Unit 11 The Business of Brows
"It’s not whether the glass is half empty or half full, it’s who is pouring the water."
This is a quote from Mark Cuban's book How To Win At The Sport Of Business. He goes on to say that, "The key in business and success at any endeavor is doing your best to control your destiny. You can’t always do it, but you have to take every opportunity you can to be as prepared as—and ahead of—the competition as you possibly can be. Take the lead, and you can control your own destiny."
You obviously have taken the next steps to become the best brow artist that you can be. Now, I will give you a few real world examples and suggestions on how to grow your business and attract the very best clients.
So, who is pouring your water?
Branding Yourself, Your Service and Your Business
Branding, or creating a well known image for yourself and your service, can be intimidating. But it is really not that hard, it just takes a little time and thought.
After years of trying various methods to get my business noticed, I can tell you what worked for me and what didn't.
The first step is positioning yourself as an expert at what you do. Not just doing brows well, but being the most knowledgeable person in your region that is an expert eyebrow designer.
This can be done in many ways, one of which is to earn a certification, like the EyebrowMBA. This tells clients that you have mastered your particular niche, and that they can trust your skills. Taking classes that offer a certification that you use in your branding efforts is a great way to help convey your expert status. And remember, you do not have to know everything about eyebrows to be an expert, but you definitely have to know more than most!
Another way to promote your expert skills is client endorsement. When a client compliments your work, ask if you may quote them. Get five or so great quotes from current clients about how they love their brows. Create and frame a simple flyer detailing your specialty brow service and what clients are saying about it.
This method works, I have proven it in my own business. At every opportunity, if a client praised my work, I would ask them if I could quote them. I used their first name and last initial. I posted these "raves" on my website and had the best one on my business card. It is a good way to have a bit of control over your reviews and people love it when others have already "tested you out" for them!
Being a "specialist" or focusing on one niche service is another way to establish your reputation as an expert for that service. My desire was always to be an eyebrow artist. So while I still needed to offer other services when I began my career as an esthetician, I kept brows front and center until I was able to fill my book only with brow design sessions.
You should consider a personal business website. Our industry's professionals are transient in nature. Which means that we often don't stay at a salon or spa for very long. So with that in mind, you should always be establishing your own reputation and expert status. This way, when you leave one salon, past customers will easily be able to find out what you are up to.
When developing your website, be sure that you focus on you and your skills, not where you are working. Your website will promote you exactly the way you want to be promoted, not how your employer wants to promote you. And since your website is yours, you can keep your reputation and followers in tact as you move from one job to the next.
Get personal business cards with your website information, and pass them out to clients, if your current employer will allow it. You may also want to promote any specials that you are offering at your current salon on your website, if your employer will allow.
And websites can be in other forms. Facebook is easy and free to use as a personal business website. Facebook will also allow you to answer questions from current and potential clients. I have a friend who dropped a traditional website format and opted for Facebook, which has given her better results and more clients! But keep in mind that Facebook will require daily attention and postings, a traditional website will not.
Now that you have established your expert status, you have to follow up with an amazing service. Be sure that you really are the best you can be. Constantly refine your skills and try to learn something new. Achieving expert status means that you need to always deliver what you promise, so be prepared to do so.
"BEAUTY IS NOTHING BUT THE PROMISE OF HAPPINESS"
When branding your services, you no longer want to talk about you and your accomplishments. You now want to focus on what the client is going to receive and how they will feel once they have had their brows done by you.
Don't make the mistake of selling yourself to the client at this point. When money changes hands, it is all because the client sees value in what they will be receiving and they anticipate feeling good once they make the purchase.
If you describe in "emotional detail" what the client will receive, you will automatically brand your service. For example, instead of saying "Brows will be shaped according to face shape", say "We will perform a detailed facial features and bone structure analysis to determine the perfect brow shape just for you". Can you see the difference? It is not about what you are doing, it is about focusing on the client, what they will receive and ultimately how your service will make them feel.
