Category: Business

Seven ways to fill your schedule

By Chris Parker

If your appointment schedule is full for the next three years and you have no plans to expand to more branches or more stations in your salon and you are happy with your current turnover then the following information will not be that useful to you.

However, if you still have space in your appointment book that you would like to fill then perhaps some of these tips may come in handy.

Book their next appointment before they leave

This practice is nothing new but very often is not used. When a client walks out make sure it is with some sort of retention plan in place. Try and not ask a closed end question like “Would you like to book your next appointment?” to which a client can simply answer no and close down the discussion. Rather ask “When would you like to book your next appointment for?” If the client says they will get hold of you when ready then ask if its ok for you to send them a follow up reminder, just keep the door open.

Remind them of their appointments

A client who does not show up for their appointment means empty slots that will be harder to fill on the day. Two SMS notifications should go out, one when their appointment is first made that confirms the fact that you have in fact scheduled them and secondly a reminder the day before. Ideally this should be automated so that its not up to staff members to remember to do it.

Work harder to find an opening

If you are fully booked don’t let the conversation end there. If it’s a new client then work hard to make a plan because the cost of acquiring new clients is very high and may be worth your while to offer an incentive to come at a different time. If it is a regular client then work just as hard to make a plan as regulars are your bread and butter throughout the year. Encourage staff members to check a clients profile while they are on the phone to give them a sense that they know the client and make them feel important to the salon. If you are anticipating a busy time ahead and perhaps a lot of tourists then a good practise would be to send out an SMS to your regulars to encourage them to book early to avoid disappointment during busy times.

Find out what their goals are

The consultation with your clients is the focus area here. Finding out what their desired outcomes and goals are regarding their hair implies a journey rather than a once off stop. A journey implies future visits and the question “What are we doing today?” starts to feel a little bit out of place because it has no greater context and it’s almost like you are surprised they came back to see you for another haircut.

Flag first time visitors

Take special note of first time visitors. These are your most expensive to acquire and so you want to make especially sure that they come back again. All of the other points in this article are especially true for first time visitors and you want to get some sort of sense of how many first time visitors you are retaining.

Give them a chance to complain

I recall getting my car serviced recently. When I collected the car I asked the service advisor if all the headlight bulbs had been checked as I recalled that one was faulty. He advised that it is a standard check and that they were all fine. I asked him to double check as I was sure there was a problem. A technician from the workshop re-assured him that the bulbs had been checked and were all fine. However, we all went over to my car to check and it was confirmed that there was actually a problem with one of my bulbs. The concern for me was, if such a simple problem had been overlooked what else had they missed. Nevertheless the service advisor was very apologetic and advised me they would order the bulb and call me to bring the car back when the bulb arrived. I left without kicking up much of a fuss.

A few days later I received a machine generated follow up SMS to find out if I was happy with the service received. At that point, when I was not face to face with the service advisor I felt the need to say something, and I did. I then received a follow up call to further understand my dissatisfaction and take further measures.

Now, the point here is that they found out about two things, one the fact that poor service had been offered, which they could address internally and two,  that I was actually an unhappy client even though I didn’t say anything at first.

It takes very little to get a follow up SMS going out to your clients each day and in most cases your clients will not respond to them if they were happy. However, if they were unhappy it gives them a safe way to complain and gives you an opportunity to save a client. 25 cents for an SMS versus the cost of losing a client..? It seems like a no-brainer to me.

And one more thing … if a client complains then give them something as an incentive to come back. Start with a “sorry” but finish with something enticing like a freebie or a discount of some sort. Nothing tells them you actually mean it like when you put your money where your mouth is.

Contact them if they don’t come back

Follow up with clients who do not come back to your salon. Your methods should be slightly different for different types of clients. For example, in one process you want to know of any of your top spending clients who have not come back and then follow with them with one particular message. Then, in another process you want to know which of your first-time visitors have not been back and then follow with a different message. Then for the general population of your clients who have not been back you may follow up with a more generic bulk message.


A full appointment book is not the only way to generate revenue but it plays a large roll and very often we have more control over this than we think. Some of the requirements can be automated with technology but others rely on the efforts of your staff members. Therefore it is critical that your staff are trained on what is required of them in order to play a deliberate roll in your salons successful retention of clients.

Guidelines for effective email campaigns

Email was first introduced in the 70’s and by the 90’s it revolutionized the way we communicated with one another, it opened doors that postal mail could never have accomplished in reaching the masses instantly.  Then the SMS appeared, this enabled us to send shorter messages to each other via mobile phones, this made email seem a bit archaic coupled with the explosion of social media to our everyday life.   Approximately 40 odd years later, however, email has been given new life and has prevailed as the best way to communicate effectively with intended recipients.

Email’s resurgence continues to revolutionize the way we communicate with each other in a smarter and more effective ways; it is mobile friendly (stats show that around 65% of all mails are first opened on a mobile device), it delivers rich content with the likes of graphics, icons, buttons and very importantly it can track the engagement of readers tell us how many people have received, opened and clicked on the emails and even what they have clicked within the emails. All of these factors combined is why in 2016 email is noted as the most effective marketing tool available.

Have you adapted?

Now, considering that email is a far cry from what it used to be it begs the question, have you adapted to capitalise on the new way of managing email campaigns or are you still emailing in the same way as you have always done?

Here are some pointers to take into account when sending out emails to your clients:

1.      Create mobile friendly emails (responsive)

Before you start ensure that your emails are built using a mobile friendly platform. The majority of readers are now reading email on their mobile phones and therefore your emails need to be easy to read on a phone. Responsive emails simply means that the size of the email will automatically be altered to the device the email is being viewed on – small and readable if opened on a mobile device, normal size if opened on a computer, also. Creating one big image as your mailer with all the text within the image is a bad idea as you will have to zoom in and scroll around the page to view the entire message. The more “html” the better.

2.      Have a very clear purpose

Establishing the purpose and objectives of the email campaign you are about to embark on will keep you focussed on what is important as you create content for your mailer and sure that it flows logically in a top down manner.

As part of this process try and stick to just one clear message per email campaign. Just because you now have a very powerful way to share content with your readers doesn’t mean you should do it all in one email. In this process think about what you want to say to your clients and what you want them to do in response. This way of working also makes it easier to measure the success of your campaign.

