In today's world, the new marketing and public relations strategies start with customer service, and it's your job to give your clients such an amazing experience they do your PR for you, stresses Peter Shankman, an author, entrepreneur and worldwide connector. Shankman will be delivering that message live at the International SalonSpa Business Network Conference, April 15-17 in the Terrenea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

PR Magazine has described Shankman as "redefining the art of networking," Investor's Business Daily has called him "crazy, but effective," and Shankman himself says he's an example of "what happens when you merge the power of pure creativity with Attention Deficit Disorder and a dose of adventure, and make it work to your advantage."

SALON TODAY Editor in Chief Stacey Soble recently sat down with Shankman to talk about how salons can drive PR through customer service and the importance of networking:

(CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast interview with Peter Shankman)

ST: In what ways can a salon or spa owner create an experience worth talking about?

PS: "A lot of it's about giing them something they're not used to. It's something as simple as when a client calls on a Friday night—instead of saying 'Sorry, we're closed," saying something like, 'We're going to stay open for you.' Or, offering them a service that they maybe didn't ask for, but one that you want them to try. Everyone is a reporter now, everyone is a journalist. Everyone has the ability to share their information as it happens, both good and bad. So you want to be able to give good customer service that they will then share with the world."

ST: Social media is offering a variety of new ways for business to connect with customers. How can salons use social media to add to the customer experience?

PS: "It can be as simple as providing an on-site video camera so people can watch what's going on efore they come to the salon or offering a Facebook page where they can get a discount on an event before they attend it. There are a lot of ways people can become a fan of your business and want to tell people how great you are."

ST: Many salons and spas have limited marketing budgets, what are some inexpensive marketing and PR ideas?

PS: "Growing your company doesn't require a lot of money. A lot of things that companies are doing now involve creating great experiences that customers appeciate, and those experiences are the easiest way to generate ne exposure and press. Find out how your customers like to get information and give it to them that way. If you work with the customer to give them an experience that is new and exciting, they'll tell everyone about it."

ST: Why do you think its so important for salons to network and what's the best way to get started?

PS: "Talk to everyone you meet. Talk to eveyone all the time. Whoever you meet, find out what they're doing and ask them questions. People love to share information. Ask them how you can help them. When people offer help, it's a great way to promote yourself, but it's not as bad as self-promotion because you're doing it to do something good for someone. That's not a bad thing."

ST: Tell us about your last hair cut experience, and if you'll be doing any PR?

PS: "That's actually funny. I used to go to a salon that cost $200 per cut. Then, two months ago, two days before my wedding, I needed a hair cut and they couldn't accommodate me. So I went to the corner salon two blocks away and for $15, I got the best cut of my life. Now, I'll tell everyone about it!"

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