When I was interviewed for an article in a regional newspaper along with another brow artist, she focused solely on the method of hair removal she used (threading) while I focused on how I shaped brows for each individual client and the expert sculpting techniques I used, not on how the hair would be removed from the follicle. I received so many calls from ladies to schedule because they liked how I described what they would be receiving (a brow customized just for them) and not because of the method I used to remove eyebrow hair.
At the time, clients were waiting months for their first appointment. But it did not matter, because the description of my service made them feel a certain way, and they were sure it would be worth the wait. This also helped me to position myself as the brow expert in town.
Creating an emotional response to the description of your service offerings will be half the battle to attracting more clients.
The combination of your reputation as an expert and creating emotional excitement for your services will ultimately brand your business. Putting it all together is what will set you apart from the competition. YOU are your business. Your SERVICES are your business. Once you brand yourself and your services, your business will automatically have its own branding. You will be the consumer's first choice for what you have to offer and you will have positioned your business at the front of the pack!
Sometimes you will be the first in your market for what you have to offer and sometimes you will be the best. Try to be both if you can. Being first, you can set the bar high for others that follow you. Being the best does the same thing. Being the first and only salon to focus on brows in my region was very helpful. It also helped me gain the reputation as the best.
Pricing your Service
Your rate may be the first introduction that a potential client will have to your business. They may form an opinion about your service before they are even able to try it for themselves. There is a definite correlation between your rate and the type of client you attract. If people do not question your rate every once in awhile, it may be too low.
Although you may not be comfortable with this suggestion initially, price your service higher than what you feel you should. Why? Because it is very difficult to raise prices dramatically once you have a loyal clientele.
Do some research. What does the best salon in your area charge for the service you will offer? When I started my business, I researched which salon was charging the most, then I charged double that. I wish I would have charged even more. Why? Because now I can command up to six times the amount that the premier salons in town charges. If I would have been a bit bolder, I could have been making much more money while doing the same amount of work. And the salon that I originally used as a guide for my initial pricing raised their rates after I became a player in the market, thus proving to me that I could have charged more right out of the gate.
Now I find it difficult to raise my rates dramatically on my best, loyal customers. Who does that hurt? Me. My current services could bring in far more revenue, but I started at what I thought was the top of my market. What I learned was that as your reputation builds, people will pay much more than you would ever expect. So...find your competition, double their price (at least) and then add $5. You will find it easier to raise your rates at regular intervals if you start on the high end of the market.
Be sure you are competent at your new style of service before you start charging more. Don't announce to your current clients that you are using new techniques on them. Become proficient and then rename your service with the higher pricing. Remember, we practice on our clients everyday. Once you feel you have mastered the new techniques, then decide on the new price structure for yourself. If you find it difficult to charge your old, loyal clients the new rate at first, begin by bumping them up in price by $5, and charge your higher rate only for new clients. Then steadily, in intervals that you are comfortable with, increase the rate for your old clients again. The first salon I worked at was a large, corporate run business. So when the stylists rates were raised, the client was told that the stylist got a promotion. This made the sting of the new pricing a little less painful for the client. You have to think of it that way as well - we only get a raise by raising our rates.
Determining Length of Appointment
You want to give outstanding service. Sometimes that takes time. You will be putting many new skills to work for you once you have completed the EyebrowMBA course. These new skills will add time to your service.
When I first started, my higher rates allowed me to spend more time with each client. But when I broke down the service, basically I was only making what I would be making in a salon doing less than stellar brows - I was doubling my rate, but also taking twice as long to complete the service. That meant I was making the same amount of money, not making more. Keep that in mind as you are working on your rate structure. If you spend more time with your client, charge accordingly.
Here is an example broken down for you in dollars and time:
Your brow service costs $30 and takes 30 minutes. A typical salon charges $15 for a 15 minute service. So you are not making more money, but you are giving more quality time to your client and doing less clients per day for the same money.
Now, if you charge $30 and take only 20 minutes, then you are bringing in $90 per hour or $30 dollars more an hour than if you were at a typical salon, but you only had to do 3 clients and not 4. So you are making more money and doing less clients.
You also have to decide if you will spend more time with and charge a different rate for first time clients vs. established clients. You may need to take twice the amount of time with a new client, so you might want to have a first time shaping rate. It is all up to you and your salon as to whether this type of pricing structure will work, but I do highly recommend it.
