Booth Renter Dilemmas: How to Succeed When Your Competition is Just a Few Feet Away

booth renters in the same salon might be competing for the same clientsFor Booth Renters in the Salon and Spa, “the competition” Might be Right in the Next Chair

(SUMMARY) Marketing and business solutions for booth renters (and owners of booth rental salons) where instead of miles away, “the competition” might be just a few feet away.  Plus, advice for professional salon manufacturers and distributors to better serve the growing booth renter market, which is projected to make up 50% of all salons in the US by 2015.

This article is the third in a series on the unique marketing and business needs faced by Booth Renters and Independent Hairdressers in US Salons and Spas by Elizabeth Kraus, Author of 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa –

While not yet in the majority, salons staffed by independent salon owners, or “booth renters” represent more than one third of the salons in the US, and that percentage is predicted to increase to a full 50% of the salon market by the year 2015, according to a recent booth rental salon market study performed by beauty industry experts Professional Consultants & Resources.

Much of what is available to the booth renter (or independent salon owner) in terms of marketing and business resources is geared toward owners or managers who operate traditional employer-employee types of businesses, rather than those who staff their salons in whole or in part with independent booth renters.  Few resources are available to these independent hairdressers, skin care estheticians, make up artists, massage therapists, nail technicians and other independent beauty pros which are designed specifically to address their unique needs in operating or growing their own business within the overall environment of a salon or spa.

The challenges faced by, and the business and marketing needs of booth renters or owners of booth rental salons can be radically different than those of traditional salaried or salary and commission based salons. And one of the areas where the challenges and needs of the booth renter is radically variant from that of a hairdresser working as a regular salon ‘employee’ is in the area of competition. 

Because for the booth renter or independent salon owner, the competition isn’t miles away, down the street or even next door; in many cases, the competition for walk-in clients is right behind the next chair.

This can create all sorts of potential complications, from an unhealthy dog-eat-dog competitive atmosphere to clients getting stuck with the wrong stylist based on whose turn it was to service the next walk in.  Neither of which is conducive to creating a great client experience, getting clients to rebook, creating client loyalty or stimulating salon referrals.

As a booth renter whose competition might be right in the next chair, here are some strategies you can adopt to grow your business, create better client experiences and cultivate better workplace environment – even if the competition is right in the next chair:

  • Even if it’s “your turn” to serve the next client, you should always put the needs of the client first.  Clients assigned to the wrong stylist (who either lack the right personality for the client or cannot provide them with the haircut or makeup they want) will almost always result in a lost customer – and one likely to tell other people about their bad experience.
  • Know what is expected of you as a booth renter in terms of bringing new clients into the salon or spa, who is responsible for marketing activities including business cards, mailings, promotions, coupons, online marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, etc.   Make it clear who ‘owns’ the client, who has access to client contact information and how it will be used.
  • Support the efforts of the owner of the salon to build up the salon or spa as a business as if you were a “real employee,” knowing that the more successful the salon becomes as a whole, the more the successful each of its members will be, and the more resources for growth and education will be at your disposal.  Be enthusiastic and upbeat.  Cynical or negative attitudes toward initiatives or toward the owner or other booth renters in your salon will undermine the culture of the salon and its ability to attract and retain clients – this is true no matter what type of salon business model you have!
  • When negotiating or renegotiating your contract, ask for inclusion of marketing collateral, the ability to send marketing materials directly to prospects and your clients, assistance with continuing education or for other resources which can help you advance as a professional in the beauty industry.
  • Make yourself valuable. The more you bring to the table in terms of attracting clients, building a loyal client base, generating referrals, getting people to attend events and in supporting the business goals of the salon or spa itself, the more ability you will have to influence the culture in your salon or make other gains in negotiating the terms of your employment there.
  • Extend your own loyalty to those distributor sales consultants and manufacturers who truly understand and address your unique challenges.
  • Work as collaboratively as possible with the other stylists, estheticians and technicians in your salon, especially as regards pairing a new client with the right hairdresser.  Ultimately, whether you work as a booth renter or salaried hair stylist, the client should never know the difference in terms of their overall experience and outcomes.
  • Utilize planners like the 2012 Marketing Guide for Booth Renters in order to keep your own individual marketing efforts on track and set yourself apart from competitors.

As the owner of a booth rental salon, understand that the only way for you to build a strong, cohesive brand is to clearly set out expectations, guidelines and responsibilities for both the booth renters in your salon or spa and for yourself, as the owner of the business, in terms of:

  • The overall brand (and associated use of logos, business names, etc.)
  • The customer experience
  • Expectations for booth renter behavior and standards of dress and appearance (just as if they were regular ‘employees’)
  • Collaboration and support of your salon’s business initiatives
  • Choice of professional products for use at the back bar, behind the chair, in recommendations to clients or for salon retail sale of professional salon products
  • Marketing and communications (and associated prospect and customer contact lists) both for traditional outbound marketing (advertising, direct mailing, flyers, etc.) and modern inbound marketing (social media, blogging, email marketing, internet or web site marketing, etc.)
  • Continuing education (technical skills, business, marketing or other topics)

Regardless of whether you own and operate an employee/employer salon business model or a booth rental salon model (or even a combination of the two), the formulas for building a strong brand and a successful business remain the same.  The key to success, then, for a booth rental model, is understanding that your responsibilities in branding and marketing your business are not in any way lessened just because you have a group of independent business owners staffing your salon or spa.  If anything, it results in the need for even more attention as the booth rental model complicates things when it comes to branding and marketing your business.

And it is not just the booth renter or booth rental salon owner who bears responsibility for understanding the unique nature of the competition for the independent salon owner.

If – as projected – one half of all salons in the US operate under some form of booth rental model within just the next few years, manufacturers and distributors of professional salon products also need to adapt their offerings and support resources to reflect this reality.  No one has more ability to educate and influence consumers one on one about professional salon products.

Those manufacturers, distributors, consultants and other beauty industry organizations who recognize and make an effort to address the coming booth rental salon market boom and corresponding opportunities will be much more likely to grow themselves.   Salon product manufacturers and salon product distributors might consider: 

  • Extending group rates for educational events to members of a booth rental salon who pool together to attend
  • Creating special rates for booth renters in recognition of their more limited resources
  • Extending free shipping or other special offers to booth renters to shop on a distributor’s web store or in a distributor showroom
  • Offering smaller, lower priced introductory product line buy ins to booth renters who stock and sell their own products in the salon
  • Providing business and marketing support to booth renters in the form of business cards, gift cards or gift certificates, postcards and other promotional collateral
  • Helping the independent professional in the salon or spa create a marketing plan unique to their needs, skills and abilities, using a variety of traditional and inbound marketing tactics
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