Existing is no longer enough. Having a great location helps, but it’s not enough. Having great technique is essential, but it’s not enough. What you are currently doing is probably not enough.
People don’t trust your storefront displays as a sign of quality like they used to. They don’t believe what you have to say about yourself in a print advertisement like they used. And they don’t read their mail anymore (sorry, ‘junk mail’ probably refers to your postcards). That means you have to go where they go and be part of the conversation.
Did you know that there are over 3,723,140 people talking about hair related topics on Facebook in the USA alone? 572,140 in the UK, 269,960 in Australia and 249,300 in Canada. How much of that conversation are you involved in?
You have to encourage conversation where you aren’t involved and where you are involved. This is the new style of marketing, if you haven’t already noticed, and it’s now got a name – Content Marketing.
You’ve probably felt that looming reality over the past couple of years with the amount of content that is out there and the variety available to you as a consumer yourself. This new style of marketing has two faces, really – content and context. It’s not about flapping your gums about you and your company, it’s about creating a community and talking about everyone in this community. What you say has to be in context to what people are saying, thinking and wanting to know about. You can see this trend of context and relevance in the blending of social media and search engines and also in the way that social media channels are filtering the updates to most closely resemble what they believe the user is interested in. They’re trying to provide the most context in what they are displaying.
Another content marketing phenomena you’ve probably noticed on the rise in 2011 was the QR code, or the Quick Response code. While the number of actual consumers remained unimpressive, the use of them by companies was almost overwhelming. And in some cases downright annoying. QR codes are picking up momentum by consumers out there and with the increase of smartphone usage, it’s bound to continue the upward trend so it’s imperative that you pay attention to how you can utilize this as a business. The main purpose of the QR code is to get the consumer to take the next step from reading an advertisement, a postcard, a sign, whatever you have this lovely little square icon printed on. You want them to learn more. So what are you going to tell them once they get there? This needs a strategic plan, don’t just dump them onto the homepage of your website that may (or may not) be optimized for mobile.
Emails have also become a must-have in the salon marketing portfolio, but many salon owners haven’t found this as useful as they expected with all of the hype. Why? They’ve forgotten that it’s about relevant, targeted content. If you are only sending promotional emails with coupons, discounts and information about you and your services, they’ll soon tune out as they don’t want to be sold to. However, they’d love your personal recommendation. So instead of sending out that email blast for the New Year telling all of your clients it’s time for a color update, why don’t you have a look at your client database and send an email talking about how a small boost to natural color can help the winter complexion to those clients that come for a cut, but no color and then send another email to all of your chemical clients talking about your deep treatments and the importance of maintaining those split ends in the cold winter months. The messages are much more tailored to where they are at mentally with your menu of services, you’re not giving something away that they’re already buying and they’ll appreciate the educational approach to your correspondence.
Content marketing is strenuous, tedious and down-right hard to keep up with, but it’s got a multi-pronged benefit. It helps your search engine optimization, it boosts your response rates from your email program, it gets you more traffic on your social networking pages and it certainly keeps your clients more engaged with your business.
So what do you do about this?
- Before you rush out and start a blog, first get good idea of who you are talking to. Do some research on your client types and build a few types, or categories, of the clients you are trying to target. If you don’t have a solid, documented idea of who you want to attract, you could waste a whole lot of time you don’t have in the first place.
- Research where they are hanging out and what they are interested in. Maybe your clientele doesn’t have time to read a blog, but prefers tidbits of info only on Twitter. This research is well worth doing before you launch your content efforts as well as it will help you sculpt where you put your efforts.
- Focus on building an inclusive community, which sometimes starts fairly grassroots. If you don’t have a brand that people want to interact with, it will be an uphill journey to get them to interact with you online. Start with the basics of branding and take them online.
- Create a plan on who, what, where and how of your content marketing adventure. The who is essential as it does take some manpower to sustain a successful content marketing program. Your what and where will come from your pre-research on your target audience. If you are still unclear on this, start over. This time and effort is so-so worth it, we promise. Finally, the how is all about format of your content. The best programs will have some variety – some video, some text, lots of photos, etc. Don’t get stuck with one medium.
- Don’t carry this burden alone; find places to curate good content from. Find some great blogs, video channels and photographers that would be of interest to your community and use them. Don’t start dumping these posts onto your channels when you get busy because your marketing channels will simply become a vehicle for other brands. Maintain your unique voice in the process by commenting and/or providing opinions or insights on the content you share.
- Last, but not least, don’t bite off more than you can chew. This is a very important thing to consider. If you cannot get into the game now, you need to create a plan to help you get there. Whether that’s putting away some money each month so you can hire some help or revising your marketing budget to get help, or promoting from within. Make sure your plan is realistic and something you can stick to.