Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Growing Your Barbershop’s Business

   The barbering industry is a competitive market, and customers are not guaranteed to choose your shop over another down the road. Customer preference, regional demographics, local economy, and shop location certainly play key roles in helping your shop become the customer’s favorite place for a cut. But getting the word out can be rather difficult, even if you happen to be in the prime location for your area. People are getting haircuts, there is no doubt about that, so the task at hand is not convincing someone that they need to get a new haircut—the task is convincing them that they need to get a haircut at YOUR shop! 

   A barbershop in rural Ohio is going to use different methods of advertisement than say a barbershop in San Antonio, so ensure that you investigate your immediate demographic and adjust advertisement accordingly, and while non-locals are always appreciated, keep in mind that the local customer is your lifeblood—not the guy you see once a year, or maybe who you ever only see once. 

   Below are a few areas to focus on to help increase your barbershop’s business, all of which can be personally tailored to your needs, but keep in mind that success is not based off of one of these (or only these!) tips alone—success in the barbering industry is a combination of these tips and learning what makes your customer tick. 

1. Social Media

   Here's the nice thing about social media—its generally free. Of course, certain social media sites allow for paid advertisement, but that is up to the user to decide. Social media can be fairly tricky, and it does require quite a bit of maintenance, however it has the ability to reach a large audience at all times of the day. People flip through their phones quite a bit, so why not have them reminded of your shop while they scroll through Facebook? Another wonderful thing about social media is the volume of media outlets you can pursue: Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and now even Pokemon Go are all outlets that can be used. There are customers who use all of the mentioned social media sites, but there are also those who only use one or two, so expanding your social media presence can ensure that your shop is getting the attention it deserves. 

   While social media is generally free, it is certainly not useful for every shop. Keep in mind your demographic—do identified customers in your area use smartphones? I know that sounds crazy to ask, but I was recently in a smaller town in Oregon where the general population of cowboys and grain elevator workers made it difficult to spot anyone out in public with a smartphone. However, in this smaller town, I counted 5 barbershops. While one of these 5 shops might use or have a social media account, it probably wont help bring in traffic with a people group who use radios more than smartphones. That being said, lets look at the flip side. I was also recently in Scotland, and while visiting shops in Glasgow I noticed an entire corner where 3 or 4 different barbershops were literally touching. Each shop window had information for various social media outlets, and even advertised social media deals. Social media defiantly brings business to these shops, even with the highly competitive location.  
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   To learn more on equipping your shop with social media tools, check out Dave Diggs’ book “How to Grow Your Business: Social Media Strategies for Barbers & Stylists.” In it, Dave specifically mentions successful ways to engage with customers of social media interfaces so that your can maximize your regular customers as well as your walk-in foot traffic.

2. Atmosphere

   Your shop’s style has the ability to make or break customer relations. The first thing that should be mentioned is that “more expensive” does not always mean “better.” Im not saying that you need to go all out and invest tons of money and man hours in making some state of the art shop. What I am saying is that your customer has a preference, and this preference is “comfort.” The customer wants to be comfortable! Look at your target demographic—do they like barn wood walls and vintage barbershop tools hanging from strange contraptions? No? Then don't include them within your shop! 

   I have visited shops where the atmosphere was counter-culture to the neighborhood, and therefore received little traffic. For example, I visited a shop that was completely decked out with contemporary vibe—wooden walls, big glass display cases for expensive artisan products, 60 year old barbering chairs, a few trendy barbers, etc…but there was no one in the shop. Furthermore, according to Yelp reviews, the barbers gave a clean cut, so skill was not a issue. I went a block or two down to another shop, and here was a single barber cutting hair in a simple shop. A no frills, simple shop. And he was packed! The neighborhood didn't want a “trendy shop,” they wanted a simple shop. 

