I see a lot of nothing. Small businesses of every stripe doing nothing to market themselves at all. It’s almost more painful, though, to see small business operators display ambition and initiative, but then execute an idea so badly they doom themselves to disappointment.
In the hair salon business, stylists come and go, and when they go, they take as many customers with them as they can. Rarely is a salon owner proactive or quickly reactive about this. So, to their credit, a salon my wife, Carla, goes to made the attempt with this letter (see example), acknowledging the departure of a stylist and trying to keep the customer.
Good for them!
Unfortunately, they made their customer preservation attempt all about discounting. A default to discounting like this reveals (a) utter lack of imagination, (b) absence of a good sales story, (c) laziness, (d) ignorance. This isn’t a price problem, so why stoop to a cheap price solution?
This is an important point about a very common mistake: trying to solve a problem with a completely ill-matched solution. This is the equivalent to calling the Fire Department to put out a flood. (Please read my book, “No B.S. Price Strategy,” for a complete understanding of the way discounting drains power and worsens vulnerability – and for better ideas.)
WHAT IS NEEDED: A good sales letter. It could begin with the same opening paragraph, but then it should sell the reasons for remaining a customer of this salon. Ideally, it would also include photos, credentials and descriptions of available stylists, so the customer “meets” a stylist she is interested in. If not in the printed piece, at least a push to the profiles on the website.
Ideally, there would also be an announcement of a new benefit or VIP-Member Club, with loyalty rewards.
And finally, the offer. I would not offer any of these discounts. Instead, I’d have a gift or choice of gifts with patronage by a deadline – perhaps spa products, from another community business (restaurant, wine shop, etc.), or something from a vendor (with higher perceived value than cost) – like a fashionable tote bag. Constructing the offer, incidentally, requires knowing what these customers are worth and what it costs to get a new (replacement) one, so smart decisions about the gift(s) can be made.
Of course, it would help if THE OWNER had created and maintained a relationship with the spa’s customers all along, with a newsletter featuring her own human-interest stories, with hand-signed birthday cards, etc., so that the owner wasn’t stepping in here ‘cold’ and at an unmitigated disadvantage to the departing stylist who has a personal relationship with the customers. This piece, incidentally, has silly familiarity: it’s hand-addressed to first name, but not “from” or signed by another human being. It’s the correct tactic, gone horribly wrong. It is better than nothing, but that’s nothing to celebrate!