Booth Renter Marketing vs. Salon Marketing: One Size Does Not Fit All

One size does not fit all in terms of the marketing challenges faced by booth renters and hair stylists compared to those of growing a salon as a whole. 

That being true, it follows that booth renters and hairstylists also need different marketing solutions; or it might be more accurate to say that they need to employ marketing tools and tactics differently than would a salon as a whole, in order to build clientele and client loyalty. 

When it comes to marketing there are universal tools and tactics which can be put to work by anyone, regardless of whether their organization is comprised of one or a thousand employees.  Marketing tools always work, just like a screwdriver or a hammer always work when it comes to turning screws or pounding nails in. Whether you accomplish your goal in using them, however, is another matter, totally dependent on whether you know how to use them most effectively and appropriately.

This week, the salon world is abuzz with summary results from a 2011 Booth Rental Salon Market Study by Professional Consultants & Resources, experts in strategic consulting specializing in the beauty, salon, spa and cosmetics industries.   The first study of its kind, it not only defines some of the ways in which the marketing challenges and needs of the booth renter differ from those of a salon or spa, but also points out the extent to which booth renters (independent hair stylists, skin care estheticians, make up artists, massage therapists, nail techs and other independently operating beauty pros) support the sale of professional salon and spa products.

So why should you care about booth renter marketing?

While in some areas of the US, booth renter salons are actually not legal, in others, they comprise 90% or more of the overall market.  What’s more, by 2015 it is *predicted that some form of booth renter salons (which currently represent about 35% of the overall salon market) will grow to a whopping 50%. If that’s true, then one out of every two salons will be some type of booth renter salon.

So why do I care about booth renters and independent hair stylists (and their unique marketing needs)? 

My experience in marketing specifically with the salon and spa industry dates back to 2004, when I went to work for a multi-state salon distributorship here in the Pacific NW.  My responsibilities put me into a position to work directly with everyone involved in the manufacturer-to-end-consumer chain, including many manufacturers, other distributors, and with individual salon and spa owners and hairstylists.  This 360 degree view afforded me the unique opportunity to analyze and understand the marketing challenges and needs of each.

In 2009 I published my first marketing calendar for salon and spa, and subsequently wrote 12 Months of Marketing for Salon and Spa and its sequel, Make Over Your Marketing, which takes a systematic look at marketing for salon and spa and which also provide specific ideas for marketing for each month of the year.  I subsequently published marketing calendars for salon and spa for 2011 and 2012.

I was showing the 2012 Salon and Spa Marketing Calendar to one of my mentors, the owner and founder of a national salon and spa manufacturer (David Hanen, Innovative Salon Products, home of LOMA and Pearatin salon and spa professional products).  He pointed out that in writing for salon and spa owners that I was actually leaving out 90% of the audience:  booth renters, hairstylists, estheticians, nail techs, massage therapists – all of those people working within salons and spas who actually also bear the responsibility of marketing themselves as independent business owners.

From this conversation was born The One to Watch: The 2012 Marketing Guide for Stylists, Estheticians and Independent Salon Owners, which tells booth renters and independent beauty pros which marketing tools might work best for them, and how to use them most effectively. 

Like my other publications, this guide also offers specific themes and ideas for marketing for every month of the year which are interpreted to be easy to understand and applied specifically to the  unique needs of booth renters and hair stylists, vs. those of salon owners.

Needless to say, this study and its findings caught my eye, big time!   Some of the important take-aways and my suggestions:

  • Consumers aren’t aware of all the different types of salon operating models

While at first glance you might think it speaks to an education issue, I’m not so sure.  The consumer isn’t aware of all of the different types of salon-ownership and operating models; but does that really matter?  We know that the consumer is interested in their own results – the ways in which they perceive that the professional salon and spa services they receive enhance their own life.  Whether that occurs in a salary or commission salon or a salon staffed 100% by booth renters does not matter to them, so long as they receive the benefits they desire.