3.     Use catchy subject lines

Your subject line will determine whether or not the reader continues reading.  It must be catchy yet also have great integrity, ie if the reader does open the email then the content of the email must directly relate to the subject line (it must deliver on its promise). This will further re-enforce the message you are trying to get across as well as increase the chances of the reader opening emails from you in the future.

For catchy subject lines try using the headline approach as our Newspapers and Magazines have taught us (relevant, short & catchy), it’s been capturing readers since the beginning of time – so make it short and catchy – “Summer is Here – Time for a Change”.
Or, try using a question – as recent studies show that subject lines phrased as a question perform better than using statements in the subject line – “Need a Beauty Boost?”
Or, if your email campaign is targeting by a specific location – incorporating the location reference into the subject line could also add a touch of relevance – “Special Offers at our Sandton Spa.”

4.     Keep your message as concise as possible

Stats also show that readers generally only spend 15 seconds scanning an email – therefore we have to catch their attention from the get go.  Capturing our audience will determine the success rate of the campaign. A good combination for this is a good image that tells your story, then a brief write up that further elaborates on the image – all of which must be consistent with your subject line. The less you can say to get your message across the better.

Put the most important information first as people have stopped reading longwinded text therefore let the content expand or flow from the subject line.  Also note that you can add more value by providing access to exclusive content. Remember that email marketing success is to get credibility from the first email so readers look forward to the next email campaign, rather than delete upon receipt because we didn’t get it right the first time.

If you do have a lot to say on a particular matter then add this to the blog page on your website and put a link for the reader to “read more” on your web site. This allows the reader to easily scan your mail for topics that interest them and then focus in on that particular part of the email. It also helps drive traffic through to your website, which gives you further opportunities to engage with them.

5.      Include a clear call to action

A call to action is an instruction to the reader to provoke an immediate response by clicking a button and engaging in whatever the required action is.  Preferably only use one call to action per email and make it easy to see.  Examples of Call to Action buttons are – Book Now; Contact Us; Find Out More; Click here to Enter.

Provide incentives for readers to respond to the call to action.  Readers love getting offers, discounts etc.  Competitions is another sure way to entice the reader to participate using the call to action button and thereby assist in increasing your email open rate.

6.      Identify yourself clearly

This may seem very obvious, however, it is surprising how overlooked this very simple requirement is.  This is a simple matter of making sure the from address and reply address are correct as well as your business name being used. This will help the reader to trust the mail before they open it. Ensure that you have your own domain name rather than using free email accounts like Google for your business. The domain name is what you get when you set up your web site address, ie You will then be able to use “yourdomain” for your emails.

7.      Segment your recipient list

When sending emails you want to try and reach the people who are most likely to open the mails as well as respond to your call to action. Sending emails to your entire database is not always the best way to do that. In many instances it is better to target segments of your database based on things like gender, purchase history, loyalty status etc. This will also help connect the content to the reader more effectively and be more meaningful for them.

8.      Analyse reader engagement

Not only is Email Campaign the No.1 digital marketing channel, it is also the top source of data for analytics as the data generated from the tracking stats enables us to get results quickly to determine the success rate of our campaign as well as the relevant stats to assist us in other marketing outlets.

Data from stats include – how many of your mails are opened on a mobile device, total number of emails sent, total number of emails delivered, the breakdown on opened mail on Mobile, Desktop & Web, what the click rate from and more.

Its not enough to just have the stats though. Each time you do an email campaign you should be smarter than the last time. In order to do so you actually need to learn from the analytics and change your behaviour accordingly.


Email has changed and so must you if you wish to remain competitive. Therefore create mobile friendly emails, have a clear objective for each campaign, create subject lines that grab the reader’s attention, have clear concise messages consistent with your subject line and objective, store bulky content on your website with links to read more, segment your database in order to target specific recipients and finally have a clear call to action. Most importantly be ready to respond. It would be a shame to run a successful email campaign only to drop the ball when readers respond.

Email Vs SMS

What a co-incidence – I’m sitting at my coffee shop of choice just about to start writing this article on the difference between SMS and Email and I receive an SMS notifying me that ABSA Insurance phone lines are down due to the storm in Gauteng yesterday.

Now, Im aware that there is some irony in the fact that there has probably been an increase in insurance claims (and therefore attempted phone calls) due to the storm and the fact that the insurance lines are down due to the storm, but the fact that I have just received this SMS highlights for me the need to be clear of when, how and why different communication methods are used.

In the “old days” I’m sure the questions facing business owners when it came to sending communications would have been things like, do I fax or do I phone or do I send a letter via the post office. These days, however, the question is more “Do I Email or SMS, or do I communicate via Social Media?” For this exercise I’m not really going to discuss much detail (if any) about social media because I really want to take a look at SMS and Email messaging, which although they have been around for quite some time, still seem to be quite prevalent despite the competition from social media.

What’s the difference?


Probably the most obvious difference between SMS and Email is the content. With SMS messaging you are limited to text only and a limited number of characters, ie 160 characters per SMS. Now you might argue that it is now possible to type messages longer than 160 characters and our smart phones intelligently handle these as one message but the truth is that you are being billed for two messages if you use more than 160 characters.

With Email on the other hand your content can be very rich, ie images, longer messages, different fonts and layouts etc.

Instant Delivery

A major difference between email and SMS is the fact that SMS is instant and pops up on your phone screen almost immediately, whereas email is usually downloaded either via your computer or via your phone periodically. Although it is possible to change the settings of your phone to alert you when you receive a new email this setting is often turned off by users because they prefer to not use their cell phone network to download mails due to the cost and would rather wait until they are on a wireless network at home or work to do so.


Although it is possible to track how many messages were delivered for an SMS batch, Email has far greater reporting capabilities due to the fact that you can use tools like Google Analytics. The Email is very much like a web page and you are able to tell how recipients engage with your email, ie how many were delivered, how many opened the emails, how many clicked on links, the locations of the recipients who interacted with your emails and so on.


Cost is always a factor and most of us are used to the idea that you have to pay for SMS but the idea that you may have to pay for email is sometimes a foreign idea because of the fact that you don’t pay for the individual emails that you send out each day for personal and business reasons through your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

However, for bulk business emailing, there is usually a cost involved for delivering the message. This is because a bulk emailing company is required between you and the recipient to manage delivery of content and the providing of stats and for this they charge a fee. If you send through your ISP you won’t incur any other costs but you will encounter other problems (see SPAM) and you won’t get any stats of who opened and interacted with your messages.

