The business side to doing nails... and all the other non-technical product stuff Advertising....

I used to run a lot of mailed coupons such as val-pak, etc..... here are some of my thoughts.

Be prepared to plan far in advance when doing this type of advertising. Lead time is about 6-8 weeks from my experience! The ad has to be laid-out, proofed, printed, dried and cut, stuffed, then sent to the bulk-mailer to be addressed, then to the post-office where they can sit a while, then the individual postal routes at their ultimate destination where they can SIT awhile again!!!), so do some checking up on a company and a rep before investing any money! (FYI, usually it is 1/2 now, and 1/2 after the ad runs Generally about $250 to $600 per zone you mail to) Also get some type of written guarantee for the week of delivery (usually they give you a week or 2 weeks RANGE of when they will go out, since they are bulk mailings they are not an exact delivery date), so if you are going for any type of holiday promotion or other time-specific delivery date,they could be outdated before they ever arrive. So I would go with just GENERAL specials and info rather than a holiday theme just in case they go out late! (As in AFTER that holiday, unless you are absolutely sure there will be enough lead time.)

Think of your target audience as well.... men don't tend to read the coupon packs (ie, "junk mail") so they may not see gift basket or gift certificate ideas or specials!

Pick the coupon co. you do biz with carefully, what image do they promote? Who are the other advertisers? What image do these other advertisers promote?


Advertising 101 (stuff I learned in college), and some do's and don'ts with couponing nail services ( what I have learned through my own experiences)....

Potential new clients will not "trust" a business until at least their THIRD (3rd) exposure to it! (ie they have seen ads from you 3 times) So don't expect a lot out of your first ad impression.

Advertising can continue to work up to 3 years later*! (so really THINK about your IMAGE in these ads!) Unfortunately, it also takes some people 3 years to RESPOND at all. So don't think of advertising as a one shot deal, think of it as a long term program! Future ads will generate more response because of the aggregate effect of your past ads.

(* People still comment about my "Barb's Back" promotion I ran w/ my picture when I returned from my last maternity leave. I was only gone 2 weeks, and I continued the ad for months after.... but NEW clients didn't know that!)

Response rates on coupon advertising average between 1/2 of 1% or LESS to a high (and this is very high) of 2%. So a mailing of 10,000 pieces (that is the standard) can generate approx 50 to 200 calls for additional info. (Not necessarily appts, so how you handle your phones will be a #1 priority, see later sections here for more info!)

Pictures in your ad will generate more interest in your ad. Customers respond to pictures!

Keep it simple! Don't clutter the ad with a lot of text. Make the ad enticing enough to get the customer to want to call for more info!

Make a "call to action", such as "CALL NOW!"

Try to promote your services benefits more than the "price" specials. (Emphasize Quality!) Such as "highly trained and/or experienced and/or award winning Nail Techs" in some areas "English speaking" is a clincher!; "Highest sanitation procedures"; "Evening and Sat hours", etc, whatever makes your salon stand-out from others. Make the price special an added benefit, not the ONLY benefit.

Give the ad or special an expiration date; No more than 90 days max from the time the ad goes out, preferably no more than 30 days! This gives the ad urgency and another call to action.

Make an attention grabbing headline! Otherwise they (the customer) won't READ the rest of the ad. Again, this is where a picture can be very helpful as it is attention grabbing. (The pictures of my staff in front of and on our electric sign out front where very popular)

In coupons, use $$ off, not % off....The majority of ad readers won't do the math or comprehend the $$ savings! Make the $ off the "headline" in the coupon section of your ad.(Make the "coupon" section separate from the text section describing your services) Spell out the prices and the savings....Such as:


----$5 OFF!!!----
Deluxe, Pampering, Spa Manicure
Reg $20, $15 with this ad
Hurry! Expires June 1, 1999
Call Now For Appt and Details!


Don't run too many specials at once, it just clutters up the ad. You can always tell them about other offers or services on the phone or once they are in the salon! Your ONLY goal right now with an ad is to GET THEM IN THE DOOR! Once thay are there, it's up to you to keep them coming back.

