Your marketing strategy will keep your business moving forward from the moment you open your doors. Before a single customer walks in, check that each element of this strategy is well in place. Most importantly, all means of locating your salon online and through social media should be live and properly functioning well before your go-live day. A website that doesn’t load or an empty Instagram account can easily send prospective clients on to the next option before they’ve even had a chance to experience your services.
Google My Business
When someone is looking for nail salon services the first thing they’ll do is take out their phone or computer and Google “nail salons.” When they do, the first result will be Google’s local business listings. This includes a list of local businesses plotted on Google maps along with contact information, store hours, reviews and ratings, directions, and a website link for each business. Being part of this listing is essential.
Registering your business with Google is free and setting up your account is simple. However, to complete the process you will need to wait a few weeks for a postcard to arrive in the mail with a unique verification code. Your listing will not be live until you complete this step, so be sure to plan well ahead. Google offers a step-by-step guide to get you started.
Website Up and Running
When you show up in Google’s business listings, there must be somewhere for people to go. This means checking for formatting problems, typographical errors, or informational omissions. It also means being sure your site loads quickly and works properly across devices.
Having a mobile-friendly site with fast load speeds is critical. Not only does Google prioritize sites that fit this description, so do customers. Surveys show that a majority of users will leave a site that does not load within three seconds. With more than 50% of web traffic generated via mobile devices, having a site that loads and functions properly both on a computer screen and on cell phones, tablets, and other devices is essential. In the weeks before opening, test your site frequently on a variety of devices to be sure everything runs smoothly. Give yourself time to catch problems and glitches before prospective customers can.
Right below Google’s business listings when someone searches for a nail salon will be Yelp’s top 10 local nail salons. Although your business will not show up on this list immediately, having a strong presence on Yelp from the start will help get your business ranked quickly. Three of the biggest factors Yelp uses to rank businesses are the number of reviews, the overall business rating, and the level of profile completion. Having your Yelp page set up and complete before you open your doors will help fulfill these criteria as soon as possible.
Having a Yelp page from day one will also give your first customers a place to leave feedback and recommend your salon to others. Online reviews are an extremely powerful tool in attracting business. Having reviews pop up from the very beginning will help your business build credibility and pull in new clients. It’s free to register your business and manage your listing with Yelp.
Social Media Profiles
Just as important as an overall web presence, having your social media accounts set up before you open is very important. Since nail salons produce visual results, social media offers an excellent opportunity for you to show off your work, build excitement around your brand and services, and gather feedback from clients. You can start to build anticipation for your opening by posting examples of your work or offering discounts or promotions for those who engage with your social media accounts.
Although you will likely be more active on some sites than others, it’s important to set up a profile for all the major social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. A wide, consistent, and professional online presence will help your business build legitimacy from the start. If that seems overwhelming while you’re just starting your business, focus on one platform. The key is to have a consistent established presence online. Read more about this topic in our social media guide for small businesses.
With so much of business marketing and outreach done online, it can be easy to forget the more traditional, but effective, methods of keeping customers engaged. As a personal service business, having business cards for both the overall business and for your technicians to personalize and hand out is a simple, but critical, way to keep clients coming back.
Having these ready on day one is especially important to ensure your first-time clients have a way to remember their tech and get back in touch when they need their next appointment. Getting your business cards into people’s hands from their first appointment is the first step in building a base of regular, loyal clients.
Gift cards are an easy and effective way to build additional sales. Salon gift cards are very popular and having them ready from day one can not only add to your revenue but also spread your name even further. Offer clients the ability to purchase gift cards on your website as well as in person at the salon. Having a display of cards visible at check out can be particularly effective. You may also consider training your staff to recommend gift cards at the end of appointments.
No amount of planning and marketing will matter if you don’t offer a positive experience to your customers. The experience your customers have once they walk through your doors will determine whether or not they return, recommend your business to others, or write positive or negative reviews about your salon online. There are several ways you can help ensure a positive customer experience from day one.
If you haven’t completed or perfected your employee training now is the time to be sure you have a solid plan in place that will acquaint your new employees with what is expected of them. Does your training program cover everything you intended? This should include both the technical aspects of working in your salon and the type of atmosphere and culture you hope to create with your business. Seek feedback from your newly trained employees about how ready they feel to begin working in your salon.
Mock/Roleplay Customer Interactions
A great way to get a feel for how your training works is to do some mock customer interactions. Practice a variety of scenarios with your new staff to gauge how ready they are for day one, help them prepare for the unexpected, and properly convey to them what’s expected when things get tough.
As a service business, your employees will encounter all types of people. Role play situations that cover clients who arrive late for appointments, those who can’t decide on a nail color or service, dissatisfied clients who want refunds or free replacement services, those who don’t want to talk during services, and those who won’t stop talking. Although these role plays can feel awkward, giving your staff an opportunity to plan ahead for challenging clients will ultimately make them feel more comfortable in their roles and help mitigate conflicts before they occur.
Do a “Customer Perspective” Walkthrough
When you feel your employees are ready to go, doing a full walkthrough of your salon from the perspective of a new client is a great way to work any remaining kinks out of the system. This should include the following:
- Make an appointment. Call the salon to book an appointment. This will allow your receptionist to practice speaking with clients and taking appointments. You can add variations to this such as calling back to reschedule or cancel an appointment.
- Arrive for your appointment. Walk into your salon ready for your appointment. Check in at the front desk and sit in the waiting area. Consider any changes that might make the client experience better. Is there a place to hang your coat and magazines in reach? Are there books or other items to entertain children who may accompany your clients? Can you see product displays from where you’re sitting? Have employees come in and out of the salon to see how the breeze blowing in may be uncomfortable to clients sitting in the waiting area or disturbing to any materials you have set out on tables. Some amount of waiting is an inevitable part of the salon experience, so be sure it’s as comfortable and pleasurable as possible.
