When clients walk through your door, what’s their first impression? Do you have posters with trendy women’s styles in the window? Is your décor feminine? Are your products in soothing shades of pastels? Do you have a wide array of fashion and gossip magazines for guests to peruse? That’s great—for your female clients. But they’re only half of your potential market. What are you doing to attract men to your business?
Like women, men care about their appearance and have their own unique concerns about their hair. They want the most flattering style, advice on keeping current, products to help them looking their best in between services, tips for thinning strands, and they might even have a couple questions about hair color.
But many men aren’t comfortable bringing up these topics with their stylists or don’t want to enter a traditional salon environment at all. Why? It’s out of their comfort zone.
But it doesn’t have to be. Below are six essential steps to that help salons successfully building a booming men’s business.
ONE: SET THE STAGE
According to a study from male-focused manufacturer American Crew, 70 percent of walk-in business is men. And, before they even walk in your door, they are sizing up your business to see if it’s right for them.
To entice them in, make sure you have visuals or signage visible from the street or sidewalk that lets them know you cater to men. Whether it’s a window display of products or images of current men’s looks, they’ll feel more comfortable, a visual invitation will make them feel more comfortable walking through your doors.
Once he’s in the door, prove that you really do want him there. Neutral colored-décor, magazines and style books geared towards men and a separate retail area with products for him are key.
American Crew suggests creating a “Men’s Grooming Center” to take advantage of the shopping habits of men, who tend to browse and shop off the rack. Place the men’s retail area close to the checkout area and visible from the sidewalk when looking in. He may just pop in for products and schedule a haircut at a later date.
Bradford Davison, American Crew Team Crew Member and co-owner of Service and Supply (with Alex Chavez), a brand new barber shop in Venice, California, says you should give the man something visual right away. “Whether it’s a product or something that show’s me, as a man, I can walk in your salon and you understand my hair, it’s important,” he says.
To make his clients comfortable and know they are in a hip environment, Davison is looking to create a modern/vintage feel in his new space. “We wanted something that’s clean and not overly cluttered, where a guy can come in and feel more relaxed—like he’s in the right space. For me, the spaces for men that work are the ones that are very neutral-minded. I don’t want sports or music pushed on me—just a nice, neutral space,” he says.
“Our clients come from all walks of life—every man is an individual. We want them to know our technical skills can deliver a cut for that individual.”
Davison also wants his clients to feel relaxed and pampered, which is why he offers a beer or two during service. “Whether he’s just getting off work or running errands, a beer just gives the guy that moment to exhale and know for the next 30 minutes he’s taken care of.”
At Smith and Voss salon in Owosso, Michigan, partners Casey Voss and Jamie Smith originally built a mini barber shop within the salon, which was very successful. But when a storefront opened nearby, Voss’s husband Adam, who is also a partner, decided to open up his own, modern barber shop—The Lounge Barber Shop and Shave Parlor—in that space.
Casey is already noticing one major difference with clients at The Lounge.
“If I’m running behind, it irritates the pants off my male clients,” she says. “But since Adam moved into his space, he’s averaging 21 cuts a day, so sometimes guys have to wait. But they’re fine with it. They have their coffee, the TV, other men to talk to, etc. In our environment, they don’t want to sit—they get antsy and are uncomfortable with all the ‘girly’ stuff. But Adam has some guys who just stop by for a cup of coffee, even when they don’t need a haircut.”
The Vosses both agree having a man run the barber shop also helps, especially when it comes to trying a trendy new cut. “I can cater to traditional barbering and do cool, modern cuts,” says Adam.
About four years ago, Jason Hall, co-owner of Red 7 salons in Chicago and Evanston, Illinois, decided it was time to put extra thought into the salon’s male clientele and increase its men’s business overall.
When it was time to renovate the salons, he and his partner, David Kafer, focused
on interior design first. “We used a kind of light cream/gray shade with accents of our signature red. We stayed with neutral colors. In the past, we had used yellows and baby blue in areas that were just a little too feminine.”
They also used more male imagery in their retail area and focused on their art work.
Kafer, a painter, loves painting women—usually a bust with avant garde hair. Now, the salon features Kafer’s paintings of men, too. “We have guys with beards and mustaches incorporated with the female figures,” says Hall. “Guys who come into our salon see someone who looks them, too.”
