Why joining forces with local businesses could be a win-win

While deep discounting may damage your business, carefully planned packages for loyal customers and local businesses will give it a huge boost, writes Hellen Ward.

I'm not very good at social media but I’ve recently decided to drag myself kicking and screaming into the 21st century and get into Twitter (@hellenward if you’re interested!). In my bid to become more cyber-savvy I’ve also got into LinkedIn, which actually makes perfect sense for lots of people in our industry as it’s a work-centric social media platform, so great for people who are switching jobs. It also got me thinking about how crucial it is to link in with people in business and how we maximise that in the salon with our local business contacts.

Regular readers will know I don’t believe in price-reduction marketing to pull in new punters. Any type of public discount can seriously damage your price point and brand perception and is invariably a slippery slope. One of my favourite sayings is: “The company with the price advantage can be undercut. The company with the performance advantage can be outflanked. But the company with an emotional difference can potentially demand a premium forever.”

Swap shop
However, you might be surprised to learn that I am hugely in favour of private discounts. For instance, we already give all the staff who work in shops within Duke of York Square, the development where we’re located, a discount on services at the salon and I’m pleased to say it’s reciprocated (very handy for my favourite boutique, Trilogy!).

In a bid to both drum up more business and reward our loyal customers, we recently undertook a new initiative in the way we work with the local businesses all around us, tying up with them even further.

We’ve created some bespoke treats for the top 5% of our high-spending, loyal clients. For example, the fantastic restaurant next door, Manicomio, have given us a complimentary lunch for two with prosecco for our top 10 clients, and in return we’ve given a cut, blow dry and manicure with a glass of champagne for their top 10 customers. We’re both happy as we’re rewarding loyalty to our customers and saying a very special thank you. Both of us benefit as we get access to clients who might not have otherwise been exposed to our brand, and it’s both our jobs to ensure the experience is so good they’ll want to come back.

In these uncertain economic times it’s a great source of potential new revenue. It also helps cement that emotional difference that we know is so critical. We should never underestimate the power of saying thank you.

We’ve also got workshops and one-to-one sessions with the amazing jeweller Anouskha (herself a client and founder of Links) as well as treats with D&D, which owns London restaurants including The Bluebird and Pont de la Tour. We work with all brands with which we have a natural synergy and affiliation, because if we do, our customers will too.

Best route
It might sound obvious to suggest you look at how you can link up with those around you, but believe me, some salons just don’t consider doing this, looking for their new injection of future customers from discount websites instead of working with people who could tangibly become reliable regular clients.

I did some private consultancy once for a salon that was in the shadow of an enormous factory. “So how do you work with them?” I asked, pointing at the huge gates with people streaming through them. “We don’t,” they sheepishly admitted. No staff discount, no reciprocal benefits, no special deals and packages for all those thousands of employees.

I’m pleased to say they did create a bespoke offer for the factory staff, delivered via their HR department, and they’ve been delighted with the constant trickle of business and revenue it has generated for them. So look around you and see if there is someone you could work together with to create something that benefits you both. But be creative – sometimes the obvious isn’t always so obvious.

Hellen Ward is managing director of Richard Ward Hair & Metrospa in London’s Sloane Square and co-chair of Trailblazers for the hair and beauty industry sector.