Dale P. Aho, J.D., COO
Di Biase Hair Extensions USA
Making Your Hair Extension Business A Profit Powerhouse
The core to hair extension profitability lies in understanding that hair clients are everywhere and they are out there looking for you. They are not in your chair – YET – because you are invisible to them. They don’t see you. If you want to increase your income stream, you have to give them a way to find you.
Hair extension services provide an excellent living for many hair professionals. Being a premium and in demand service, while becoming more mainstream, extensions are an exceptional income generator and a valuable source of new clients. Yet those statements are certainly not true for many other stylists and salons, whose extension services languish, or who choose not to offer them at all. This article is concerned with the “why” and “what” – “why” there are such differences and, more importantly, “what” steps can be taken to jump start an extension business.
As a co-owner of Di Biase Hair Extensions USA, I learned early that successful hair extension businesses defy stereotypes. They are found in all kinds of salons and all kinds of demographic regions, including farmlands, inner cities, small cities, and working class neighborhoods, as well as the wealthier districts. They include individual stylists in booth rental arrangements and larger salons with numerous extension specialists. Most notably, the largest salons do not necessarily stand out when it comes to extensions.
In an effort at understanding what distinguishes and elevates some salons, I spent time meeting with stylists and salon owners from around the country – those that do little business and those that are over booked. Not surprisingly, the most common refrain of those that do very little business in extensions is that their clients can’t afford them. Those salons tend to treat extension services as a part of their regular menu of services, as a luxury that most can’t afford. Oftentimes, the salons offer extension services not because they see it as an income producer but more to keep the occasional client who wants extensions from going to another salon. The price of the service is often even discounted to the extent that it becomes unattractive for the stylist to do extensions.
There is a stark contrast when speaking with salon owners and stylists who are successful at extensions. They see extensions as an income leader. These owners and stylists tend to view their extension business through a wide lens. Their approaches and assumptions have common elements, particularly that: 1) new hair extension clients will include but not be limited to their existing clients, and, in fact, the majority of new business will come from the outside; 2) only a relatively few salons will make being visible a priority and, accordingly, there is room to rise above the rest; and 3) hair extension clients will actively seek out a specialist and will often be willing to travel a considerable distance for the service. Importantly, opening up the possible network of new clients also opens up the ability to set prices more fairly for the stylist, as the existing client base isn’t exclusively the target.
The lessons of the more successful extension businesses come down to covering each of the following market segments: 1) the chair; 2) the salon; 3) the neighborhood, or those who pass by the salon; and 4) the region as a whole. Each of these segments is critically important to success.
The chair. Successful extension specialists make sure that every single person who sits in the chair knows the hair stylist is a specialist in extensions. That client, female or male, may not be a candidate but he or she may well know of someone who might be. A focused extensionist will have brochures, mirror clings, testimonials, before and afters, and other materials that are either readily visible or can be handed out. Further, a stylist will encourage those who receive extensions to brag about the services and even offer incentives for referrals.
The salon. Successful extension salons make extension promotion a priority. For instance, they utilize the front desk (where everyone stops) for handouts or brochures, and displaying posters, or, for example, posting a small sign suggesting that clients ask about thinning hair solutions or other extension uses. Literally everyone who walks in the salon should see some prominent reminder of the extension business that is being done within the salon. It is certainly more of a challenge for the stylist who is a booth renter but hopefully the creative stylist can strike a bargain with the salon owner to allow some signage and/or work out deals with the other stylists in the business to encourage referrals. (The extensionist in the salon may be a safer alternative for other stylists than allowing the extension client to go to another salon.)
The neighborhood. The top hair extension salons use signage and other marketing displays to make sure their business in extensions will not be missed by those that pass by. If at all possible, a sign, flag, poster, or some other popular product should be placed prominently on the window front. Looking around at most salons, it is hard to know who does and who does not do extensions. You can distinguish your salon from the rest. With just a little effort, you can become visible to everyone as the stylist in the neighborhood that does extensions. You can gain additional footing by networking, using business cards, offering cross promotions, and similar types of “in person” communications.
The larger market – the region. This is where most salons truly miss out and where the more successful among them gain the greatest advantage. Just consider how few hair extension salons there really are in a particular city or metropolitan region. Within those salons, there are therefore cumulatively many customers who have no alternative but to go elsewhere if they want extensions. Unless they have heard of someone or can get a referral, they will look for someone with an online presence. In terms of promoting yourself online, the easiest method is via the various social media outlets. Clever use of social media costs nothing and it can be fabulously effective. Networking has always been one of the most effective ways to bring in new business. You can gain a reputation by effectively and consistently sending positive messages in a variety of platforms.
The most obvious and yet most underutilized road to extension profitability is through your website. Creating a fabulous extension webpage can pay off many times over in terms of client growth. It is a common thread that I found in separating the most successful salons from all the others who merely “offer” extensions as a service.
To illustrate, in looking for successful hair extension salons, I did what any member of the public might do: I SEARCHED THE INTERNET. I simply typed in the name of a city and combined it with the term “hair extensions.” When I found a list of salons, I then looked for those that had nice sections devoted to extensions and worked forward from those. I pretty much ignored webpages that merely listed hair extensions as one of the regular salon services. Effective webpages had sections with “before and afters,” testimonials, or other attractive images communicating that extensions were a specialty. This is the same path that a prospective extension client might take. Would it lead to your salon?
Beyond the webpage alone, you will be well served by listing yourself as servicing multiple cities, not just relying on your salon address. Web searches are very literal and, unless you specifically name the location, you will likely not be found by anyone searching in a neighboring city. You might try your own experiment on this to see which cities you appear under and which salons appear when doing a search of your own city. Many salons, even individual stylists, find a way to become listed in multiple cities, and specifically describing service locations is one way of doing that. The message in all of this is that hair salons too often treat hair extension services as a niche. They do little to nothing to maximize profitability by increasing visibility. This leaves a huge opening for the more ambitious extension specialist. Those who recognize and seek out that additional business will be the most successful. If you are interested in increasing your profits from doing hair extensions, look at your efforts to make yourself discoverable. Put yourself in a position to be found and the reward will be well worth the effort.