Monday Musings #3: The Best Publicity Is Hard Work

Today, I reflect on the best ways to build up a customer base for a home salon that has to compete with other home salons for customers. I don’t make a comparison between home salons and commercial salons because I believe most customers fall into two distinct categories:

1. Ladies who prefer home salons for the generally lower prices or the consistent service standards (you know exactly which manicurist you’re getting because the manicurist IS the salon).
2. Ladies who prefer commercial salons for the comfort (they’re usually decorated more nicely) and convenience (usually in a good location and you can just walk in instead of paying deposits for appointments, plus get two manicurists to serve you more quickly at the same time).

Customers usually prefer one of these two categories and only go to salons within that category, rather than switching between home salons and commercial salons.

The nail industry is becoming increasingly saturated with home-based salons. When I first started, home-based salons were something of a novelty, so it was a lot easier back then to build up a customer base as there weren’t as many other home-based salons to compete with. Now, customers have so many home-based salons to choose from that it’s so much harder to make yourself stand out and attract their attention.

Many nailists these days turn to bloggers to advertise their services. I did that too, by sponsoring bloggers Miyake and Georgina (sugarrandspice). However, using sponsored bloggers as a marketing tool only works if…

a) The blogger actually has a significant number of followers on her blog, Instagram, or FB page. For example, if my Instagram account has 2,000 followers, I wouldn’t sponsor someone who has fewer followers than I do. She would need to have at least double my number so that I will gain access to a wider audience than I already have. Otherwise, what benefit would there be?

b) Your work is good. You don’t need to be crazy skilled in nail art. As long as you have a strong foundation (clearly visible from the balanced shaping of nails, cleanly-trimmed cuticles and neat polishing) and can do some nail art, the photos posted will look good, and will do a great job of showcasing you as a decent nailist.

I once saw a sponsorship backfire on a nailist. The nails she did for her sponsored blogger looked so bad that when the sponsored blogger posted the photo, there were a lot of comments telling the sponsored blogger how terrible the manicurist was and that she shouldn’t go back to the same manicurist. So, instead of helping the nailist to gain customers, the sponsorship actually ruined her reputation.

What did she do wrong? Sponsoring a blogger is a tried and true method that works to highlight your services to people, but using this method when you’re not ready as a nailist to provide quality services is just silly. I understand why some people still do this when they’re not ready though – they’re impatient for success. Well, unfortunately, there is no shortcut to success. The main ingredient is hard work, with talent being a catalyst. With enough hard work, anyone can succeed. With talent, one succeeds faster.

Like I said previously, quality is the key to success. When you work hard to improve your skills as a nailist, your work speaks for itself. The photos you take of your work will be enough to convince customers to go to you instead of going to other home salons. And when your work is good, your customers will keep going back to you, and spread the word about your services to their friends. All this free publicity is the best publicity, because people know that these good reviews and recommendations are true, and not paid for (compared to bloggers who are sponsored).

In summary – sponsoring bloggers is an effective form of publicity that must be used carefully (only after you have worked hard to become a good nailist). Alternatively, when you have worked hard to be a good nailist, you will find that publicity takes care of itself (your customer base will grow exponentially from word-of-mouth) and best of all, is entirely free. So… focus on quality!

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