Therefore, there is cost for both bulk SMS and bulk Email but the cost for SMS is usually higher – usually because of the fact that the cell phone network companies themselves charge a minimum fee for delivery and these are marked up by the third party SMS providers. (Note that you cannot under normal circumstances deliver your bulk SMS messages directly through your own cell phone network company).

Another potential cost worth mentioning is the design of the message itself. Because you cannot change the layout of an SMS message there will be no cost involved in creating the message content itself. However, Emails often require the help of a design agency, because of the fact that they are basically web pages that are being sent to your clients. Some providers offer you templates as part of their services but if you want something that is unique to you and meets all of your brand requirements then you will most likely end up paying someone to assist you with the design.

SPAM (Junk Mail)

In order to prevent SPAM being sent through their servers your ISP (ie the company that you have your email account with) will generally not allow you to send bulk emails through your normal business account and can even blacklist you for doing so and can block your email account for a period of time as a consequence.

Therefore you would need to use a bulk emailing service that is set up for sending large volumes of emails and there is usually a cost for this, but as already mentioned above there are many other benefits, ie the delivery and engagement stats.

SMS works in much the same way, ie you will set up an account with a Wireless Application Service Provider (WASP) and you will send your bulk SMS messages through them and there will be a cost involved.

You will generally find a lot more SPAM in Email than you will in SMS and perhaps this is self regulated due to the costs involved in sending SMS messages as well as the fact that through email you can advertise a lot more or disguise a scam more effectively.

When to use what?

Transactional vs Bulk

The first step in deciding which medium to use is to first understand the nature of the communication. Identifying whether your messages are transactional or bulk is part the process.

Transactional messages are usually in response to an event (ie a booking confirmation, loyalty notification etc). Transactional messages are usually sent on an individual basis as events (transactions occur) and are more informational than promotional. Hence, recipients tend to be far more tolerant of them by virtue of the fact that they must have recently engaged with your business.

Bulk Messaging for Information Purposes

Bulk messaging can be used for both promotions and for information. For example, you may need to advise your entire database that your trading hours during the festive season have changed, or you may need to advise them that there is a problem with your telephone lines and that if they need to call your salon then they need to use an alternative number.

Bulk Messaging for Promotions

Bulk messaging for promotions is usually where you invite the most colourful responses from your clients – language of the likes that you will not find anywhere near a Concise Oxford English Dictionary – and it is here where you need to be most careful (see the section below on “Whats your story?”).

Urgency VS Content

Keeping in mind all of the above – choosing between SMS and Email will most commonly be determined by the nature of the content and the urgency of the message.

If it is urgent, then it should be via an SMS. The recipients will get their notification immediately and the chances of them actually viewing the message are greater via SMS.

If the message can wait and has more content then it should be via Email.

What’s your story?

Because of the damage that can be done in sending unsolicited messages to your clients you need to do as much as you can within your own power to get their permission to communicate with them via SMS and Email.

This starts at the very beginning – you need to sell them the reason why you want their cell numbers and email addresses and they need to buy into it.

For example, if you say to them that on their birthday they get a free service then they will be more likely to give you their details and allow you to communicate with them. Also, if you say to them that you always send SMS appointment reminders or notifications that a free loyalty service has been awarded then they are more likely to respond positively.

All too often you hear receptionists saying that clients do not want to give out their details and you can’t expect receptionists to force clients to do so.

Opt Outs (Unsubscribes)

Depending on how you deliver your bulk messaging will affect how you manage your opt outs, ie clients who do not want to receive any further messages from you.

Your database should have separate options for SMS and Email opt outs in case the client wishes to receive SMS notifications but not Email.

Keep in mind that your source database should be kept up to date with clients that have opted out in case you choose to use a different email / sms provider as the new provider will not have the opt out list that the old provider has and you may end up sending messages again to your unsubscribed clients.

Building your team

Chris Parker – SAHJ

A year ago I bought my 3 year old son a spacerail online, which is a toy roller coaster with little silver balls that are lifted up by an electric mechanism and dropped in at the top of the roller coaster and then begin weaving their way down the maze of rails to the bottom where they once again begin their journey back to the top. It was going to be amazing to share the experience of building and enjoying this marvelous toy together. I was very excited, my 3 year old son on the other hand had no idea what a spacerail was.

Once it arrived the first thing that caught my eye was the age bracket on the box, which for 16 years and older. Ok, so perhaps the build would take a little longer than initially planned …

Well, was that an understatement! Each part in the box had to be painstakingly assembled from scratch, the rails had to be measured and cut and the instructions were less than useless. So you basically looked at the picture on the box to figure it out. For every part you clipped in, another seemed to unclip, which was very frustrating in and of itself but with an impatient 3 year old tugging at every part while you try and assemble it, it made for quite an experience. Once assembled the balls would fall off at a bend, when you fixed that bend then they would fall through at another section that just shifted because you fixed the bend. So you spent as much time fine tuning after the build than you did doing the build.

However, once working properly the reward was great. It was almost therapeutic to sit and watch the monotonous motion of the balls completing their laps with only the sound of the little electronic motor and the occasional swishing as the balls flew round a bend.

Then I had an idea! This would be a great team building exercise for the staff at our company. So we bought 3 spacerails and split the staff into 3 teams based on the departments they were in. There were no rules except the deadline of two weeks.

It was quite fascinating to observe. Everyone was very excited to start (well some more than others), but I knew what was in stall for them. There excitement would turn to frustration, maybe even despondency. They would need to persevere and work together, but once they had achieved their goal the satisfaction would be great.

No one was quite sure what the objective was, ie was the first team to complete the task the winner, were you allowed to help other departments, were you allowed to take it home to work and so on?

One team completed the task within about a day, another about a week and half and another just in time to meet the two-week deadline.

Once we had finished we just sat and talked to hear about each person and each teams experience. I really just asked one very open question along the lines of “what is your feedback on this teambuilding exercise?” and was very surprised at the depth of insight it gave to the working dynamics at our business. I wont get into too much detail but one thing that was mentioned was that appreciation of the fact that we were able to discuss a particular matter (for the first time) that was only highlighted because of this exercise. It allowed one group of individuals to be heard on a matter that had actually been on their mind for some time and for management it made the matter so much more evident. It also allowed other staff members to hear the issue that had been bothering their fellow team mates. Time will now tell if we can get it right to properly deal with the issue that was raised.

