I’m often asked whether salons, clinics and spas should offer discounts when marketing.
The short answer is ‘sometimes’.
I certainly don’t agree with the notion that you should never discount. Let’s face it, even John Lewis and Waitrose offer promotional discounts from time to time.
The salon marketing secret is in knowing when and how to give specials, discounts and deals.
Handle salon offers with care
I know. It’s tempting to panic when the salon is quiet and your competitors are discounting everything – including their granny.
It can sometimes feel like discount promotions are the only salon marketing route left to you.
But they are not.
In most cases they are merely a short-term fix. They create a reassuring spike in appointments, but they can damage your brand and rip a large hole in profits.
Are salon deals and discounts ever a good business move?
Like discounts or not, they certainly have a role when marketing to new hair, beauty or aesthetic clients.
A quick whizz around the internet this morning reveals all the major hair and beauty salon groups are currently offering discounts.
- Rush are offering 50% off for new hair clients and 25% off for new beauty clients.
- Champneys have an Essential Day from £59 per person (an offer however they portray it).
- Saks offer £10 off your first visit.
Use salon offers, discounts and deals wisely and they can boost business. Let’s take a quick look at the pros & cons:
Salon Discount Pros:
- Simple and quick to implement.
- Get clients through your doors – instantly.
- Increase customer loyalty.
- Introduce clients to new services, treatments and products.
- Easy to track and measure.
- Bolster quiet days.
- Build a column for a new therapist or stylist.
But use them wrongly and you can:
- Reduce profitability long term.
- Damage your salon brand.
- Create a discount culture as clients wait for sales.
- Encourage price-driven coupon-clippers.
- Dent customer confidence.
- Lower loyalty.
- Slash average services invoice value.
There are two very different target audiences to think about when you’re considering discounts and offers as a marketing strategy:
- A. New salon clients
- B. Your current loyal client-base
A. Discounts for new salon clients (first visit)
Sorry, but if you want to persuade your hottest competitor’s clients to give you a try you’re probably going to have to tempt them.
There are two main ways here to incentivise new clients and offer them a discount:
- Percentage discount
- £x money off discount
Let’s dive into the detail:
1. Percentage Discounts
This is the discount route Rush salons take, with 50% off for new hair clients and 25% off for new beauty clients, and it’s probably the most popular way. If you have a price list with a wide range of services and prices it usually works best (we’ll look at why in a moment).
Want to drive new clients? Then playing around with small incentive percentages, 5%, 10% or 15% off isn’t going to tempt anyone. To coax new clients who may be toying with giving you a go, I think 25% is the minimum discount.
A salon discount winner
Introduce a Friend schemes are salon discounts which work well. It’s win-win for both new and old clients. You may think they are old-hat… but they work. Beautifully. Dust down those cards from behind reception and start handing them out.
Do you want a profitable salon? Of course you do. So when deciding on your percentage proceed with caution. Consider what a 50% discount means to your sales targets. A 50% discount means that in order to hit the same turnover target you will have to do twice the number of appointments. Do you really have the time or the manpower to do that?
Interestingly Rush feel they need to offer 50% off hair services yet only 25% off beauty. But I suspect this is more to do with their profit margins or internal set up.
2. £x money off Discount
I’m talking about £x off offers, like the £10 off your first visit Saks is currently marketing.
This can have more impact than the percentage offer we’ve just looked at, as potential clients know immediately what they are saving.
However, this type of offer can be awkward for beauty salons and spas with a wide range of prices. If your cheapest service is a lash tint for £14 and your most expensive £160 for an anti-ageing treatment, it is difficult to make the discount work for both. £10 off a £14 service is giving it away, whilst it’s hardly significant off a £160 treatment.
You can of course avoid this by stipulating the precise beauty treatment that the offer applies to, but then you alienate a large proportion of your potential market. For this reason, I think the percentage based formula is often less problematic for beauty salons and spas.
To make the £x discount really work for you position it as a credit. Physically give potential clients a printed card or give them a discount code online. This makes people feel like they’re being given a gift voucher so they feel they are wasting money if they don’t use it.
Trick question. Which is the better salon deal 50% extra or 33% off? Find the answer in my blog on salon deals here. You may be surprised…
Getting your discount small print right
Whichever formula you adopt, the key is to get your terms and conditions right. Be slapdash and it will cost you dearly.
Always make sure your promotion is on your salon website and sets out detailed terms and conditions. Don’t get caught out. It costs you money.
- Add urgency with an expiry date.
- Which hair stylists/beauty therapists?
- Which days of the week?
- Do you want to restrict it to certain times of day?
A common salon marketing mistake…
I often see salons restricting their first visit offer to their most junior team. For me this is a mistake.
Put yourself in your potential client’s shoes.
You want clients who aren’t budget conscious. The ones who want to go to the best in town regardless of cost. Price is not what matters to them. It’s not the deciding factor.
So why on earth would these super-fussy, well-heeled clients want an appointment with your most junior team?
They wouldn’t. In fact, it will almost certainly put them off. So offer these potential high-value clients the best your salon has to offer.
