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Salon Failing? Salon Marketing?

Tamara Forrest-Smith

Is your salon business failing?

We get stacks of emails from salon owners asking for help for free. The most common email is littered with sentences of…

About to go under

Close to being foreclosed

Struggling to do business

Can’t pay the bills

You sound like our only hope


Yet as a businessman, consultant and advisor to many businesses over the years, as a salon owner myself for 17 years and being in the hair and beauty business since 1986 I can tell you the reasons for failure are very easily spotted and very easily solved.

Let’s make this really simple.

Clients have hair. The hair grows long. The hair needs cut. It has to be cut somewhere so if it’s not being cut by you, where is it being cut?

It’s that simple. Clients need your services but do they need YOUR SALON?

Sometimes it can take a little more thought and that little more thought involves the way your clients think.

Read and stick with the following story, I think it’ll help the way you approach your salon marketing.

Around 1pm each day I start to slow down after an intensive morning of thinking and writing and doing my own thing. So I open my office door and call Tamuna my partner to come down so we can go for a coffee.

She comes down ready, we open the front door, jump in our little blue Mini Cooper and drive over to the local town which is called ‘Altrincham’ in Cheshire, England.

The drive to the town is beautiful through the Cheshire countryside at this time of the year. If we take the most scenic route through nature we come pass the big park at Dunham where we go under the canal, past all of the deer, avoiding squirrels rabbits and lots of other small wildlife until we eventually reach the entrance of the town.

It’s depressing I have to say, really depressing. Before you ask or you might be thinking, we go there, as it’s the closest Costa Coffee.

As you drive into the town there are more than a few car parks now. Not long ago it would cost around £5 now it is just 30 pence per hour. The car park is half full. As we walk from behind the car park on to the street the first 3 shops we come across are all charity shops. They look a total mess. Then we cross the road to pass a hair salon that looks a million dollars yet is surrounded by 2 charity shops, cheap café, used bookshop, cheap frozen food shop and similar shops again. If I was the owner I would be depressed.

The next 100 meters down the street is the same and I would guess half or over half of the shops are empty. Some have clearly been vacant for well over a year.

In all, it looks sad, dead, silent and a wasteland of what was once a great high-end town. Yes, it was I should know because in my hairdressing days I worked here for a while. This is a high-end Jewish community where there is plenty of money. Diamonds and gold were abundant, the people were strong and powerful through their business and relationships yet today it is totally dead.

Can you imagine the effect this has on a town’s people?

As we drive home after the coffee the drive despite being a stunning area is just line after line of homes up for sale, communities move out leaving a dust land of the past behind them.

Is there a solution?

Clearly, the internet has had a huge influence on high streets and the facts are high streets were never prepared and are still not prepared for the change.

When change takes place the mindset changes. Once the mindset has made the change the environment around the mind must also change or die. As a business person that has had high street shops I know a town can be run by what we will call old school business people, those living on a past dream and past experiences. In other words, they can act and think as though they are almost doing the customer a favor by opening a shop and selling them their goods. Those were the days when the shop owner had more control, the buyer had to go to them and browse the goods and then make a buying decision. At one time shops would be so busy they could literally pick and choose who went in, bought something and went out. Today some shop owners still have that old mentality feeling that if the buyer comes they will buy.

Today the consumer now controls the marketplace to some extent. They can access almost anything via a mobile shop window (smartphone) and do one of two things. One is go to the shop and buy. Two is order there and then from their phone or computer and simply wait for delivery. And if they don’t like it – they send it back. Who has control now then?

And the mindset has changed. At one time to see and feel street café culture, we would have to go into France, Italy where cafes on the street were common and almost alien to British. Now with travel being open to everyone, these experiences have taken place over decades and now are absorbed into our own British culture.

Yet you can go into any town in the UK even Manchester’s great ST Anne’s square and find just ONE street café that closes at 7pm.

Towns and cities in the UK are suffering but maybe the suffering is dues to an inexperienced mindset that is still taking decisions for shopkeepers that need to be guided?

Now the government has introduced an expert called Mary Portas who has compiled a report with 28 recommendations to help towns and cities thrive.

It’s an interesting report that I don’t want to criticize yet it fails to address the modern mindset of the 21st-century person. It is created and written through the eyes of the old school town and city shopkeeper whilst it really needs sharper, more up-to-date brain thinking the process through very carefully.

Yes people never change, humans are still human being yet habits are formed through experiences and the new habit puts the high street way down the line of any old buying habits.

It’s clear the old ways, for now, are dead. I say for now because it also appears habits and mankind’s habits can be cyclical in approach so what has been can come back. However I doubt it with towns and you can throw as much cash as you like at them, bring in as many bullet points as you like but the reality is unless they feed the mindset of the buyer the town will never win through physical changes.

Shops are an experience and the whole process needs to be carefully thought about from the moment the buying decision has been made in the mind to the end process of thinking the buyer for making the purchase.

In a world that has become more and more bespoke, custom built and fast, service needs to support the way people think rather than the way the service providers think. The way of the provider is dead, the way of the buyer is now king and unless that way is fed in healthy productive and sell-able way towns will continue to fail.

