Grassroots initiatives grow simple ideas into big impact by inspiring action among your staff, clients and community.
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Last year, when SALON TODAY posted a query on facebook.com/salontoday inviting readers to make suggestions on what editorial they’d like to see in our pages this year, one reader challenged us to write about how to develop a grassroots campaign for the salon.
In politics, a grassroots campaign refers to a movement that starts at the bottom of the political pyramid—with the people—as opposed to the top of the pyramid which is the establishment. Basically, “the grassroots” refers to an attitude of freedom, of creativity, or unrestrained enthusiasm, of people willing to band together for a common purpose.
It took our editorial team a few months to wrap our brains around how the grassroots concept relates to salon business. We decided it could relate to a number of initiatives—think marketing, philanthropic efforts or retention/referral programs—in which the salon rallies the staff, clients, like-minded businesses and their community to transform a simple idea into a campaign that generates big results. Better yet, going grassroots typically means implementing innovative and low-cost ideas that fit well with your economy-conscious budget.
Of course, the very best way to illustrate how you can launch your own grassroots initiative is to focus on how some salons, professional beauty companies and marketing experts are successfully doing this right now:
PLANT THE SEED
| The card designed to drive potential clients to Habitude’s website.
In Ballard Merchant Association banner promoting Habitude’s neighborhood and website.
Want to start a grassroots effort, but don’t know how to begin? Start small—that’s the basis of any grassroots campaign. Focus first on your client base and staff, and brainstorm fun ideas to keep them inspired and engaged. Inez Gray, founder and owner of Habitude Salon and Spa, Seattle, Washington, gives special discounts to her salon’s biggest evangelistic clients—exotic dancers. “They are very connected with one another and spend a ton of money on color, extensions, wig styling,” she says. Real estate agents are also valuable: “They are seen by a lot of people, and someone moving in might ask them about a good place to get a hair cut. We give them postcards offering service discounts that they can hand out to anyone moving in.” Other clients who may be in a prime position to talk up your salon include personal trainers or yoga instructors.
Habitude also reached out to local tech firms with easy, low-cost marketing. To encourage their employees to book appointments during the slow lunch hour, they printed simple bookmarks that read: “15 minutes to eat, 45 minutes to relax. Lunch and pampering in an hour” and hung them in corporate cafeterias.
The copy explains they can come in with their bag lunch, get a complimentary soda with their hair cut, and be back at work within the hour. It includes the salon phone number and website, and invites the computer-savvy crowd to book online. “It feels cooler than a flyer and it fits in a pocket,” says Gray. “I don’t believe taking a ton of service menus and distributing them around town is that successful—and it’s super expensive.” A small card that drives people to your website is more convenient, and can be handed out anywhere, like coffee shops, banks and universities.
Gray encourages her staff to continuously brainstorm grassroots marketing strategies whenever there is downtime. One slow afternoon, the staff stamped $10 off coupons and hung them from a tree in front of the shop. “It may get a client to walk in, but if not, the staff’s day is filled and they can feel good about it,” she says. And in the end, “it increases team morale and gives them a giggle. It’s those things that make our day.”
The community aspect is a strong component of a grassroots campaign. As founder and president of In Ballard Merchants Association, Gray has helped bring together local businesses and pool money for co-op advertising. In turn, her neighboring business owners reward her work by supporting her salon in small ways.
“You can’t measure it, but you can feel it there,” says Gray. When her salon team participates in local festivals, they spread their fun sensibility. Their “spin to win” wheel awards eventgoers prizes like free giveaway product from manufacturers, and coupons for $20 off a spa treatment or hair cut. To boost interest, the salon also features a smaller wheel with kid-focused prizes, which draws families. While they’re there, staff encourages the moms to give the big salon wheel a spin.
Other community-based ideas Gray has brainstormed: art walks through local businesses and creating “a shopping passport” with neighboring stores that provide customer incentives. To take the idea a step further, consultant Nikki Brown of IM Marketing Group suggests businesses cross-promote each other through trading ads on their marketing materials or swapping gift cards for team or client rewards.
The dollar effectiveness of a grassroots effort may be harder to gauge than with traditional marketing, says Gray, but you will notice an impact. “Mostly we gauge the effectiveness by the spirit, the energy, the vibe—do they walk away with a smile?” And if you give your efforts time to germinate, you’ll be primed for future growth, she adds. “Someone may not come in today, but you plant the seed for the future when they may need to make a change.”
FEED THE SOIL
| To hear more of Sally Hogshead’s message, see her speak live at the International SalonSpa Business Network 2011 Conference in Amelia Island, Florida, May 15–17. For the agenda and registration, visit salonspanetwork.org.