*Don't bother with a lot of disclaimers* beyond the exp date, they clutter up your ad and they don't read them anyway. (* such as "good with selected techs only", "only valid for new clients", "must mention ad/coupon/special when booking appt to recveive this price" etc.) You can try the standby "restictions may apply" but most new clients tend to take offense if they feel they are being tricked or manipulated (even when they're not) no matter how clear you try to make the restrictions.

Your best bet, and least heartache in the longrun is to just offer the special to everyone! This way you can talk about the special over the phone with a new potential client, whether she has mentioned the special or not, and then book her appt with the techs you want to fill-up, and not the tech who doesn't need nor want to do any "sale" business!**


After the ad breaks, dealing with the response:

Be prepared with a telephone script for everyone to use promoting the benefits of your salon and services, NOT just the price. You MUST SELL, SELL, SELL! Even if they are already ready to make an appt! You need to ensure that they KEEP the appt!

Be sure to ask if they know where you are located. Even if they say yes, still clarify, with a statement like, "great, you're familiar with the intersection of 31st and Wolf, that you can't turn left off of 31st, and you know that our parking and entrance is in the back of the buliding?"....

Always reclarify the clients name, service, and the day and time of the appt at least twice, preferably 3 times during the phone conversation. End with something like," Great Mary, we look forward to seeing you next Thursday, the 27th, at 12:15 pm, with Vanessa for a manicure, here at Nail Splash! Please feel free to call us if you have any questions or need to make any changes to your appt.

There are a lot of no-shows and cancellations with ad response clientele. Remember, it was your ad that got them thinking about nails. It was NOT their own idea (ie, they did not look up nail salons in the phone book, those people are READY to buy NOW and have taken an active effort in looking for a nail salon). Basically, your ad or coupon "fell" into their lap and they had an impulse buy type of feeling. The feeling may pass before the appt time comes!

**BUT.... Be prepared to honor the price with all techs, at all times, when necessary. Be prepared for clients to call the day the special expires, to book an appt for 6 weeks after the coupon has expired, and still expect the coupon price! Also expect current clients to bring them in, new clients to keep bringing them in 3 mos after they expire, and photocopies of the coupon as well! Also, clients overhear each other talking and get offended if they don't have a coupon and are paying more... also the clients who bring coupons in AFTER they receive service and want a rebate. Coupons worked wonderfully for my salons name recognition and building up new techs FAST, just be ready for the headaches they bring as well!

SOOOO, A) Get coupon responders in ASAP (today or tomorrow!!!)

B) Be prepared to cover extra work hours (extra staffing personnel and hours!)while you have an add running to accommodate these impulse buyers!

C) Be extra sure to give reminder calls the day before for these new clients.

D) Be sure to have at least 12 hour a day phone coverage the first week a new ad breaks. An answering machine just will not cut it! (Otherwise you are just wasting your $$$ on the ad.)

Get mailing addresses of coupon responders*. For sure AT the appt... try during the phone call, say "can I get your address to add you to our mailing list for future special offers and promotions? (Mostly manicure/pedicures)

*These names are a gold-mine for building your OWN mailing list for future specials when promoting a new tech or during anticipated slow times. We had a "stable" of about 100 clients who would only come in during price specials (they never learned to appreciate us at full-price, some just never will!), but we could count on them to come in for sure when we ran a sale, so we could just send out our own flyers to this specially targeted audience at a huge cost savings! Sometimes we would just CALL them to say we were running a sale for a new tech for a 1 month period... so they would immediately book NOW and for right before the special ended!

One last thought: Not all coupon mailer companies are created equal! Think carefully about the ones that you personally have responded to in your own home! If you never open a certain coupon companies mailers, then will your clients?


Entering your first nail competition......
(See also competition tips in Hints & Tips page)

Hurray for you! Entering your 1st competition... putting yourself and your skills on the line, to be displayed and to be judged in a public forum.... of course you're nervous!

Most nail techs NEVER put themselves on the line like that! But relax... you are "risking" nothing... this is only a win-win situation! You just can't loose! Competition is a learning experience that just can not be duplicated in any classroom, or by any number of years experience!