B. Salon discounts, offers & promotions for existing clients
When it comes to offers and discounts for your current clients, my marketing advice is ‘don’t unless you really have to’. I’d always recommend avoiding competing on price alone. Why dramatically cut profit margins, potentially damage your brand, create a sale mentality amongst your clients and lower your average invoice?
It just doesn’t make sense. Your client already loves what you do and how you do it.
If you want to use salon promotions, deals and offers to reward loyalty, build new columns and fill quiet days of the week then give added value not discounts:
- an in-salon hair treatment with a colour service
- an upgrade from a file and polish to a premium manicure
- buy two and get the third free with retail products.
You’ll find making a profit far easier when you compete on those elements which make you different to, and better than, your hair and beauty competitors.
Let’s look at some of the different types of salon discounts, deals and offers and the best time to use them…
A free hair or beauty gift
Last month I bought a lippy from a new beauty shop that I’d not seen before. I didn’t spend a fortune, yet the owner who served me popped a pretty gift box of perfume minis into the bag with her card. You’ve guessed. For the next week I tried a new perfume every day. Needless to say, I was hooked on one and went back to purchase. We all love freebies.
A gift with each purchase enhances the value of the service in a client’s mind. It’s a useful way of using a product that isn’t moving although it doesn’t have to be a retail product. Try offering:
- a moisturiser with every facial
- a free Olaplex treatment with every colour
- a complimentary file and polish
- an at-home treatment with hair smoothing services
- a salon gift card.
You do need to do your maths to work out exactly what monetary value you’re giving away. Again, the knack to making it profitable is writing tight terms and conditions, and always include an expiry date to add that sense of urgency.
Why not give your suppliers a call and ask how they can help you with samples, special prices and freebies?
Research shows that consumers believe that discounted items/services do not function as well as those at full price. Don’t just push out a deal. Always give a rationale for your offer or discount, otherwise, it just looks like you’re desperate for business.
Valentines, Mother’s Day, Black Friday, Christmas and New Year are the big ones, but it could be your salon’s anniversary, a client’s birthday or an event happening locally in your town that you want to celebrate.
Just invested in the latest equipment, have a new team member on board or are launching an innovative service?
A prelaunch offer will drive traffic to your salon website, create a buzz and build awareness. Again, rather than discount, market the launch to your existing clients with an added value offer, such as:
- Buy 4 of our new CACI treatments and enjoy a 5th session on us.
- Book a colour with our new stylist Claire and receive a complimentary blow dry.
Your social channels and e-newsletter are a great way to offer exclusive added value offers and build relationships. Why not send a value added offer for Father’s Day to your female e-mail database, or post Mother’s Day offers across all your social channels?
Thank you offers
Reward your clients and show your appreciation by e-mailing or texting an added value offer to thank them for their loyalty. “Just because…”
An impromptu thank you makes sure clients feel good and is perfect for filling gaps in the early part of the week or seasonal quiet times.
Market your salon specials and offers
Promote all these offers on your e-Newsletter, on social, on your salon website, by text and in-salon. If you don’t advertise them then no-one will take them up. It’s that simple.
If you’re looking for a new salon, spa or clinic website take a peek here. We’re hair and beauty specialists.
Stand-by and last minute salon deals
Is there any time when it pays to offer a discount to existing clients?
I’m all in favour of reducing your prices when it comes to filling those last minute appointment gaps. Provided it is very last-minute.
Make sure discounts and deals can only be taken at the eleventh-hour. It is not a stand-by appointment if it can be booked 24 hours in advance. All you’re doing then is stopping full paying clients being able to visit. That costs you valuable profit. Don’t give your profits away lightly – you’ve worked very hard for them.
And finally, don’t advertise these discounted appointments as always being available, otherwise they’ll get taken for granted and will seem the norm rather than a bargain. Late availability is the key.
Want to set up last-minute discounted offers in your salon or spa?
- Set up a manual system if you have an organised receptionist.
- Many salon management software systems now have a late availability function.
- Try a last-minute specialist like gappt, although check it will integrate with your existing software first.
Aesthetic, non-surgical & cosmetic treatment offers
Finally, a quick word of advice on marketing discounts and deals for your non-surgical, cosmetic treatments.
Handle them with care. The law and guidance around marketing cosmetic procedures states any materials must be factual, clear and not misleading. This includes non-surgical options such as Botox.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) guidelines are understandably restrictive and you can read them here.
- In particular, marketing must not target children or young people and must not try to pressure clients into making decisions quickly (for example, by using time-limited special offers).
- The CAP guidance states, “…websites may include a price list with a range of treatments available, including Botox, but the price list should not include product claims or encourage viewers to choose a product based on the price.”
- It’s not relevant to discounts, but it’s important to note that cosmetic procedures must not be offered as prizes.
There are companies out there who still peddle slashing prices and giving services away as the answer to getting new clients through the door and keeping them.
When you delve into any of these ‘sales schemes’ the company running them is usually the one making the profit at the expense of your salon business. Instead, stay in control. Run your own discounts, offers and deals on your terms and when you really need them.