Friday, December 18, 2009

Out with the old – in with the New Year

It seems like someone pushed the fast forward button and soon it will be the new year. Some of us would rather forget that 2009 ever happened and are ready to start with a clean slate. It is always good to re-energize and get motivated for the new year, however this past year taught us many lesson that we can bring forward to create a successful new year!

Right Size
All of us had to take a hard look at our budgets and make every penny count. Keep this focus as you plot out next year’s expenses. Monitor your inventory levels and carry the items that are continually moving. Work with your distributor rep for staggered payment terms and discounts for pre-payments. Try to keep a just-in-time inventory level by rotating your shipments and only buying what you need when you need it. This right size methodology also applies to your staff. If you business has decreased, right size your operations to fit your service levels. Having stylist or receptionist sitting around is costing you money. Chart hours and appointments levels to find the right mix for your business. Make it a priority to track these areas and adjust as needed with seasonal flows.

Innovate
Doing the same thing gets the same results. This year creativity counted. Stay inventive by developing new promotions, events, and other marketing related ideas. If you need help coming up with creative promotion ideas, reach out to our experts! We are happy to assist in cause-related marketing events, promotions ideas from ready to go gift sets, postcard ideas to seasonal packaging. The mission is to create interest and captivate your clients to keep your business top of mind.

Positive Attitude
I’m a firm believer that positive energy brings positive results. Worrying, fearing doom and gloom, or dreading each bill only makes things worse. Being proactive with a defined plan for success will ease the worry and keep everyone on the same page. If your team has high energy and makes you atmosphere positive, clients will pick on up that and enjoy their experience more.

Celebrate
Everyone seems to feel they have to work harder, longer, and smarter. Take time out to celebrate achieving small goals such adding a certain amount new clients this month, or obtaining a set goal for pre-bookings or retail sales. Celebrations don’t have to be extravagant. Order lunch in, go on a coffee run, or giving out a few gift cards are all simple ways to show appreciation. Tracking smaller goals will keep you on the right path for your larger targets. Recognizing your staff's hard work helps keep them motivated.

Carve out some time to think back on the lessons you and your business learned this year. Plot out your goals and promotional plans for the new year incorporating the steps above. Remember we only see the light when we know darkness. Use last year as your spring board for success in 2010!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Two Powerful Words - Thank You!

There are two magical words that can brighten a day, strengthen relationships, and can grow your business. There is a lot of power packed into the two tiny words - Thank You!

Here are easy ways to harness the power of “thank you” to build your business:

The Spoken Word
Make sure your guests are greeted with a thank you. "Ms. Smith, we thank you for your visit today and are so happy you are here!" This puts your client at ease and feeling valued as they start their appointment. Reflect your gratitude upon their departure. "Ms. Smith it is always a pleasure to see you. We appreciate your visit and look forward to seeing you again on (pre booked appointment)." This seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed at how many fail at this small detail.

Handwritten Notes

Add the wow factor to a new customer experience! After a customer’s first visit, send them a handwritten note of thanks. With emailing and texting, no one takes time to put pen to paper these days. Provide a note that is a reflection of your brand (elegant gold for a high end spa, recycled kraft for an organic business, or hot pink for the trendy make up studio). Offer a coupon or free gift with their next visit. The method here is to build the client relationship from a possible one hit wonder to a loyal client.

The Just Because Gift
How long has Mrs. Johnson been a client of yours? Do you take for granted that she is on time for her appointment every 6 weeks? Why not surprise loyal customers with a thank you for their business gift. Present a small gift at the end of their next appointment, mail a small goodie box, or invite them to a VIP event. Gifts don't have to cost a lot to mean a lot. You can elegantly package trial samples in an organza bag, pillow box tied with a bow, or create a small gift basket. You can also provide a discount off services or retail products. Many time loyal clients are upset by the discounts lavishly thrown at new customers when their loyal business seems forgotten. Customers will appreciate that you value their repeate business and will keep coming to that pre-booked appointment.

Celebrate
Customers aren't the only ones to stay thank you too. What about your staff that is dealing with the front lines everyday? They are your voice and are your brand. Or what about your distributor or local vendors you use frequently? Why not host a staff/vendor party one night or invite them to a networking happy hour. It can also be as simple as ordering a pizza for lunch one day, sending over some bagels, or giving out some gift cards as a thank you for a job well done.

Especially in the time of thanksgiving, remember to say thank you to those that help your business grow. The small little words can have a big impact!