My advice?  Don’t waste valuable marketing resources educating clients about this.  Don’t divert your marketing messages in any way from communicating the benefits that a client will receive as a result of doing business with you.  And back your marketing communications up with your overall client experience.

  • Booth rental salons and independent hairstylists and booth renters purchase a significant portion of professional salon and spa products and equipment sold by distributors with store locations (including Sally Beauty, CosmoProf (Beauty Systems Group), SalonCentric and others

Salon and spa distributors and manufacturers alike need to be aware that their businesses will be increasingly dependent upon booth renters and other independent salon professionals.

My advice?  Manufacturers and distributors who provide added value specifically designed to enhance not only the technical proficiencies but also the business acumen of booth renters and individual hair stylists, estheticians, nail technicians and massage therapists will be better able to attract and retain booth renter salon customers.

Having conveniently located store locations and giving booth renters the ability to purchase salon and spa products more conveniently (such as online) and in smaller quantities (even when it comes to salon intros) will be more attractive as the salon product distributor of choice for booth rental salons.

  • Booth rental salons are more likely to be staffed by highly independent personality types (whose work and work styles will also therefore be highly individualistic from one another) 

We already know that the salon and spa industry has more than its share of professionals who prize their independence and thrive only when they can fully express themselves in their work and art (often the same thing).

Just as one size does not fit all when it comes to hair styles, one size does not fit all when it comes to operating styles.  Managing a group of independently-minded individuals presents unique challenges in terms of forging a cohesive brand to present to consumers in order to attract new clients, cultivate loyalty and stimulate referrals.  (If you think I’m kidding, just think about the last time you tried to get a group of booth renters to agree on what color to paint a wall!)

My advice?  Owners and managers of booth rental salons should strive to create and cultivate an employee culture that allows them to present a seamless, well-defined, distinctive brand to the outside world, and thus, their clients and prospective clients.

It’s impossible to present a strong brand to the world if you cannot forge agreement on mission, vision and shared values among your employees, whether they are booth renters or “real” employees of a salon or spa.  But it’s imperative to the success and profitability of everyone – the salon as a business itself, as well as to each and every member of the salon team – that this type of symbiotic relationship be created and understood.

Booth rental salons that cannot achieve a cohesive brand and employee culture suffer the same negative consequences as any other business that fails to do the same. And its root cause, a lack of strong leadership — communicating and holding individuals accountable to the mission and vision of the business – is also ground zero for either type of salon.

*According to Cyrus Bulsara, president of Professional Consultants & Resources

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11 replies
  1. michael vallance (@MikeB2MR)
    michael vallance (@MikeB2MR) says:

    This is such a great topic well written and touches on the real issue of salon owner ship and management embracing change that being booth/chair rental.Collaboration between all is essential for all parties.
    Our industry constantly evolves so the the challenges we face change but with vision and innovative thinking with an open mind this is nothing but good.It’s progress.Mike B2MR

    • Elizabeth Kraus
      Elizabeth Kraus says:

      Michael – thank you for your kind words. I agree that bringing attention to the unique challenges faced both by salon owners and by the creative individuals who fuel the industry success can only bring improvement – great opportunity for discussion! – Elizabeth

  2. Karen New
    Karen New says:

    Thank you, for such a great article, 16 yrs as a booth renter, I constantly look for information regarding booth renters and never really see much about the issues we have. I look forward to getting and reading your book.

    • Elizabeth Kraus
      Elizabeth Kraus says:

      Karen – you’re so welcome! I’m planning to write at least one more article next week on this topic, perhaps more detail about the differences and what booth renters can do to give themselves and edge. Thanks again for your comment — Elizabeth

  3. Lea
    Lea says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I get three emails with the same comment.

    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    • Elizabeth Kraus
      Elizabeth Kraus says:

      Hi Lea – is the notification from the blog or from LinkedIn? I believe if it’s coming from LinkedIn you just have to uncheck the box under the topic.

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