The things you will learn about yourself that day... your technical skills, your organizational skills, who you are as a nail tech AND as a person in general.... Competing will bring on a whole new evolution of YOU.
Be prepared... for about 1/2 who compete this is their one and only competition.... but for the other 1/2 of us (and I'd be willing to bet that includes you!) competition becomes a passion! Those who compete regularly do so not just in hopes of winning .... but because of the tremendous educational value! Each competition is like 10 or 20 classes crammed into one day!

If you can, seek out the judges to help you critique your work after the comp. This will help you to train your eye to see flaws you may not have noticed. Even though "competition" nails are not the same as "salon" nails, the concepts of what to look for in perfection are similar: "C" curve, slightly more than a salon nail (Pinch those forms!). Concave and convex: Equal and Thin, thin, THIN! Apex and arch: consistency of course, but slightly closer to the cuticle and elongated compared to a salon nail. Length: Consistent of course, but longer than a salon nail, but suited to the hand. Shape: any shape suited to the hand, but keep in mind that it should have dramatic, first impression, WOW appeal.

One last thought.... Photograph some of your practice sets to see how they look..... The image I keep in my mind as a judge when looking at the competitors nails is : "How will these nails photograph?" Winning nails are always photographed after the comps. As a judge I want others who see those photos to think.... "WOW!"
I don't want to put my "name" (as a judge) on winning nails (whose photos will be seen around the globe) on anything less than "fantastic" photographically.

Good luck, but more importantly; have fun and LEARN! (about your nails and about yourself perhaps!)

(FYI... long before I entered the nail arena I was an AAU long-distance runner (still run to this day!).... so I was extremely familiar with "competition" and all it's emotional riggers.... Competing in nails the first few times totally blew me away though! For one, I was not prepared to loose (I performed terribly, don't even ask!), but I was really not prepared for the education I would receive about "me" as a nail tech and "me" as, well.... just ME!)

Good luck, and more importantly have fun!

RE: A tech whose boss wants to change their employee/boss relationship and compensation program.....

It sound like she may not have completely understood how expensive an employee is. On an average it takes an employer 18 months to see ANY profit from an employee. The first 6 months the employer takes a loss. The next 6 months the employer breaks even (just even, no profit!). The 3rd 6 months the owner makes up for the losses they took on the employee in the first 6 months. At month 19 of employment the employer will see their first tiny bit of profit.... if the employee is still around that is!
Given this knowledge you have 2 choices:

1) Look elsewhere for employment in a salon that understands the true biz scenario (that's why so few salons even offer a guanteed salary) or

2)Try and make things work-out here if you think it's worth it. Look at her side of the equation and see what you can do to make it worth her $$$ to keep you on as a salaried employee.


Choosing or designing a nail station

I think the ideal width for a nail tech station is 18 to 20 inches... if you are tall then 22 may work, but 24 is way too wide (and that's the "standard" desk size, which is what makes our quest for a perfect table so difficult!). Small stations are made at 16, but that is just too close for my comfort!

Recently I found a computer desk (Busch brand at home depot or office max and several furniture stores like Wickes and Homemakers )that works well and has tons of stroarage. That slide out shelf where the keyboard would go is a great place to work from for acrylics, gels, primers, etc, to keep them out of the light and the dust!

I have also found that conferance tables work well. They are 18 inches wide and available in 5 ft and 8 ft lengths. They are the ones you see in a class or seminar where eveyone is facing forward, ie only seated on one side of the table facing the speaker. They are available from "serious" office supplies (have never seen them at Office Max, etc), usually special order, although I have found them in-stock as well, and under $100. But twice I was able to buy used for about $40 each (they rent them out alot it seems, and then are willing to part with them in time).

I just covered with contact paper to match my decor, and changed the paper as it got "yucky"... not as good as a laminated surface, but the tables are good for many other purposes afterwards when you find your "dream station", I'm STILL looking! (BTW, they are also easy to drill through to install ventilation)----Barb


Guarantee Policies and Repairs

This is "repair season" (this was written in April)!!! Really, honestly, truly!

