4 Things Hairdressing Taught Me
4 Direct Response Marketing Tricks I Learnt From Hairdressing
What can hairdressing teach your business about marketing, copywriting, strategy and good old direct response marketing?
This weekend I was taken back in time when I caught sight of a video of John Paul Dejoria talking about his business, the salon industry and of course how he built his four billion dollar empire. I had the good fortune to meet him and talk with him in 1990 in Buckinghamshire England. That meeting was to change my salon business completely. It was my first encounter with marketing.
Lets go back in time
I was a hairdresser for over 20 years. I started cutting hair when I was around 15-years old. I then trained at twenty years old officially as a hairdresser and then had 3 salons of my own until the year 2003 when I then launched full-time into OrangeBeetle (OB started in 1998).
On the first day of opening my very first salon with my very first employees I also had my first staff walkout from a junior member. I had no idea what I was doing and frankly I don’t blame her, it was total chaos.
The second week in business it was slow and that carried on until I was around 2-3 months into being a new businessman and desperately counting the cash to see if I could pay staff wages by the weekend.
Then late 1989-90 (I know it’s a long time ago) I saw an advert in the hairdressers journal for a club for hairdressers that was being supported by Paul Mitchell Salon Products.
I saw the advert once, twice and maybe a dozen times after that when I decided to call the number and ask a few questions.
I spoke to a guy named Mike Kemball in Buckinghamshire and before I knew it I was on my way to their Insight meeting.
Marketing Was New To Me
Insight was an understatement. Despite the reality that I started selling things to other people at the age of just 10 year, I hadn’t thought about business the way I was now being shown.
For example; I learnt about how to price services. In those days I simply thought you charged what you were wanted to charge. I certainly never understood perception of a price can affect your business. Mercedes – you never ask the price you simply know this. You can or cannot afford it but you know it’s the best and part of that belief that it is the best is in the price. It’s expensive so it must be – good!
Then there were all the other things I began to discover. Upselling services, products, reception layout, staff wages and just about every single thing you can think about to run a business I discovered fast!.
The nice thing they did that also affected me in a big way was introducing me to something called a book. Yes you read correct I said a BOOK.
You see up until that point in my life I had read NOTHING – not a single thing that was printed onto a page apart from what I was forced to read at school so the thought of reading a book was against my inclination because I associated booms only with school. So I began to read books - business books.
I also bought a cassette (remember them?) for my car by a guy I had never heard of before named Jay Abraham. I also bought a book by an expert named Zig Ziglar and one more expert named Tom Peters. It was heavy but I was enjoying this new learning the business of business experience.
So in a short period of time I had learnt lots of new things about running a business. How to structure everything, staffing, finances, marketing a lot of new and mind-expanding materials.
Astonishing Results From Hairdressing
The more I discovered especially obeyer direct response marketing, the better the results were for me. I managed to build a huge 5-bedroomed house in its own grounds with my success, had the holidays, the cars and all the other benefits that a successful business gave me. It was hard, really hard but it gave me a foundation that transformed a lot of areas in my life.
But for you reading this I wanted to share something’s that were critical in that business succeeding but any business I have worked on since then and are working on right now.
4 Things I Learnt from Being a Hairdresser
Number one: Feed from others for bigger ideas
There’s nothing wrong in looking at others for ideas. I used to look outside the industry all of the time for ideas on how to build a strong salon. That meant my salons were very different to all of the other salons. The other salon owners all looked inside the industry whilst I was looking at things like how a football club was structured so I could apply those guidelines to my salon business.
For example in 1991 we were the only salon business in a town of 35 salons to sell something I named a ‘season ticket’. In other words they could pay in advance for their appointments at a lower rate. This was something that was only really seen in the football industry and certainly not hairdressing. This was also direct response marketing at its best with everything being tracked and measured.
I saw they were filling their football stadium appointments (seats) up to two years ahead so why couldn’t I by simply copying them. I did and it worked massively. Actually as a side note I have never seen this in a salon ever apart from my own salons.
I have since applied the very same to all my businesses since. For example today I model a lot of my ideas on the film industry. Why? Well if you want to sell a lot and be the best at what you are selling you’d better model a business that turns over literally billions and the movie business does just that. They sell a movie based on a 120 second video and very powerful imagery. I use them as one of my swipe models. Today I read around 5-books a week to feed my mind and write around one million words a year to keep me in full flow.
So how about you who do you look to for idea outside your current industry and how many ideas do you discover, swipe and apply in your business?
Number two: Get the infra-structure and finances right - STRATEGY & SYSTEMS!
This is short and simple… get it right or you are forever hoping and praying.
In the early days of my salons it went like this. I got cash from the clients and then I would put that cash in my pocket, under my bed, in an old sock and then inside my mattress or – I would go and buy something with the cash. Most of the time I would go and buy something.
That led to problems and here was one of the major problems I faced one day. I had received a huge tax bill that I simply couldn’t pay. I missed the payment day time and time again yet I would go home and sit and ask myself this, “I’m taking a ton of cash here in the salon but how is it I can’t pay a bill for £5k?”
Now the answer is really obvious but it wasn’t one I had in place all those years ago. It was this – I was spending far too much and managing nothing. I quickly discovered that if you are taking £50k yet spending £51k you are in big trouble. I then found out that money should be divided and split apart so that everything is covered. I know its obvious right? Yet I never did it. It took me years to learn cash management.
Not too long ago I knew a guy that bought a post office. The old post office and shop was very old and needed urgent renovations.
So he went and got a big loan. On his loan the first thing he went and bought was a new Range Rover. Then he bought his wife a new Range Rover in white. Then they spent cash on the house attached to the Post Office and lived the good life – for a short while.
