In the hair industry, one of the most important challenges to overcome is building a clientele that you know values your skills, time, and expertise. Believe us when we say that it’s something that everyone deals with eventually—from renters and commission-based stylists to even owners themselves.
For some, this challenge stems from misplaced expectations. Many stylists depend on the salon that they work at to feed them a constant stream of clients. But whether you’re a renter, a member of the staff, or the owner of a particular salon, it’s crucial that you remember that it is never someone else’s responsibility to fill your chair. You’re always in control of how large or how small your clientele is.
If you have recurring instances where clients aren’t returning, or your book is looking empty for weeks on end, it may be time to take a deeper look at what’s going on. Most people don’t like to take responsibility for what may be happening, but the more you’re able to self reflect, the more likely you will be able to address and resolve the issue.
When someone is getting their hair done, it’s an incredibly intimate experience. They are putting their hopes and aspirations quite literally in the hands of the stylist. As such, they’re looking for consistency, reassurance, and to feel comfortable when getting their hair done. They want to leave feeling special and great about themselves. If you’re providing a service that lacks in any of these areas, your clients are eventually going to search for a different place where they know their needs will be met.
It’s important to note that the issue isn’t always a matter of skill. Sometimes, it’s a matter of communication. Other times, it’s a matter of mismanaged expectations. And, of course, other times it’s a matter of trust.
With all of this in mind, we’ve pulled together a list of tips that stylists and salon owners can use to build up a dedicated clientele—and retain them once you’ve got them.
How to Build and Retain Your Clientele
1. Do everything you can to nurture referrals.
Referrals are by far the best way for you to build your clientele. Yes, social postings and advertisements work, but they are just that: Advertisements, which you yourself have chosen to run. When one of your existing clients refers someone else to you, on the other hand, it’s outside of your control, and carries with it so much more heft than an ad might.
With this in mind, you should do everything you can to nurture and encourage referrals. The easiest way? Anytime someone leaves the salon, make sure that you give them a few of your business cards. This way, when they’re walking down the street or when they go out later that night and someone asks them who did their hair, they have a card right there with them to pass along.
It’s easy, but it works wonders!
2. Utilize social media.
Social media is one of the strongest weapons that stylists have in our disposal. After all, it’s free marketing! What could be better?
If you’re new at the social media game, remember that it’s not all about building the largest audience possible or posting every hour: It’s about building a dedicated following who actually wants to have their hair done by you. Attracting new clients requires a much different type of post than to gain followers. Just be aware of what your goal is, and tailor your social strategy to that goal.
So, don’t just post anything. Make sure that your posts are targeted to the clientele you want to build. If you’re looking to become a specialist in balayage, make sure you are using your page appropriately to demonstrate your skills.
On Instagram, a great, easy way of using your existing connections to build your client base is to tag a picture of your client after they’ve had their hair done by you. This will let their friends and followers see how great they look, and can be as effective as a referral in encouraging people to book an appointment.
But don’t think you need to limit yourself just to Instagram! Other social networks, like Pinterest, can also be extremely effective in building your client base.
3. Start each appointment with a hair consultation.
Once you’ve convinced someone to book an appointment and sit in your chair, your next goal should be to ensure that they are thrilled with their experience. If you delight each and every person who sits in your chair, you can feel pretty confident that you’ll retain the vast majority of them.
That’s one reason why we always recommend that you start each appointment with a hair consultation. Sit each person down and discuss their hair goals. What’s working for them and what isn’t? How do they take care of their hair on a daily basis? Are they working towards an event or date? What are they willing to invest in their hair?
Notice that we don’t just say to conduct a hair consultation for new clients: We really mean that you should conduct one before every session. Even someone who you’ve been seeing for years might surprise you during a consultation, and those insights can empower you to delight them even more. For example, ask them how their life might have changed from the last time you saw them? A new mother, for example, might prioritize a look that can be pulled together quickly, or that can be worn in multiple ways.
4. Inspire your clients with ideas and pictures.
Another way of delighting and retaining your clients? You need to inspire them!
Clients always depend on stylists to help them decide what’s best for their hair. Come to the table with pictures and ideas of new styles that you think they would totally rock, and see what they think. Worst case, they decide to stick with their usual. Best case? You just turned them on to a whole new look that they never would have tried without you!
So, next time you have an appointment, don’t be afraid to suggest something a little out of the box. You need to be aware of what your clients like and what they don’t, but once you have that understanding, lean on your expertise instead of asking them every time for direction. Don’t forget that you’re the professional, and that you have earned their trust by making them look beautiful time and again. Use that trust to your—and their—advantage!
5. Advise your clientele on products.
Advising your clients about which products they should use is another important part of building a trusting relationship that will keep them coming back to you time and again. The right products will, after all, help them get more life and more joy out of their hair, keeping them happy with whatever service you’ve performed.
The secret? You need to advise on products without being too pushy or without making it seem like you’re only trying to get a sale. No one likes to feel pressured into buying something, after all. But if you educate your client about why you are recommending a particular product, they will be more likely to buy.
Also important: Never sell a product that you don’t think will work well for them. Why? Because if you sell them the wrong product you know one thing for sure: It will be the last product you ever sell to them.
6. Invest in your own education.
If you want your clients to stay impressed with your work, then you need to constantly be bettering yourself and developing new skills. It’s important for all stylists to stay on top of their education so that clients know that they are getting the best that you have to offer each time they make an appointment with you. After all, the last thing that anyone wants is for a regular to sit down in your chair and ask you for something that you have no idea how to execute.
Simply put, as stylists it’s our responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest developments for hair trends and techniques. Signing up for a workshop, seminar, or digital class can be an excellent way of staying on top of the latest developments in the industry.
7. Stay true to yourself.
This one is the most important piece of advice out of all of them!
Stylists should always aim to stay true to themselves, because we attract people who connect with us. If you love yourself and who you are, then you will attract a client base that meshes with you. Putting on a facade that is “hip” or “cool” now might help you draw in new clients, sure. But will you be happy? Will those clients be happy? Will they come back more than once? The answer to all of these questions is probably: No.
Want to learn more about building a successful career as a stylist? Sign up for our FREE mini-course called “The Good Stylist,” designed to help you lay the foundation of communication skills, technical skills, and personal development that you need to excel in the hair industry.