How can we inexpensively market a children's hair salon?
November 11, 2005 9:36 AM   Subscribe

MarketingFilter: My wife has opened a hair salon specializing in cutting children's hair. We've done a few marketing efforts already but the results have been less than I'd hoped and I'd like to see if there are some other good ideas to explore.

So far we've done a couple of Craigslist ads, had a small carnival at the salon and done some flyer papering around the neighborhood. She also attends mother groups and has done some low level marketing there as well. The salon has a Hawaiian/Tiki theme

Good suggestions will be: inexpensive, fairly straight forward and legal. It would also be great if they were viral to help spread the word further.

There is a very small budget right now for advertising but would it make more sense to use it in the local paper or one of the free papers?
posted by fenriq to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (24 answers total)
I'm not sure where in NoCal you are, but if you're in the Bay Area, you could try an ad in Bay Area Parenting (which I do not read, my own self--but it's out there, I see it at the library all the time).

You could also try posting flyers at the library, asking to post one at children's boutiques (I would think resale stores would be particularly amenable to this). You could tap local pediatricians and see if they'd let you leave a couple of cards on the counter.

You could encourage word of mouth somehow with the customers you do have, maybe some kind of "for every referral you bring in, we'll give you five bucks off your next haircut" or something to that effect. I personally am a sucker for something I can get a discount on the first time, and will gladly return for a fullprice service if the work is quality--so what about offering a discount to the various local mothers' clubs? X% off your first visit if you are a member?

I get the girls' hair cut at a place that I found via word of mouth, to which I have in turn referred two other people. I live in actual fear that the guy won't make a go of it, and that I'll have to go back to the crazy Russian lady in San Mateo who can't seem to GET that there is a giant cowlick on my daughter's head that needs special attention, no matter how many times I point it out to her. So I'm rooting for your wife, kind of by extension.

And if you'd like to email me with the salon location, I'd be happy to either try her out myself, or refer it to friends--my guy is in Mountain View and it's not convenient for some of my friends higher up on the Peninsula or in the city to go there.
posted by padraigin at 9:47 AM on November 11, 2005

Agree with padraigin: hair salons get the best results from word-of-mouth. She could give her current clients (or friends in the mothers groups) coupons to pass out to their family and friends. First haircut half off for new customers, something like that. She'll end up with a few bozos who only show up for the cheap cut, but the lifetime value of customers who keep coming back should offset that loss. Starting a "preferred customer" club could help too; stamp the card every time they come in, give them the 10th cut for free. The cost of these small discounts amortizes into very little for long-term customers.
posted by junkbox at 9:51 AM on November 11, 2005

Bay Area-specific again, but I've found a ton of recommended places (doctors, jewellers, high-end groceries, etc.) from the Berkeley Parents Network (and they tend to place high on Google searches). I have no idea how you'd get into the group's good graces, but I'm guessing it'd be worth the effort.
posted by occhiblu at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2005

Can you tap into any local daycares?
posted by agregoli at 10:19 AM on November 11, 2005

What about pitching the concept to local media? You just need to come up with an angle--a tiki-themed hair salon in and of itself might be enough--but you could also try finding a trend to tie it to. What's new in kids haircuts? What kind of hair products are OK for children to use? How do you deal with a child who's afraid of getting his/her hair cut? There are all kinds of little stories like this you could pitch.

Failing that, you could try some to attract media to an in-store promotion you do.

I offered some advice to anastasiav awhile back on how to get media coverage and some of the steps would apply to your situation.

I'm thinking that the best media to target would be morning and noontime news crews, features reporters and maybe your morning commute radio programs. I don't think you need a press release unless you're going to do some big event. Just pick up the phone and tell folks about your idea/business.

If you do write a press release just announcing your business, you can pay a fee to have it distributed. Otherwise, there's no cost to do any of this.
posted by Sully6 at 10:22 AM on November 11, 2005

And incidentally, I think advertising would be a waste of money. Most people choose a hairdresser, doctor, dentist, etc. based on someone else's recommendation. Advertising might alert folks to the fact you exist but it might not pay off in the way you'd like.

In my experience, though, media exposure can have an immediate effect on business, since folks trust what they read in a newspaper a lot more than what they see advertised in it.

