When it comes to growing a new salon exponentially, married couple Susan and Lucas Renfroe represent the perfect combination of savvy and skill.
In 2015, when stylist Susan decided she wasn’t happy in her current salon environment, she opened her own space in 200 square feet in the back of a downtown boutique in Savannah, Georgia. Six months later when the boutique owner announced she was raising the rent, the Renfroes dreamed bigger—ultimately assuming the lease of an exiting ice cream shop next door, spending weekends that winter renovating the space.
GROWING A CLIENT BASE
In April 2016, the couple opened Roots Southern Salon, and attended a business seminar with Salon Summit Business Center right after opening. By the end of the year, the budding salon tallied $250,000 in revenue, with Susan putting her income and any proﬁts back into the business, as the young family relied on Lucas’ salary from a technology job in healthcare. While Susan focused on hiring and training new stylists, and building the salon’s culture, Lucas redesigned the salon’s website and started using SEO (search engine optimization) best practices to grow the salon’s client list.
Roots Southern Salon ended 2017 with $490,000 in revenue, and Lucas left his healthcare job to open the digital marketing company FirstPage, with the salon as one of its ﬁrst clients. By 2018, the SEO efforts were really paying off: 180 new clients a month found their way to the salon through Google. With 10 busy stylists and an esthetician, the salon is projected to hit $1.3 million by year end.
“While SEO can get a little technical, any owner can do what we did—time is the biggest factor,” Lucas says. “The goal is to have your salon name pop up on the ﬁrst page in Google, Google Mobile and Google Local—with the ﬁrst three organic spaces being the prime real estate.”
TOPPING THE LIST
Lucas says the first step in a good SEO campaign is keyword research.
"You need to understand what people in your area are searching for when looking for a new salon," he says. "For example, 'hair salons in Savannah, Georgia' gets searched 13,000 times a month, while 'hair salons in Savannah, Georgia' gets searched 590 times a month, and 'Redken salons in Savannah, Georgia' only gets searched 10 times a month. You need to optimize your website's meta title and and meta description to capture those words.
“Another easy ﬁrst step is to claim your salon’s profile on Google My Business. “If you haven’t claimed your business proﬁle, do it today,” Lucas says. “Go to Google.com/business, and it will walk you through the process. Make sure the description of your business is accurate and list all your services. You can also add posts in there, and it will help drive your SEO, but they do disappear after a week.”
If your salon doesn’t claim one of those coveted spots on top of the search list, Lucas recommends paying for the privilege—at least initially. When they ﬁrst launched the salon, he spent $10 a day on Google ads to drive prospective clients to their site, tapering down to $5 a day after a few months. Before long, the salon was ranking at the top of search lists, digital visitors were becoming salon clients, and the Renfroes stopped paying for Google ads. The salon maintains its prime position on its own, but Lucas still will run an occasional ad campaign when they launch a new service or add new team members.
To make sure the website efﬁciently converts trafﬁc into paying clients, Lucas designed the home page with several clear calls to action. There is a phone call button, a directions button and a Book Now button that allows visitors to book appointments online through the salon’s Envision salon management software. Also on the home page are buttons for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter that take visitors to galleries of the team’s work.
“We do social media on purpose and not just every other day or two—we actually sit down once a month and schedule out all our posts in Hootsuite for the following month,” Lucas says.“Our salon feeds are meant to be a look book of our salon’s services, products and skills.”
Within the Roots Southern Salon space, the Renfroes created an area for the team to shoot photos with a light gray background and a ring light.
“Ideally every guest is invited to do a quick photo shoot, and our team takes the photos and puts them into a Dropbox folder. On the salon’s feeds, we rotate which stylist we are featuring, always tagging them and giving them credit for the look.”
The website also lists the salon’s stylists with links to their bios and personal Instagram pages. When new clients ﬁnd their way to the team members’ chairs, the stylists use their phones in the consultation process—showing them images of examples of their work that match the clients’ requests.
To further drive SEO, the Renfroes work on soliciting reviews through their software. A day after a client’s visit, the salon sends out a thank you, asking if the client was happy with the service. On the rare occasion when a client isn’t happy, this provides a vehicle by which the client can complain directly to the salon in hopes of preventing the disappointed from airing grievances on Yelp. If the client indicates they are happy with the salon, then they are encouraged to do a Yelp or Google review.
“Search any city in the country, and Yelp typically claims the ﬁrst organic position below the ads and the search engine’s top-three rankings,” Lucas says. “That spot is frequently clicked, and prospective clients do read reviews.”
Although it’s been Lucas responsibility to drive new business into the salon, Susan’s focuses on training the team to handle the rapid growth while also retaining the new clients.
“I don’t really understand the analytics and algorithms of SEO, and I’m lucky Lucas does, but I have to make sure that we are hiring the right people to ﬁ t our tribe—most of whom have come right out of school—then training them to be up to speed on their technical skills to handle the trafﬁc,” Susan says. “We do supply them with a lot of support—we have staff that wash bowls, brushes and tools, prepare foil and sweep hair, so stylists can focus on their guests.”
As a result, Susan says her stylists are quickly successful. “We have three who were bringing in between $50,000 to $75,000 within a year of graduating from cosmetology school,” she says.
While the Renfroes already have plans to double-shift their chairs to accommodate their quick growth, they realize they’ll soon need to look beyond their four walls.
“I would like to have multiple locations, and we’ve discussed opening a school to keep the growth cycle going,” Susan says. “Investing in people and watching them do well is very addicting.”