Salon Failing? Salon Marketing? Inner Image

More and more people love the community, the tribe the group or gang. Facebook and social media might have removed direct connection in some people’s minds but the reality is it has created more connection. The social media effect is that the tribe meets online only to meet more often offline. Where do they go to do that, into a town? If they all meet in a town they have to by-pass all the hassle that are thrown in front of them again which is parking, travel and cost. Yet if we remove the barriers and make it more of an EXPERIENCE people don’t mind doing the travel.

The same can be added to shops and shop experience by simply asking people what they want from them rather than trying to give them things we think they might want from us.

In Manchester, there is a café out of hundreds of cafes. I love it. They create custom sandwich’s that are unique, delicious, flavor packed and it all takes place inside an old stone bank type building. The price is good yet I don’t care about the process when the experience is good. And here’s the thing – you can walk into most cafes at lunchtime in Manchester to get a sandwich and even grab a seat pretty easily.

In this café you have to stand in a line that takes forever and then make a choice of breads, rolls, meats fillings and more until you stand at the side and await your feats.

Here’s’ the thing.

It’s cool so you feel cool.

It’s hip so you feel hip.

It’s sexy so you feel sexy.

It’s happening so you feel like its all happening.

Clothes are good of the customers.

Business is being passed back and to.

It’s just a sexy cool feel, I love it and the food is fantastic.

In other words… total experience!

Now the chain cafes are also good but don’t have the edge like these guys.

They have thought about it and why? Because they are all young in the shop and give buyers what THEY WANT from their own buying experience in a café.

Cool place, massive sandwich, flavor-loaded, and great atmosphere. By the way, I can tell this place has been set-up on shoestring yet… try get a seat there at lunchtime and if you do it’s a moment of luck!

Innovation: Break some rules and dare to be different. This is a custom built world. Yes, people want the safety of a brand but they love the genius of new.

21st-century thinking: tap into the mindset of today not yesterday. Yesterday and all its thinking’s have past, people are very different in their thought processes today.

Tribal offerings: Create a tribe of community atmosphere where people want to go and hang out. Make it cool and happening. Make it so people want to hang out, sit around, and feel good about being in the shop.

Easy is good but hard is good also: make it really easy for them to buy but if its hard to buy make sure you have nerdy experts on hands that can talk like a child with passion, make it easy to understand and let your buyer know they would die for one of the products.


I loved buying my iPhone from my Apple store. I got excited about buying my MacBookPro in the Apple store. I almost had an orgasm thinking about going into Apple, ordering a 27 inch Mac with every possible add-on.

It’s so cool, you walk in talk to a nerd covered in tattoos, the atmosphere or the vibrational feel or mood is almost electric, the nerd knows everything, he or she is passionate and they know everyone you want an answer to. You chat on a stool or standing in the middle of what almost feels like a starship from star wars and they don’t even say, ‘would you like to buy one’. You have to say to them. ‘Can I take one today?’ In fact, the truth is you don’t say I want one you know you want one the second you read or hear about them on or any other tech crunch website. But when you arrive you are then in the tribe and frankly, it’s cool.

You see they know what guys want in the 21st century. They know how buyers think. Their shops are packed to the limit. They sell high-end products without trying to sell anything. Going into the store is an experience and let me ask you; have you ever seen and apple store quiet? Have you ever seen an Apple store close down? Have you even seen an Apple store trying really hard to sell their latest product? No, they create according to the mindset, tap into the mindset and give people WHAT THEY WANT. It’s a very cool experience!

I took one of my boys to get a new Amp for his bass guitar. This shop is on the edge of Manchester. Now over the past 35 years I have bought a lot of guitars and been in a lot of guitars shops but I have never been in a music store that has a full-blown stage with a drum kit, bass, leads guitar set-up and microphone for a singer.

You go in there with your mates, your mates are the band, you ask to try a new bass but you can all go on the stage and play songs to try it out. You can play a full gig if you want to do a full gig. Brilliant!

The store (PMT Manchester) is always packed. THAT’S an experience. Interesting though, Forsyth’s music store in the same city, you rarely see anyone in there and when I have been in are almost scared to touch anything.

Have you seen inside Google offices online? No wonder they are doing incredible stuff. Have you seen inside the Facebook offices? Again… genius!

So high streets, what’s the solution?

Remove the power of the high street from those in black suits that must go over 37 meetings before one of them can say yes or no.

Give the high streets to thinkers, innovators and those tapped into the minds of the 21st century human. Those that understand, they get it, they are tapped in, tuned in and know what is going on.  Install a team of thinkers that go back to basics and go through every last step of the buyers mindset.

Give it to those that can think on their feet, make fast decisions, remove the barriers and create buzz.

Today’s world is very different to yesterdays yet we are trying to run todays high streets on yesterdays ideas and systems.

It’s not that hard.

Don’t have a hair salon, create a look good, feel the amazing experience.

Don’t sell guitars; create a rock n roll experience.

Don’t sell clothes, create a total makeover experience.

Don’t sell computer parts, sell cool gadgets that come from other planets and spaceships!

Stop just selling and start creating experiences. Give people what they really want not what we think they might need.

If you want your salon packed you need to start thinking different. This is no longer 1986 it’s 2012 and people think very different.

If we can help you please ask, Alan loves consulting and helping salons just like yours.

We can

Turnaround salons fast!

Are you struggling?

Consult your business with Alan. Alan Forrest Smith can offer over 200 ideas on salon marketing innovation for the 21st century buyer. Click here to ask.

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