(As our thank you gift to our blog readers, receive FREE SHIPPING on your order of $250 or more by 12/1/09. Enter Promo Code FS9)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holiday Retail Rev-Up!

Retail sales are one of the professional beauty industry's profit centers and ideal tool for bottom line growth. Here are some proven tactics to increase retail product movement and maximize seasonal sales!

Ready-to-go-Gifts
Perfectly lined up shampoo and conditioner bottles look elegant and clean, however they usually only encourage a single product sale. Create ready-to-go gifts by using vinyl bags, holiday packaging, or paper shopping bags with holiday tissue paper. Add complete hair or skin product systems. Design various price points for all types of buyers. Packaged sets create a higher perceived value because the customer is purchasing a group of products. These sets are no fuss ready to go gifts. Buyers simply place it under the tree!

Gift Cards/ Certificates
Gift Cards and Certificate are the #1 holiday gift item! These no-brainer gifts ensures the recipient receives exactly what they want. Display these at your reception areas and instruct staff to talk them up. Offer free gifts with the purchase of a gift card or gift certificate. This free gift can be an add on gift for the gift recipient or as a little something extra for the buyer -- a win-win! For more details on gift cards, check out my previous blog on this powerful retail item!

Magic Table
Department stores have been using this trick forever. Place a draped table in a high traffic point to create drama. Set up a sampling area on the table where clients can try before they buy. These tables are also an ideal location to place those ready-to-go-gift sets. Use acrylic displays to add additional depth and interest. Add try me signs and holiday messaging such as “Holiday Gift Giving Center”. Make it a focal point in your retail area and sales will follow.

Dress Up
You are in the business of selling image so create the holiday look that matches your company's personality. Decorate with tasteful holiday displays in your window and retail areas. Small promotional signs can be placed at your stylists stations – ideal for mentioning gift cards or holiday specials. Reception areas should display gift cards and service menus. Holiday decorations should fit your d├ęcor and business image. Too much holiday is overkill and takes away from the professional ambience, but too little doesn’t sing of the season and encourage customers to see your products as ideal gifts. Balance is key.

A little planning and promotion can go a long way. Please share your successes or other additional ideas with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace. Together we can create a successful holiday season. Happy Selling!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The holidays already?

The air is a bit crisper and the days are a bit shorter. You know what that means – the holidays are just around the corner! Does the simple mention of this make you break out in a cold sweat? Does your blood pressure rise and panic sets in? I have the magic answer that will instantly calm you – a plan!

Imagine a holiday season where your retail products are fully stocked, you don’t run out of gift cards or packaging, your staff is fully aware of all your promotional offers, and happy customers are filling your store and your register. This can all be yours with a little forethought! Planning your seasonal efforts will ease your stress level and maximize your holiday sales.

Don’t know where to start? Click here to download our free “Checklist for a Successful Holiday Season”!

Our checklists defines when and what items to plan. Sit down with your staff and review the list. This planning doesn’t have to rest only on your shoulders. Assign certain team members specific tasks and hold them accountable. Getting your team on the same page is another benefit to a group meeting. With your whole team working off the same script, everything will flow much smoother even during stressful times.

Still need some help? Our friendly industry experts are here to offer promotional and packaging ideas. Call us toll free at (888) 715-3458 or contact us online (Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Salon Galaxy). Spending a few minutes now can save you many headaches later. Maximize your seasonal sales by having a holiday plan!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cause Related Marketing – Show You Care

Are you stumped on what to do for your next promotion? Are you tired of the same old 10% discount offer receiving minimal results? I have the answer to liven up your promotions and build your business image – Cause Related Marketing!

Cause related marketing is where you tie your promotion efforts to a charity or cause. Causes could range from a special charity like Locks of Love, Breast Cancer Research, or activities such as a fundraiser or community event. Cause-related marketing can be a powerful tool for you connect with customers and your community. Your participation will generate goodwill, improve your visibility, increase customer loyalty, enhance your brand image, provide positive media attention, and increase your business! Customers would rather do business with a company that stands for something beyond profits.

Tips for Successful Cause-Related Marketing Campaigns:

Align with your business

Choose a cause that makes sense for your business. Many in the beauty industry are choosing to support breast cancer research, heart health awareness, locks of love, or cut-it-out domestic abuse programs. Your cause should be something meaningful your business type in order to resonate with your clients and community.

Passion = Success
Pick an event, cause, or charity you are passionate about. You need to be revved up about your cause. Your energy will inspire your internal team and customers. It also enhances the credibility of your efforts because you and your efforts are coming from the heart - sincerity counts!

