Ways to Engage: Marketing and PR in the Digital Age
by Victoria Wurdinger on Thursday, July 1st, 2010
Have you hosted a Tweetstakes, posted a vlog or used your online booking program to send targeted offers? Maybe not, but chances are you haven’t mailed out a press kit recently either—paper is passé. The digitally dividing question: If you aren’t experiencing social media awesomeness yet, do you really have to hire one of today’s self-proclaimed social media gurus, ninjas, stars or strategists? And, must you blog, tweet, post, Digg and retweet five times a day? To both of those, thank goodness, no. There’s a lot you can do yourself these days without getting overwhelmed. Besides, if you’re on your iPhone all day, you aren’t working.
To effectively launch a digital marketing and PR campaign, start with a straightforward strategy. Says Laura Fitzgerald, the owner of Lift Consulting LLC, which handles marketing and PR for 16 salons across the country, as well as non-industry clients, “You’ll have more success with a simple plan. Determine what you want to do six months out. The three things you should involve are a website, Facebook and direct mail—either snail mail or email. Every region and client base is different. A New Jersey salon I work with gets the best results with printed material displayed in the salon but an Atlanta salon sees instant results from specials posted on its Facebook page. It all starts with knowing your client base.”
Avoid social networking fatigue and focus your efforts. Exposure on a hyper-local website or blog brings bigger payoffs than national attention, while a major platform like Facebook can get your message out to current clients and other consumers.
7 Things to Try:
Involve the Community. If you don’t know where your clients live online, ask, or use an online survey from sites like Survey Monkey (surveymonkey.com). Based on what you learned, create a six-month plan for digital marketing and PR, then test and measure results. Don’t try to do it all; focus on what’s successful. While PR creates great buzz, most salons want to see the numbers spike, which puts the focus on marketing, says Fitzgerald.
Interact with Consumers Formerly Called Fans. Do you now call a Facebook Fan Page a Like Page? Never mind the nomenclature, go to Facebook.com, create a page for your business and ask clients to like you. Keep the page professional, brand it with your photos and post hair care tips or specials. Ask salon clients to find you on Facebook, and add a Facebook badge to your website, so they can link right through. Also ask your web developer to add widgets for other social networks. You don’t have to know what these all are right off, except that they allow your clients to share your stories on other social networks and on their own Facebook pages. Once you have a lot of “likers,” with just a click or two, you can invite them to an event or tell them about a back-to-school special. Encourage them to post ways they use your products or share photos of themselves in that straw set that you took hours to do.
Put Stake in Your Stylists. If you don’t have a Facebook page, chances are your stylists do. While some prefer it for personal use and don’t want you to see their snarky comments about the boss, most will use it to promote themselves and the business. Give them photo work to post or hold a salon photo shoot. Jenn Mapp-Bressan, the brand manager for Cibu International Hair Care, the Ratner Companies house brand, says about 25% of corporate stylists embrace social media and, “We provide them with Facebook content to use.”
Get your Groupon—if You Know Your Goal. John Escalada, owner of Skyline Downtown Salon in Kansas City, MO, used the collective bargaining power of Groupon, which emails daily deals to thousands of locals in 140 U.S. cities. How it works: Set the deal (Escalada offered $100 worth of services for $45) and the minimum number of customers you want; if not enough sign up, the deal is cancelled. Local consumers pay Groupon online, print out a coupon and book the appointment. Know your goal and your costs! Groupon takes half off the top, plus 3% for credit card fees; salons take product costs and pay commissions out of their half, says Escalada, whose spreadsheet showed he basically gave himself a short-term loan (paid in thirds over 60 days) at 22% interest. “It’s best for getting in new clients if you can retain them,” he notes. Other tips: Ask stylists to take lower commissions to get the new business, have the desk identify Groupon coupon holders when they call and direct them to new stylists or slower appointment times. Escalada got 337 new clients (the deal was offered for 24 hours and sent to 55,000 subscribers in Kansas City), and says if he retains 25%, that translates into at least $56,000 in new yearly revenue. In the end, it cost him $1,680 for the opportunity, which he felt was cheaper than a local advertisement.
Secure a Shout Out. Don’t forget that websites like CitySearch, NaturallyCurly.com and Yelp are the go-to places for consumers to find salons in their areas. Escalada says after word-of-mouth, Yelp is his second biggest driver of new clients. You can ask clients who are happy with their visits to positively review your salon (individual stylists often do this) or let it happen organically. You’re bound to get some negative reviews and Escalada always responds—publicly or privately, depending on the circumstances. As a result, one crabby client ended up re-reviewing, telling everyone how much he cared.
Use Measurable Marketing. Whether your send out an e-blast or a newsletter, ask clients to opt-in, and don’t wear out your welcome. How many emails are too many? One salon Fitzgerald worked with saw a drastic increase in clients asking to unsubscribe, as soon as emailing increased from monthly to weekly. Email marketing software like Constant Contact helps you manage messages by culling your lists for duplicates and dead email addresses, following anti-spamming laws, sending out your emails and tracking results, from who opened your email to who passed your offer onto a friend. While Fitzgerald designs e-blasts and digital press kits for her clients, she uses Constant Contact to email them because it’s simple and effective. Escalada uses the software, too; he uses the built-in templates to create his own email newsletter.
Post a Digital Video. Own an HD video camera? Shoot a three-minute video of a specialized technique you want clients to understand and post it on You Tube or Facebook and send it the embed code to CurlStylist to post. Three years ago, Cibu’s Mapp-Bressan used tutorial videos to bridge the gap between women’s need to see and experience a product, and an e-commerce site. Show how to use your product, using simple language, she says. Or, introduce your newest hair extensions in three minutes, including information on the cost, application, care and maintenance. Even if you don’t have a website, you can post a video on your Facebook page, making what was once very costly nearly free.
Working you website, Facebook page and e-blasts is plenty for digital starters: it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. Take your time and ask questions—of other salon friends or your 14-year-old nephew who manages all his networks from a single app. Once you have these three working for you, mange them through updates. A stagnant website with a five-month old blog or an inactive Facebook page is like a closed business.