A concept commonly used by many companies to guide what they offer and how they offer it is called “Marketing Mix,” and it consists of four Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. This article is all about the first P, for Product, and that includes a lot more than hairspray.
The first question to ask yourself as an entrepreneur – which pretty much describes hairdressers – is: “What am I selling?”
It may sound like a stupid question, but defining your offering to your customers is a helpful guide to so many other decisions. Clearly, there are some big categories – cutting, coloring, blowouts, extensions – but it makes sense to think through the sub-categories too. Men’s vs. women’s cuts; single vs. double process vs. balayage; and then, of course, retail.
Ask this important question: “What do I know how to do well?” The answer will determine your personal offering. But most people are tempted to offer as much as they can think of with a me-centric approach. They think a long list of complex offerings communicates deep expertise. They may also think that a broad offering will attract more people and cast a wider net.
But take a client-centric approach instead. “What will clients want from me and value most?” If they are only willing to pay $15 for a kid’s haircut but $30 for a men’s haircut and both take the same amount of time and energy, maybe it doesn’t make sense to offer kids’ cuts.
Beau Bollinger, founder of Hairstory Studio Dallas has this advice for hairdressers starting out: “Get busy. Say yes to a lot of things but know what you want in the long run. I focus on building my ‘ideal clientele,’ people I enjoy as humans, whose hair excites me creatively, and who value my time. Clearly, we can’t just snap our fingers and build that,” he adds. “I’m still working on it to this day.”
Say yes to a lot of things but know what you want in the long run. I focus on building my ‘ideal clientele,’ people I enjoy as humans, whose hair excites me creatively, and who value my time.
Taking it one step farther, what is the most you can charge for your time based on the service you offer? What do clients value most on a per hour basis? Maybe it is sophisticated color, a treatment process, or intricate braids or extensions. The challenge with this approach is that it may be great if you can do a specific high-value service all day long, but there may not be enough demand for that service to keep you busy.
Colorist Julia Elena at Hairstory Studio New York arrived at color the long way, “through experience,” she says. “I went to school for cutting, and I committed to a mentor, but I was miserable and realized cutting wasn’t for me.” She turned to styling, “which I loved and moved to New York to pursue,” but found life on set amongst fashionistas unsettling. When she found Hairstory, “Color made sense. I knew what I should do and what I wanted to do. I love it to this day.”
The point is, if you specialize too soon, you narrow your demographic of clients and slow your ability to build. “Be open to doing a lot of things and narrow it down as you build and see what you enjoy,” says Beau. Most successful hairdressers offer enough of a range to accommodate various needs and desires, but keep the offering limited to high-value services that are worth the time and energy.
Offer enough of a range to accommodate various needs and desires, but keep the offering limited to services that are worth the time and energy.
So: Ask yourself what you love to do. Learn how to do it really well. Know what is most valuable to your clients. Don’t try and be everything to everybody – and focus on offering what brings you joy. Life is too short not to spend time doing things you love.
By Eli Halliwell, Hairstory CEO