The Suite Life: Marketing For One

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Salon suites are a burgeoning business option for entrepreneurial techs. These small independent salons nestled inside larger branded buildings are a great place to strike out on your own. But without foot traffic and the support of a traditional salon environment (and marketing budget), what’s a salon suite renter to do when it comes to building a client base? “The great thing about suite rental is that you can market through two avenues,” says Gina Rivera, founder and president of Phenix Salon Suites in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “First, the salon professionals can market themselves under the umbrella of the suite company.” For example, the Phenix Salon Suites brand is growing extremely fast nationally, says Rivera, “which means those running their businesses in our locations benefit from the national marketing campaigns we do at a corporate level.”

Nail technician Michele Leibowitz, operator of More Than Nails by Michele at My Salon Suite in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, takes advantage of the parent company’s online presence. “My Salon Suite has a website, which includes a directory for all of the specialists, summaries of ourselves and our services,” she says. “As well as social media pages, such as Facebook, where we can post salon openings, specials or new services.” The building’s lobby also has a screen with a scrolling list of its suites and services, says Leibowitz, and a designated area for business cards and paper advertisements.

In turn, My Salon Suite also offers its suite renters, or “members,” individual marketing support. “We schedule one-on-one meetings with each member to develop their respective marketing plans,” says Rick Dorfman, co-owner of My Salon Suite in Boynton Beach, Florida. “For example, some members choose e-commerce marketplaces, such as Groupon, as their mode of marketing and we work with them to create comprehensive strategies to be successful on that platform.” Leibowitz says, “I’ve utilized Groupon off and on for four years to generate new business, recycle clients and keep my name out there.”

Other members, says Dorfman, prefer promoting their business via social media. To wit, My Salon Suite helps suite renters create an appropriate social identity—and even pays for salon management online booking software. “Members are offered ongoing training and support to grow and develop their business, which includes access to a strong referral network,” he says.

In addition to harnessing the parent company’s promotions and marketing, suite renters need to put time and effort toward their own marketing methods. “Salon suite proprietors bear the same marketing responsibilities as traditional salons for client attraction, client engagement and client retention,” says Elizabeth Kraus, marketing consultant and author of Clients Rule: 2016 Marketing Calendar for Beauty Pros and 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa. “Nail techs who opt for independence in a salon suite need to know how to market their services as well as their brand.” The good news? As an owner/operator, you get to market your strengths to your target clientele. “The difference with a salon suite is that I make marketing decisions with my needs in mind and not those of an entire salon,” says Sheena Pickett, owner of AlphaMale Nail Care Services at Rochelle Salon Suites in Charlotte, North Carolina. “My clients are all male, so I tailor my marketing in a more masculine direction and focus on the interests of my clientele.”

marketingIllustrations: ©getty images/Kat Chadwick/imagezoo

Partner Up

Once you’ve honed your personal marketing message, why not share it with your neighbors? “You’re surrounded by other salon professionals within your location that you can draw business from,” says Rivera. “Establish a good relationship with other suite owners so they’re more inclined to recommend their clients to you.” Most salon suite companies house a variety of businesses ranging from hair stylists to nail salons to spas. Teaming up with the beauty professional next door can be beneficial for everyone. “Cooperative marketing efforts aren’t just advisable, they could be critical to success,” says Kraus. “Sharing resources and contacts, and pooling ideas with other industry professionals can mean more business for everyone.”

For Pickett, teaming up with her suitemates has generated client leads. “My business is housed with two barbers, so building relationships with these owners has allowed me to market my services to their clients and vice versa,” she says. “In exchange, we’re adding value to our clients, and it allows for a dialogue and exchange of ideas about what works and upcoming trends.” Leibowitz also cross-promotes her services within My Salon Suite. “My favorite marketing strategy is offering free services to the other suite owners,” she says, noting that there are 24 suites within her location, 17 of which belong to hair stylists. “When hair clients see their nails, they want to know who does them and—bingo!—I get a referral.”

Rivera also suggests teaming up with other salon suite owners to offer deals and/or packages to maximize marketing efforts. “A package could be created between a hairstylist and manicurist, which could be marketed via a coupon deal,” says Rivera. “Marketing like this can help to conserve resources and build clientele.” For example, Leibowitz has partnered with neighboring suites to offer beauty deals, such as a gel manicure and spa pedicure, plus a full set of eyelash extensions, or a gel manicure and spa pedicure, plus a wash and blowout. 

Be Social Media Savvy

Missing the foot traffic of a traditional salon, the only way potential clients can really “see” a salon suite is online. “Social media has been an effective way to market my suite because I’m able to post pictures and give potential clients a glimpse of what their experience will be like,” says Picket, who notes that this is especially true for her majority male clientele. “The privacy for them is priceless.” Kraus concurs, saying, “Salon suite renters can use the lack of street visibility to their advantage by creating a more soothing, private and spa-like environment, compared to the different experience a traditional multi-station nail salon would provide,” she says.

What’s more, Kraus argues that one of the most important marketing tools for salon suites is an effective online presence. “To win with an online search, you need a website that is optimized for local search with content that is compelling enough to get the site visitor to take the next step and book an appointment,” she says, adding, “Salon suite renters need to commit to collecting email addresses from clients and to sending emails on a regular basis with news, offers, photos and other content that motivates them to rebook and forward the emails to friends and loved ones.”

Social media is a powerful marketing tool for salon suites. “We get calls every day from people viewing us on Yelp,” says Morgan Calvillo, co-owner of the Nail Junkies at Couture Salon Studios in Upland, California. “Instagram has been helpful with having a public and transportable portfolio of what we have accomplished here in the salon.” Says Kraus, “Social networks instantly facilitate word-of-mouth marketing when clients check in and share before-and-after pictures of your work.”

In the end, you are your best marketing tool, says Rivera, “You should always look your best, be kind, friendly and dependable,” she says. “Become a master of relationships. Hand out business cards everywhere you go, talk to everyone and tell them what you’re doing. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Seek them out.” 

-Liz Barrett is an award-winning business journalist based in Oxford, MS.

[Images: Illustrations: ©getty images/Kat Chadwick/imagezoo]

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