The How To
Create your own campaign. Offer promotional items (such as awareness bands) as a gift with purchase or present as a token of appreciate for a client’s donation to your cause. Partner with local charities or unite with various national organizations. Many groups offer free marketing materials and kits to get you started. Hold special events and give away awareness related goodie bags full of educational info and how your business is championing the cause.

Still don’t know where to begin? Let us help. Check out our wide variety of our pink ribbon (breast cancer awareness) and red dress (heart health awareness) items. Click here to see our a pdf of our latest awareness catalog or click here to visit our website . If you have a question, call us toll free at 800-824-2247 or tweet with us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/actionbag. Happy Promoting!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Promote your Business

Want to increase your sales? Promotions can help draw attention, build your brand, foster customer loyalty and of course increase your sales!

You might be nodding in agreement. Your business runs typical promotions around the holidays and offers 10% off retail products with the purchase of a service. But are you reaching your customers the way they want to be reach? Are you running inventive promos to get people interested? Here are a few ways to help you create buzz about your business, capture attention, and ultimately get more sales.

Tech Savvy
Use the power of the internet. Everyone is spending more time online from surfing the web to networking on social sites. Place special online only offers on your website and in your tweets, facebook, myspace and beyond. These are free ways to drive traffic to your online activities. They could go viral and everyone will start sharing your offers. Rope in special discounts, free gifts, complimentary service coupons, or promotion codes.

Email Relations
All your clients have email. Are you collecting addresses? Emails are an excellent tool to alert clients of special offers, send out your quarterly newsletter, or roll out a customer survey. You can also link into your website and other social sites. Make the digital connection and start engaging. Make sure it is meaningful, relevant info your clients want or you will be deleted.

Friends and Family Plan
Each one of your clients has a best friend they can’t live without and family members that they always share their latest salon experience with. Use that network to your advantage. Offer friends and family discount packages for clients that refer new customers. Give the original client free products or services as a thank you for sending new business your way. Word of mouth advertising is a glowing testimonial and your original client will be thrill to get some extra perks.

You’ve Got Snail Mail
Fewer items are being mailed these days with the onset of the technology wave. Now is your chance to be noticed in the mail box. You don’t have to spend a lot to have a big impact. Go for inexpensive postcards. There are a ton of providers (including us) that can offer you stock designs and add your unique message. What a wonderful surprise for new customers to receive a thank you note from you. Or what about sending a birthday wish or a just because note to a brighten a current client's day. Postcards can also be powerful promotion tools. Make it look like a coupon and say bring in this card to your next appointment for a discount or free gift.

What’s in your Wallet
Loyalty programs keep customers coming back for more. Offer punch cards or key tags that are punched with each purchase. Give a free gift or extra special discount once the cards are filled. You can also offer VIP cards. Create a winners circle of bronze, gold, platinum clients. Base these categories divisions on number of visits or purchase volume. The benefits increase at each higher level. Make a big deal of your member clients. Use signage talking up the program, tout clients who have moved up the ranks, and share what benefits they recieved. People will want to be an elite member and will do what it takes to get there. Don't forget people open their wallets and purses daily. Talk about repeat brand exposure for your business with your card right there!

Stumped on ideas to promote? Click here to check out our Promotion Planning Calendar to get the creative juices flowing. Creating promotions can be a lot of fun not to mention increase your business!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Boost your Business Image in 5 Easy Steps

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to improve your business image. Small chances can make a big impact. Here are 5 easy steps to improve your business image starting today!

Talk it up
Ask for customer testimonials. These are pure gold when prospective clients are looking for your services. A business can say it is great, but when a customer says you are great it holds more water. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients to share their experiences in your customer surveys, on your website, on your social networking sites or at events. Use their testimonials in your marketing materials such as service menu and your website. Show you are customer approved!

Differentiate Yourself
You need a unique selling proposition to be stand out among your competition. Why should a client use your service over another? It could be your exclusive retail product line, your highly trained stylist or esthetician, or your unique hours of operation. Define what makes you special and tout it!

Improve your Professional Look
You work in an industry that is all about image. Your professional look better play the part. Make sure your logo and salon theme reflect your brand. Your business cards, service menus and packaging are great places to start. These items are the take along marketing pieces that continue to advertise your business long after the client has left your doors. Ask yourself if they are providing the message you want. If the answer is no, you need to update them. It is a minor price to pay to enhance your business status.

