(Even If You Don't Have the First Clue About Marketing)
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Expert Career Advice ➜ Building a Client Base ➜ How to Create a Beauty Salon Marketing Plan
Effective marketing can help bring in new guests to your salon while making sure that existing clients don't forget about you. Of course, the big question is this: How do you create effective marketing? The short answer: Through thoughtful planning. Below, we offer tips for doing exactly that with a beauty salon marketing plan that gets the job done right.
Let's get to it!
Why do I need a beauty salon marketing plan anyway? Can't I just wing it?
Having a good salon marketing plan is beneficial for several reasons:
- First, it keeps you (and your staff) accountable.
- Second, it helps you rein in spending. When you wing it, it's easy to lose track of how much money you're pouring into marketing month to month.
- Third, it provides that all-important 30,000-foot view. Over time, this view will reveal the most effective marketing tactics for your business. From there, you can focus on doing more of what works and less of what doesn't.
We know the words "marketing plan" can scare a lot of people. Or bore them to tears. But marketing doesn't need to be this big daunting thing. It can even be fun when done right.
Do I have to plan out an entire year at once?
Nope! In fact, we advise against it. While some big brands and national chains might plan their marketing initiatives a year or even 18 or 24 months out, solo beauty professionals and owners of smaller salons should take a short-term view.
Focusing on your marketing in smaller chunks makes it easier to manage (and more likely you'll stick to the plan). Plus, working with a 90-day or quarterly plan will allow for more flexibility, which is essential when running a small business. (Think back to how you had to pivot in March of 2020!)
OK, what's the first step when developing a beauty salon marketing plan?
There are actually TWO steps. First, understand your objectives. Second, know your budget.
Understand your objectives.
Now, you might be xthinking, "Duh. The objective is to bring in more business."
OK, sure. But what does that mean? The more specific you can get, the better you can focus your marketing and measure the results.
For example, if you say you want to see a 20% increase in new guests over last year—and that you want to be able to attribute at least half of that increase to your marketing . . . well, now that's pretty darn specific, right? You can measure your different marketing tactics against this objective to see if the tactics are achieving the desired results.
Keep in mind that marketing shouldn't only focus on bringing in new customers. You need to market to existing clientele as well. Studies show that it costs fewer marketing dollars to get a sale from an existing customer than it does to attract a brand new customer.
So when you think about your marketing tactics (more on this below), you'll want to make sure you have a good mix of campaigns focused on bringing in new business and campaigns that keep your salon front-and-center in the minds of existing customers.
Know your budget.
Whether you're a solo beauty professional or you own a salon (or two or three), you need to know how much money you can put towards your marketing. So what should that money number be?
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) says, "As a general rule, small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between 1) brand development costs (which includes all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.), and 2) the costs of promoting your business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.)."
The SBA goes on to add: "This percentage also assumes you have margins in the range of 10-12 percent (after you’ve covered your other expenses, including marketing). If your margins are lower than this, then you might consider eating more of the costs of doing business by lowering your overall margins and allocating additional spending to marketing. It’s a tough call, but your marketing budget should never be based on just what’s left over once all your other business expenses are covered."
Oh, boy. That math sounds overwhelming and complicated.
Let's use a simple example to show how this might shake out in real life:
- Gross revenue = $50,000
- 7% of $50,000 = $3500 – that's your marketing budget for the year
- $3500 divided by 4 = $875 is your quarterly budget
Depending on your perspective (and where you’re at with your own business), that number might sound like a lot to you—or not enough. Just remember this: Whatever your number is, it's only a starting point. No one is saying you MUST spend 7 to 8 percent. And no one is saying you can't spend 10 or even 15 percent (or more).
In fact, the SBA notes that other factors can influence this percentage. For example, a new salon would need to spend more on marketing to build brand awareness. The SBA also notes that business-to-consumer service businesses (which would most definitely include salons) tend to spend upwards of nearly 12% on marketing.
Bottom line: If this is your first time coming up with a marketing budget, you need to start somewhere. See if you feel comfortable going with 7% of your annual revenue. If not, you can always adjust the number downward, to start, and increase as you get into a rhythm and become more comfortable (and confident) with your marketing efforts.
What should I have in my salon marketing plan?
Think of all the marketing channels you currently use—or have considered experimenting with. The list likely includes things like . . .
- Website Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social media marketing (all the posts and videos you put on places like Instagram and TikTok)
- Social media advertising
- Pay-per-click advertising
- Print advertising
- Printed marketing materials (for example, brochures)
- Promotional items/ branded materials (for example, tote bags with the salon's name for clients' retail purchases or branded pens you keep at the reception desk)
- Salon signage
The above isn't an exhaustive list, either. But it covers the big channels.
The goal with marketing is to find the channels that deliver the biggest bang for your marketing bucks. This is known as return on investment, or ROI. So, for example, if you spend $100 on Facebook advertising every month, and those ads bring in $500 worth of business each month, that would be considered a good ROI because you're making more money than you're putting in. (That's a very simplified way of looking at ROI, but we're fans of keeping things simple. The Balance provides a much deeper look into ROI, but also keeps the explanations accessible.)
