No matter how great your services are, you need to get customers in the door to be successful. At the same time, we’re lucky enough to live in a time when marketing is more affordable than ever, due to the rise of online marketing.

When a direct mail campaign would have been an expensive undertaking in the early 1990s, now you can send an email marketing campaign for almost nothing. Where a flyer would have had printing and distribution costs, Facebook advertising can be done for as little as a few dollars a day.

However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We have access to all kinds of marketing, and that means we also have the ability to make all kinds of mistakes. If you spend your time and money on online marketing mistakes that don’t achieve their goals, you could be worse off than if you hadn’t done anything in the first place.

With that in mind, here are some common online marketing mistakes that salon owners make – and how you can avoid them.

1. You forget to set clear goals

It’s very easy to send out an email, or whip together a social media ad, but if you don’t have a clear idea of exactly what you’re trying to achieve, you won’t get as much value out of the campaign as you otherwise could have. Also, you won’t be able to tell if your campaign was successful or not – after all, if you don’t know exactly what you want from your campaign, how are you to know if you got it or not?

A good rule of thumb for your marketing goals is that they should be specific. “More people coming in the door” is probably not specific enough. “Sell 10% more hair treatments in June of this year than we sold in June of last year” is more specific, and easier to track.

It’s also easier to put together the content of your online marketing if you know exactly what you are trying to achieve.

So before you even start your online marketing activity, have a think about exactly what you want to achieve. This will inform the rest of your campaign.

2. Your audience is too big

Targeting too many people, or not targeting people at all, is another common mistake. It can be tempting to try to cover all your bases by putting your online marketing in front of as many people as possible. There are two main problems to this approach:

  1. You’ll have to get your material in front of more people, which will cost more money.
  2. The content of your marketing material will be vague. If you’re targeting everyone, you can’t target your offer or campaign as specifically as you can when you target a smaller, more specific audience.

To avoid this mistake, develop a more specific audience by using your existing customers as a starting point. Take a look at the people who are buying particular services from you. What are the common threads between them? Try to find a few different characteristics, in order to narrow down your audience.

For example, if you want to push your salon’s eyebrow waxing services, take a look at the people who have had their eyebrows waxed in the past. Try to find three common characteristics that these customers share, and create your online marketing audience based on this.

You may end up with an audience like this:

  • Women
  • Aged 28-39
  • Who also get their hair cut by you

Now you have segmented an audience across three different categories, so you can really tailor your ads. You also have fewer people to reach, so you won’t have to spend as much money on your online marketing.

Avoid these online marketing mistakes to grow your impact

3. You use too many discounts

We often associate marketing with discounts and sales. This makes intuitive sense, because a lower price could give someone the incentive they need to come to your salon.

But think of your most loyal customers. Why do they keep coming back? The answer will probably have less to do with price, and more to do with the quality of service you provide and relationships customers have with you and your team.

So while discounts can be useful for a quick cash injection, it would be a mistake to rely on them too heavily for your online marketing.

There are a few things you can do instead of sales to make compelling online marketing:

  • Bundle a set of services together with a theme – such as a holiday or other event.
  • Use reminders as online marketing – for example, you could get in touch with people who had a haircut two months ago, asking if they need another one.
  • Contact existing customers and offer them a discount on their next appointment if they refer a friend. This is slightly different from offering discounts to new customers, because the new customer is not the person receiving the discount.

4. You forget about the customer experience

Marketing is more than just promotional activity like advertising. It’s the entire customer experience, from the first ad they see to the price they pay for your service. One mistake salon owners make is to focus too much on promotional activity, at the expense of other activities.

Customer experience is a classic example. Let’s say you put together a campaign, which has Facebook ads and an email marketing campaign to your existing customers. The rads and the email sends people to your website. It’s wildly successful! Loads of people click the link and go to your website.

That’s when things fall apart. Turns out, your website has nothing more than a phone number and an address. People can call and book, but they’re all calling at once, so the line’s busy. Lots of potential customers decide to call later, but most of them forget.

This is a very costly mistake! In this example, you’ve done the hard work of getting people to your website, only to lose them because the website didn’t allow them to easily book an appointment.

You can solve this by using online booking software. By giving people the ability to book instantly, you make it easier for them to commit to coming in. That makes your online marketing more effective by removing some of the barriers between clicking a link and actually coming in and purchasing your services. The more barriers you can remove, the easier it is for people to do business with you, and the more successful your online marketing will be.

Online marketing mistakes are all about timing

5. You get the timing wrong

Timing makes a big difference in online marketing. You could have a great offer, and a great promotion, but if you send it at the wrong time, you won’t get as much engagement as you otherwise would have.

This is particularly true with email marketing. Social media ads can repeat at different times, so if someone misses an ad once, they may see it when it runs again. With email, you only get one chance – if a person misses it because they were busy, or asleep, then that’s it (unless you write another email, of course – more on that later).

There are some basic times to avoid when you’re sending an email campaign:

  • The middle of the night.
  • A public holiday.
  • During evening meals (6-8pm).

Once you eliminate these times, the best and worst times to engage with your clients start to vary, depending on your specific clients. So keep an eye on your online marketing as you carry out campaigns. Make a note of the time and dates of the most successful online marketing campaigns, and the least successful. After awhile, patterns will start to emerge, and you can start to tailor future campaigns around the most successful timing.

6. You exhaust your audience

Let’s say you have a database of 5,000 current and potential clients. You send an email to all of them, asking them to book an appointment. 1,500 people open the email, 15 people make an appointment and 50 people unsubscribe.

Not bad, you think – that’s 15 appointments you wouldn’t have had otherwise. So you do it again in a week. Now you have 4,950 people on your database, and you get the same results. Then you repeat it again, and your list falls to 4,900. Then you do it again, and you’re at 4,850.

You can see how this ends. Unless you add 50 new contacts a week, you’re eventually going to run out of people to contact. What’s more, as your list gets smaller, the number of appointments you get from each email will also dwindle.

Email marketing isn’t the only channel where you can make this online marketing mistake. Social media ads, search engine ads and other channels can all create versions of the same problem. Even if people don’t, or can’t, unsubscribe, if you communicate too often, your marketing will just turn into white noise.

One way to avoid this is to just do less marketing. This is not a great solution, because marketing is what gets customers in the door!

A better way to avoid this mistake is to segment your audiences for your marketing activity. Rather than send an email to every single person in your database, send an email with a specific offer to people who bought a particular service in the last six months (just like we talked about in section 2). This not only protects the rest of your database, it also allows you to give a more targeted, and hopefully more effective offer to the smaller segment you’ve selected. So while you will reach a smaller number of people, more of those people will click through and make an appointment.

Summing up

Online marketing is great because it makes marketing so much more accessible than it was in the past. But for any online marketing you do for your salon, make sure you avoid these six mistakes – it’s the best thing way to make sure you get the most value out of the time, money and energy you spend on online marketing for your salon.