Secret Shopper
It can be hard to see the forest through the trees being absorbed in our daily lives. It is good to obtain a fresh perspective. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Have a friend-of-a-friend book an appointment, use your services, and report back on her experience. The devil is in the details and you might be surprised at the a-ha’s you uncover through a fresh pair of eyes.

Rinse Lather and Repeat

You need to be consistent about your brand message. All of your marketing efforts should reflect the same look and feel. Your logo, store signage, salon colors, gift certificates, retail packaging and beyond all should have a common theme. Consistency is vital to creating a strong and memorable brand.

If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask the experts. There are many sources online, local marketing agencies or reach out to us here at Action Bag. A friendly rep would be happy to review your marketing materials. A better business images provides a stronger brand, enhances your professional status, and ultimately leads to more sales!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Press Releases - How To Guide

Press Releases stir up interest in your business and are FREE! They are easy to pull together once you have the format down.

How to create a press release:
• Headline that conveys the topic and grabs attention
• Body Copy - relevant info that fits on one page
• Communicate the who, what, when, where and why
• Add in the extras – pictures, website links, social network sites
• Include company and contact info

Topics to write about :

1) Makeovers
Everyone loves makeover stories! Ask your clients to participate at their next appointment or host an event with a theme. Some ideas: Professional Makeovers to slam dunk your next interview, New Mommy Makeovers, From Granny to Glam. Take before and after shoots and include them with your release.

2) Cause Related Events
Aligning your business to a charity helps a worthy cause and improves your business image. Choose a charity or event you can rally around. Do a breast cancer awareness walk, join the cut-it-out domestic abuse cause, or locks of love. Take pictures of all your activities, add info on your website, promote your charity in your business and with clients.

3) Seasonal Themes
From brides, dads, grads, Christmas and beyond - holidays are excellent events to create excitement and to build promotions around. Host events for new grads, hold VIP days with discounted services for moms on Mother’s Day, or organize a toy drive for holiday season. The more creative the better!

4) Trends
Most beauty businesses are seen as trend setters. You know what is fashionable and looks good. Share your trend info on hot looks for summer, latest bridal hairstyles, men’s cut etc. Become a resource and people will flock for your feedback.

5) Contests
Any contest drives response. Contests can be anything -- Cutest Kid, Ugliest Pet or Best Salon Product. Post entries in your salon to create excitement. Reach out to your community to pick the winner. Offer the winner a gift card for your services, free products or a night out in your town.

6) Timely Topics
During certain time periods, people can’t get enough of some stories. Is your business involved in going green? Talk up your earth friendly efforts. Or are you taking swine flu precautions? Write up what your business is doing to keep clients safe. Stories on point with media blitzes will get editor attention.

7) Staff Updates
Staff promotions can make great PR. Moving to a master stylist or hiring a new Salon Director is newsworthy. It acknowledges your staff member and could drive more business in your door. Include a head shot photo with your release.

8) Unique Product or Service
New products or services can be newsworthy but they need to be unique. Just because you now offer a mini mani-pedi doesn’t get editors jumping to print. If you rolled out a new private label line that is completely organic and 20% of proceeds go to a village in South America, that you will get some interest. Did you launch a new lunch hour spa service that gets the client in and out in 40 minutes? The item has to stand out from the rest to make it meaningful.

Hope this has your creative juices flowing! I recommend creating a template for all your releases. Then just plug in your newsworthy info. The goal is to make your releases easy to read and meaningful for the recipient. Once you complete the release, send to your local newspaper, community news, tv stations or radio shows. Call or email the source to find out the correct contact. PR is a free way to get everyone buzzing about your business. Dive it and try it today!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

FREE Ways to Engage your Customers

Let’s face it – we are all concerned with our pocket books. Fewer clients are coming through your doors. Customers are stretching out appointments. Marketing budgets have shrunk to keep up with cash flow. Negative economic news surrounds us almost every where to turn. What’s a business to do to keep customers engage while keeping an eye on the bottom line?

How about some FREE (or low cost) ways to build customer relationships!

Social Networking
Are you reaching your clients online? Social networking is defined as a web-based community that allows users to interact by sharing ideas, opinions or other content in an online environment. The hottest networks out there are Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or even your own Blog. These are all free to sign up and create your own profile. Any of your staff (even your receptionist) can update these sites daily. Invite your clients to join and start talking. Topics can be anything - services, styles, local events. Simply start the discussion and see where it goes.