- Sit for your service. Have one of your employees actually perform a service. Sit at the manicure or pedicure station and consider how comfortable the seats are, what the view from this location is, and anything that could be improved. Does your technician seem comfortable at the station? Are all the supplies and equipment organized efficiently? Does the experience feel professional and the technician experienced and competent?
- Check out. Finish your service and check out at the front desk. Sign up for the salon’s email list and check back later for what you receive. Have your staff try out some upsells of the products used during your service and offer to book you a follow up appointment. Pay for your service to be sure your payment service is running properly. How does your salon handle tipping? Can clients add their tip with their credit or debit cards or will they need to have cash on hand? Are business cards ready to go with the name of your tech or your upcoming appointment time?
Throughout this walkthrough consider how your employees handle each step and where things can be smoothed out. Think about the physical layout of the salon and how it felt to walk through each part. Although it is impossible to prepare for everything, getting a feel for the client's experience before opening will allow you to fix any big problems ahead of time.
Is the Salon Clean?
You will also want to do one last walkthrough to be sure your salon is clean and organized. Construction and renovations can leave a great deal of dust and debri. Even if you’ve already had the salon cleaned, it’s important to do a final wipe down of all your surfaces and check floors and corners for dust. If you and your staff have been spending time in the salon during training and preparations be sure no one has left any garbage or personal items behind. Finally, check that your bathrooms are spotless and well stocked.
Although you likely touched on some of these items during your walkthrough, now is the time to do a thorough test of all the equipment and systems in your salon.
Is All the Equipment Working Properly?
A nail salon has a lot of supplies and equipment and it’s critical that all of it is in working order before your first client walks in the door. Check that all tools are clean and functioning properly, and test your chairs, lights, and any other mechanical items. Be sure toilets flush, sinks turn on, and washing and sanitation equipment is working.
Do the Payments Solutions and Computer Systems Work Properly
Next, be sure all of your computer systems are working properly. Make sure your wifi is set up and functioning on all devices. Post your wifi password conspicuously at the front desk in case any of your employees need to troubleshoot or log back in when you’re not there. Test your payment system to see that credit and debit card payments go through smoothly. Check that all of your service and product inventory are entered properly into the system and easy to locate. Test the phones and voicemail. Test the functionality of your website and any online contact forms or appointment tools you’ve set up.
Are Products Stocked on Shelves and Properly Stored?
You’ll also want to go through your products to be sure your displays are neat and complete and your supply room is organized and well stocked. Because you won’t know right away which products will sell fastest, you’ll want to have easy access to your overstock so you can quickly restock shelves as needed.
Document and Test Daily Open/Close Processes
Run through your daily opening and closing procedures. Who will be responsible for opening the salon each day? If it’s not you, bring back the employee(s) you’ve tasked with this job to go over each step once more. Do the same for closing. What needs to happen at the end of each day? From cleaning to closing out the register and locking up, posting a checklist at the front desk or in the backroom will help you and your staff stay on track.
Finally, don’t forget the little things. With so many big things to worry about it’s easy to overlook the simplest items. When it comes to supplies, consider the following:
- Floor mats
- Coat Racks
- Wet floor signs
- Open/Closed signs
- Sign-in sheets
- Bathroom cleaning checklists
- MSDS sheets
Also consider any plans and procedures you may have overlooked. This should include everything from what to do when a technician calls out sick at the last minute to critical emergency plans such as chemical clean up procedures and a posted fire escape route. This is also a good time to be sure you and your employees have all reviewed OSHA’s guidelines for nail salon workers.
The Three Opening Days of Your Business
All this time you’ve been preparing for opening day, but to maximize the success of your opening, you’ll actually want to have three separate opening days.
Your soft opening is the first time you’ll bring outside clients into your salon. Invite friends and family to spend the day. Treat them like real clients and have them each go through the entire process from start to finish. Go through as many different services as possible to see how long each service takes, how many clients you can complete in a day, and how many supplies and products you go through.
This is also a great opportunity to test the turnover time between clients, how long cleaning and sanitizing equipment and stations takes, and how much general tidying and maintenance is needed to keep things running smoothly throughout the day. Work in employee breaks, lunch, and other small moments that add up throughout the day to get a true feel for how a full workday pans out.
When the day is complete, elicit as much feedback as you can from your trial clients. Although friends and family are likely to be more polite than the average client, press them for honest reviews and any ways you can improve before going live.
This is the day you’ve been preparing for all this time. Your go-live day is the first day your salon is officially open to the public. Be sure your employees are in on time and ready to go. Although you may have taken a few appointments in the days or weeks leading to your opening, it’s likely that many of your clients will be walk-ins on day one.
You also want to ensure all of your marketing materials are in working order. Place any signs you have outside the door, check your website one last time, and prepare business cards and other materials you’ll be distributing to clients. Garner as much feedback as you can and direct satisfied clients to leave reviews and tell their friends.
Pay close attention to what goes well and where you can make improvements.
Finally, it’s time for your grand opening. This should take place a week or two after your go-live day when you’ve started to get your routine in place and are feeling more comfortable with the day to day.
You can only host a grand opening once, so be sure to do it right. This is the official announcement of your salon to the community, so leave no stone unturned. Invite your friends and family back, tell the local paper and the Chamber of Commerce, put out ads wherever you can - church bulletins, diner menus, library bulletin boards, hang a large sign outside your salon, get balloons, and offer discounts and promotions.
This should be a celebration of your business that gets prospective clients excited about giving you their business. Prepare as much as you can, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself and take pride in your amazing accomplishment.