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Something to Celebrate

Web Editor | July 10, 2011 | 6:17 PM

William George, owner of the James Joseph salon in Boston, has a party going on in his loft-like space as often as possible. The salon’s upcoming 10th anniversary will be a series of events sponsored by a local magazine that is also celebrating its 10th anniversary. At any given time, George might be hosting a fashion or charity event, or using its space to give a local editor free space for a birthday party. After all, he says, salons should be all about fun, and when clients remember they had a great time in your space, they think of you fondly.

“In this industry, every day should be a celebration,” stresses George. “We make people look and feel better every day, and when the environment is fun for the staff, the clients respond.”

George’s thinking reflects the fact that the best promotions now focus on client or employee appreciation. They rarely set a goal to sell a certain amount of product or to attract a specific number of new clients: that’s old-think.

Modern marketing goes deep, not wide, for several reasons. Tapping your current client base costs less than a broad marketing effort. Reaching a milestone should always include acknowledgement of the people who got you there. And in a approach that’s tuned to the hectic and sometimes isolating world we live in, relationship-building is the Holy Grail of Madison Avenue. 

Whether you’re focusing on celebrating your staff or your clients, the thinking is the same: If they love you, they’ll never leave you. And, they’ll become raving fans who chat you up on the web, recommend you to friends and tell the world your salon is a great place to work.

 

Double the Pleasure

While many salons have a staff or client appreciation day, creating a dual celebration cements stylist/client relationships, in addition to benefiting the salon. The best times to do it: When you reach a milestone, redesign your space or expand.

Teresa Saxton, who owns Mimi’s Hair Heaven & Spa in Cleveland Heights, Ohio and prefers the title “beauty entrepreneur,” says she always blends the two for the spa’s anniversary celebrations. One year, she held a “Mimi’s Idol” karaoke contest in a local park for staff, clients and their families. The fun idea got her a local newspaper write-up, spreading the goodwill farther.

This year, she held a fundraiser for sickle cell disease awareness with a “Hunk of Heaven” bachelor auction. Even older women bid on bachelors for their nieces; the winning bidders also received gift cards to a local coffeehouse for the “date.” Tying into the U.S. Postal Service’s launch of a Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Commemorative stamp, Saxton had a post-office official on hand to “unleash” the stamp.

“We all use the same products and offer the same services,” notes Saxton. “You have to do something different that builds relationships and gives clients a good experience.”

Combating competition was also on salon owner Brenda Hunt’s mind when she created her “Simple Things in Life” celebration for Panache Hair Salon and Day Spa in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. In 1996, Panache was the only spa in the area. Now, it’s surrounded by competitors, and Hunt credits her simple-things focus with preventing business drop-off.

“When times are hard, people indulge in simple things, which is why I emphasize them,” says Hunt. “Every year, we celebrate our anniversary for the whole month, offering service upgrades, bringing in vendors, and using it to promote the staff and new services. Now, we’ve added local merchants to the mix. Clients buy raffle tickets for whatever the merchants have donated and the money goes to a non-profit cause. Today, you have to keep it interesting.”

At Michael Christopher salon in Wilmington, Delaware, owner Michael Christopher Hemphill discovered a uniquely artistic approach to bringing clients and staff together. His 80-plus employees entered the North American Hairdressing Awards as teams. Hemphill used outtakes of the photo shoots in interactive ads in which clients were asked to vote on the “Most Beautiful,” “Most Avant-Garde,” and other categories. They could also vote at the salon’s website or in the salon, and every voter got a $25 gift certificate. Winning teams got a weekend of education in New York.

“It was win-win,” says Hemphill of the promotion. “You have to re-invent yourself constantly to keep an edge.”

To that end, Hemphill recently re-designed his salon, adding a color theater, a shampoo chamber and more. His re-opening press party for 3,000 included the media, staff and clients, who brought friends. Red-carpet treatment included a sizzling-hot male door greeter and white-gloved hostesses who served up hors d‘oeuvres attached to unique Styrofoam shapes. Five months later, the event is still responsible for 300 new clients a month, says Hemphill.

Attracting new clients and getting currently ones to spend more are often the results of the well-planned party, even when they aren’t the primary goal.

 

We Clients

In addition to helping clients connect with your business and your staff, showing appreciation for appreciation’s sake goes a long way toward building bridges. Saxton always gives birthday cards and gifts, which clients are now chatting about online.

Additionally, she holds a client appreciation day every other month. Clients sign up themselves, friends and family members for the Monday night events, which act as workshops on everything from teen etiquette to nutrition. Saxton involves community activists and high-profile members, and includes vendors when they can address client concerns.

“Our most popular topic to date addressed thinning hair,” says Saxton. “Aromatherapy and women’s wellness was another popular workshop. I always ask the clients what they want us to showcase, and involve community leaders so we stay community active.”

Another great duo: celebrating both clients and a service. Hunt says she uses new services to reward clients who are top spenders or are frequent spa visitors.

“When I know they’ll talk about the service or book it again, I call and offer it complimentary,” says Hunt. “Last year, we did this when our nail technicians were certified in stone therapy.”

You can also connect with more clients by extending your reach to marketing partners. That’s what Joyce Hamers, president and CEO of JoyMark, Inc., which owns Emerge by Giuliano spa and G2O salon in Boston, did when she developed an entire “Wedding Expo” to celebrate the salon’s bridal services.

 Using the spa’s roof garden and fireplace lounge to promote local bridal businesses from florists to photographers, she held a brunch and a late-day tea, for which consumers paid $65 to defray costs. Her local publicist hooked up The Boston Globe as a sponsor, and raffles benefited the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

“Our goal was to spread goodwill with our merchant partners,” says Hamers, who is also president of her local business association, the Newbury Street League.

Naturally, goodwill with other businesses translates into referrals and the general sense that your business is good for the community.

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