Email is another free or low cost way to touch clients. Your messages can highlight salon specials, events, or provide an informational newsletter on your business. Did you roll out a new private label line? Update your credit card policy? Did your master stylist just have a new baby? All of these are great topics to share in an email newsletter. Email and newsletters are excellent marketing vehicles that can drive customers to participate in your social networking efforts. There are many low cost email providers. Check with your website company about email services or drop me a line. I’ll be happy to offer some recommendations.

Community Events
In the summer months many communities host picnics, walks, or fundraisers. Contact your local chamber of commerce or other city associations. Find out how you can be involved. Many events are free for businesses to participate. Host a booth and offer face painting, make up, or hair styling tips. The point is to drum up excitement about you business and get your name out there. Another idea is to partner with local cause-related walks or events. Choose a cause your business can get behind such as breast cancer awareness, locks of love, heart health etc… Start a donation drive at your salon, on your web page, and your social networks. Involvement will enhance your business image and support a worthy cause.

Host VIP Events
Every way you can add value to your clients’ lives is going to make your business shine. Instead of doing a full wine and dine event --stretch your dollars. Offer an Early Bird VIP event. How about a 7:00 am jump starter with coffee and bagels. Ask customers for email addresses or to participate in a customer survey. Provide a special gift to all attendees (those free trial samples taking over your back room). What about a Power Hour Lunch De-Stress Special. Set up a free or scalp massage between noon and one. Provide all attendees a trial sample gift for pre-booking a new appointment. Get creative with this! It doesn’t have to cost a lot to create excitement.

These free and low cost efforts engage customers in your brand. Contact your clients in meaningful ways, seek out their opinions, and creating interesting interaction with your business. Positive energy leads to positive experiences. You will ride out these economic stormy seas stronger than ever and with more loyal clients too!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Planning Mother’s Day Promotions

It is time to start thinking about Mother's Day Promotions. Gift certificates, gift cards, gift baskets, retail bags... Too big a task to tackle on your own? Let us help you! With our unique, stylish packaging solutions and the below tips you can make Mother's Day gift giving a spring breeze for your clients!

The number one gift for mother’s day is the gift of beauty and body services! Research done over the last few months by MarketSmith Inc show that consumers are still buying but they are purchasing strategically. One item they are still buying are gifts. They might be buying a bit less or not as lavishly as a year ago, but they are still going to buy. You need to take advantage of this and profit this holiday.

Gift Cards & Gift Certificates
This is a must. Whether you are doing an elegant paper certificate or the latest plastic gift card, you need to offer this to your clients. You can order special card designs for mother’s day or stick with your standard stock with your color and salon theme. Don’t forget the packaging. Included a stylish pillow bow with a bow, gift card box tied with custom printed ribbon, or a gift card folder sealed with your logoed label. Make it a one-stop-shop and provide the trimmings. Not only does it make it a no-brainer for your clients, but it increases the perceived valued of the gift to the recipient.

Keys to selling more gift cards -- Place them by your reception and check out areas. Arrange them in acrylic displays in various price points or by services. Add signage highlighting your mother’s day gifts at each styling or service station. Place discrete signs in your restroom areas. This plants the seed about the product without staff saying a word. Have signage in your front windows and decorate your retail areas with a Mother’s Day theme. The gift of your services need to be in front of your clients.

Gift with Purchase
Enhance the gift giving experience for both your client and the recipient by adding in some extras. For your top of the line day at the spa gift, provide an elegantly packaged robe embroidered with your spa logo. Use a robe box tied with your logo printed ribbon. For smaller gift amounts, throw in free retail product such as a travel set of your private label skin care line or hair care system. Again package this as a ready-to-go gift set. Use mesh cosmetic bags or vinyl bags. Provide a token of appreciation for the gift giver. Give them a gift bag full of various trial samples. These can be taking over precious inventory space. Plus they might try something they love and buy it next time they come in. Or provide a discount on their next service or rewards of free products. You’ll be amazed at what this little incentive can do for your sales.

Conduct the Orchestra
Have all your staff singing the same tune. Everyone should have buy in that selling gifts for Mother’s Day is a top priority. Provide a script on what to say. “Are you planning something special for the mother’s in your life? Why not take advantage of our gift with purchase program”. Hold weekly sales meetings to coordinate your team’s strategy, progress to date, and any changes you need to make mid-game. Your staff can be a wealth of information because they are on the front lines but they need a vehicle to be heard and feel confident in sharing. Make everyone accountable with a weekly goal. If they achieve your goal, spring for lunch or prizes for the top performers. It could be as simple as a Saturday off.

Wrap up
Bottom line it is all about value. Customers are still buying but they need to feel they are getting the most bang for their buck. Price items appropriately, throw in some extras, talk it up and spring Mother’s Day sales will bloom!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spring Spruce Up!

