We don't have to tell you the impact the pandemic has had on businesses in the beauty industry. Whether you own a salon or work in one, you already know because you've been living it. Thanks to lockdowns, capacity restrictions, and concerns about safety, you've had to find innovative ways to stay afloat.

Now, as the country begins to emerge from the pandemic, you face new challenges, like how to woo back clientele, especially those who might still be leery about returning or who've taken a liking to DIY options for their skin, hair, and nails.

Below, we're providing salon discount ideas as well as other strategies to entice existing clients back—and to get new ones walking through your door.

1. Offer a "welcome back" discount.

If a client hasn't been in for a visit in six or more months (or whatever time frame you specify), invite the person back and tell them if they book by such-and-such a date, they'll get a welcome-back discount.

Tips for getting the word out about this special offer:

  • Promote it in your email newsletter: If you have a client database, sort it by visits. Send an email newsletter to the list of clients who haven't been to your salon in six or more months and announce the special offer.
  • Promote the offer on your social media channels. Make sure you're clear about the details and who the offer applies to.
  • Have your receptionist make some calls. Sometimes simply picking up the phone and calling clients who haven't been by recently can be a great way to remind them of your salon's personal touch. This doesn't need to be a heavy lift, either. When it's slow, encourage the receptionist to make three or five calls. If the receptionist does this every day, you will, over time, re-engage (and rebook) some clients who might have fallen through the cracks otherwise.

2. Revisit your email newsletter.

Do you send regular correspondence to your clients via email? You should. Why? Email marketing is an incredibly effective way to stay in front of your existing customer base—and it's also extremely cost-effective as well.

Marketing Sherpa reports that most people want promotional emails from businesses they work with or buy from. And Constant Contact explains that email marketing has an average return on investment (ROI) of $42 for every $1 spent.

If you don't have a marketing newsletter, start one. If you have one, but you've been using it inconsistently, revisit your strategy. Commit to sending out correspondence to your database every month. Simply reminding people your salon is still there and booking appointments can be a great way to entice people back.

What should you communicate in your email newsletter right now?

  • Safety measures. Discuss the measures you're taking and reassure people they will be safe. For example, have you recently taken our infection control course? Talk about that. You should also remind people of any procedures/protocols that they need to follow (such as wearing masks).
  • Salon discounts. As referenced in the first point in this article, your newsletter is a great vehicle for promoting any current salon discounts or sales you're running right now.
  • Products. Want to push more retail sales? Feature products in your newsletter. Demonstrate why people should buy them. Provide an incentive for newsletter subscribers—maybe give them 5% off if they mention the newsletter (or give a coupon code if you have an online store).
  • The value your salon offers. Remind clients why doing certain procedures requires a trained pro rather than a DIY solution.

When it comes to safety measures, what your salon does can provide a competitive edge. Sheila McRae Jones is a stylist with Great Clips at the Friendly's Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. After coming out of a two-month lockdown, her salon was very busy, as expected, since customers were eager to come in. But this created complications since the salon had to stay within state guidelines regarding safety.

Promoting safety protocols has been important to the salon’s success. “Online check-in and contactless, do-it-from-anywhere ways to reserve your spot in the salon and spend your wait where you want . . . this kept the customers from social distancing and we remained in guidelines for capacity in the salon,” she says.

Regarding that last point above about promoting your salon's value . . . don't underestimate this! One of the big challenges plaguing salon owners is the DIY marketplace, meaning those products sold in local drugstores—think hair coloring, waxing, acrylic nail sets, lash extensions, and so forth.

Many people (understandably) turned to DIY products during the lockdown. But most of those products only offer quick fixes at best—and long-term problems at worst (think damaged hair or even chemical burns).

Explain why it's important to go to a professional for things like hair, skin, and nail care. In fact, if you regularly demonstrate this value, you'll have little (if any!) trouble getting people back in your salon.

Monette Hurley experienced this firsthand. Hurley, a certified body sugarist and intimate skincare correction specialist, owns Vul-L'Amour in Barbados. Because the salon delivers an exceptional experience on services that should be done by a professional, Hurley hasn't had to use incentives to get customers back after the lockdown.

"I have not lost any clients as I offer an experience and not just a service, so my clients are loyal as they see the value in what they receive," Hurley says. "As we came out of lockdown, I had an influx of appointments."

