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Direct mail lessons from the time of hairdressing

Tamara Forrest-Smith

Successful Direct Mail Lesson from THE Hairdresser

In 2001 I still had hairdressing salons. One day when arriving at my main salon I picked up my mail as usual, went upstairs into my office and then sat going through the mail.

Whenever I got direct mail in the salons I would go through each piece very carefully, open or trash the ones I wasn’t sure about rather than waste time opening, reading and then trashing.

This one was a simple, plain, cheap white envelope with a dot-matrix label that said The Owner rather than my name. I was curious so I opened it.

The letter was from a car company I knew off and were very well known for selling used prestige cars yet this letter from them was a letter selling new vans for builders. Frankly it didn’t make any sense but I was curious. They were one of the few business in the area that had something relatively new called, a website. i also had something relatively new called, dial-up connection so I decided to look at their website.

Yes they sold prestige cars and a lot of them. Around the very same time I was interested in a new VW Beetle so I decided to drive along in my classic VW Beetle 1303s and talk to them.

As noisily pulled onto their forecourt all of the staff came out onto the front to see what all then noise was. Clearly a vintage VW which they all loved.

The owner was a guy named Phil. He was a truly memorable, eccentric character. He told me after about 5 minutes to excuse his eccentricity as it was due to a lobotomy (partial brain removal) he had had years ago to cure him of mental illness.

Phil asked how I knew of them. I told him I drive past each day but was really interested in the letter he had sent out so that’s why I popped into his garage. Yes I wanted a new car but yes I wanted to talk direct mail.

You see in my salons not only had I discovered direct mail in the early 1990s for my business but we were getting some incredible results. I increased clients by 65% in less than 6 months using direct mail. But I also knew direct mail had a secret that I had to learn. The secret was what I wanted to talk to phil about.

So I asked him.

‘Why would you send a hair salon a letter about cheap trucks for builders?’

He replied, ‘oh that was part of a general bailout from a database we have here”

I asked, ‘what kind of database do you have?’

His answer was astonishing.

‘My father opened our garage in the late 1950s and was one of the first retailers to sell VW in the UK so we have a database going back to the 1950s!’

They literally hand THOUSANDS of names and addresses hand-written on cards!

‘So how do you decide who to send the truck letter to?’

He replied, ‘we just send it to newer names and addresses ands hope we sell some!’

Now I knew this from my own businesses.

If you send a million apiece of direct mail to the wrong targets you’ll hear a million piece of direct mail hitting trash cans at the same time. The response will be zero!

‘How many did you sell I asked him?’

‘None he replied but that happened now and then’.

I then replied, ‘If I could show you how to sell a ton of cars every time you mail out would you be interested?’

He smiled and replied, ‘YES’.

So we agreed a deal.

I would show them how to hit a home run using direct mail.

Here are the changes I made.

  • New copy to the single A4 (8.5 x 11)
  • New design and layout to that letter
  • Database segmentation and targeting
  • Massive reduction in bailout pieces
  • Handwritten on envelopes


Over £1.2 million in sales from that letter.

They were happy.

I was happy.

And here what you should learn.

Just because you’re doing a particular salon marketing method it doesn’t mean that method will work. Sending an incredible offer with brilliant copy and amazing packaging to the wrong targets is like throwing money out of the car window and expecting a return.

Phil was pleased and I of course got my new VW Beetle.

That’s a story from 2001 yet direct mail as a marketing medium has never been so powerful. I am seeing some incredible responses and results from clients and don’t be fooled by free web advertising direct mail is the number one tool for marketing and for me has never been more relevant today than ever.

Do you need help, advice or guidance using direct mail in salon, working with databases, creating campaigns that sell like crazy?

Lets talk. You can get hold of me by sending an email: and and we’ll be in touch right away.

I hope this helps you.

Breakthrough Business Consultant,
Alan Forrest Smith

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