Aligning the rails

One thing that I have learned over the years is that companies have their objectives and visions and employees have their own objectives and visions. More often than not these are completely unrelated. So unless they are aligned then the chances are high that they will eventually part ways.

Another thing that I’ve learned is that people need to be built as individuals and in teams and as an organization. Its not enough to just focus on staff members one at a time because that only deals with a vertical relationship between you as boss and them as employees. It does not deal with horizontal issues between themselves and other staff members that make up the smaller teams and also the entire organization. Any goodwill you develop between yourself and an individual can be damaged or completely destroyed because of disharmony with them and one or more other staff members or departments.

So, to borrow from the spacerail project, if the rails are not aligned then the rollercoaster will not function correctly and so with your team, if the individuals are not aligned with you and with each other then the process of achieving your vision will be so much more painful.

Share your vision

A good starting point and one which I often take for granted is the vision for the business. If staff members do not know what the vision is then how can they be inspired and motivated to help achieve that vision. If there is no vision, then this should be addressed as high priority and then shared with your team.

Learn their vision

At the same time it is important to learn what your staff members visions are, because if they are out of sync with your own then either re-alignment needs to happen or they need to be related to with this fact in mind.

Help them achieve their goals

Understanding your staff members goals / vision is the first step in helping them achieve those goals. It may be that they don’t have very clearly defined goals, in which case you can help them to define them before you start helping them achieve them.

Make sure feedback is objective

When you feedback to your staff members try and be clear on when something is fact, ie performance based on the numbers, versus personal feedback based on how you feel. If it is based on how you feel then say as much (couples communication 101).

Use team building exercises

Team building can happen all the time. They don’t have to be an expensive excursion but rather can be any little task (like the spacerail example above) and you can have a lot of fun thinking of small teambuilding exercises. The important thing is that it is observed by yourself so that you can draw your own conclusions, but most importantly that the staff members are given a good platform to feedback themselves as this is where the most revealing information lies.

Don’t just pay lip service

Once you have implemented some processes that are designed to build your team and you are getting good feedback and make staff members feel heard, the secret will lie in actually taking action. If you just placate staff members and don’t show tangible steps that facilitate achieving their own goals then they will eventually get the message and start making other plans, which will affect your goals.

What if their dream is to open their own salon?

This is a tricky one and perhaps my answer might not be the most popular but if this is what their heart is set on then its better for you to know about this and (shocker alert) even help them achieve this. If you do it in the right way you may be pleasantly surprised because you will have avoided losing a staff member and valuable clients unexpectedly. This will be for you to work out based on what you know about yourself, your business and your staff but can be refreshingly liberating to send people on their way with your blessing rather than having to explain to your clients whey they are such a terrible person for leaving on such bad terms and stealing all your clients.


Teambuilding is an ongoing and complicated process that needs constant monitoring and managing. Teambuilding excercises are just one part of teambuilding but are important. The secret is for everyone to be getting what they want, while helping you achieve your goals of running a successful company. Not every person is the same and this is why engaging your staff members on multiple levels is of key importance.

Price It Right 2

Chris Parker – SAHJ

I recall the time shortly before asking my wife to marry me, I started shopping around for a wedding ring. I knew nothing about diamonds, I thought 1 carat was small – after all its only 1, how much smaller can you get? Believing that 1 carat was the lowest number you could get I thought I would probably need something bigger – maybe 2 or 3 carats (for those of you who have bought diamond rings bigger than 1 carat please stop reading here).

I walked into a jeweller and asked for some pricing for a 1 carat diamond ring – just to get a benchmark or starting point. Well, I had to quickly recalibrate as I learned my starting point was in the region of R60000. The thought that went through my mind was that either I am not going to be able to get married or I would need to be able to motivate why diamonds were not actually a girl’s best friend.

So the hunting began, along with the research about how diamonds are valued by the 4C’s (Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat), so you might get a larger diamond but the clarity or colour may be of lesser quality and so the value would be less. I had to find the right balance of all of the above so that my fiancé to be would not start crying for all the wrong reasons when I finally went down on one knee to ask her to marry me.

The more I shopped, the smaller the diamond became and the lesser the quality. Until I came across a couple who owned a jeweller business, which was not in a shopping mall but rather in the business district in Cape Town. They found me a diamond that I was happy with and we finalised our design for the band and they provided me with my diamond certificate and I was good to go.

Their pricing was much better than those on the “high streets” or should I say shopping malls but a nagging feeling in the back of my mind eventually compelled me to ask them how their prices could be so competitive. Straight away they advised me that they did not have to pay the high rentals of their competitors, which allowed them to compete much more on price. Their labour and material cost for making the ring was also very good and I found out from my wife that immediately after our engagement she had the ring valued at a different jeweller. I never told her how much I paid for the ring but the value she was given by the jeweller she took it to was about 3 times the price I had paid for it. By the way, she loved the ring … and still does. Mission accomplished.


So, looking at the above story it seems that the major factor that influenced the price of the ring for this jeweller was the cost of their overheads. This being attributed primarily to rent and perhaps the labour cost of their jeweller that made the band.

As a client I was concerned about price, however, I still wanted a good quality product as I didn’t not want to get a substandard product for such an important life occasion.

I was happy to “shop around” until I found the right deal, which was a combination of price and quality.

Some of the things I had to forego included the convenience of an easy to locate jeweller in a shopping mall and the prestige of having a “brand name” associated with my purchase. I know some folk who would not be happy putting in the hard yards to try and find the right jeweller for the same reasons because they may not be as price sensitive. On the other hand I know some that would not choose a diamond at all, or they would be happy for an alternative or much smaller option because they are very price sensitive.

So, when it comes to pricing products and services in the salon what can we learn from this. I believe that pricing in the salon will be a combination of cost-plus pricing and competitor based pricing within the context of your brand positioning.

Cost Plus Pricing

Cost plus pricing is when you determine your selling price based on the costs linked to the products and services you sell. This method, although not the only factor, is probably the biggest consideration for at least setting your base price for services.

