While each of these salon pros takes a unique approach to marketing, all have earned their black belts.

Salon Marketing Masters: Digital Diva

Karate, Judo, Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu—these represent a small
handful of the different disciplines among the martial arts. Similarly,
there are scores of ways for salon businesses to approach
marketing—while one owner may choose one path to success, another may
find their victory on a very different road. Black belts are acquired
when owners gamble just the right amount on a campaign, choose a
strategy that embraces their culture and enhances their brand, and
succeed in fully engaging the support of their staff and the attention
of their customers.

We’ve identified five marketing masters and dubbed them with our own
titles—the Retail Queen, the Media Darling, the Digital Diva, the Promo
Man and the Niche Marketer. While their approaches are drastically
different, they all tackled their marketing missions with heart and
determination, carving their own place in a difficult marketplace.

The Retail Queen, Inez Gray
The Media Darling, Kim Vo
Digital Diva, Aura Mae
The Promo Man, John Donato
The Niche Marketer, Stacey Weinstein
 Salon Marketing Masters: Digital Diva

Photo by Jason Ganwich

Digital Diva
With a website, e-mail, blog and social networking sites, owner Aura Mae literally has marketing in the palm of her hand.

A big salon can afford to develop and maintain a complex website punctuated by online booking, gift card purchases and a blog. But a small salon? It’s called the “World Wide Web” not the “Within-30-Miles-Web,” so why bother?

Because today the internet cable is your lifeline, maintains Aura Mae, owner of the 2,900-square-foot Azarra Salon in Tacoma, Washington, which a mere six stylists call home. Even though by her own account, Azarra has been automated since “back when there was only one software system for salons,” Mae recalls sharing many salon owners’ skepticism about the internet. By the early 2000s though, she cast her doubts and dove deep into the cyberwaters, even offering online appointments. Now she can’t imagine doing business any other way.
“The smaller you are, the more you need an online presence,” Mae says, adding that it’s the smallest salons that often cannot afford a front desk staff, marketing director or PR firm. Used advantageously, e-mail and a website can take over those missing duties.

Booking, perhaps the most feared and resisted of all online options, is the one that Mae heavily relies upon. “If I took away online appointments my clients would stage a coup,” Mae maintains. “There would be a bloodbath!” Entrenched in her salon culture for seven years now, the online appointment system operates seamlessly. Instead of having to wade through a parade of voicemails every morning, Mae simply reviews the notifications in her e-mail inbox that alert her to the appointments booked overnight.

“Every time I see an appointment notification come into my e-mail inbox, I see a dollar sign!” she laughs. “If the client has booked too much or too little time, I can call or e-mail her. When first-time clients book online, I often send an e-mail to get more information about the services they need to ensure the time allotted is adequate. I do much of this from my ‘smart phone’—I can be at the grocery store and still monitor our appointment schedule.”

Azarra Salon
Tacoma, Washington

Owner: Aura Mae
Size: 2,900 square feet
Staff: Owner plus six independent contractors
Time spent updating online sites: Approximately two hours per week
Cost of online presence: After start-up costs of the website, just the monthly fee of keeping the URL

Further, online booking eliminates the tug-of-war that can occur between the client and front desk. “When clients look at a calendar with time slots, they accept the appointment time availability more easily than if I tell them over the phone the choices of appointments available,” Mae reports. “Every minute I’m not on the phone is a minute I’m tending to the clients in my salon.”

Another attraction at azarra.com is Aura Mae’s photo-packed blog, which she updates on average once a week. Mae says, “Our blog is where we post upcoming events, talk about what’s happening with staff and even help clients who want to publicize something. For example, we’ve mentioned that a client’s condo was for sale. It’s like a community bulletin board.”

An ongoing post, “Last Week’s Interesting Hair,” provides a forum where stylists can share their best work. Because the salon also sells wine, the blog includes recipes along with wine recommendations.

“Our salon branding is about lifestyle, so our clients like to know what we’re cooking,” Mae adds. “It’s an extension of the conversation we would have with them in the salon about life, the weather, the neighborhood—any of those things are fair game. By reading our blog, potential clients can tell whether they’ll fit in and find clients like themselves.”

Azarra has a Twitter account as well as a Facebook page, where “the wall” is updated with quickie notices about how the day is going and postings of videos that may interest clients and other “fans” of the page. “The bottom line is that clients like to feel connected,” says Mae. “A salon is a community, not just a business. Every way you can connect with clients will help you to build loyalty.”

The Retail Queen, Inez Gray
The Media Darling, Kim Vo
Digital Diva, Aura Mae
The Promo Man, John Donato
The Niche Marketer, Stacey Weinstein