I’d love to market my salon or barbershop but money’s tight and it’s a luxury we can’t afford right now.

Sound familiar?
You’re not alone. We’ve all felt the pinch at some point in our business life. But marketing is not a luxury. It’s the lifeblood of any successful business.
So if you need to bootstrap your salon marketing these 3 ideas are for you.

Let’s start with a freebie

First write a salon marketing plan. It costs nothing. And it’s crucial to reaching your business goals, scheduling regular activity and keeping you on the marketing track.
Not sure where to start? Read my NHF Top Tips post here for ideas and a free guide on creating your salon’s plan.

Partnership marketing on a shoestring

Next, partnering with local like-minded businesses is a great way to get maximum marketing exposure for minimum outlay. Here’s how to do it on a shoestring:

1. Get networking – it’s free marketing

Networking has changed radically. You no longer need to face a room of business people munching breakfast, whilst brandishing your business card and desperately hoping someone will speak to you.

With the advent of social media everyone, seemingly, wants to engage. It’s so much easier to approach someone online, introduce your salon and arrange to meet over a coffee.

Still overwhelmed? Try breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. Target yourself to find one new contact a fortnight. At the end of the year you’ll know 25 new business owners in your local area.

2. Who should I approach?

It’s just like dating. Are you well-matched? Do you share common interests? 

  • Look out for local businesses that appeal to the same target audience as your salon. If your ideal client is a 35+ affluent professional woman then the local football club is probably not the best fit.
  • Are they ‘good enough’ for your salon? First impressions count. Look at their website, Facebook, premises, how they answer the phone….
  • Are your marketing budgets compatible? You need to watch the pennies so teaming up with a high-spending partner may be a recipe for disaster.

3. Joined up (thrifty) marketing

Now piggy-back on each other’s marketing. These ideas won’t blow your budget and will get the conversation started: 

  • Both create a website page promoting your partnership offer
  • Hand out each other’s leaflets
  • Fundraise together for a local charity
  • Post/comment/retweet on social media and create a buzz
  • Pop posters up in your premises for each other
  • Hold a salon event and invite them to give a talk, demonstration or samples
  • Return the compliment at their event
  • Team up for local events or shows, and share the cost
  • Promote your salon offer via their e-newsletter.

Smart ways to spread the marketing word

Referral programmes are still one of the most effective ways of finding new salon clients and they needn’t cost the earth. I disagree with anyone who says they are ‘old-hat’. A happy client is the best marketing tool you can have.
Here are 3 canny tricks to stretch your budget when it comes to referrals.

1. Pick the cream of the crop

You don’t want every client recommending you. Really you don’t.

You’re after are referrals from your profitable clients. Not your unprofitable ones. Many salons miss this marketing detail, defining their ideal new client as anyone who is happy to pay the bill.

But think about it. Every salon has its share of clients that cost money. You know the ones I mean – they always book months ahead for the busiest day of the week and just for a low-value service.

You don’t want more of these clients (at least not on a Saturday). Instead, educate your team to only ask for recommendations from high-spending clients who love your salon and services. It’s their like-minded friends that are the ones you want more of.

2. Don’t scrimp where it matters

The golden rule: offer a juicy incentive/thank you to both parties.

I know. I can hear you shrieking, “But we’re supposed to be saving money, not giving it away.”

And you’re right. But this is one occasion where being tight won’t get the results you want. If a happy client has tooted the horn about your salon, the least they deserve is a big-hearted thank you.

3. Does your salon ‘deserve’ a referral?

“Marketing is the delivery of experience”. Kotler

Does your salon experience hit the spot? Because if it doesn’t, the most lavish marketing in the world won’t help find and keep clients. You’ll just be wasting your money.

Turning your client experience from ‘okay’ to ‘wow’ doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Online reviews are free marketing dynamite

What do you do when you’re thinking of booking a weekend break? Suss out the hotel on Trip Advisor? Check the hotel’s online reviews?

Of course you do. And that’s what the majority of potential new clients do when they first hear about your salon. So my third tip for getting the most for your marketing buck is to spend time building your online reviews.

1. Why are online reviews good for my salon?

  • They paint a vivid picture for potential new clients and add to your credibility.
  • Google reviews are great marketing tools as they help boost your Google local ranking.
  • They cost zilch. Absolutely free marketing for your salon business.

2. Do’s and Don’ts of free reviews

  • Salon owners often tell me that they find it hard to get reviews, especially on Google. My advice is to take the path of least resistance. As with referral schemes be fussy who you involve. Approach your most loyal customers and ask them if they can give your business a helping hand.
  • If a client leaves a review on your Facebook or emails in with a compliment, thank them and ask if they’d mind popping it on Google, Yelp or any online salon guide you’re on.
  • Incentivise your team to ask for online reviews. Given the importance of independent reviews for attracting new clients this is a cost-effective use of a limited marketing budget.
  • Never ever write a fake review or get family or friends to do it on your behalf. Not only is this illegal, but Google and other review sites take a very dim view of it.
  • I would not offer incentives to clients to post reviews either. It looks rather desperate (at best) and can easily backfire on you. Do, however, always immediately thank a reviewer. If the review is a good one then a gift of their favourite product or an upgrade service at their next visit will turn a satisfied client into a delighted one.
  • And finally, don’t be afraid of negative reviews. Just respond to them immediately and calmly to avoid escalating the situation. Treat them as you would any other complaint or grumble by empathising with their feelings (no matter how much you disagree). Then take the conversation off line if at all possible to resolve the problem. If you feel able, ask them to post a further review confirming you have settled matters to their satisfaction.

So there you have it. 4 ways to market your salon without breaking the bank. As international marketing expert Philip Kotler said, “Companies worry too much about the cost of doing something. They should worry about the cost of not doing something.”

Alice Kirby, Director Lockhart Meyer Salon Marketing