Suddenly he realised that he has to pay stock bills, pay staff, and pay invoices and pay and manage the cash in all areas of the post office. He never did and about six months later he finally was forced to close. On a Saturday after my salon had closed with my very young kids at the time for their comic and sweet treat I found out when I went to the shop it had been closed by bailiffs and his cars and home had no been removed.
He simply failed to manage his finances and had no infra-structure in place.
How about you in your business? Are you finances covered and do you know exactly how they should be split? If this is a failure in your business your business will fail. It was a very early lesson I learnt through hairdressing and running three hairdressing salons.
Number three: You are only as good as your service or product
Before you do anything I discovered that the service or the product has to be good enough. For example in those days I would promote a new stylist that came into the salon. The stylist was then sent clients and the clients would expect a service that I was advertising. Unfortunately I had yet to discover that despite all the bells and whistles I was blowing and waving I was not training my staff to support for my marketing was saying. This meant I was saying how great we were but my services and products simply didn’t support that. Of course this lost me clients that I had paid to bring into my business.
It’s like pouring endless water into a bucket with holes. The more you pour in the more that pours out.
This took me to a place where I had to rediscover my salon services and make them work in a way that was a match with what my marketing was saying. Not easy but we did it in the end.
Now as a consultant for the past 15-years and more the first thing I ask is how good are your services. The reply is ALWAYS the same, “ yes really good”.
Once I flew to a salon to create a new strategy and plan for her business. She had already told me her business was the very best, services and skills were the absolute greatest in the area yet her spread sheet numbers were telling a story of clients in – clients out, like the bucket so I decided to fly over and see what was actually going on.
From the moment I walked into the salon the staff clearly hated her, she clearly hated them and it all showed in the work they were doing. Service was poor, skills sets were average and nothing was quite as it should or could be.
The day I sat and spoke to her and her team the phone rang. She jumped up and shouted, “can’t one of the miserable FU&%KERS get the phone”. I was shocked and clearly there was a huge problem with a team that was reflecting in the salon services.
So it was a big lesson for me to be able to support any marketing with solid service and solid products.
And what I have seen in business is the need to sell is stronger than the need to fulfill and deliver. People will sell sub-standard services or product just for the sake of the sale yet it’s a recipe for disaster in business.
Once I realised this we spent thousands in cash and hour upon hour in time training my staff to a level that was unsurpassed in the salon business in the location we were at.
How about you?
Everyone always tells me very blunt that they are the very best at what they do. Are you services and product as good as you think they are? Have you tried them, tested them, read them or even reviewed them? Have you asked your clients for an honest review or opinion on your services or products? Regardless of the industry you are in you need to know the answer to this.
Number four: Marketing is a daily event
After I had been on course in the 1990s I started to apply what I was learning. For example despite there being no real home computers as such in those days or certainly no laser printers for an office unless you spent thousands I began to run direct mail campaigns. Direct mail was personal and as the name suggests it as direct. Every Tuesday was direct mail day. I would send mail to, new clients, birthday clients, Christmas cards, thank you, promotions and literally a long list of ideas for direct mail. There was no email or social media or even text in those days.
The response was crazy at the time. The more mail I sent the busier we became. More marketing meant more promotion and that of course I had less and less time to do my marketing.
The problem then was that when I never did my marketing guess what happened? Business would slowly drop off. So I created a whole system that was a little chaotic at the time but it worked for us. Not every month, not every week but every single day of the week we did active direct marketing. That meant, direct mail, flyers, posters, PR events, promotional events, piggy back promotions and just about every other thing I could think of at the time.
Yes marketing had to be DAILY. It had to be regular and it had to be a system. Even today in my current businesses if we do nothing - nothing comes in and if we do a lot a lot comes in.
I see time and time again that marketing is treated like it isn’t really part of a business. Some businesses treat marketing like its something they have to do now and then because they feel that’s just part of being in business. Yet it is the lifeblood, it’s the part of business that should be prioritized always.
A farmer cannot shift his potatoes if he doesn’t drive over to the market. They will simply lie in the barn and rot. Why? Because of lack of visibility and if you are not seen you won’t sell.
- A website isn’t marketing it’s a critical business tool. Once you have a site you must have a strategy to send people to that site.
- A random advert isn’t marketing. It takes at least a dozen shows of an advert before it ever gets read and noticed as long as its well designed and written.
- A one-off magazine advert isn’t marketing because no one sees it with one hit.
- A Facebook page definitely isn’t marketing because Facebook is a gossip forum not a place of business and those that tell you millions are being made on Facebook are lying to you.
I learnt in my hairdressing salons that marketing has to be a daily event and when it isn’t we the daily event of taking profits just doesn’t happen.
Today things are even harder because the noise is so loud in the world of capturing people’s attentions.
Messenger, text, email, social media, on the go TV, streaming this, streaming that YouTube and just about every other battle for the attention of your buyer is raging yet what is it you are doing for your business.
I learnt early that marketing is a daily event. It is a strategy that must be stuck to and applied. It’s tactical and well thought out. Its planned over a period of time and there is no let up because once you let up suddenly the guy down the road that you thought was ok takes over you and is getting more sales and more customers than you will ever get.How about you?
Is direct response marketing part of your strategy or is your strategy designed around your service or product?
If that’s the case how are you getting that out to your buyers? You have to fight and battle for attention theses days are you doing that. Are you presenting your very best and are you doing it on a scheduled basis or is it simply random?
Random marketing means random profits. Lots of marketing means lots of profits.
Hairdressing taught me a lot, way more than simply cutting hair.
I hope this article helped you or even enlightened you at some level.
If you have to have the very best advice and cannot afford any more risk - call me on 07793069486
Your ex-hairdresser and hairy marketing genius
Alan Forrest Smith