For retail products you should have roughly the same selling price as other salons for the same items because the supplier generally has a recommended selling price. However, your costs may vary based on your particular deal with the supplier in question. If you have bigger spending power or you are a good negotiator you may be able to obtain the stock at better prices and therefore, even though you have the same selling price you have a greater profit margin.

For services you would need to account for the professional stock you use to provide the service, the commission you have to pay to a stylist for performing the service and perhaps other peripheral costs if you shampoo the clients hair (cost and labour) involved, which you may recover by means of some sort of “docket fee”.  You may even look at including things like overheads (rent etc) although this can be a little trickier on an item for item basis. Once you have your associated costs you would then determine how much you would need to charge in order to make a profit. Once you have arrived at a price you will need to determine if it is still worthwhile to offer the service.

Competitor Based Pricing

Once you worked out your costs for supplying services then you will need to consider your competitors pricing. If your competitors are able to provide the same service that you are at a better price, then you will need to consider either dropping your prices or alternatively you will need to differentiate yourself in some way so that your clients will be happy to pay more for your service – add value in some way.

The reason that your competitor may be able to supply it at a lower price may be due to a number of factors. For example, they may have been able to negotiate a better rental than you or the products they use may be cheaper or they are able to obtain them at better prices or maybe they don’t add as much value in terms of the experience (refreshments, satellite tv, head massage etc).

If your competitor is selling the same service at a much lower price then perhaps they themselves are selling the service as a loss leader or they are positioning themselves as a “value for money” brand rather than a premium brand. They would then most likely be appealing to different clientele than what you would be and perhaps you should not worry about those salons, but rather compare yourself with other premium or value for money brands depending on how you are positioned in the market.


The goal of your business is always to make a profit. In overly simplified terms you want to sell as many products and services as you can at the highest price and lowest cost possible, ie you want to maximise all the good stuff (volumes and margins). However, you may at times be under pressure from the market, your clients and rising costs that will always seem to try and drive your prices down. By doing the exercise of working out all associated costs, being clear on your positioning in the market place and being even clearer on your real competitors are you will be in a better position to compete. All of the above must translate into perceived value in the eyes of your clients, it therefore goes without saying that the more you understand what your clients value the better positioned you will be to provide that value.

Price It Right 3

Chris Parker – SAHJ

In this third article on pricing we wrap things up. In the previous two articles we asked the question of how it is sustainable for some salons to have such cheap pricing, especially for services that have high costs associated with them. This question raised the bigger question on how to go about pricing your products and services as a strategy.

In order to answer these questions we identified that pricing, rather than gut feel, can be quite a scientific process and that many theoretical pricing methods and factors could be taken into consideration when deciding on pricing. In the context of a hair salon we identified “cost-plus pricing” and “competitor based pricing” as probably the two most influential methods used by most because of the fact that we need to cover costs before we can start making a profit and also our pricing needs to be competitive in the market place so that clients would perceive fair value for the products and services they were buying from the salon.

We also looked at how you might “position” yourself in the salon market and whether you were a value for money (budget) brand focusing on more price-sensitive clients or whether you would position yourself as a premium brand, where clients are not as price sensitive and you were able to justify your higher prices by the perceived higher quality / value of your products and services.

We also took note of the fact that hair salons sell both services and retail products and that with retail there was less room for pricing variation apart from stocking brands that may be less or more expensive than other brands.

In ending the series I would like to highlight some different theoretical pricing strategies that can be put into practise for varying reasons and at different times and stages of your business lifecycle.

Penetration pricing

Penetration pricing is when a business sets a low price in order to increase sales and gain market share. This may only be for a short time and then once the goal of increasing sales and/or market share has been achieved then the prices may be increased.

This is commonly used when a new business is opened. For example, a new business might run a 25% off special on some or all of its products and services in order to make themselves known to the market. Once the have sufficient clients gained they will then start adjusting prices back to normal.

Therefore, if you are opening a first salon or expanding by opening more branches then you may consider running a special price on various items for the first few weeks.

I think the idea behind some of the group couponing companies that offered amazing deals to their database of clients was explained as a way to penetrate the market. However, for businesses that made use of these services they found that they didn’t actually win the clients because the clients just followed the group discount supplier to the next deal at another business.

Bundle Pricing

Bundled pricing is when a business groups together more than one product and/or service and offers a better price or gives one away for free. An example might be a buy one get one free or buy one service and get a product at a reduced rate.

Bundled pricing can be very useful when it comes to special occasions like mother’s day or Valentine’s Day special. If you salon offers things like nail services then you could bundle a hair service with a nail service. Alternatively you could bundle together related stock items in to gift hampers and sell them at a better rate than if you were to sell them separately.

You may also bundle items that are paid for upfront but redeemed over a period of time. For example, pay for 10 haircuts or blow dry’s upfront and redeem them over time and receive a discount for doing so. This kind of bundling could be likened to loyalty because (like loyalty) you are rewarding repeat visits, however, in bundle pricing you are rewarding the loyalty upfront because the client is essentially pre-paying for their future services and you are rewarding them for doing so.

Psychological Pricing

Psychologic pricing is when the seller sets the price to play on how the buyer thinks about the price. For example, charging R299 instead of R300. We all know that this is the oldest trick but it enables the client to say they bought something for under R300, rather than R300. Somehow this does affect our psychology towards pricing.

Premium Pricing

Premium pricing is set to reflect the exclusiveness of the service or product. The idea is that a client would not easily be able to find the equivalent quality at a lower price and would be willing to pay the higher price because of its perceived exclusivity.

In retail this may be a particular brand that not many other salons stock and is of a very high quality. For services I think this is already happening as mentioned in my previous article by the fact that you get different pricing within the same salon depending on who the stylist is. If a stylist is perceived to be more of a “premium” brand because of awards they have won, celebrities they have worked on, or simply because of their skill or popularity then you may be able to charge a premium for their services.

Loss Leader

A loss leader is an item that is sold at or below cost in order to attract clients so that they can purchase other items at their normal prices. This is similar in a way to penetration pricing, which leads with lower priced items to gain market share.


