By Nancy Ward
McDonald’s has its golden arches, Burger King is famous for charbroiled burgers, Cracker Barrel is synonymous with country cooking. Well, you get the idea. So what are you “famous” for? What draws people to your salon? If you can’t answer that question, there’s a BIG problem. If your answer is, “I’m the cheapest,” that’s an even BIGGER problem. Without an answer, you’re just a face in the crowd. Your salon blends right in with all the others in your area. Worse yet, it simply fades into the background.
It’s time to get your thinking cap on and discover ways to make your salon stand out from the competition. Sometimes we tend to overlook the basics of good business and spend money unnecessarily on “quick fixes” when our salon isn’t doing as well as we would like. We often need to take a fresh look at our salon, team members, and procedures.
When was the last time you REALLY looked at the outside and entranceway of your salon? This area makes a first impression one way or another, and first impressions are hard to change. Is that area clean, neat, and inviting? This area is a great opportunity to show your nurturing side. You really hadn’t noticed how worn that welcome mat was, had you? How did you miss those cobwebs overhead and that pot of dead mums left from last fall? Make a list of things that are easy fixes—everything from fresh seasonal flowers in pots to new welcome mats and a good cleaning. All you need is a little time and very little money to accomplish this. Drive around to view your competition and decide how your outside stacks up against theirs. I like to find really pretty storefronts and see what ideas I can implement at my salon.
Inside we go. Ask a non-animal friend (I know—I have very few myself) or other small business owner to take a stroll through the salon. Ask them to be honest and give you constructive criticism on ways you can improve. Unfortunately, we don’t always see those pesky little hairballs in the corner or the dust in the retail area. About that funky smell you never noticed—bet they will! Don’t get offended or on the defensive when these things are pointed out. Listen and take notes, then go about making the necessary changes to correct the issues. Often times, nothing more than a good scrubbing and fresh arrangement of the retail area is all that is needed. The salon should always look squeaky clean and smell good. The old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place”, needs to be adhered to. By the way, when you rearrange the retail area, you’ll sell things simply because people notice them now.
I had long awaited taking a trip to a much touted bookstore about an hour away. Yes, I love cats but not cat hair on all the books that I’m trying to look at! No kidding, I was truly disappointed. Beside the cat hair issue, there was a distinct unpleasant smell permeating the entire place. I had overlooked the unkempt outside, after all, it was February. The outside should have been my first clue. Will I go back? No, there are a couple of nice, clean, and well-organized stores I’ll continue to use. One of those stores is an hour and a half away. Have your potential clients done the same thing?
Have you ever walked into a store and had your presence ignored? Maybe you’ve needed help in selecting a product only to find the employee knew less than you? Frustrating isn’t it? Think about it. Does that ever happen in your salon? Are you and your team members knowledgeable about the products you use and sell? Is everyone on the same page when it comes to recommending products or food? I’ve been in salons that had not a clue as to what was best to use.
I was doing a private consultation once when a grooming client asked the salon owner which shampoo would be best for her dog’s skin problems. The salon owner quickly selected a shampoo (which I knew was totally the wrong product), and the sale was completed. When I asked the owner why she chose that particular shampoo, she replied, “Oh, I’ve had that stuff forever, and I’m trying to get rid of it.” And she wondered why her salon wasn’t doing well. Go figure! Take time to learn about the products you carry and have training sessions with the whole team. My team always listens better when food is involved (just saying).
Customer service is one place your salon really needs to shine. Every client should feel like they matter to you. We send get well, birthday, encouragement, and sympathy cards to our clients when the situation calls for it. Alerting your clients to changes in growths, moles, skin, teeth, or eyes not only benefits the pets but builds trust and loyalty with the client. Your client should feel like the only reason you came to work today was to take care of their fur-baby.
Keeping up on current trends and styles is vital. Attending trade shows, seminars, and breed shows is so important. By attending these events, you stay on the cutting edge and are able to deliver innovative grooming and outstanding products to your clients. The knowledge gained is worth the cost of attending. You can always find ways to strengthen your market niche at the shows. What’s that you say? You have no niche? Oh, but you should. Catering to the older dogs, cage-free grooming, creative styling, coloring, etc. are all niches within the industry. Our niche is being a holistic salon that uses only organic or natural skin and coat products with a two hour or less turn-around time. We use unique accessories rather than just bandanas. Don’t get offended if you use only bandanas and regular bows. Remember, we’re talking about ways to separate yourself from the competition.
Community service is another area to let your light shine. Donating time, talent, and products to local shelters are just a few of the ways you can give back to your community. Partner with a shelter for an adoption day, do a food drive, or feature a pet a week on your Facebook page or website. All these will build your presence in the community and help the pets.
A really clean, well-organized, smoothly operating salon staffed by caring, knowledgeable team members that offer innovative grooming in a quiet atmosphere is sure to be noticed. All that leads to a loyal customer base willing to drive to your salon, which works together to create a salon that stands head and shoulders above the competition—certainly not just a face in the crowd!