I see so many small business owners, especially in the beauty industry, who struggle with defining a strong and clear brand for their business. I want to help with that, because branding your salon or independent beauty business may be the single most important thing you can do to ensure that your business continues to grow and succeed.
This is the first in an epic series of posts on how to build your salon or independent beauty business brand starting from scratch, all the way through branding your client’s experience every time she sits in your chair. Ready? Here we go!
So, you’re ready to open your own salon, begin building a booth rental business, or step out as a freelance hair and makeup artist? Or maybe you already have a salon or beauty business and you need to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Great! You’re in the right place, because I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know to build a brand and forever cement yourself in the minds of your clients, and I’m going to do it plain English.
Branding vs. Marketing
Let’s begin with a short explanation of what we mean when we talk about “branding”, because sometimes business-y jargon and buzzwords can all run together and make a subject seem far more complicated than it actually is. Simply put, your brand is what makes you memorable. It’s the images, feelings, words and emotions that come to mind when someone hears your name.
Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon
Another word you hear thrown around a lot in the business world is “marketing”. So, what’s the difference between the two? Marketing is the act of promoting your business through advertising campaigns, social media, and live events.
For just a minute, let’s imagine that instead of a salon or beauty business, you own a bakery where you make delicious, beautifully decorated cakes. Think of marketing as standing in the street in front of your bakery giving away samples, talking about your yummy, pretty baked goods and asking people to come in to buy them. Now imagine branding as the beautiful tiered wedding cake covered in pastel sugar flowers in the front window that draws customers in off the street, the matching aprons that you and your bakery employees wear which are the same shade of violet that is used on your website and brochures, and your signature vanilla bean cream filling that wedding guests rave about and then choose for their own wedding cakes.
Your brand is the pure essence of your business, everything you stand for and represent, and defining that essence should come before you do any marketing at all.
Why You Must Define Your Brand
So now that we’ve talked about what a brand is, let’s talk about why it’s so important to have one. A strong, well-defined brand will increase your client base, cement your clients’ loyalty, increase your income, and open up new opportunities for your business. Building a recognizable brand puts you at the front of your customers’ (and potential customers’) minds. When they think of your particular beauty specialty, you want them to think of you.
Riches in the Niches
Speaking of specialties, what’s yours? Are you the best colorist in town? A brow expert? If you’re here at The Beauty Saloon, there’s a good chance that you specialize in recreating vintage styles. You might be the very best at everything you do, nailing cuts, color, and styling every time, but you cannot be all things to all people and get ahead very fast.
For branding purposes, you should narrow down your focus to better attract a certain type of client. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t offer a wide array of beauty services, but you want to define the thing that you’re best at so that when people think of vintage pin-up hairstyles or vivid rainbow colored locks or men’s cuts, your name is at the top of the list.
There’s a phrase in online business that says, “The riches are in the niches”. This means that when you narrow your focus, or “niche down” to offer a service to a very specific subset of customers, you’ll have more luck attracting business.
It’s the difference between yelling from the top of a mountain, hoping your voice reaches someone, anyone who will listen, and addressing a small room full of people who have come specifically to hear what you have to say. When you know who you need to speak to, it will be easier to talk to those people.
Your Ideal Customer
So, who are you talking to? Defining your target customer is a very important key to building your brand, so don’t overlook it. I’m going to walk you through an exercise that will help you define exactly whose business you are trying to attract.
You want to get very, very specific here. Write this down on paper or open a word processing document. You want to define this person’s:
- occupation and job description
- relationship status
- anything else you can think of
Go into minute detail. When I say to define your target customer’s name, I mean I really want you to name this person. Mentally walk through how they spend their day at work, what restaurants, stores and clubs they frequent. Do they have children? How do they spend their free time? What kind of music do they listen to? What is their favorite band? Color? Food? Find a photo to represent this target customer.
This may seem silly or unnecessary, but by doing this, you are getting inside the minds of the people who you are trying to reach. This can only benefit your brand, and therefore your subsequent marketing strategy. However strange or silly this feels, sit down and spend some time on it because I can guarantee that you’re going to come away with a clearer picture of where to steer your brand. Just do it!
Now that we know who we’re talking to, the really fun part begins. For this exercise, I want you to use good old paper and pen. This is a fun and creative way to begin defining your beauty business or salon’s brand, and it all begins with a list.
I want you to make list of the first words that come to mind when you think about your ideal business–don’t think too much or aim for perfection as you brainstorm. This should be a free and messy stream of consciousness writing exercise. Just list any and all of the words that appeal to you, and don’t stop at adjectives. List nouns, emotions, feelings, colors, and even scents that evoke the feel that you want your salon or freelance business to have.
Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else. There is no wrong way to do this. The idea is just to dump all of the contents of your brain out onto paper.
After you have emptied your brain of all these descriptive words, take a good look at your list. You will probably begin to see an overall pattern emerging. Strike anything that doesn’t seem to mesh with the overall feel of the list. The words that remain will help guide you through all the decisions you make as you build your brand.
Congratulations! You’re well on your way to creating your brand identity. We’ll talk more about how to use this list in the next post in the series.