Once they had created a more neutral décor, they looked at other sensory details like
music and scents. “We wanted our music to reflect all tastes,” says Hall. “We have an eclectic clientele, so
we started to incorporate more music guys were into—a lot of stuff from the hipster movement like Mumford and Sons,” he adds.
Jamie Smith and Adam and Casey Voss, owners of Smith and Voss, owners of Smith & Voss and The Lounge Barber Shop and Shave Parlor in Owosso, Michigan.
Hall also added beer to his beverage menu and began incorporating more male scents with candles that have a subtle tobacco or boozy smell.
A final esthetic detail Red 7 added to make men more comfortable was t-shirts instead of smocks. “I noticed some of our male clients coming in and never putting on the smock. They’d let the stylist put the cape on them, but that’s it,” says Hall. “I asked some of them why and they said it felt like a robe—too spa-like and feminine.”
So Hall created t-shirts with the Red 7 logo for his male guests to use if they prefer.
“I wanted to give them the option, and we’ve found it to be very successful,” he says. “Some guys even want to take it home. It’s super subtle, but really resonates with that audience.”
TWO: MARKETING TO MEN
You’ve got your signage, a men’s menu, stylists who are retailing to their male clientele—your salon is a haven for males, right? It’s not as simple as, “If you build it, they will come.” Men need to be lured in with ongoing marketing efforts just like your female clients.
Market specifically to men in a section of your website, with consumer-friendly men’s styles.
Casey and Adam Voss have created a section on their website so men know whether they should book a service at Smith and Voss (the salon) or The Lounge (the barber shop). On the site, they pose the questions: “Do you normally head to the barbershop every few weeks for a trim or a straight razor line-up? If you like it high and tight, dig a clipper cut, a classic men's style, or a very short haircut, our barbershop is for you. If your hair is a bit longer and you're looking for a haircut with a bit more of an artistic edge, or you prefer to wait four to six weeks between haircuts, you should see a stylist at our hair salon.”
Social media is another opportunity to market to men. Invite clients to join your salon’s social networking sites, enticing them with special offers, promotions or events that let him know you are targeting him specifically.
Davison feels most comfortable with referrals and word of mouth when it comes to his own work, but also sings the praises of Instagram as a marketing tool. “If you keep it purely professional, this free social media outlet has been huge. You can constantly market yourself for free and have a portfolio without an agent,” he says.
“But as with any kind of social media, you must be diligent. You’ll really see the benefit if you’re constantly posting something,” he adds. “It gives new clients the ability to see your work before they see you.”
While marketing online is necessary, don’t forget about one of your best tools—your female clients already loyal to the salon. Invite them to purchase men’s services and products for Father’s Day, birthday gifts, and Christmas. Once you’ve got him in your chair, make him a client for life.
“We encourage our stylists to ask their female clients what the guys in their lives are doing for their hair, and to utilize the referral program,” says Red 7’s Jason Hall. “We do see a lot of boyfriends and husbands because their wife comes home, her hair looks great, and she sings the praises of her stylist.”
Special events for men are another great marketing tool. Red 7 recently hosted a men’s week the last week in June (strategically placed near Father’s Day) where all men who came in for a haircut or complimentary neck trim received a goodie bag (Red 7 hat, product samples, promo cards for future services).
“The idea behind it was to say thank you for coming to see us and trusting us with your hair,” says Hall. “I talked to a couple clients beforehand and they thought it would be awesome—they love free stuff.”
Men also visit the salon a lot more often than women, which, Davison says, is why you
should market to them and grow your men’s business.
“If you look at a full year of just hair cutting, you see them more often than women,” he says. “But women change hair stylists about every seven years—men will be loyal for life. And, if you’re good at cutting their hair and their wives or girlfriends can’t find a good stylist, you can gain women clients through them, too.”
In the past four years, since Hall started marketing intentionally to men, he has seen a 15-percent increase in his men’s business.“We are now at approximately 40 percent men and growing, where we used to be at only 25 percent,” he says.
THREE: TALK LIKE A MAN
Communicating with your female clients is second nature, but how are you conversing with your male guests?