3. Turbo-charge your referral program.

Referral programs are an excellent way to build a beauty business. But these programs can also be a great way to entice existing customers back right now.

First, remind people that you have a referral program. Beyond that, let people know that if they refer a friend soon, everyone will receive a discount—both the existing client and the friend. Create a sense of urgency by making this offer available for a limited time (maybe through the end of the summer).

4. Host a fundraiser or charitable event.

Hosting a charitable event, such as a high school car wash, in your salon's parking lot can be a great way to show your support for the local community while also benefiting from bonus foot traffic. Make sure you have something tangible to give away, like a tchotchke with your salon's info and/or a postcard with a special offer.

Another idea: If your salon is in a plaza with other small businesses, you could do something together, like a blood drive through the American Red Cross, which has a turnkey program for businesses and other organizations. Promote it (and each other) across social media, email newsletters, and so forth. Again, it's a great way to give back while getting something back in return.

5. Partner with a complementary business and cross-promote.

Piggybacking off the previous point, there's power in numbers. So, for example, if you're a hair stylist and you're friendly with a nearby skincare specialist, consider coming up with a special offer and promoting it together.

That's precisely what Madison Werner decided to do. Werner is a licensed esthetician who owns Skin by Madison Lyla in Lake Forest, California. The Golden State had some of the strictest lockdowns during the pandemic. Werner's salon was closed for over seven months in 2020. Even more challenging? It was only Werner's second year in business.

To welcome people back this spring, Werner is launching a promotion with a hair stylist who works out of the same studio complex as her salon.

"We are going to offer a Spring Refresh where you get a signature facial and a deep conditioning hair treatment with a blow out by seeing the both of us for a good price," Werner explains. "This is a great introductory way to exchange clients with services that complement each other really nicely!"

Sheila McRae Jones from Great Clips echoes this sentiment. She says promotional plans for the upcoming months include social media “and networking with stores within our community.”

6. Advertise on Instagram. (And Facebook, too!)

You probably already have a presence on Instagram. (If not, check out our guide to Instagram.)

Instagram is an excellent vehicle for reaching current clients—and new ones. As WordStream notes, "60% of people say they discover new products on the platform, and 75% of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post."

Advertising on Instagram can extend your reach even further. The best part is you don't need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to see results, either. You can set a daily budget that works for you (start small if you're new to IG advertising). Target your ads to a specific demographic (including location). This means your ads will only be served to the target audience you seek. (Note: You can also do similar advertising on Facebook.)

Lots of helpful information exists for getting started with Instagram advertising, like WordStream's Instagram tutorial or HubSpot's Ultimate Guide to Instagram.

7. Think online sales.

Not everyone in the beauty industry suffered in 2020. In fact, the pandemic fueled growth in online beauty sales.

According to CNBC, L'Oréal, the world’s biggest cosmetics group, posted higher-than-expected revenue growth for the fourth quarter in 2020. The article goes on to say that "cosmetics groups have benefited from demand for skincare products as well as pampering treatments for use at home, including hair dyes." L'Oréal's CEO is predicting that demand for beauty products is poised to "soar" as we emerge from the pandemic and people start socializing and dressing up again.

That's why now might be an excellent time to add ecommerce functionality to your website. Whether you decide to add a plugin (like Shopify) and build your own online store from there or you opt for an ecommerce solution built specifically for beauty professionals, having an online store can create an additional revenue stream while building/maintaining brand awareness. Not to mention, online stores aren't affected by lockdowns.

8. Start preparing NOW for Small Business Saturday 2021.

Last year's Small Business Saturday was a bust for so many retailers due to lockdowns and capacity limits. This year's event, which is slated for the Saturday after Thanksgiving on November 27, should be better.

The "Shop Small" movement is a good thing to promote year-round, of course. And given how the pandemic has crushed so many small businesses, people are looking for ways to help.

For salons, Small Business Saturday can be a great way to drive RETAIL sales. You could have fun by creating gift sets (perfect stocking stuffers), offering one-day-only specials on hot products, and pushing gift certificates. Start planning now (and start really talking it up in October). Thanksgiving will be here before we know it.

Remember, regular marketing is all about the long view.

Luckily, as we write this, things are looking up, and the forecast for the beauty industry remains strong. With consistency in tried-and-true marketing tactics (like email newsletters) along with a willingness to try new things, you'll be able to entice existing clients back in no time—and score some new ones along the way.

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