5 Ways to Make Your Hair Salon Business Stand Out

Generate buzz and land more clients with these salon-tested tactics from top pros.
Learn from experts how to leverage social media and online reviews to make your salon stand out. (Photo: Debra Penzone)

Standing out in a crowded arena is a major challenge for any salon owner. How do you get attention without discounting?

These seven low-cost, road-tested ideas from top industry pros are best-of-the-best buzz generators any salon can adapt.

Solicit positive online reviews


“If clients can’t make a real distinction between the experience they get in one salon and the experience they get in another, services are just commodities.” –Elizabeth Kraus, marketing consultant (Photo: Elizabeth Kraus)

For decades, salon owners claimed only word-of-mouth drove business. Now, engaging clients is all about online media.

“Salon pros need a strategy with proactive tactics to get social check-ins, reviews and online word-of-mouth,” said Elizabeth Kraus, a marketing strategies consultant and author of “Clients Rule: 2016 Marketing Calendar for Salon and Spa.

According to the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2014, nine out of ten consumers read reviews before deciding where to buy or book local business services — so positive reviews are critical.

If a client loves her new look, Kraus advised putting an iPad in her hand before she leaves and asking her to write an online review in real time.

Use photos to show off on social media

Another idea Kraus offered: “Take before-and-after photos of the client and post them on Instagram.” (Of course, get the client’s permission first. Take a ¾ shot if she doesn’t want her face shown.)

To help him create marketing materials, Frank Gambuzza, president of Intercoiffure America/Canada, part of a global organization of top salons, set up various areas in his salons with identical lighting and backdrops. His social media manager photographs clients’ before-and-after looks daily. The photos are emailed or texted to clients and the stylists to share in their own social media accounts. And of course they appear on the salon’s social media pages.

“This keeps our brand consistent and is a win for all parties,” said Gambuzza. “When you develop a protocol that works for everyone, they will support it and help your brand get noticed.”

Take over Instagram

Instagram is one of the best places to showcase hairstyles. Most younger stylists have their own accounts.

“Online exposure is the new business card, and we got many new clients through it by involving our staff and letting them take over the company’s account,” said Debra Penzone, president of the six Charles Penzone salons throughout Ohio.

Penzone’s “Instagram Takeover” campaigns let select employees who had great photos of their work take over the company’s account for a day. They introduced themselves, invited viewers to follow their personal account, posted client photos and provided a behind-the-scenes look at the salons.

Penzone herself took over the Instagram accounts of local fashion consulting firm Wardrobe Therapy and the woman-empowering non-profit Dress for Success for a day. “Beauty and fashion are natural partners,” she said of promoting her business through local alliances.


“Use social media to constantly deliver advice, such as how to deal with post-summer hair that’s been trashed by salt water or sun exposure. Stay active with a tip of the week.” –Frank Gambuzza, salon owner and president of Intercoiffure (Photo: Frank Gambuzza)

Partner with other businesses

How does a photoshoot in Cuba sound? Gambuzza arranged just such a shoot for 17 Intercoiffure America/Canada members. The owner of Salon Visage and Spa Visage in Knoxville, Tennessee, said it would have been unaffordable for his business to do alone, and that finding the right partners allowed maximum media exposure and lower costs.

“Cuba was a hot topic, but anyone can do something similar as long as it’s relevant,” said Gambuzza. “Instead of the expected fall trend, come up with a unique idea, find local partners who can also benefit, such as trendy boutiques, and do a photoshoot with shared costs. The local press is always looking for holiday content; we tie our salon shoots to our gift-card calendar.”

Other ideas for photo shoots: prom or Valentine’s Day looks, college football color inspirations and “festival hair” based on trending styles at Coachella.

Build a specialty

Another great way to stand out is to tout a specialty. When Penzone and her marketing director set out to boost their bridal business, they created a coordinated campaign with photos of five different brides, branded emails, a new bridal-packages menu and a bridal microsite linked to the salon’s main website.

The e-blast went to lists gathered at bridal shows. Messages were sent immediately after the show, six months before the bride’s wedding date and, if she had yet to book, three months before the big date.

“We doubled our bridal business in a year,” said Penzone. “Most emails have a 15 percent open rate; ours had a 25 percent rate. To do this, even a small salon should have a dedicated bridal coordinator.”

Specialties consumers are looking for include hair color, braiding bars, Brazilian smoothing services and bond-building treatments like Olaplex.

Penzone’s marketing efforts won coveted Salon Today Annual Marketing Program (STAMP) awards in several categories. Explore all the winning marketing ideas here.

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