Just like the ladies, you should greet your male clients by name. But instead of a hug or an offer to take a handbag, extend your hand and offer a firm handshake. According to American Crew’s research, a handshake statistically puts a man at ease and definitely puts him on familiar ground.
After you’ve taken his coat and offered him a beverage, escort him through the appropriate areas of the salon (changing area, styling station, bathroom, etc), especially if he’s a first-time visitor.
Next is the consultation. This is particularly critical to men and the relationship you’re building. Prior to his arrival review his past service profile to familiarize yourself with the previous services and product purchases to help provide content for your discussion.
Don’t be afraid to show him visuals if he’s unsure about his style, and always make sure you’re clear on his expectations. “Men are a little bit more open-minded, but if we keep them close-minded, that’s where they’ll stay,” says Davison. “They are also very inquisitive and want to know,” he adds. “But they also don’t want to learn your jargon. As a hairstylist, we speak in a lot of terms relevant to our industry. We get caught up in using our terms and then you are explaining those to the guy, which eats up time,” he adds.
Bradford Davis, co-owner of Service and Supply in Venice, California, and an American Crew Team Member.
Davison recommends using straight-to-the point terminology. “Anytime I’m meeting a guest for the first time—I ask general questions like, ‘What do you do for a living?’ This lets me know if I need to be conservative, or can do something more creative,” he says. “If you aren’t 100 percent sure about something, ask clarifying questions like, ‘Do you like to see any skin or scalp around hair line?’ Getting verbal confirmation can help with progress.”
Casey Voss adds, “I have to really draw men out in the consultation and give them suggestions, like explaining to them how tapering in the sides will create more fullness or teaching them about products and the blow dryer. They just want to be shown what to do.”
Adam Voss likes to find out where his clients used to get their hair cut and why they
left. “Finding out what they didn’t like is important,” he says. “It usually has to do with head shape—if you can cut their hair in a way that compliments their head shape, they will be happy.”
When it’s time to make professional recommendations for maintenance and at-home care, use language that’s male-friendly. Think about terms you might hear in a hardware store like matte finish, durable, scalp exposure, etc. Make sure stylists explain why they are using each product as well and what benefits he’ll get from using them.
Davison keeps the conversation casual and professional when it comes to retail. “As I’m showing them the hair cut, I may say, ‘I used X product, and as you saw, it was easy to apply,’” he says. “It’s a one-on-one interaction. I may remind them at the end of the cut that they said they needed a product at the beginning.”
FOUR: SPOTLIGHT ON MEN’S SERVICES
What does your service menu look like? Is it filled with a long list of color treatments, mani/pedi specials, and blow-out bar prices? That’s enough to make any man turn around and run before he makes his first appointment.
Create a menu just for your male clients and display it front and center so any guy who walks in off the street can see he’s welcome right off the bat. Use male-friendly terms and straight-forward language and pricing.
Not sure about the latest trends in men’s styles? Bring in an educator to get your staff up to date. “We recently had some stylists in our company request a class in barbering,” says Hall. “So I looked around and found a stylist in another salon who is young, hip and very adept with clippers. He has a huge passion for it and promotes it on social media.”
After hiring in a barber to teach classes at Red 7, Jason Hall ended up being a model for a demonstration on graphics and got the salon’s logo carved into his hair.
Hall hired him to come in and do a class and even posed as a model when the barber wanted to demonstrate graphics. Hall ended up with an artistic “7” shaved into the back of his head and a staff excited to add the graphics service to Red 7’s men’s menu.
“I did some research on what to charge but didn’t find anything comparable, so I decided to charge an additional $10 for graphics,” he says. “If it’s popular, we may reevaluate the price.”
A service menu for men is good start, but male clients will also enjoy a little pampering during their visit. According to American Crew’s research, a good scalp massage was one of the top reasons a man returned to the same stylist.
Hall doesn’t just do a scalp massage at Red 7, he has instituted a complimentary hand massage at the chair as well. “When we initially started offering it, many guys would pass, but today that’s totally different,” he says. “Men want to feel pampered just as much as women do. It has definitely evolved in the past six years; we’ve even had well-known hockey players come in and request it.”
At The Lounge, Adam Voss offers a hot lather neck shave with every haircut. He even has a machine that heats the lather up for him.