For more on this subject, check out The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. (Although it's a bit dopey and repetitive, there is good information in it.)
posted by Sully6 at 10:31 AM on November 11, 2005

No idea is this is feasible, but how about a booth at a local fair, giving out free quickie haircuts and coupons?
posted by trevyn at 10:52 AM on November 11, 2005

I think it is true that word of mouth is important for hair salons, doctors, dentists etc.

But with that said, I also think you do have more opportunity to bring in new clients being your target is "children's hair" I don't think I'd bring my daughter to my hair salon for her first haircut, I would be looking more for a kid friendly place.

How about advertising on the back of grocery store receipts? I believe it is fairly inexpensive advertising, and perhaps you can do a first time customer discount coupon to start building that word of mouth which is so important.
posted by Gooney at 10:54 AM on November 11, 2005

Are there church-affiliated elementary schools in your area? Maybe you could advertise in their church bulletin? (When I was bored in church as a little kid, I would always read the ads over and over to try to make it go faster.)
posted by clarahamster at 11:21 AM on November 11, 2005

i say call up your local elementary schools and find out when their next PTA meeting is... talk with the schools PTA president about either being mentioned at the meeting (giving that person's child a free haircut to 'sample' the service would be smart) or being mentioned in the PTA newsletter. also offer a discount to anyone who says they heard about your business through the PTA.

also talk to the elementary school principals in your area and see if you can pass out a newsletter to all the students to bring home to their parents. explain what your service is and offer some sort of discount if they bring the newsletter with them.

good luck.

posted by hummercash at 11:45 AM on November 11, 2005

Ad Guy here...

Go with the paper people pay to receive. The free ones often go from driveway to trash. There are exceptions, but this is what I tell my clients.

The parenting mags are ok, but they're mostly free and collect dust at the Supermarket/Convenience stores.

You can sponsor traffic/weather reports on a local radio station, for a fraction of the cost of spots. "Weather brought to you by Tiki Kuts at 25th & Broadway right behind the Bates Motel."

How about a referral promotion? Refer someone get 25% off their next cut?

Give out little Tiki pencil tops to the kids, available at Archie McPhee other tiki stuff for adults too. The kids will take them to school and voila, word of mouth.

For repeat customers (people you know) have a report card promotion. Free tchochke or a discount for good grades.

Frequent hair cutter club. One card per family. Fill up the card get prize.

Putting up Flyers is good. Supermarkets, local businesses & workout places. Wherever you see minivans.

Because of the unique nature of your location I think reaching the kids is just as important as reaching the adults.

Got a web site? Ads on the local papers website can be cheap. Make it kid friendly if it isn't already. Give them something to check back about, quote of the day or games.

Best of Luck.
posted by UncleHornHead at 11:54 AM on November 11, 2005

Since it's all about the referals, what about a day of free haircuts? Kids'll love it and want to come back, and they'll tell their friends. And it can't cost that much to make it all free for a day, assuming the building is built and people are going to get paid for working anyway.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:58 AM on November 11, 2005

What if you make some referral arrangement with local salon's who cut adult hair exclusively?

The mothers trust their own hairdressers' recommendations on where to bring their kids, and the chatty hairdresser environment seems like an ideal place for spreading word of mouth. Give them some discount coupons and pay a certain amount to the referrer for every one that results in a haircut. Or just tell them you exist - chances are they'll mention you to customers anyways if there are no other establishments in the niche.
posted by springload at 12:02 PM on November 11, 2005

Have you considered creating an e-mail list and using it to announce specials in the salon? This is a low-cost, and viral (customer A forwards e-mail coupon to customer B) way to spread the word.
posted by VulcanMike at 12:17 PM on November 11, 2005

I agree with the poster who said they would not bring their children to an adult salon for a first haircut. You could decide to target parents whose children are just at the age of a first haircut (one year? 18 months?) You can easily buy a mailing list of local mothers who gave birth between 5/2004 and 11/2004 and send them a postcard advertising your business with a coupon off a first haircut or first haircut free.
posted by peppermint22 at 12:19 PM on November 11, 2005

Baby's first haircut free, advertised in new-mother packages at hospitals and whatever the midwife's equivalent is. Do up "baby's first haircut" well at the shop, too -- keep around a Polaroid camera to make sure Mom and Dad get a "during" and an "after" picture when they leave. Once the salon is part of baby's memory box, how could they not keep coming back?
posted by mendel at 12:24 PM on November 11, 2005

