Tech savvy is style savvy
At my CyberBusiness session at the Extension Expo last weekend, I challenged the attendees to think of the new social media tools as go-to flat irons for their word-of-mouth marketing efforts. You can no longer respond to the introduction of new technology like the young slave girl in the movie “Gone with the Wind” who said “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies.” Don’t psyche yourself out of using tools that can save you time and make you money.
Before I share my tips, let’s face the top excuses for not taking your business forward with technology:
1) “Technology does not give me enough flexibility to make judgment calls client by client.” This makes the assumption that using technology somehow takes the art and intuition out of what you do.
2) “I don’t feel computer literate enough. ” This is the “birthin’ no babies” response. You really can be taught to get the results that you need.
3) “It’s too expensive.” Okay, the iPad may set you back a few hair extension clients but there are a ton of affordable online tools that make it easier for entrepreneurs (including hairstylists) to concentrate on their core business.
Okay, for those who read past the excuses, thank you. Here are my technology tips.
1) Put your client records online (or desktop)
There is an old business saying that goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Many stylists believe that keeping their list of clients in their head or cell phone alone is fine. The problem is that you can’t run reports to detect problems before the cash receipts start looking low with the info in your memory.
Ideally, you would capture and store this information at the point of sale so that you can see how profitable your faithful clients really are. Tools like Salon Iris can help you track your entire business, including tracking employee productivity. Back in the day, many of these tools required a large upfront investment. Today, most have monthly fee plans for individual booth renter or salons.
Or you can capture this information as you book appointments. Online tools like Schedulicity and Genbook, have the benefit of improving your efficiency with online appointment booking (which deserves its own post) but also lets your clients add their own information, including email addresses.
2) Embrace email
The studies show that email is one of the most effective ways to communicate online. Social media provides new opportunities but you don’t want to forget about email. Imagine your clients hitting the forward button to share the scoop on your services with 20 of their friends.
Today, there are a number of affordable email campaign tools that are perfect for small businesses. These tools allow you to upload your list of email addresses, design fancy email messages using templates that you can modify, and track your results. Some of the most popular tools are MailChimp, Constant Contact, and iContact. MailChimp is actually free up to 1,000 email addresses. Now, these tools won’t write the email for you. You still need to use creativity to keep your clients clicking to open your messages.
3) Say it with video
Don’t let the “Kitchen Beauticians” outshine you by instructing your clients more than you do. According to recent studies, there are about 2 billion YouTube videos uploaded everyday. Yes, a lot may be craziness but it has created stars out of folks with pretty hair and swagger in front of the camera. As I mentioned in an earlier post, showing your expertise is one of the strongest ways to keep your clients loyal. Creating videos allow you to extend your “chair talk” time when your clients are at home and gives more opportunity to influence them.
You can shoot a 2-5 minute video of yourself explaining an at-home or styling technique. I recommend that you buy a webcam like the Logitech 9000. It costs around $79.99. With this kind of webcam, you can shoot a video from your salon or your dining room table. With some basic video editing software like Windows Movie Maker, you can edit your video into a format that can be uploaded on YouTube. Now, I recommend that you plan and practice before striking a pose in front of the camera. Unless you can instantly channel your inner-Oprah, expect a lot of trial and error.
The final scoop: These tools won’t work if your core business of hair is shaky. Remember, you still must perform magic in your chair to stand out from your competitors in some way. But by becoming more tech savvy, you can add some lasting finishing spray.