Success Depends on Building Your Clientele
If you are a hairstylist, massage therapist, nail technician, cosmetologist or other personal care or beauty industry professional you need to cultivate a local clientele to build a successful practice. This means that nearly all of your clients live or work very near the neighborhood or community where you provide your service. There are of course always a few exceptions where a client has moved away but still comes to you because you have established a close relationship. There are the few industry superstars for whom people will travel across the country to seek their services. However it is safe to assume that the majority of your new clients will come to you partly because you are convenient for them to get to and partly because you provide a specific talent and service they require.
You are in control of your success. If you are an independent contractor you should understand that building a following is your responsibility and is the single most important factor in your long term job security and individual success. When you have a full book of clients that like you and like what you do you can virtually write your own ticket. Happy clients will stay with you for years and will insure that you have a steady stream of income. If you have room in your schedule or are relying primarily on walk-ins and assignments from your salon owner you need to step-up your game and start promoting yourself.
Many stylists feel that is the job of the salon owner to bring in the business, and to some degree that is true. It is the job of the salon owner to promote the salon but it is the job of the individual stylists to promote herself. It is like a comb and a brush they both have a similar function but achieve slightly different results. What you need to be concerned with is the number of clients that you personally have. Regardless of what the salon does or what other stylists, technicians and therapists do, you need to look out for yourself.
What stops most professionals from taking action is lack of knowledge. You might ask what am I supposed to do? To begin with, start reminding your current clients that you appreciate referrals. If they are satisfied with your service ask them to tell their friends. Simply say, “You know, my schedule is not quite full and I still have room for a few more clients. If you want to recommend me to a friend, here are a few of my business cards.” People are generally happy to help. Do not be too quick to bribe or reward referrals, most of the time this is not necessary and only creates additional complexity to the process. If she comes through for you, do something special but avoid making promises or offering bribes. Instead if a client does send you a referral, do something non-business related like sending a thank you note or flowers or taking her to lunch or coffee. I do not prefer gift cards because it looks too much like giving money. I also do not prefer discounting services because it creates potential future expectations and devalues your service. You might offer a shampoo, conditioner, message oil, nail polish, cosmetic or other product that the client does not currently use as a special thank you. In this way you give her an appropriate reward and an opportunity to sample a product she might continue to use. In this case simply say, “Oh your friend Audrey came in last week. Thanks for the referral.” (Hopefully you have also already sent the thank you card). When you are finished working with the client say, “By the way this new product just came in and I think it would be perfect for you. Take one with you as a gift from me.” This does not look like a pay-off but it is a nice gesture that sets up no future expectations or obligations. Put the product in a bag with another two or three of your business cards. That was easy.
What about people who are not already clients? You probably do not realize how many people you meet in the course of a week as you go about your life. This includes shopping trips, taking your kids to school or after school programs or other personal and professional activities. Do you routinely tell everyone what you do; probably not; but why not? Are you good at what you do? Are you proud of what you do? Can you use more clients? In the business you are in, virtually everyone you meet is a potential client or in a position to recommend you to someone. Why not give them the opportunity to be your client? What stops most people is fear of rejection. Let me show you how to deal with that.
Suppose you meet someone at your child’s piano recital or school play. In the course of conversation you might say, “You know I am a hairstylist and I love the opportunity to work on new clients. If you care to come by for a consultation or refer me to a friend here is my business card”. Have your cards ready before you begin the offer and hand it to the person as you make the statement. She might say, “Oh thanks but I am very happy with my current stylist.” Just reply, “That’s fine. I appreciate loyalty. I always ask because you never know if someone is looking for a change.” Then make a comment about the kids or the event. You have still planted a seed that might sprout sometime in the future.
The truth is when you tell someone what you do most of the time they will ask your opinion about something related to your specialty. This is an opportunity to show your knowledge, but in social situations keep it brief and simple. Then use it as an opportunity to invite him or her to come in for a consultation and discuss the matter more thoroughly.
Here are some things to keep in mind. You have a right to tell people what you do. You are a business person and your livelihood depends on building your clientele. Promoting yourself is not rude or pushy unless you are. People are impressed by others who run their own business, or are independent contractors because you have a certain freedom and potential control over your life that they do not. Also you have a skill or talent that others admire.
In a slow economy you might find that some clients come in less often or opt to do some things for themselves but most people will not go totally without your help. There is plenty of business available but you need to promote yourself to get your share.
Reno Lovison is a marketing strategist in Chicago and has plenty more idea that can help you in his recently published book “Turn Your Business Card Into Business.”