on the lookout for new launches and services that will set you apart from the competition.

4. Develop your treatments and price list
List what treatments your staff are qualified for and chose the style of therapies that match your business ethos. Pricing is difficult because you have to make yourself competitive but undercutting other salons will not be in your best interest. But don’t undervalue your services, be vigilant in making sure that all costs of treatment are reflected in your prices and are, indeed, making you a profit.

5. Product purchase is key
Select the brands that you want to work with but make sure their values align with your own. Invite companies to meet with you and gather information from the brands that you are interested in, as well as seeing what they can offer as incentives – for example, free product samples, business support and open days. These are tools that can help make your business successful.

6. Heavily market the brand
It takes time to develop client support – don’t try and go too big too fast. We ran an advertising campaign in local papers prior to opening the salon to get people interested and had a big launch day with opening specials for the first month.

We also advertised and sorted out editorial in some of the big magazines. Not to mention, flyers were placed on every car and business cards handed out in major businesses locally.

7. Be professional
This means being dedicated to making the business work and not taking shortcuts in anything that you do.

8. Choose people who share your ethos
Carefully select your staff because they represent you and your business. It’s also worth employing a HR company to safeguard your business, especially as staff numbers increase, because you can’t know everything about the legal side of things and this leaves you free to do what you need to do – grow and run your business.