Advertising and Publicity
What will be the difference between advertising and publicity for your business? It may vary, depending on what type of advertising you do and what type of publicity you get.
I have found that publicity is far better than advertising. But, advertising gives you more access to columnists and editors.
When I first opened my studio, I had to find a way to attract the right client. I tried two things; advertising and direct mail.
I chose to advertise in a high end publication in my region. A glossy magazine that had a good reputation for catering to a more affluent clientele. I took out the biggest ad I could afford (which was about 2 inches x 4 inches) and waited for the clients to start knocking down my door! Well, that didn't happen. But, the few clients that did come in from the ad were high quality, and loved the service.
When I had the opportunity to take out an "advertorial" in this magazine, I jumped at the chance. An advertorial is really just an ad you pay for, but it is disguised as a little feature story in a special advertising section. Mine was in a section that focused on plastic surgeons. A writer at the magazine went onto my website, grabbed all of the best little quotes I had on my site and created the advertorial. It was great! It was the first thing I could frame and post on the wall at my studio. No one but me really knew it wasn't an actual feature story, and I used that to my advantage.
While I was doing all of this advertising, I had a client who was a marketing executive. Of course I picked her brain while she was in my chair. I told her I was advertising with this publication and that they did a "Best Of" issue every year. I told her how I would love to be considered, but knew how small my business was. She gave me the best advice I have received as a business owner. She said that since I was an advertiser, write a letter to the editor, tell her I was an advertiser and ask for exactly what I wanted. I did, and guess what? It worked! I wrote a letter introducing myself, mentioned that I was an advertiser for many months and asked to be considered as a candidate for the special issue. I ended up be being named a "Best Of" winner for that year.
So, although the advertising itself did not produce stellar results, getting the editor's attention was more than worth the costs.
I also advertised in another local magazine that focused primarily on fashion and social events, and had no luck at all getting quality clients. Once again, I "asked" the editor for a small article focusing on one of my products (they were unwilling to feature my services), and did get that. It did not result in any sales. But once again, I got an article I could hang in my studio and began to grow my media kit.
Please remember, that much of what you read in magazines is there because the focus of the article is about an advertiser or their products. If you can afford it, it may be a good way to get some attention, but it can be a huge expense if you are just starting out. All of my profits went to advertising for many, many months. **Just as an aside, I worked another job for several years (not beauty related) while starting my business, as I needed to bring in an income.**
Direct mail is also an option. But the return on direct mail may be 1-3%. I chose to do a postcard mailer, within a 5 mile radius of my studio to women between 30 and 55 years old with a household income above $75,000. I got two clients from this mailer that went out to several hundred people. Once again, a very expensive way to get two clients.
With advertising, you are paying to be seen. You may have to try different publications to see if you get different results. A newspaper may attract a different type of client than a high end, glossy local magazine. But be warned, there is a very good chance that no matter what type of advertising you do, you will lose money. Your advertising rep will tell you there is no guarantee that your ad will attract customers, but if you just keep advertising, you will eventually turn the corner and see gains from the ads. My reps told me that most people stop advertising a few months before they would begin to see results. Really? I always found that to be the world's worst sales pitch. Basically, you want me to keep hoping that "this will be the ad that brings them in" so I will continue to write my checks. They also told me it may easily take a year or more to see results.
If you choose to advertise, be sure to include a special offer in the ad. That way, you will have no problems tracking exactly how many clients your ad brings through the door. When your sales rep asks how many clients you received from your ad, you will have real numbers to pass along to him or her.
One advantage to advertising is it will get you in the door of a publication in which you would like to have a write up. If you are a consistent advertiser, be sure to ask you sales rep for what you really want...a feature in their publication. They can then mention it to staff writer or editors and you may just end up with a small feature story.
Now let's look at the group discount sites, such as Groupon. Ask 10 people about their experience with this type of promotion and you will get 10 different answers. It seems that those who use this type of advertising either love it or hate it, there is no in between.
