Okay, so last week on the blog we learned that it's 6x easier and WAY cheaper to keep existing clients happy than it is to find new ones. I feel like that is great news! I don't know about you guys, but trying to find the 100 clients it takes to build a full time clientele base is really exhausting and was the biggest struggle of my career. When I was standing behind the chair making clients look gorgeous, those were the good times. Stressing about where my next referral was coming from, not so much.
While keeping a client happy should be the easiest part of our job, it's generally the first thing that starts to slip the deeper we get into our career. Maybe your relationship with your spouse isn't doing so great so you start to come to work a little crankier. Maybe you've got a toddler and a teenager at home (I do!) and you feel like your clients should kind of just feel lucky that you showed up today because between your house full of gremlins, I mean kids, you going to work looking cute just ain't going to happen these days. Maybe you've been seeing your best client Cheryl for 10 years so if you call her and let her know you'll just be 15 minutes late to her appointment she'll totally get it.
These are all clientele killers.
I've shared with you before that there are only two reasons a client will ever choose to leave you; you stopped making them feel valued or you didn't respect your time. That is seriously it. I've tested this theory for YEARS and I can guarantee that it's true. Now, of course you'll lose 10% of your clientele each year due to clients moving away, deciding you're too expensive, deciding you're too cheap. That is okay! That just means those clients aren't in your target market anymore and we can accept that, but anybody else who leaves is for one of the two reasons I mentioned or both.
Let me tell you a story about another stylist, we'll call her Stylist B who I've coached for about 7 months. She's had a long and beautiful career as a stylist but when she reached out to me she felt like she was losing clients all of a sudden and felt desperate to save them. I told her to email 3-5 clients who had left her in the last 6 months and touch base. Can you guess what happened....
Client #1 emailed back and said that she loved Stylist B, but that she saw a woman with the cutest cut and color in the grocery store a few weeks back, asked her for the business card of her stylist and she decided she just needed a change. She didn't need a change, she wasn't feeling valued.
Client #2 emailed back and said that she loved Stylist B, but that at her last appointment Stylist B had been running 30 minutes behind and she just couldn't be stuck waiting like that. Perfect example. She didn't feel like her time was valued.
Stylist B couldn't believe that her responses confirmed exactly what I had predicted. I told her this was great news and we could easily fix it! Here are a couple of the suggestions that I had:
Retention Strategy #1-Take the time to have a mini consultation with every single client BEFORE you mix color or shampoo- Remember client #1 who said she left because she didn't feel valued? If Stylist B had started having mini-consultations with each guest where she suggested fresh ideas and checked in to see if what they were doing had really been working, the client never would have strayed. Our clients are terrified to offend us. Create an environment where clients know you'd love to talk about new looks and ideas and that change is no problem at all.
Retention Strategy #2-Create a Pinterest board called "client inspiration shots" and save pictures that would look great on your clients-Imagine this. A client who has seen you for years sits down as she always has. She expects you to do your usual "Hey Sarah! How's your hair? Touching up your roots today?". You surprise her by saying "I'm so excited to see you because I found this picture the other day and it totally made me think of you. I know I'm throwing a curve ball, but you'd look gorgeous with this cut and color". Clients want us to be inspired and they want to feel special. This would accomplish both of those things.
Retention Strategy #3-Created structured service timing and stick with it- Whenever I suggest making structured service timing there is always that stylist who says "weeeeellll, I'd love to do that but my clientele and the way I do services is different. I like to customize everything so I can't always predict.....". Blah, blah, blah. You' aren't that special and there is no reason why you can't have structured timing. Statements like that are things we tell ourselves so that we don't have to hold ourselves to a standard or take the time to truly build service timing. This not only causing you to lose clients but you're losing money. Time is money and if you don't know your timing I can guarantee you're missing out on making more money.
Retention Strategy #4-Sell retail- Whaaaat? What does retail have anything to do with retention. Carrying amazing retail lines and then discussing them with your clients is what separates the amateurs and the pros. There is no doubt that selling retail in the salon is harder than it was 10 years ago, but there are still plenty of stylists working at all price points in all markets selling thousands of dollars in retail annually. Stylists I've coached have tripled their retail sales & improved retention simply by changing the way they think about and position their sales. A client who buys retail from you is saying "I trust you". That trust builds loyalty and when you express to a client that you want her to look her best and you have the tool to take her there, that is value.
Retention Strategy #5-Kick it old school and write thank-you notes-You may be thinking that nobody sends postal mail anymore and that is the exact reason why you should be. 90% of what I get in the mail is bills. That doesn't stop me from picking up the mail every single day. I'm more engaged in what shows up in my postal box than my in-box because for whatever reason it holds a more serious weight and position to me. Think of how excited you are when you rifle through that stack of mail and you have a little hand-written envelope in the mix. You drop everything and open that baby up first! I want your client to have that experience when they hear from you.
I could go on and on, but let's stick to these 5 today. Retention is the single fastest way to increase your income and get you out of the constant client searching hustle. Make your clients feel special, know your service timing and stick to it.