I don’t know about you, but with daily pummeling of the economic news, unemployment rates, businesses closing doors, I’m ready for to let some sunshine in! It’s time to clear away the winter doldrums and make your business bright and cheery.

Remember clients are coming to you for a reprieve. Your business atmosphere should be upbeat and welcoming. Whether getting their hair or nails done, massage, facial or a cosmetic procedure – their visit is time away from the reality of day to day life. Here are some easy ways to give your business a spring spruce up (and your sales will follow too)!

Makeover Your Look
How boring is it to see the same display with the same items each and every trip to the salon. (I’m not including the wreath and bow you added for the holidays). If you want customers to take an interest in your retail items, you must make the displays interesting to look at. Make them catch the eye and add some type of wow factor.

Incorporate bight colored retail shopping bags and tissue paper. Place these at various eye levels. On top shelves behind and above your reception area. Then place similar sets at mid and lower shelving areas. Sprinkling them through out your salon. Maybe even smaller retail bags or signage at service stations. You need to make promoting retail a prominent piece of your business.

Use a theme. Suggestions would be roses for Mother’s Day or Pink Ribbons for a causes related promo. Or even go the non-traditional route with other events such as national ice cream week, or stress relief month. Anything can be a promotion if you talk it up. Use a symbol, color, or motto and display it throughout your business.

Create a Magic Table
Take a tip from department stores who have been using this trick for years. Walk in any cosmetic department and you see a circular covered table full of beautifully displayed items. It draws your eyes and beckons customers to stop by. They dress it up pretty packaging and of course the powerful try me samples. This allows customers to experience the product though touch and smell.

Value Packs
The perceived value is greater when customers think they are getting more for less. Sets sell far better than individual retail products. Package up complete hair care systems or skin care sets. Create various price points for low to high. This way you fit any budget and gift giving need. Use vinyl bags, cello bags, or offer gift-with-purchase reusable tote bags.

Put out the Welcome Mat
Have clear and eye catching signage in your front windows, check out areas, shelving and your magic tables. Use acrylic risers to create depth on displays. Use acrylic frames to hold printed advertisements. If an option in your area, use a sidewalk side or billboard to talk up your latest promotion.

It takes only a small investment to add new life to your store. Pick an theme, add retail bags, some eye catching clors, acrylic displays, and some try me samples can do wonders for your look and feel of your business. I recommend changing your displays out at least every 6 weeks. With this timeline, every time your customers visits they are looking at something fresh, something exciting to talk about, and something enticing for them to participate in. Out with the old, in the with new. Brighten up and you will be amazed what follows!

Friday, January 23, 2009

At the end of the day…it’s all about the customer!

The straight talk is -- If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. Many of you are probably saying of course. But at the same time, many of us forget that fact while we are busy living our lives. We get caught up in the day to day grind of business, family … making sure the kid’s lunches are packed, picking up the dry cleaning, ordering that inventory we just ran out of…. Take a step back and look at the experience we are providing through our client’s eyes.

I recently read Starbucks is losing profits and closing many locations. How can this brand giant fall? This downturn is not all economic related according to Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO and Chairman. He stated Starbucks had “watered down their brand” and “no longer had the soul of the past”. Starbucks made changes to their locations to move people through lines quicker. They stopped grinding beans on the spot. They took away seating areas with cushy couches and overstuff chairs to make more room for customers to line up. These changes took away the essence of the “Starbucks Experience” which made them a household name. It was the “experience” they were selling –the chatting with friends, the smell of the freshly ground beans, the homey feeling as they coffee-clutched in their cozy couches. Starbucks over-commoditized their product to the point customers were high tailing it to the small coffee shop down the street.

What’s the lesson here? Be true to your brand and your customer experience. We all want to cut costs, but if those cost cutting measures turn away customers -- you won’t be in business to worry about costs.

I challenge you to take a step back and look at your business through your client’s eyes. From the moment they set an appointment on the phone, walk into your salon or spa, when they meet with their stylist or esthetician….what do they see, touch, smell? What is their customer experience? A good way to do this is enlist the help of a friend outside of the business to mystery shop your location. Have her report back on what she liked and what she didn’t. It might surprise you what she says.

Remember the message or feeling you want customers to leave with. Envision the experience you want them to have. Don’t water down your brand. Make sure you have a strong and meaningful brand that clients want to participate in. Keep your customer in the forefront and your sales will follow!

What is your biggest business struggle?

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