Most of the Groupon type promotions work like this: You offer your service for at least 50% off to the group's subscribers. Then, you keep half and give Groupon half of the money from the sale of your promotion. So ultimately, you will still earn 25% of the original cost of your service to obtain a new client.
Now, some estheticians think that this is a great thing, they still can take in some revenue while purchasing advertising. When you just take out an ad in a publication, many may see it, but few may come through your door. With the Groupon promotion, you should be guaranteed to get far more people in the door. So that is good, if you can take the revenue hit while having a full book. Remember, you will probably be fully booked, but only taking in 25% of what you normally would.
Once people are in your door, it will be your opportunity to wow them...and up sell them. No point in doing all this work for little pay and not making it work for you. Be sure that you have a new package deal to offer. Something that will keep them coming back. Some estheticians offer the same deal that the customer received from Groupon for one more session, but they do not have to split it with the coupon site. What to offer will be what is best for you and your business.
Now, not every Groupon user will come back to you. Some are always looking for the next deal, and only the next deal. But if you can hook someone with your fabulous service, then it may be an option you might want to try.
When doing these types of promotions, be sure that you can handle the high volume of traffic. Many people will call the last week of the promotion and expect to get an appointment. And many coupon sites stipulate that you must honor the coupon even after its expiration date. Also keep in mind that these coupon sites push online client reviews. When dealing with bargain shoppers, online reviews can backfire on you. They want the moon for very little money, and if you don't give it to them, they will shout it loudly all over the web.
Another thing to keep in mind is your brand. My philosophy is to desperately try to never discount my bread and butter service. I never, ever want to be the cheapest esthetician on the block for anything. But, I have heard new estheticians say that this is a great way to get real practice on real clients and still make a little money. It's like paid training. And I think this theory has some real value. You could perfect techniques, work on your time and practice your up selling skills. Not a bad trade.
Another question you may have is whether Groupon is better for employers or employees? Employers definitely. It costs them very little to drive business through their doors. But if you are an employee, you may get the short end of the stick. It's one thing to split revenue with Groupon, but if the owner takes a cut as well, you could be taking a big hit. Selling the coupons is effortless for owners, but it will be the employee that has to provide fulfillment of the services.
So let's sum up Groupon type advertising pros and cons:
Pros - opportunity to gain potential repeat clients, good for new estheticians to get in practice on real clients, good way to get people to know that you exist, costs almost nothing out of pocket, gets people in the door to actually try your services.
Cons - Lots of work for little money, attracts a type of client you may not want, you must be prepared for a crush of client traffic, many may be bargain hunters and will not return, you must sell them on coming back to you before they walk out the door and it can damage your reputation as a high end esthetician.
And don't forget to track your rate of returning clients to see if the promotion was a success. So many forget to (or are too lazy to) do this and this is really the only part that counts toward truly building your business.
One last thing, from all of my reading, LivingSocial may have a better reputation than Groupon for attracting a more desirable client.
Now let's talk about publicity. Publicity is for the most part free. Publicity also gives you a third party endorsement. What I mean by this is that someone other than you is talking about your business in print. Someone is writing about you, which makes people think that you must be great if they are writing about you. Sounds crazy, but it is true.
Sometimes publicity comes out of the blue, sometimes it is because you have contacted journalists and pitched a story and sometimes it is because you are a current advertiser and you ask them to do a feature story on you. No matter what path you take, publicity can rock your world... and it may be absolutely free.
If you score an article, you may even begin a relationship with the journalist. I had an feature in a local paper, hit it off with the journalist, and when I had a special event at my studio featuring a celebrity makeup artist, he was the first person I called to see if he would like to cover it. He did, and my studio got a mention once again and was then linked to this big time artist in people's minds. Why did a Hollywood makeup artist to come to my studio? I carried his product line. Sometimes you just have to pay to play.
What really worked for my business was the publicity my studio received. How did it happen? Remember my marketing client? She offered up her contact list. It was nothing I could not have put together myself over time, but she had the local news outlets, newspaper columnists, etc. all together in a little email database.