Complimentary services can also be a lure for male clients. Offering a free eyebrow, beard, moustache or goatee trim to complete their look can bring more opportunities for retailing and explaining how to duplicate the style at home.
While Davison shies away from the word “complimentary” in his salon, he does occasionally give clients a nice beard clean up if he has time between appointments. “I let them know I usually charge $15 for a beard clean-up, but I threw it in because I had the time,” he says.
“You have to be very clear about what a ‘clean-up’ is to you and to the client,” he adds. A clean-up could be just around the ears, but maybe it took you a whole half hour because you have to blend, etc.”
Davison likes to look at each client individually to see what he can offer them. “For example, if a client comes in and says he’s there for his wedding haircut, I might tell him to come in the night before for a complimentary clean-up. For some clients, I work something out for a half-price trim every two weeks—it depends on the guy. And ultimately, it depends on your culture and what will benefit your business,” he says.
Hall offers complimentary bang and neck trims, but agrees each client is different.
“Usually they come in once or twice for the complimentary service before a haircut, but if they’re growing out their hair, they may do it three times.”
FIVE: SEALING THE DEAL
The conversation stylists have with their male clients should ensure he has all the information he needs to make an informed product purchase.
Post-service, stylists can bring the products to their client or escort him to the retail area, pointing out recommendations and allowing him to browse on his own—again, this will be based on each individual’s personality. A brief re-explanation of features, benefits and at-home usage will remind him why products are key to maintaining his style.
“The stylists really dictate retail,” says Hall. “If she is recommending it, the clients will generally go for it,” he adds. “Men won’t bring it up themselves, but if they’re on a regimen, like a shampoo, conditioner and product every other time, they’ll follow it.”
Casey Voss agrees that men like a regimen, in particular if they are using products for thinning hair. “I have them take photos the first week, fourth week, etc. and then we go back and look to see the difference. They’ll buy a shampoo, conditioner and scalp treatment every six weeks or so. The ones who are concerned with thinning hair are willing to do what you tell them,” she says.
Adam Voss, co-owner of The Lounge Barber Shop and Shave Parlor in Owosso, Michigan, caters to a client.
Once he has chosen his products and is ready to check out, it’s time to focus on another key area: pre-booking. This is a convenience some men truly appreciate, so make sure the option is offered. “Men like the structure of pre-booking,” says Davison. “They are a bit more structure-minded and need everything categorized.”
However, just like with other salon services, Davison maintains pre-booking depends on the individual and his lifestyle.
At Red 7, Hall finds two factors come into play on whether or not his male clients
prebook. “It depends on the stylist and what the guy does for a living,” he says. “If his stylist is always busy and he values that relationship, he will prebook. But someone who is more laissez faire and doesn’t care who they see or when they get a cut may not,” he adds.
“It also depends on the man’s profession and whether or not he travels.”
Casey Voss says it’s a common misconception that guys are all walk-ins. Adam has about 20-25 clients who always prebook. “He does some split-shifting, so we can’t advertise walk-ins since his hours vary,” she says.
SIX: GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH COLOR
Highlights and root touch ups aren’t typically a man’s go-to service. However, some men do want to cover or blend their gray gracefully, but don’t like the thought of a long, drawn-out service while sitting in the middle of a salon full of women.
If some of your male clients are inquiring about color, let them know how quick and inconspicuous a men’s color service can be.
“If you see or think for whatever reason that a client would be a good candidate for color, offer it,” says Davison. “Or maybe put talking points on the mirror to get him to ask you about it. It can be as simple as saying, ‘Hey you’re getting a little gray here. Interested in knocking back a few years and doing a little blending?’”
Next Davison says to set up the client’s expectations and explain the difference between a natural blend and no gray at all. “I explain it like this: People in the office will just think there is something different about you versus everyone knowing you just got your hair colored.”
At Red 7, the men who get color services usually just want to blend the gray away. “A lot of times it will be a business man who doesn’t want to look older than he is, but also doesn’t want to look fake,” says Hall. “We have some guys who call in and say, ‘I want a haircut and the other thing.’ It’s almost like saying ‘color’ is a female-oriented thing.”
But both Hall and Davison keep it simple and professional in the salon so their clients are comfortable no matter what the service. “If you’re professional and confident, your clients will feel that and be reassured,” says Davison.