Best answer: My son's daycare has a children's haircut company come onsite to cut hair (for a fee, the parents sign up for it every month). This could be a way for you to bring in money and get word of mouth started for the salon. Call around to local daycares and ask if they'd be interested or drop by with a proposition. Parents are very interested in saving time -- I'd pay more if my kid's hair was cut at daycare where he is already instead of me having to drive him somewhere to do it.
posted by girlhacker at 12:49 PM on November 11, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, these are some excellent suggestions! Some of the measures we've done to a degree but they can all be expanded upon. She has a digital camera set up and a template to print out a cool "Baby's First Haircut" memento. I'm working on creating a blank "Baby's First Haircut" book that we can paste pictures and the baby's name into to create an instant personalized memory of the event but its a little ways off.

I've talked with her about a discount program for referalls and there's something in place now but I think it would be much better with cards being handed out rather than just a verbal thing.

I will be printing out the thread and bringing it home to discuss with her. I'll try to report back in with some results as we move forward.

Thanks to everyone for your excellent suggestions and thoughts!
posted by fenriq at 12:57 PM on November 11, 2005

A small envelope (possibly transparent?) to hold a lock of hair from that first haircut is a must.
posted by padraigin at 1:23 PM on November 11, 2005

Best answer: I would suggest that when you map out your marketing strategy, you try those things which are cheaper or free before you escalate to buying advertising or promotional items, which are expensive.

I'd also encourage you to make sure your system for capturing new customers is in place--capturing as in adding them to a mail or e-mail list, sending out birthday cards with gift certificates, that kind of thing. (Incidentally, I just read about a study at Harvard Business Review where researchers found a 5% increase in customer loyalty can increase revenues by at least 50%, underscoring the importance of building repeat clients.)

Your system should also help you track how folks are finding you so you can measure the effectiveness of your tactics.

I really do think media coverage could be a big help to you. I mean, the basic ways I decide to go somewhere or buy something is (1) I discover it firsthand by finding it online, walking past it, etc.; (2) a friend recommends it; or (3) I read about in a publication or see it on the news.

Holding more in-store promotions might help in this regard: it'll give you something to promote through the word-of-mouth channel and also something to pitch to the media.

We're heading to the holidays. What about a promotion of get a haircut and a free picture taken with Hawaiian Santa? (I'm assuming your target base is vaguely hip parents who would find quirkiness charming.) Pitch it to the television crews as an about town or Friday item.

Or you could come up with some play of words on "bed head" and have a day where everyone who in pajamas gets a discount. You could bring in a dog groomer and have a day where people can get their dog and their kid groomed. Free manicures for moms. Twin day--buy one haircut, get one free. Yeah, I'm mining Bill Veeck territory here, I know.

Anyhow, if you do what to pursue the media stuff, feel free to e-mail me. It's my regular job and I can pull a media list if you like.
posted by Sully6 at 1:27 PM on November 11, 2005

What about holding "haircut parties", where groups of larger than (say) 6 kids get a discount. And you provide cheap juice and cookies and balloons or something, and pin the tail on the donkey or some other cheap party games for when they're not getting their hair cut?
posted by biscotti at 1:57 PM on November 11, 2005

Many schools have annual fundraisers that include raffles for things and services from local businesses. Raffle off some free haircuts and get your name in school fundraising newsletter. Sponsor a "campus beautification" project at a school.
posted by johngumbo at 2:09 PM on November 11, 2005

I think the main avenue for getting new customers is going to be word of mouth. The trick is to get the first customers in the door in order to get the word of mouth going. Nothing gets people to try something new like giving it away for free :-) Seriously -- a month of working for free is cheaper than an ad in the newspaper and probably much more effective.

A little less extreme might be to give customers incentives to bring other customers in. (e.g., just a half-formed idea off the top of my head: give them some sort of vouchers/coupons to give their friends that will, in addition to giving some sort of discount/bonus to the friend, result in some sort of bonus to the customer who gave them the voucher).
posted by winston at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2005

Word-of-mouth via parents is one thing, but kids themselves are a powerful tool. Give them a fun time at your salon, with neat give-aways, competitions, stuff like that, make them feel like they're part of a cool thing and they will evangelise you in the playground. So make sure that give-away merchanise has the name of your business on it too.
posted by Hogshead at 7:38 PM on November 12, 2005

« Older This is the crap FOX would run in the afternoons   |   Cheap Cell Phones? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.