   On the flip side, here in my hometown in Idaho, customers prefer the trendy shop. Know your demographics, and adjust your shops aesthetics and atmosphere accordingly. Keep in mind, it might not be the direction that you prefer, but you are looking at increasing your barbershops business, right? Sometimes in order to do so, as the shop owner or manager, you have to sacrifice personal preference to give way for the customer's preference. 

3. Banners, Flags, & Poles

   The universal sign of a barbershop—the classic red, white, and blue barber pole. As much as we have been discussing the regular customer and the value that the regular customer brings to your shop, its time to introduce the “walk-in.” We briefly touched on the subject a little earlier, but lets expand a little more now. The non-locals who come to a city for business or for pleasure are generally unaware of shops in your area. The first thing someone is likely to do is Google or Yelp search “Barber Shops” and read the reviews and look at pictures of you and other shops in the area. Now, a shop can have wonderful Yelp reviews by the locals, but if it is not marked well, the non-locals will not be able to find it! Since I visit shops nearly every week, I come across this often. A shop will get plenty of warm reviews on social media, but the actual shop is hidden somewhere in a shopping mall or moved locations and never updated information. Regardless, there is usually something that accompanies this instance—another shop close by that is clearly marked with a large barber flag near the road, a clear shop sign, and the classic barbershop pole. Even though I was not originally looking for this marked shop, be sure I am making my way through their door. 

   No, the non-local is not the lifeblood of your business, however this demographic can bring welcomed “bonuses” in certain seasons. Lets build a scenario: suppose your town or city hosts a yearly event. For my hometown, we have Ironman competitions. Whenever this yearly event takes place, people from all over the world flock in droves for up to two weeks at a time to our city. Barbershops EXPLODE during this time, and it is very difficult for the regulars to make appointments, yet alone try to even walk-in. What event or season do you have in your town that would make for a solid two-week profit? Whatever it may be, keep your shop clearly identifiable. Even if the shop a few blocks down has better reviews, since your shop is marked better, you may receive more traffic. Here at MD Barber Supply, we carry quite a few different barber poles to grab passerby attention. Take a at our Barber Pole Selection

4. Relationships

   Most importantly, understand that growing your business is about growing relationships. People interact differently with their barber than they do with say their local gas-station. Gas-station “loyalty” is not really something you hear of. Sure, there are those out there who want to get the cheapest haircut and will go from shop to shop looking for the “cheap” deals. Let them go. Thats not your lifelong customer, and not someone who is wanting to develop a relationship. Barbering is a personal business, and a customer will continue to return week after week if they feel as though they are personally connected with their barber. A few weeks ago I was watching “Family Feud” with Steve Harvey, and one of the themes was along the lines of “Who is likely to know your true character?” Number 1 was “your spouse”, number 2 was “your pastor,” and following after was “your barber.” Look at your top customers. How well do you know them? What is their wife’s name? How many kids do they have? Where did they go on vacation this past summer? Get to know your customers and become relationally invested with them, and you will have a dedicated and loyal customer, and if you are lucky, maybe even a friend. 

   Relationship is a core value for MD Barber Supply. When we are serving customers, we  are serving individuals, not just some voice on the phone or a few words in an email. We are serving fathers, husbands, mothers, and students. People with stories that we care about. Look at our giveaways we do every week—the competitions are usually personal in nature! Show us a picture of a recent haircut you did, or have a customer tag you & MD Barber in a post, etc, etc…I make every effort that I can to visit barber shops in different areas near our main office.  We care about you, your shops, and even your customers, so what better way to show that we care than to visit your shops and get to know you even better? When you think about it, relationship in the barbering industry is really at the core of what we do. Invest in your customers relationally, and watch as your business grows exponentially. Simply cut hair and push customers out the door, and you will forever be wondering why your business is stagnant. 

   These are just a few examples of growing your barbering business. By utilizing social media in order to advertise, considering the atmosphere of your shop in comparison to the area’s demographic, clearly identifying your shop, and investing in your customers relationally, you have the ability grow your business into a thriving local hot spot. And remember, MD Barber Supply is here to serve your barbering needs all along the way! 


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