As you can see there are many different pricing strategies (even more than mentioned in these articles) and it may be very confusing to figure out where to start. I think that if you stick to the basics and get those right then you will be able to start to “play” with some of the other strategies available to you. This implies the obvious, have a set price list. Ensure that you have factored in all the direct costs related to those prices and and keep looking at those costs so that you know your margins in case they are affected by things like supplier price increases. Increase your prices to keep up with inflation. Use price increases as a opportunities for promotions with your clients, ie by now and beat the price increase. Be sure of who you are in the market place, ie how you are positioned as a brand so that you do not panic simply because another salon has cheaper pricing. There are only two things that influence your turnover performance and those are the number of feet through the door and the spend per visit. If you are going to charge less you will need to increase feet through the door. If you are going to charge more then you will need to convince clients your services and products are worth it. Finding the balance between feet through the door and spend per visit is the key and once you have a good balance benchmark it and monitor it over time to keep yourself on track.

Mobile Transacting

About a year ago I wrote an article called “To App or not to App?” As the title suggests it was a look at whether salons should have their own mobile app. In asking this question we discovered that apps can and should be used by salons but this did not necessarily mean that you needed to run out and pay someone to build you your own app. Rather we recognised that there are many different types of apps that solve different types of problems for your business, from utilities to third party to industry specific, white label and custom developed. Thus the conclusion was nothing revolutionary in that when making your decision about using mobile apps you had to answer a very simple question about what problem you wish to solve and how would an app solve the problem for you.

A year down the line I would like to revisit this question and expand upon the topic as we see a rise in the area of third party apps that specifically focus on mobile transactions, ie payment via mobile phone.

Credit Card Payments via Mobile

Paying your bill by mobile phone is definitely on the rise. However, does this mean that as a salon you need to offer this service to your own clients? The answer (as always) is a business decision based on whether it solves a problem for you and does so at a cost that makes sense.

In most cases the way it works is that you install an app on your mobile phone and then link a credit card to that app. Then, when it comes time to pay for something instead of pulling out you your credit card and swiping it through a swipe machine you rather take out your cell phone, open the app, scan a code and then the money is deducted from your bank account as if you had actually swiped your credit card. So, it’s almost like you are carrying a copy of your credit card around in your mobile phone and your phone almost become the credit card machine. (Note that I am not referring here to the little hardware device that plugs into your cell phone that allows you to swipe a physical card but rather an app on your clients phone.)

Now, for many consumers the idea of storing your credit card details on your phone is something they are not too comfortable with, however, as time goes on and barring any horror reports of fraud taking place clients should become more and more confident that linking your credit card to your phone is reasonably safe.

Now, let’s get back to the core question of what problems this solves for you and at the same time what opportunities it creates?

The most obvious instance is if you currently do not have a credit card terminal to accept credit card payments in your salon, then the benefit is obvious. The question is whether it will be more cost effective to get a terminal from the bank or go the mobile route. This will depend on the bank and the mobile supplier and how good a negotiator you are.

The next potential benefit could be in providing convenience for your clients in cases where they do not have their credit cards with them but they do have their cell phones. Then you would be able to offer them a method of paying. This demand would most likely be driven by your clients and so if every single one of your clients is pushing for this capability then (cost allowing) it may be worth considering. However, clients are not likely to happen upon a hair salon while out jogging with only their cell phones and decide to stop in for an unplanned haircut so the likelihood of demand being high for this reason is less likely, but let’s see what happens over time …?


Another “currency” that clients are able to use for paying in store these days is with loyalty points and in much the same way as their credit cards can be linked to a mobile app they can also use their mobile apps to redeem loyalty points.

I think a far greater opportunity exists in mobile loyalty transacting than the abovementioned credit cards. However, the capabilities of the loyalty scheme itself will be up to the respective app provider and so the decision for the salon owner will be based on considering the features available and the costs involved. Considerations would include whether or not you are able to provide anything unique to your clients that the salon owner down the road cannot also provide using the same service, whether or not their facility allows you to cross pollinate with other partnering businesses that are not competitors to yourself and so on.

Gift Cards

Mobile gift card solutions are another opportunity that make more sense to me than credit card payments. How this would work in simple terms is that a consumer would be able to buy a gift card in some sort of online mall and then redeem it via mobile phone in the salon, in much the same way they would do a mobile credit card payment or mobile loyalty redemption.

Gift cards, although not as prolific in the hair industry as in the beauty industry are a great way to drive business to your salon. The question of feasibility will really be where the gift cards are available to be purchased, ie on whose website / mobile app can they be purchased and how many potential clients are visiting this web site / app? If there is good traffic to these locations then it could be a very good opportunity to drive business to your salon via gift card.


Digital discount coupons are another option that also makes great sense. Companies are now offering solutions for discount campaigns that enable consumers to go into a participating store and redeem a discount coupon via their mobile phone in much the same way as the abovementioned options.

Digital discount coupons offer great control for promotional campaigns as they can be set to run for a limited time only and the redemption results can be tracked to let you know exactly how successful the campaign was.


As already mentioned, the number of mobile business solutions is rapidly increasing. However, the temptation can often be to respond to hype rather than business need. Therefore in the arena of mobile transaction methods the same principals should apply of whether or not the solution on offer actually solves a real business need or allows you to capitalise on an opportunity not otherwise available.

Price it right

Chris Parker – SAHJ

A Hair Journal reader recently wrote into the magazine about salons in his area and the extremely low prices they are offering and how is this sustainable to a salon and where are corners being cut? He also mentioned he knows of a few salons who’ve recently closed their doors.

It’s a very good question, if the salon down the road or in the same shopping centre charges more or less than you do for the same product or service what should you do? How can you compete?

When asked to write on this topic I thought at first that it was going to be a very difficult and time consuming task get to the bottom of it because of the need to examine salons in detail on an individual basis. However, when looking at some of the theory behind a pricing strategy we can actually get some good guidance on how to go about deciding on pricing structures for your salon.

Why do you care?

Let’s start with the question of why we even care about this topic? The reader who wrote in to raise the topic in the first place hit the nail on the head when asking the question: “How is this sustainable to a salon” (ie cheap pricing).

I think that perhaps he had begun to answer his own question without realising it, ie by the fact that he noticed some salons had closed their doors leading to a possible conclusion that if you charge prices that so low that they are not sustainable then you will eventually have to close your doors.

The point is that pricing can make or break you, if you charge too much then clients may not come. If you charge too little then you may not be able to make enough money to cover your costs.

