We ended the last decade in a deep recession funk—a funk that negatively impacted salons as much as other business segments. People still have to eat and drive. When an appliance breaks, it has to be fi xed or replaced. But in the world of fashion and beauty, consumers can delay, cut back and stretch.

While some economists and politicians believe the worst of the recession is over, they are not behind the chair or examining your books. “We are in for a long, bumpy ride, as long as unemployment remains high and credit is tight,” says Bart Foreman, president of Group 3 Marketing (group3- marketing.com).

Foreman says salon owners who believe it’s business as usual again may be in for a rude awakening. Professional brands that blurr the line between what is professional and what is off the grocery store shelf, not only erode their position in the marketplace, but also the salons they service. Distributors face the same challenges. Business today is changing.

SALON TODAY invited Foreman to comment on the key marketing trends and strategies that salons and professional beauty brand need to focus on in the 2010 decade. “These are long-term strategies that are critical to understand and master if you want to succeed in this decade,” he says. Foreman’s suggestions include:

Stop focusing and obsessing on what you do and begin focusing on your clients. “You are in the business of beauty, not in the business of cutting and coloring hair or nails,” says Foreman. “Forget about traditional marketing tactics that revolved around the products you used and the services you delivered. Today, it’s about staying connected with your clients and engaging them to want to do business with your salon. Salons must sell the beauty experience, and that begins by putting your guests at the heart of your business.”

Realize that guests are not all the same. Based on age, income, education,and other variables, each perceives the salon experience differently. “While most salon owners realize this, what are they doing to focus their marketing efforts to retain and growth these customers?” asks Foreman.

By 2011, the Gen Y, 16-30 year-olds (Millennials) will become the largest age group, eclipsing Baby Boomers. Millennials are the first demographic group to grow up in the digital age. The fastest-growing ethnic group is Hispanics, and it is already the second largest non-white segment of the American population. It is projected that by 2042, minorities will become the majority of the population.

Realize that guests’ attitudes and perceptions are radically changing. The recession has changed how guests do business with you. It has changed your guests’ attitudes and perceptions of what constitutes good service. The recession has caused the American consumer to be frugal. “That does not mean ‘cheap’ or refer only to the lowest price. Consumers are looking for ‘high value,’ a combination of a good price for the services delivered,” says Foreman. “As we emerge from the recession, frugalism is giving way to practical consumerism.”

Guests will continue to seek high value and will be more methodical in how they select their beauty services and products. Consumers will be most attracted to salons that focus on their needs and wants rather than salons that merely offer services.

Craft your marketing efforts to be multidimensional. Marketing drives every element of the salon experience. “Everyone talks about five-star customer service, but in this new decade, fi ve stars are not enough. You need a sixth star,” says Foreman. “Your marketing has to reach out and continually touch your guests. Reward them for continued patronage. They expect it. Send e-mails and make guests part of the family. Explore social media. Set up a fan page. Start tweeting. Don’t be a part-time marketer. Marketing is a full-time effort; it’s not just about holiday ads for gift cards.”

Organize your marketing around your business drivers. “Loyalty is not a business driver. The business drivers are retention, identifying potential defectors, and creating organic growth by targeting underperforming guests,” says Foreman.

Your guests are not necessarily loyal. If they are, it’s more likely that they are loyal to their stylist and not to the salon. Building a positive service culture and rewarding guests for their continuing patronage is the fi rst step in retaining guests. Using your POS data to identify buying pattern shifts will help identify defectors and that same POS data can help you identify guests who are not buying multiple services or at-home products. You know who these guests are. Use marketing to infl uence the next sale.

Embrace technology as your friend, but understand that technology alone is not enough. POS systems that allow you to track each guest’s business are invaluable. Technology can be a powerful marketing tool, but multidimensional marketing requires much more than just a points-based reward program. “It is communications and personalized printing, too. Stay connected with guests in the way they want to be connected, not how you want to do it. Modern technology is the engine that makes marketing successful,” says Foreman.

More articles in this series, 2010 Vision: The New Rules of Engagement:
2010 Vision: Engage New Business
Engage Your Employees
Engage Your Conscience
Engage Through Marketing
Engage Your Social Media Networks
Engage Your Budget
Engage Through Accountability
Engage Without Compromise
Engage Our Future

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