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Management Practices

Salon Marketing Masters: The Promo Man

Rosanne Ullman | July 10, 2011 | 2:14 PM

Salon Marketing Masters: The Promo ManThe Promo Man
A tight economy shifts owner John Donato's focus from TV and radio commercials to more creative in-house marketing.

John Donato may not know whether laughter's the best medicine, but he's pretty sure it's the best strategy for creative advertising. It's certainly been working for Donato Salons and Spas in Toronto and Mississauga, Ontario.

"Commercials and videos that make people laugh get a lot of attention," says owner John Donato. "We did a viral video last year that used humor around a sexual premise; it was very edgy and pushed the envelope. Then all we did was send the link to some of our friends and people we thought would enjoy it. They passed it on and, without even posting it on our website, in no time we were receiving a great response from people all over the world!"

Another successful comedic piece, formatted as a series of four radio commercials, poked fun at men and encouraged them to smarten up and purchase Donato Salon and Spa gift cards for their wives and girlfriends. But while not everything you post on youtube.com has to be award-worthy, Donato concedes that anything professionally produced, even for radio, can eat up the budget quickly. He estimates that every clever 30-second radio commercial he produces costs about $5,000 by the time he's paid the creative end, union voiceover talent and production company. In addition, radio air time during peak hours like morning or evening drive costs $200-$400 a spot.

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

Salon Marketing Masters: The Promo Man

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
Donato Salon and Spa
donato.ca
Toronto and Mississauga, Ontario

Owner: John Donato
Marketing budget: 2.5 percent of sales or about $300,000 a year

To keep expenses in check, Donato frequently opts for the much more affordable "traffic tags," which are 10-second radio announcements that might say, for example, "Today's weather forecast has been brought to you by Donato Salon and Spa. 
Remember Mom this Mother's Day with a gift card from Donato."

While Donato is continuing to explore ideas for posting videos and other inexpensive methods of driving traffic to the salon's website, the current economic downturn has the owner shifting his focus from external marketing like radio and print advertising, which aims at recruiting new clients, toward doing more internal marketing to his client base. One simple ongoing initiative-calling every client who has not been back for a visit within the past six months-is resulting in close to an eight-percent rate of return. "We tell them we miss them and would love to have them back," Donato explains. "Then we offer a promotion geared toward the specific services they used to enjoy with us."

To guard against that "six-month" list becoming too long, Donato periodically offers clients "bounce-backs" as an incentive to return soon. For example, at check-out they might be handed a card good for a complimentary lip gloss with their next hair color service.

Training staff in upselling strategies is another way Donato compensates for any economic fallout. If he runs a promotion on semi-permanent color, he expects his staff to upsell at least 30 percent of those clients to a related add-on such as permanent color, a conditioning treatment or additional highlights, or perhaps to a manicure or facial. "Once the client is in the door," he says, "if we're all doing what we're supposed to be doing, there will be a higher ticket plus retail."

Driving tickets higher also was the goal of a summertime basket containing promotions not just from the salon but also from local, upscale retailers. While the salon may offer a series of seven laser hair removal services for the price of six, the women's boutique down the street might include an announcement that the latest Coach handbag just arrived.
 
"You must be careful not to sell yourself short or give away the farm," Donato cautions. "You should never convey to the client that your business is hurting. The intent with advertising and marketing always goes back to creating raving fans. It's about providing an amazing service and maybe offering a little gift. A great client experience, from the welcome to the fond farewell and everything in between, is some of the best marketing you can do."

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




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