I sent out a press release about a class I had taken in New York City on eyebrow design. Out of the 300 or so names that were in the email database, exactly one person responded, only to tell me that he did not do stories about local business owners taking classes. I thanked him for his feedback, but guess what else I did? I basically asked him for what I really wanted! In my email thanking him, I mentioned how the local paper never took notice of how unusual my business was, and that the location of my business was even more unusual (I am in a 200 year old house right across the street from a large historic site and museum). Well, it worked! I got him to ask me more questions and eventually through many, many emails teasing him with little tidbits about what a fun story my little business would make, he took the bait!
The story ran on the front page of the lifestyle section, with tons of pictures and my expert advice! It was a huge win..and a huge turning point for my business.
Two days before the above mentioned story ran, another local paper called out of the blue asking to interview me. When an editor from this paper saw a threading booth at the mall, she asked one of her writers to find out what "all this brow stuff" was about. Since I had positioned myself on the web through my website as the place to go for brows in my region, the writer found my salon easily and gave me a call. After the writer interviewed me on the phone, the editor followed up with a question or two. I took the opportunity to tell her more about my expertise, and sure enough my studio ended up featured in the article with pictures, front page placement and a video on the paper's website! The ease of finding my website through a Google search along with getting the editor's ear and just "asking" for more of what I wanted proved to be just what my little business needed.
Both newspaper articles and the "Best Of" magazine feature I told you about earlier all came out within a two week period. I was booked solid for months out, and in fact began to get so booked regulars could not get in, and my legendary wait list began. Now, clients wait more than 2 years to get their first appointment with me and pay as much as $175 for that privilege. For the last several years, I have run close to 100% client retention, so I do not take on new clients very often.
What is best for your situation? It may be hard to tell. Sometimes, you have to try both to see what works. But I would always recommend trying to get free publicity a bit at a time. It may only take one article to introduce you to thousands of local ladies who may not even know that they were looking for your services.
Attracting the Right Client
We attract clients that are similar to ourselves. So the first thing to ask yourself is, "Am I a good client?". What I mean is, do you respect your own service provider's (for example your hairdresser's) time and not arrive late? Do you answer your personal phone with a smile, even though you do not know who is on the other end? Do you appreciate quality service, or would you rather get a deal?
As I have watched stylists in salons, I have noticed a definite mirroring of personalities when it comes to their clients. A high end stylist who is professional and attentive will attract clients that treat them professionally and have attention to detail. The stylist who stays out late partying and comes in late to work will attract a client that likes that same lifestyle...and they will usually be running late for their appointment!
I do not tolerate late clients and will turn them away. So if my clients are running even a minute late, I usually will get a call telling me just that. My clients even re-fold the toilet paper into the decorative triangle I make at the end of the rolls! They are detail oriented, and so am I. If you are doing brows, you had better be.
If you are attracting a less than spectacular client, the first thing to look at is what energy you are putting out into the world. I know this sounds a bit new age-y, but it may be true.
Another reason to not be the the cheapest esthetician in town is that you will attract a client that expects to pay more for quality. Someone who wants a $5 brow wax may not come to you, and that is OK. There are plenty of salons that do inexpensive services and attract a budget conscious clientele. If you set a higher rate, you'll attract a client that will be loyal to the outstanding service and attention to detail that you provide.
You also need to align yourself with the best of the best in your town. If you work at a low to mid-range salon, you will attract that type of client. If they only charge $25 for a haircut, there is no way the client will see the value in a $30 eyebrow design. It just won't happen. If you are working for someone else, try to work at the best salon that will have you and your stellar brow services.
Do you currently have a client that comes in like clockwork, never misses an appointment, compliments you and tips you well? I bet she has like minded friends. This is where you can develop a personalized referral program just for her. Maybe give her a little extra bonus over and above your normal referral bonus when she sends you a client. Quality attracts quality, that goes for the professional company you keep as well as the social circle your top-of-the-line clients run with.
Remember that the branding of your services will also attract high end clients if you have set it up that way. Constantly monitor your public image to be sure it is in line with the customer base you are aiming for. If your business cards and website are not sleek or are outdated, it is time to polish them up.
