On the list

Hosting an event is not only good for retaining loyal clients. Play it wisely and you could draw in an army of new ones too. By Gemma Ward

Whether you choose to do it in-salon or hire out a swanky venue, hosting your own event can bring many business benefits. Getting involved with the local community is of course the ideal way to spread word of mouth and boost sales. However, giving your team a platform to showcase what they can do also works wonders for morale.

“Parties are great for relations as they build new and deeper bonds between the team and clients, which has a huge impact on loyalty,” says Romano Zullo, owner of Nottingham’s Zullo and Holland. “You also have a captive audience where the atmosphere is more casual than in the traditional salon setting.”

Barrie Stephen, owner of his eponymous salon group in the Midlands, agrees that they make good business sense. “Events are great for gaining new customers,” he says. “Clients can invite their friends and if you put on an impressive event, they buy in to the salon ethos and want to be involved too.”

There are of course many different event types to choose from. So before working out which one will work best for your business, deciding on your objective is often the best place to start.

So why do you want to hold an event – is it to reward loyal clients or to tempt new ones? Are you promoting new products and services or introducing new team members? Or perhaps you want to show off your team’s skills? Whatever it is, the options are almost endless.

Tried and tested ideas

Barrie Stephen, owner of his eponymous salon group in the Midlands, says the most successful events combine shopping opportunities, expert advice and demonstrations – often with a charity angle. He says: “We focus our annual big event in early December as it’s the perfect time for retail opportunities and party season advice.”
The salon owner hires a venue for the evening and takes a large team to create a party atmosphere. Last year the event took place at the salon’s local David Lloyd gym and featured hair demonstrations from the art team, a blow-dry bar, stalls selling retail items, topless waiters and a pianist playing Christmas songs as well as free flowing drinks and mince pies. The evening attracted over 300 attendees who paid £5 a ticket in exchange for a bespoke Barrie Stephen shopping bag full of goodies and a January appointment promotion. “On the night we received some amazing retail figures, raised money for a local charity and filled the appointment book for January, so it was an all round success.”

Meanwhile, Ronnie Marshall, owner of Byron Hairdressing in Scotland’s Kirkcaldy, recommends taking presentations to local businesses to raise awareness among new audiences. His team recently put on a fashion show at a local primary school where its stylists made-over house models as well as parents on stage while talking about current trends. The event proved

to be successful – leading to a full-page article in the local newspaper and “lots of bookings”. Marshall says: “Presentations where we’ve created something visual, exciting and informative are always hugely successful for us. We get to spread our message across a wider audience and potential clients love them.”

But for Romano Zullo, owner of Nottingham’s Zullo and Holland, intimate evenings held in-salon are often the best way to project the right message. “With in-salon events clients get to see the
salon in a different light and the relaxed atmosphere makes it easier for them to ask questions,” he says. “These events are about explaining the secrets of blow- drying, new products or even basic home care. If a client can care for her hair more successfully between appointments thanks to our advice, she’ll be a loyal client for life.”

Alternatively, if you’d really like to raise your profile in the local community, Zullo recommends working with local charities. The salon owner has been planning a fundraiser ball with cancer support charity Maggie’s Nottingham for the past few months, which is set to go ahead in May. He says: “Part of it is our communication strategy to promote our charitable activity to clients and beyond. Maggie’s will promote it on its database and we’re confident the event will be supported by local press. There’s also the additional benefit that it’s exciting for the team.”

Top tips

So once you’ve decided on your event’s agenda and guest list, it’s essential to forward plan. Marshall advises salon owners to give themselves at least three months to organise every detail. “Identify who can help you and be prepared to delegate tasks,” he says. “Have regular meetings to prepare a schedule and ensure everyone is on-task and motivated.”

Promoting the event is also vital to ensure high attendance. Stephen says: “Promote it long before the night – make the most of everything in the salon to let people know: use show cards on each hair station and in treatment rooms as well as on reception. Promote it on your website and Facebook, ask your team to talk about it and record something on the telephone hold message.”

Clients love freebies and promotions so consider a well stocked goodie bag and mini treatments to entice more people to come on the day. Zullo says: Get your product manufacturer to contribute. Goodie bags should be as generous as you can make them – fat with your literature and offers that you have running for the event as well as product. We found running a promotion where clients booking an appointment or service on the night get a discount or extra treat works well.”

In the run up to the big day, make sure you’re prepared for everything. Stephen recommends printing off a schedule the week before and crossing off jobs each day: “Even the little things like finding a clothes rack for guests to hang their coats on, signs for the toilets and a bucket for the raffle tickets are important. It’s the little touches that show people you’ve really thought everything through – and it’ll be a great reflection on the business.”

When it comes to the main event, make sure your team is well briefed on their individual role and create an agenda to keep everything flowing. “Have people on hand who can advise guests on which products and treatments will suit them,” says Stephen. “Clients love to receive targeted professional honest advice.”

Lastly, don’t just think about the event but the future too. Zullo says: “Stopping short of barring the door, don’t let anyone leave before you can persuade them to willingly hand over their contact details. That way you can continue the conversation even after they all go home.” And lastly don’t forget to upload any photos to Twitter and your salon’s Facebook page. Attending guests will hopefully think fondly about the evening while those that couldn’t make it will want to be there next time.