But how do you know?

So, how do you go about pricing? Is this something you know inherently? Is it something you learn over time with experience or do you get out the magic 8 ball and ask it? Well, I went to to ask the question “should I raise my prices?’ The answer I got was “Most likely”

Ok, so there must be more to it than this – but how do you know what to charge?

It turns out deciding on your prices is not a just a matter of gut feel but rather the process can actually be quite scientific. Scientific is good as this implies a formula, something precise and measurable. So what’s the formula so you can all use it and move on ..? Well, maybe it’s not quite as simple a formula and we might need to decode a few terms like Cost Plus Pricing, Competitor Based Pricing, Price Elasticity, Sticky Prices, Supply and Demand and so on to get closer to deciding on how to set your pricing.

What’s the objective?

Before we decide on pricing we need to start with our overall objective. If we take our readers perspective then the objective of right pricing is to sustain, ie to remain in business. This seems like a very negative or limited way to look at things because we generally think about our businesses in terms of achieving growth and making heaps of money while hardly doing any work at all. However, when examined further sustaining your business actually implies that you are being successful because in order to sustain you need to keep clients coming back, pay (and grow) salaries, pay overheads, pay suppliers, compete with other salons and after all of this make enough profit to recoup your investment or the investment of other shareholders in your business. So, sustainability seems imply growth as well.

Services vs Product Pricing

A point worth mentioning at this point is that salons sell both services and retail products. When considering the pricing of these we need to realise the implications. Hairdressing is very interesting in this regard. We have things like Junior Stylist, Senior Stylist and then some guy called John (often the owner) in the price list. So you could come in for a service and pay one price for a Junior, another price for a Senior and then another for a stylist called John.

When it comes to this there is a perception (and hopefully some reality to match) that the gents cut from John for R285 is actually worth it when compared to a regular stylist charging R165, for example. Here you have an example of internal pricing strategies where the same service is being charged at different rates and you have the same challenges about getting pricing right so that clients will be happy to pay and keep coming back.

When comparing with competitor salons then you may be comparing senior stylist to senior stylist, but maybe the other salon doesn’t differentiate in the same way, they only have one price …

Retail on the other hand has less wiggle room. For example, if you sell the same product as a competitor for a higher price then how will you explain that? I can more easily understand if two different brands have different pricing or two different items for the same brand have different pricing but not the same item.

It kind of reminds me of petrol companies that advertise on TV that their product is superior. I’m told that they all generally get it at the same source but then add some of their own special ingredients to make theirs superior. When last did you make a decision to fill up at one station over another because of what they advertised on TV about what was actually in their petrol? You are much more likely to make your decision based on convenience, or service quality or cash back rewards.


So, this is the first article and hopefully we will go further into this topic in order to actually get something usable, but for now if there is one thing that we can take away it’s this quote from Warren Buffet “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

Whatever the prices you set your clients need to believe that the price they are paying matches the value they are getting and so not a matter of the cheapest price but rather the right price.

Ye of little faith

I have a three boys now. Our four year old is in the stage of learning to tie his shoes. Imagine if my attitude towards him was “oh, my son is just never going to be capable of doing this”. Or when it comes to dinner time I simply let my two year old continue to mash his food into his face rather than teach him to use a spoon or a fork or if I decided that its just too hard to potty train him and I leave him in nappies forever.

Not only would this perpetuate the problem of having children that are not capable of doing things that they really ought to be able to do themselves but it would also send a message to them  (and others around them) that they are somehow inferior to other children and not capable of being taught or held accountable. What a sad scenario this would be.

Then why do owners, managers and administrators continue to treat salon staff in this way?

Are salon employees lesser human beings than all other industry employees on earth? When integrity, basic common sense, basic literacy and basic numerical skills were apportioned were they absent on that day? Does it somehow happen that as soon as you accept a job in a salon that you are somehow downgraded to the maturity and competency level of a child?

The answer must be a very definitive “NO”!

Attitude reflects leadership

The question then, is who is really to blame for the inadequate levels of internal salon management that seems to be prevalent amongst so many salons around the country?

I believe that ownership and management perpetuate the notion that internal salon administration staff are simply not capable of all doing anything that may be expected of them if they were to work in another industry.

The reason I say this is because this said on many occassion. So, if the person who hired you does not believe you have the same basic capabilities as your peers in other industries and they don’t expect it of you then why would you ever believe you are capable of or expected to perform at a similar level.

Case in point

I recently wrote an article about the importance and benefits of simply providing salon clients with a printed receipt. As a result of this one action there would be a number of other benefits that occurred as well. I also used supermarkets as an example and the fact that you would NEVER walk out of one of our big supermarkets without being given a receipt for your purchase.

However, in salons it is all too common that sales are not even entered as they occur. On far too many occasions the salon staff would manually calculate the sale (on a calculator), take the money, give the change and say goodbye. Then later in the day they may (or may not) enter the sale into their system.

Are the staff hired as cashiers at our supermarket chains mentally or physically superior to their salon counterparts? What then is the difference? I suspect it may be linked to the expectations / requirements / demands of management and ownership. They simply would not tolerate a staff member who does not comply with their point of sale procedural requirements. Salon owners and administrators not only tolerate it but they perpetuate it by taking the stance that salon staff are just not capable of anything better.

The salon environment in perspective

In my opinion the operational environment lies somewhere in between a private doctors office and a supermarket. In a doctor’s office the environment will be very calm and quiet. Patients will be required to first make an appointment, then on arrival fill in detailed personal information sheets relating to their medical and insurance details. Without this information you are unlikely to be able to engage in a consultation with the doctor – it’s not negotiable and administration staff will be the gatekeepers that ensure proper procedure is followed. After seeing the doctor you would be presented with a bill, either in person or via the post.

In a supermarket the environment will be far livelier (almost like organized chaos). Unlike the doctor’s office you will not have to fill in any personal information, but you will have to go through one of their check out points. Have you ever tried to get out of a supermarket without buying anything? You feel like a caged criminal trying to escape. It’s almost like the only way to get out is to buy something first.

Now, in a salon environment you have a bit of both. Have a lively environment with more people coming and going than a doctor’s office but not as many as you would have queueing in a supermarket. You have clients providing you with some information like name and number when they make a booking and perhaps a little more information when you do an in salon consultation. Then when they leave they pay for whatever service or product they purchased.

