Successful salons can all look very different. There’s your standard storefront salons, mobile salon services, and even those running a business out of their homes. Unsuccessful salons also come in these three types, and the difference is in their business strategy.
When opening a salon, or even when rethinking how you run an existing salon, the first step is developing a business strategy. A business strategy helps the salon owner develop a plan of action for marketing, developing, and launching a business (or reviving a stagnant one).
A salon business strategy covers 5 areas:
- Unique value
Whether you’re just starting out, or simply looking for a bit of help and advice, the following 5 sections are a great place to start developing a new business strategy for your salon.
1: Your Brand
Salons are all about image. Your clients are are also all about image, when they’re seeking out your services. Don’t define your salon’s image according to what you think it should be; define your target customer and build an image that will appeal to that customer. You want clients you really click with, who appreciate your services, are happy to spend money and who will spread the good word to friends. To attract the ideal client, brand your salon as the kind of place your customers know can give them the look they want.
A strategic brand incorporates the following:
- Salon name
- Interior design
- Street appeal
- Customer community
- Customer education
- Customer service
- Customer communication
You need to convince your marketing audience, your potential clients, that your salon is the only one that can provide the look that they need in the most comfortable, convenient setting, at the right price. If you can do this, you’ve successfully branded your salon.
Deciding on a location for your salon is one of the most important strategic decisions you can make. As with every other decision, your business strategy should be front of mind when deciding on a location to provide your services.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is there convenient parking?
- What other stores are close by that could drive foot traffic?
- Does the neighbourhood match your brand?
- Which way will your signage be facing?
- Why is this location available?
- Who was here before and why did they leave?
- Can potential clients see your salon from the road as they drive past?
- Is the surrounding area attractive, well lit, and safe?
- If you’re looking at a location in a mall, what businesses are next door?
Physical location doesn’t apply as much to those working from home or operating a mobile salon service, but consequently your online profile becomes all the more important. Your website, presence in local business listings, and active social media marketing is the ‘storefront’ for your potential clients. If your physical salon storefront is not so strategically located, creating a strong and vibrant virtual presence is also key to bringing in new clients.
Physical location limitations:
- Preferred size of space and number of staff
- Availability in your city of business
- Local competition
- Tolerance for building/renovating
- Local zoning requirements
It’s important to keep in mind the different types of spaces you’ll need in your salon. When looking at potential hair salon locations for example, there are four main spaces you will need to accommodate:
- Reception, retail, and waiting area (Recommended 20% of the space)
- Shampoo/washing basins (Recommended 10% of the space)
- Cutting/service (Recommended 50% of the space)
- Storage/staff rooms (Recommended 20% of the space)
Depending on the exact services your salon offers, these percentages may change. What won’t change is the fact that if you cram everything in too tight, it won’t work for anybody.
Often it’s an easier option to move into a space that a previous salon occupied. The question to ask here is: why did the previous salon leave? If they failed to bring in enough business, it may be the fault of the location.
Wherever you choose to build your salon, make sure it’s a strategic decision.
3: What Makes Your Salon Unique?
A key part of business strategy is competitor analysis. Take notes on their brand images, services, customer relations and the overall look of their salons.
You can compete in two ways:
- Do it better.
- Do it different.
When deciding what exactly you should offer in your salon, you should start by looking at four things:
This is known as a SWOT analysis.
During this analysis, an individual will write down all the strengths and weaknesses they possess in relation to their business. Strengths could be advanced business knowledge or experience, while weaknesses may be minimal funding. They will then note down opportunities like the potential to secure a prime location, as well as threats, such as a nearby competitor offering similar services.
The more comprehensive your SWOT analysis, the more effective it will be in guiding your business strategy. This process is designed to help you find certain strengths/opportunities that line up against weaknesses/threats in interesting ways. For example, perhaps the competitor down the road doesn’t have much of an online presence, but you’ve already spent a year working on your salon website and digital marketing while treating clients at home.
Using this method is a great way to find out exactly what can make your salon unique. Match your main services to your strengths, and try to offer things that clients can’t get anywhere else.
If SWOT isn’t your thing, here’s another competitor analysis template.
The industry is changing, and so too are clients. With the growth and accessibility of the hair and beauty industry, consumers are becoming more educated, and have more choice. Because of this, customers are seeking companies and brands that are in line with their personal ideologies. Look at the growth of the cruelty-free market for example. A highly effective business strategy for salons is finding your specialisation.
Finding what you do best, and specialising in that area will ensure happy clients, and a successful salon.
Seek out what you love
If you’re already an industry professional, what is it that you love about the industry? If there’s a certain treatment, method or skill that excites you, take note of that. People tend to be good at what they love, and vice versa. If we’re not, we work hard to ensure that we become better.
Grow your team around their skills
If you’re looking to grow a team, empowering others to embrace their skills is a recipe for success. If you have a staff member who is passionate about creating beautiful brows, let them focus on what they love. Your staff, business and clients will benefit. That way, if your business does have an all-encompassing model, your staff can specialise rather than your whole business.
You can turn clients away
It may sound like a bad idea at first, but as stylists and beauticians, we’re not suited to everyone.
If a customer is after a certain look, and you know you cannot deliver, then you don’t have to treat them. You can’t be the best at everything. As soon as you try to be all things to all people, you begin diluting your skills, and people stop believing what you’re selling.
Customers will appreciate your honesty and professionalism, and they will be more likely to return to you for the treatment that you’re good at or recommend you to others.
Who do you best serve?
The term ‘target market’ exists for a reason. It comes back to the notion that you can’t please everyone. Hone in on what is important to you, and your business, and allow that to be your point of difference.
Don’t be afraid to specialise, and don’t be afraid to tell your clients just how good you are. You’ve worked hard to become a business owner, an artist, and an expert. The clients who appreciate what you have to offer are the ones you want. They’re the ones that will come back time and time again and will spread the word about you to all their friends.
Business strategy is essential in establishing or reinventing a successful salon business. Not only will it help with building the business, but having it all down on paper will boost your own confidence as well. It’s a good idea to present your strategy to others as well. It’s going to be difficult, maybe even impossible, to do it alone. Now is the time to share your business strategy with a business partner, advisor, or friend.
Once that’s done the real fun begins. Implementing these ideas into your salon might normally be quite intimidating, but having a solid business strategy removes that fear. A business strategy begets confidence, a valuable asset for any leader.
“Business Strategy for Salons” is part of Timely’s series of business guides written to help salon and spa owners run their businesses. If you found it helpful, why not share it with your colleagues!