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Management Practices

Partnering on Email Communications

Stacey Soble | July 10, 2011 | 1:38 PM
Partnering with a professional on your e-mail communications saves time, money and frustration, resulting in a captivating product that tempts existing clients and hooks new ones.

Partnering on Email Communications

It’s late at night and Mrs. Johnson can’t sleep. She wanders into her home office and scans her inbox, reading the previous day’s e-mail. Intrigued by a clever subject line, she opens your salon’s e-newsletter. An engaging design draws her in and with a little sigh she reads, first about the mid-summer specials on hair treatments, then on the education class your colorists just attended, and finally a short piece on your salon team gearing up for Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Then she forwards the e-mail to a few friends.

At 9 a.m. the next day, she calls the salon and books two demineralization treatments for her teenage girls who’ve been in the pool all summer and a hair-color appointment for herself, plus she pledges a donation for the upcoming race.
It’s the power of e-mail communications—it’s immediate, it’s cost effective, it’s infectious and it’s measurable. And with a host of companies who can do the hard work for you—it’s easy.

Building Your Base
Before you send an e-newsletter, you need to establish a database full of addresses. Chances are you’re already collecting these, but there are some proven methods to gathering them more quickly.

“You have to be proactive, it takes more than placing a sign-up sheet at the front desk or collecting them through your website,” says Jay Siff, CEO of Moving Targets (movingtargets.com), a company that uses traditional direct marketing methods to lure in new clients, helps salons gather e-addresses and target them with subsequent e-communications. “At checkout, your guest service representative needs to look the client in the eye and explain that from time to time the salon sends out special promotional certificates and ask if they’d like to provide their e-mail. Don’t try to ask for too much information—the more you ask, the less likely someone will participate. All you need is their first name and e-mail address.”

Sam Hennes, president of GoLoyal, Inc. (goloyal.com), a marketing and technology company specializing in e-campaigns and websites, also recommends that salons make the offer to send e-mail specials. But he suggests the front desk explain it as a VIP program. “Not only does it create a buzz about the program and make the clients feel valued, but when they know ahead of time they’ll be getting something of value with the e-mail, your open rates go up substantially,” he explains. “Also, you can incentivize your front desk staff by doing something like offering a $25 AMEX gift card when they capture a predetermined amount of addresses.”

Hassan Karimian, owner of Belle Isle Salon and Spa (belleislesalonspa.com) in Irvine, California, also decided to motivate clients. He put up a board in the checkout area announcing the program and offering a chance to win a free facial. “We got so many people signing up at first that I ended up handing out 12 facials—we collected more than 1,000 address in a short amount of time,” he says.

Choosing a Vendor
When it comes to creating and managing an e-newsletter, basically there are three routes to go—Do-It-All-Yourself, Do-It-Yourself Through a Third Party, and Full Service. Making the choice depends on your technological expertise and the amount of time you have to devote to the effort.

  • Do-It-All-Yourself refers to the salon writing, designing, sending and managing the e-newsletter. Although this option may be marginally cheaper, it is time-consuming, limited to your design, and tracking and managing capabilities.
  • Do-It-Yourself Through a Third Party refers to working with a company that offers pre-designed templates. Although this is less time-consuming than the first option, the salon is limited by the company’s template options and it still can be limiting in tracking capabilities.
  • Full Service refers to working with a company that custom-designs an e-newsletter to fit the look and feel of your business. For a nominal cost, these companies can layout the monthly content including sizing images and setting up printable certificates and testing the e-newsletter on different e-mail engines, ensuring that your recipients can open and read the information.

Although your time and money is an important consideration, so is the quality of the e-newsletter. Since he launched his e-newsletter three months ago, Karimian has been examining his own behavior. “I get some e-newsletters, like the one from Williams Sonoma, that are so visually appealing I never get tired of seeing it—as a result I’ve bought all this stuff that sits in my pantry that I don’t use,” he says. “If they can do that with items I don’t need, why can‘t we do it with services that everyone needs and loves.”

When the Robert Jeffrey Hair and Skin Care Studio (robertjeffrey.com), with multiple locations in Chicago, first started their website, owners Jeanette Kemble and Jodi Paul tried to handle it themselves. “I had clients coming in saying they’d received three blank e-mails from us. It was embarrassing, and we decided to do something more professional,” says Kemble, who ended up hiring GoLoyal because they were recommended by her software supplier, Millennium.

Savings Plan

 Partnering on Email Communications
Andre Chreky the Salon Spa’s e-newsletter.