So if a salon is positioned somewhere in between then surely the protocols should be somewhere in-between as well? If you think about it salon staff are required to operate at a level that requires both the ability to work under pressure and also to be able to handle a greater variety of operating procedures as far as transactions go. So the assumption would be that of the three the salon staff member would be the most highly skilled, trained and accountable. Or not?

The root of the problem

The problem is not that salon staff are incapable, the problem is more than salon management and ownership do not believe in their staff or do not know how to develop their staff or do not care to develop their staff. This is very sad when you consider the effect it must have on a staff members motivation levels.

In our company, whenever something has gone wrong, whether it is a process that has failed or something else that resulted in a complaint from a client we as management always have to acknowledge first and foremost that it is a management failure that has resulted in the occurrence. The only exception might be if a staff member is deliberately refusing to comply with what is required of them, but then again see point number one as it is management that hired the wrong person in the first place.

Therefore, whenever you hear yourself saying “my staff will never be able to do that” or “my staff just make so many mistakes” then remember the fact that ultimately you are responsible for everything that takes place in your salon. Your current structure is perfectly designed for the results that you are currently getting. If you want different results then the change has to come from you first and a good starting point is to put a little faith in the human beings you have working for you. Without this any positive results that occur will simply be incidental. If you are humble enough to realise that you may be the root cause of the problem and are trying to get it right but finding it difficult to get the results then perhaps you are the one that needs to get help in order to achieve this.

However, its no good for you to simply try and hire someone to make all the problems go away for you. This is another very common problem seen in the hair industry, ie the flamboyant artist refuses to take responsibility for their business and hires an outside business person to run everything for them. I have seen this fail more times that I have seen it succeed. You have to get involved yourself. You cant flip between hiring someone or doing it yourself. It requires both, hiring the right people and being involved in the process to develop your team and get the results that you expect, require and ultimately demand.

Are you engaged?

In this month’s article I would like to ask the question “Are you engaged with your clients?” I think that many salon owners will feel a lot of pressure to be sending out regular emails to clients telling them of news, specials and other information that they hope will lead the clients to return and spend more money with them.

On one hand you will have salons that spend a lot of money paying designers to build beautifully professional emails and on the other hand you may find the salon owner, manager or receptionist creating a rather less appealing newsletter using word, power-point and clipart as their canvass and design tools. And then you will have those that just don’t do anything at all, they rely on face to face interaction when the clients are in the salon and use personality as their engagement mechanism.

Now, I do feel that a monthly or quarterly newsletter via email is very useful as it lets your clients know that your business is still in operation and you are ready for their business … even if they don’t open the email, just the fact that you sent it means that you are operational and are organised enough to be able to send them an email. I also believe in the positive engagement that takes place once the client is in the salon.

However, I believe that there are many other opportunities to engage with your clients in smaller and more frequent communications. I also feel that if they are done right they will be far more effective than an impersonal monthly newsletter or sales special.

SMS Booking Confirmations

Booking confirmations are more powerful than you might think. The most commonly used reason for sending booking confirmations is that they will prevent no-shows and thus save you money. This is true, and important. However, there is something else it does, which I believe has a deeper impact and therefore a longer lasting value. I believe that the client has a feeling of gratitude when they receive the sms reminder. On one hand it reminds them to not miss their appointment and the other hand it gives them enough opportunity to cancel and avoid the embarrassment of not showing up. It makes a small positive impression in their mind about your business and its these positive impressions that you want to create as often as possible and build upon. Talk to your software provider about automating this function so that it takes place at the same time each day and becomes part of your standard operating procedures.

SMS Birthday Wishes

Everybody loves to feel special on their birthdays and sending someone a birthday sms does just that, even if deep down inside they know it was a machine that sent it to them. These days it’s actually common for people to complain if they did not get their automated birthday sms.

However, what people love even more than a birthday wish is a birthday gift and if you are able to offer them something special on their birthday then the chances of them walking into your salon to spend some money with you are even better. How you capitalise on the situation thereafter is up to you. Again, talk to your software provider about automating this process to take place at the same time each day.

Loyalty Reward SMS Notification

If you are running a loyalty scheme in which you offer rewards then whenever a client is rewarded with something ensure that they immediately receive an SMS to notify them about it. Its no use having a loyalty scheme and hoping that clients never use their loyalty rewards. If it has been well thought out then it is better for them to redeem their rewards as the long term benefits are greater. Speak to your software provider about automating this notification so that staff members do not have to manage this process manually.

Unused Rewards SMS

Following on from the loyalty reward notification, you may wish to notify people that have rewards available but have not been back to the salon for a long time. On one hand it is common courtesy for you to let them know that they have unclaimed rewards and so the impression should be a positive one, as long as the reward value is worthwhile. Maybe only send a notification to clients who have rewards over a certain value so that they don’t roll their eyes when you send them an sms, which costs more to send than the rewards they have available.

Follow up (feedback) messages

One great way to engage your clients is to send them a follow up email or sms the day after they have been to your salon. The message should thank them for their visit so that they feel valued by you and that they get a sense that you want them to come back again.

Furthermore the message should welcome their feedback so that you can improve your service to them and give them the opportunity to complain if they need to complain. Its better for them to complain to you the day after their visit than to complain to their friends and families (or an online complaints forum) and never return to your salon.

Do I need to say it … talk to your software provider about automating this process so that it is something that always happens at your salon.

Clients that have not visited

All salons will have clients on their database that have not visited for a long time. An opportunity exists to send an email to these clients with the goal of either de-activating them from your database or getting them back in to the salon. I would do an exercise whereby you send them some sort of worthwhile offer in order to test whether they would consider coming back or not. If they respond positively it means that you have won back a client. If they respond by asking to be taken off the mailing list then at least you know your database is that much more accurate.

Talk to your software provider about conducting this exercise so that you ensure you send the message to the correct clients.


There are many ways apart from newsletters and specials to engage with your clients in order to continually shape a positive perception of your business. As you consider each of the above remember that once you start you must not stop. It must be something that is continued in your business for the long run. Also, start with one thing at time and ensure you get it up and running properly else you may bite off more than you can chew. Work with your software provider to automate as much as possible as this has the best chances of ensuring it is continued for the long run.

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