If you have not downloaded our PDF called Filling Your Book With Eyebrow Clients from the Extra! Extra! Section of the Main Curriculum page, do that now.
Putting It All Together
Below, we will go over a few things that may help you get started on building your new eyebrow empire!
Publicity can be challenging to get, but it is not impossible. First you need to know what you want to gain publicity for. Is it a special event? Are you offering a new service that absolutely no one else in your area has, such as threading?
Most reporters are not interested unless you have something really new and unique. And initially, you may have to pay to play. You want a write up in the local paper? You may have to take out a big ad. Unfortunately, that is just the way it works, not only on the local level, but on the national level as well.
First, you will need to decide what is unique about you. Are you the first true eyebrow artist in your town? Or the first eyebrow threader? Once you decide what it is you would like to have publicized, your next step is to write a press release. Here is a site that will give you a crash course in writing one.
Take your time when writing your materials. Reporters get many press releases across their desks, and you need to make sure yours stands out.
The next thing you will need to decide is to whom you will send the press release. Go through all of the local papers, magazines and news station websites. You will usually find the emails of the staff writers and editors. Choose one from each media outlet that is the best fit to do a story on you. Look for style or lifestyle writers. You may need to look at some of their past work to be sure you are contacting the right person. Then send your release off to them, and cross your fingers! Send the press release only ONE TIME. If they want to write about you, they will let you know.
Don't be disappointed if you get no response. Wait a month or two, and write a new release about another interesting aspect of your business. You may send to hundreds of reporters before someone finally take interest.
Be sure to casually mention to your very best clients that you are trying to get a bit of local publicity. You never know who might be able to lend a hand introducing you to the right people!
When someone takes your press release bait, be ready to shine! You should have a mini press kit on hand - a short bio about yourself, a few paragraphs detailing your business, high quality photos of your salon and of you working and a head shot of yourself. You may also want to have a tips sheet handy, for example you could have "5 Steps to Red Carpet Brows". Be creative and be prepared when opportunity knocks.
Often, salon professionals do fundraisers for local charities. Sometimes, this will lead to press. I have found that when doing events or donating products and services for auctions, etc. it generates little to no exposure for my studio. I have done ladies' events where I did free onsite services, but no one ever became a client from these events. I also did what I had hoped would be a big fundraiser for a local arts organization. I got a write up in a local magazine (with my target market as readership), posted it on local calendars, had the organization hand out glossy flyers to all of its supporters, etc. Then, only one person attended the event. I lost an entire day of revenue, paid for all the marketing material and had to make a donation myself.
Be careful as you donate your time and products to everyone who asks. If you have an interest in the charity, by all means give your time. But be cautious if you are only doing it to gain exposure, because it very often leads to no new clients or press for you and a lot of lost time. Take notice that it is the well known salons that get press when doing these types of events, simply because they already have relationships with local media outlets and reporters.
Making Your Business Flow
I use two services that have made working alone a much more pleasurable experience.
I allow my clients to book online. It saves me tons of time returning phone calls and playing phone tag. The service I have found to be the simplest and most economical is called Genbook. Check it out at www.genbook.com
All of my clients LOVE being able to change or schedule an appointment 24/7 and not have to wait to reach me during my business hours.
Phone calls initiate to my business phone (which is a cell phone) and are then routed to my Grasshopper service. I have multiple extensions to chose from, depending on what the caller's need is. It also allows those with appointments today to get right through to me. It has tons of flexibility, and allows me to not have to answer the phone every time it rings. With my online booking, I don't receive an extreme amount of calls, but having the phone system has been a great addition to my one woman show, and it makes me sound like a much larger business.
Getting Marketing Materials
There are many places to create and print your marketing materials. Most large office supply centers can get you started.
Here, you can create your own business cards, brochures, flyers, banners you name it. It is easy to coordinate products to create your own branded look, and it won't break the bank! Just get minimum quantities to start, because you may end up changing the look multiple times before you settle on your final look.
Building a brand and a business is hard work, you have you be thinking about it 24/7. But if it really is what you want, it can be worth it.
Good luck with building your very own eyebrow empire!!
Pamela Is a Featured Artist with