In 2000,  Andre Chreky The Salon Spa (andrechreky.com), in Washington D.C., began printing and mailing a quarterly salon newsletter that contained stories on styling trends and salon news, as well as a listing of the salon’s next three months of service and retail promotions. Four years ago, the salon started doing weekly e-blasts on the promotions, but they weren’t ready to change the status quo on the newsletter. Just this year, Andre and Serena Chreky decided to work with Constant Contact (constantcontact.com)  to convert the newsletter to an e-newsletter.

“I recently calculated we will save $60,000 a year,” says Serena Chreky. “While the newsletter was $6,000 to print, it cost me $9,000 to mail each month. Of course, now I wonder why we didn’t do this sooner.”

The salon now pays Constant Contact $750 a year to do all the electronic mailings for a flat rate. The salon’s design firm utilizes the templates available through Constant Contact to create the e-blasts and e-newsletters.
 
Salons who hire the full-service firm GoLoyal typically spend between $100 and $125 dollars depending on the size of their database, says Hennes. One of their clients, Jessica Curran, manager of City Looks Salon and Spa (citylooksroch.com), in Rochester, Minnesota, says the ease and dramatic cost-savings has urged them to stop doing direct mail altogether.

 E-Mail Fast Facts >>

> 77% of U.S. consumers have a neutral to positive impression of legitimate e-mail marketing, according to Harris Interaction.

> 67% of U.S. consumers said they like companies that, in their opinion, did a good job with permission e-mail marketing, according to eMarketer.

> More than 63% of companies found e-mail marketing the most effective method for customer retention, according to the Direct Marketing Association.

> It is projected that e-mail marketing spending will grow from $1.2 billion in 2007 to $2.1 billion in 2012, nearly 100% increase in spending, according to Jupiter Research.

Content Your Way
 Partnering on Email Communications
City Look Salon and Spa’s e-newsletter.

While you can communicate any salon news item through an e-newsletter, the most common content revolves around special offers—opportunities to drive clients in the door. Says Kemble, “Today, clients expect promotional opportunities and they get so excited about printing out their coupon for a wax or a hair color treatment. But we’ve had a lot of people say they made their appointment sooner than they planned because they wanted to get the special—so it’s helping with frequency.”

After four years of doing an e-newsletter with GoLoyal, Curran discovered another way to make it useful. After new clients have a service at the salon, she sends them an e-blast with a survey attached. If the client fills out the survey, they get a free service on their second visit. “You get better feedback and more honest answers than if you asked them to fill it out in the salon—it can be intimidating to complain on a survey and hand it to an employee,” she says.

Frequency
When it comes to how often you send e-communications, most owners strive for balance between enough to gain maximum exposure and not so much it’s annoying. Hennes recommends that his clients send an e-newsletter once a month with a few periodic e-blasts surrounding certain events, such as a client’s birthday.
 
On recognizing special occasions, Karimian takes a clever approach. He sends clients a special promotional e-blast to honor the anniversary of their first visit to the salon, which celebrates that salon-client connection.

Chreky and her manager, Paula Cassidy, are still experimenting with their frequency. “While we started by doing the e-blasts weekly, we’re easing off a little bit on that, as we are increasing the number of times a week we blog and tweet,” says Cassidy. While quarterly e-newsletters seems right for now, they are exploring doing it monthly.
 
Added Value
In addition to cost-savings, e-mail communications offer a wealth of benefits. GoLoyal’s newsletters are designed with a “Forward to a Friend” feature, which exposes new prospects to the salon. “We encourage the reader to forward the e-newsletter to friends, but you can also encourage it by offering them an incentive if the friend opts in to receive regular mailings,” Hennes says.

The e-newsletters are easy to store and are portable, points out Chreky. “A brochure that is mailed can be easily lost and clients are more likely to forward a great offer via an e-newsletter than they are to pass on something they received in the mail.”

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the ease in which information can be tracked. For example, you can learn how many people open your e-mail, how many go on to visit your site, how many forward it to a friend and how many opt out of receiving e-mails altogether.
 
Chreky finds the metrics fascinating, “I can tell when a competitor or a former employee opens an e-mail. And by examining the data, we’ve learned the best time of day to send a blast is after lunch,” she reports. “We’re also seeing huge results with blasts we send on Tuesdays—I’ve experimented with other days, but my average open rate on Tuesdays is 24 percent, and on Wednesday through Friday it’s only 14 percent.”

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