As you develop your quarterly plan—especially if planning is new to you—you simply need to get something down and work from there. Put together a mix of marketing tactics that are within your quarterly budget and keep track of the results.
And here's the good news: Don't overthink it too much. You likely already have a sense of marketing channels that work well for your business.
Going back to our example above . . .
Let's say your quarterly budget is $875. Your salon marketing plan for the quarter might look something like this:
- Run Facebook ads each month promoting your salon to your target demographic
- Send out a monthly email newsletter to your existing client database (using email marketing software)
- Start a series of Instagram/TikTok tutorial videos – post 2x a week
- Display in-salon signage promoting a new retail product line
The budget for the above activities might break down as follows:
- Facebook advertising: $300 ($100/month for 3 months)
- Email software subscription: $30 ($10/month for the software subscription)
- Ring light + lavalier mic to make videos look more professional: $100
- Website hosting: $75 (it's $300 for the year, so it's $75/quarter)
- In-salon signage for the new product line: $250
Total marketing expenditure for the quarter: $755
Which is well within your monthly budget of $875.
By the way, you should view the list above as inspiration, not a directive. Your month-to-month marketing will likely look quite different, and that's OK.
And remember: If you're just starting out—or you're simply starting to think about marketing more strategically—the key is getting started:
- Give yourself a reasonable budget.
- Know your objectives (be specific).
- Choose realistic marketing tactics.
Regarding that last bullet point . . . when we say choose "realistic" marketing tactics, we mean you should be realistic in what you (and your staff) can accomplish month-to-month.
Even if you had an unlimited budget, there's still a limited number of hours in any given day, and you're only one person. Unless you hire someone to do your marketing for you (which would be an added expense), the execution of your marketing will likely fall on your shoulders. So, to begin, focus on things you're familiar with and that you like doing so that you get into a marketing rhythm.
Once you get into the habit of marketing—and you get a couple of quarters under your belt—you can then get more strategic by cutting out what doesn't work and/or trying something new (which might require some homework on your part).
So if a marketing tactic isn't bringing in new clients, I shouldn't do it anymore?
Yes and no. Yes, you want to be ruthless when it comes to eliminating what's not working. That said, before you cut a marketing program, ask yourself if the program truly isn't working . . . or if it needs some tweaking or adjustments.
For example, if you run Facebook ads for a quarter and you don't get any bookings that you can attribute to the ads . . . don't simply proclaim that FB advertising "doesn’t work." Perhaps you didn't have the right targeting, the right offer, or the right creative. Experiment a bit, read up on tips for running effective Facebook ad campaigns, and tweak accordingly.
At some point, it might even make sense to earmark some budget for a marketing consultant who specializes in social media advertising to audit your campaigns and offer ways to improve. This doesn’t need to be a long-term commitment. It can be project-based. If they can get your ads on track, it could be a worthy investment.
However, if you do all of the above—you revisit the ads, tweak them, try different things—and you still can't seem to get a decent ROI out of them, you might want to pause FB advertising, at least for now, and put those marketing dollars towards tactics that achieve your objectives.
Once I have my salon marketing plan set for the quarter, then what?
Nothing's worse than developing a good salon marketing plan only to allow it to gather dust. Make sure you carve out time each week and/or month to work on your marketing campaigns and programs.
For example, if you plan to send a monthly newsletter to your existing client base, you'll need time to write it and lay it out. Treat this marketing time as sacred. Perhaps every Monday morning from 9 to noon, you focus on marketing. Again, it's all about getting in the habit of marketing.
You'll also want to monitor the results from every marketing initiative you run.
Ugh. Monitoring results sounds hard.
Remember what we said about developing good habits and getting into good rhythms? Well, you can't manage what you don't measure. So get in the habit of ALWAYS measuring results. This includes asking n ew clients how they heard about you. And it includes paying attention to the programs that re-engage your existing customer base.
But here's a secret: Measuring can be an imperfect system. Don't get hung up on exact numbers, especially in the beginning. If you have 20 new clients, and you remember to ask 18 of them how they heard about your salon, well . . . that's info you can compare against your marketing campaigns. And then you can make informed decisions accordingly.
Some of the programs you run will have measurements baked in. For example, if one of your email newsletters drives people to a page on your site where they can fill out a form requesting an appointment, between the email software and your website analytics, you can track that.
But keep in mind that some folks who land on your website might still pick up the phone and call, which is why getting into the habit of asking people how they discovered you (and making sure you record the answers) is still a wise strategy.
When it comes to creating effective salon marketing plans, take a deep breath and take it one step at a time.
Effective marketing doesn't mean you have to do every type of marketing tactic under the sun. Instead, focus on doing a handful of things really well and monitoring results. You can always add in new marketing tactics once you get into a rhythm. The key is getting started—and sticking to it. Take a deep breath and dig in. You got this!
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