Every spring I have to look back through my records to reassure myself that it's not me, that more repairs do just show up at certain times of year, and "spring cleaning"/Easter time*, is the major offender! Also, this is a slow time in a way for a lot of people.... they don't have a lot going on, so have the time to complain and obsess about their nails. Soon, people get really busy again (sports and other things start-up again, big projects start at work, etc). It's almost over,("reapair" season, that is!) just hang in there. Also, new clients* bore quickly of coming in all the time, well, most do eventually, anyway! And once clients are wearing there own nails under their enhancement overlay (ie no more extensions from tips or sculpted)breaks become less and less frequent.

(*Think about the timing and how it realtes to the December Holiday season, and how many of these clients were new in DEC, and so now their nails are just about grown-out underneath the enhancement? Or clients who were so rushed for time at the holidays and so may have skipped or skimped on appts, or were late or asked to be squezzed in, forcing you to work under pressure and at a faster pace, and so maybe some things got a little bit "fluffed" over at fills, tiny, minor little things that take a while to show up structurally, things we let slide to be accomodationg to everyone. Just more food for thought.....)


Regarding guarantees: Here are some suggestions I have used......

************Remind Clients,(post a note or write a client newsletter even) that nails are guaranteed if they follow your professional recommendations for LENGTH, SHAPE, FREQUENCY of appts, and HOME CARE. *************** (this is the foundation to keeping my sanity with a guarantee program!!!!)

So if she is wearing tham too long, then tell her to maintain the guarantee they need to be shortened to the length YOU SAY.

Explain that untill her nails "settle down" she will need to keep more frequent appts (I have put some people on WEEKLY in the past!).

If she is obviously gardening without GLOVES, then she is not doing her part of home care and is voiding the guarantee!

Those stipulations in the guarantee also give you lots of manuevering room to "punish" truly abusive clients (I know that sounds harsh, but some clients must be "trained" to become good clients!) For instance, clients who claim nails are popping off and only wear color.... I make them wear clear or frenches, with the reasoning that then they will be able to SEE the beginnings of a nail that is about to "pop-off" and call me BEFORE it does so I can SEE it and
the "potential" problem (yes, I know we are delving in psychology here with this phantom "popping" nails syndrome, but we have all had clients who claim to get this otherwise unknown "disease"). Clients who prefer "round" nails I have made to wear square (because it's STRONGER) until their nails start behaving!

These methods do work, and if related to the client in a knowledgeable and professional manner, with facts and reasoning.

All the while that all this is going on, I make a point of letting the client know that I am trying every means possible and keeping careful notes. (Trying diff primers, pre-primers, diff glues and tip brands, switching between forms and tips, etc. All while carefully logging which nails broke, how it's broken (chip, break, totally off?), and what measures I took to repair).

A client worth keeping will see your ernestness and usually come around and behave. AND, As time goes on this "arms" you with info you need to eventually, CONFRONT an "abuser" when all else fails and "release" them as a client.

For chronic offenders, resort to reminding them that nails are repaired free, only ONE at a time. Multiples are charged $$$ each after one, meaning that they must come in separately for each. That they must come in when there is only one broke! They can't come in with 2 broken and ask you to fix just one today and one tomorrow! NO, if they ever come to you with 2 broken, that second one will be charges.... even if you don't fix it till the fill!

The purpose of the guarantee is to get them to really pay attention to their nails and respond immediately, thereby giving you the opportunity to see their wear and damage patterns and make adjustmets accordingly.

Finally, don't take it personally! Try and see all of this as an opportunity to really disect your work and make longterm improvements! If someone is really getting to you (making you doubt your self, chipping away at your self-esteem), then take control, get the upper-hand.... do not be at their beck and call, make them wait when they just show up or do anything else that makes you feel as if they don't respect you!

Practice tip.....
I've always been a fan of clothes-pins.... the old fashioned typed wooden ones (no hinges, find them at dollar stores usually in bags of 50) are great for putting a form onto (sculpt right onto each of the wooden ends, holding the top as the finger)... and the new-fangled hinged type are great for simply holding (gripping) a tip to sculpt over... no glue, no muss, no fuss!---Barb!