Photo by Adam Winger
How to Grow Your Beauty/Nail Salon Business in 2021: $1 Million in e-Commerce and Marketing Insights
In Episode 5 of This Week With Sabir, I spoke with Habib Salo, the CEO of Young Nails Inc. It was a conversation that I cited multiple times throughout 2020, as Habib provided a wealth of great tips on YouTube and social media marketing, both from the B2B and B2C side of things.
I was delighted, therefore, to be asked onto the Young Nails Inc. YouTube channel for my first appearance of 2021.
In a 45-minute episode that you can watch below, I provided a number of tips on how to grow your beauty business in 2021.
With help from Habib and his vast experience, I highlighted some of the strategies you can use to 10x your revenue and make 2021 the biggest year yet for your beauty/nail salon business.
Whether you’re contemplating launching an online nail salon or have a beauty business that you need to grow, you can get some tips from this video.
I will also be going over many of the same points in this guide—highlighting, expanding, and ensuring that every point is fleshed out.
Do You Need an Online Presence as a Nail Salon?
My expertise is in e-Commerce. That’s where I cut my teeth and it’s where I continue to make my money.
e-Commerce basically defines the process of selling products or services online. It’s something that you can do as a beauty brand (whether you’re reselling fragrances or crafting your own creams and balms), but as a nail salon, your focus is on increasing bookings and getting more clients through the door.
The principles are the same, but the outcomes are a little different.
One of the first things you should do is establish an online presence. It doesn’t matter where you are or who your customers are—you need a website.
This isn’t 1999. You can’t dismiss the internet and assume that your customers will still find you. If someone in your area is looking for a nail salon, they’ll take their search online. They’ll look for websites and social media pages and they won’t be content with a brief business listing on Yelp.
I’ve spoken with multiple business owners who dismiss the notion of launching a website because “I don’t sell any products online”. And when I inform them that a website is about announcing your presence and providing more details, including fees, they’ll reply with, “Customers will phone me if they want to know about pricing.”
That might have been true 20 years ago, but it’s no longer relevant.
Customers want to find the information they need online and if they have to call a company to get basic details, they’ll simply look elsewhere.
I know several people that spend their days on Zoom calls and Facebook, and yet they hate using the phone and practically have a panic attack when they’re told to make a call.
That’s not how the world works anymore—you have to provide them with the information and opportunities; you can’t expect them to do all the work.
Not only will a website give your customers information about your brand, but there are features that will allow you to schedule appointments and even take payments. It makes life easier for you, as none of that needs to happen over the phone or in-person and everything can be processed online without your involvement.
Of course, there are still companies out there that insist their customers don’t use the internet and that a website will be useless.
It’s like those failing restaurant owners that you see on Kitchen Nightmares. They dig their heels in and refuse to change, even when a professional chef appears and offers to drag them out of the doldrums.
“But my customers don’t like fancy food.”
“My customers are happy with our menu.”
You’re fighting the tide of change and it will harm your business. In 2021, everyone uses the internet.
Whether it’s the always-connected Millennial who scours the web for reviews before even contemplating a purchase or the grandmother who got an iPad for Xmas and has just discovered online shopping, there are no exceptions.
How to Get Started
Squarespace is one of the best platforms for launching a no-nonsense website for your nail salon. WordPress is a good option as well, but Squarespace is even easier, so if you’re having problems with WordPress, make the switch.
The site that you’re using right now was built using Squarespace.
I know how to code. I know how to build websites. But I also know that this platform is great for building quick, easy, and professional sites, and that’s why I used it.
It’s proof that Squarespace is not simply the last resort option for people who don’t know how to code.
You don’t have to be a designer and you don’t have to hire someone else to do the work for you. The great thing about Squarespace is that you have to go out of your way for the site to look bad.
It gives you access to a wealth of stock images and other basic tools. It’s a simple drag-and-drop process that anyone can do. You don’t need a lot of time and if you know how to do the most basic things online and follow the simplest of instructions, you won’t have an issue using this platform.
To begin with, your website doesn’t need to be big or complicated. Blogs and SEO guides are great if you can write or afford a writer, but your main goal is to post a simple site that highlights your available hours, address, and contact details, and includes a form for customers to book appointments.
Build a Database
It’s important to build a database of customers in every industry. It doesn’t matter what services or product you’re selling; it always benefits you to request, store, and catalog customer details.
If you’re selling a product, you can use those details to email customers about the benefits of that product or tempt them with discounts. Using email marketing tools, you will know who opened the emails, who clicked the links, and who made a purchase.
You now know which customers provide more lifetime value and which ones are hard to crack, which means you can offer loyalty benefits to the former and hit the latter with even bigger discounts and offers.
All of this is happening without necessitating the need for additional advertisements. You’re increasing the lifetime value that a customer provides to your business without necessarily increasing the cost of acquiring them.
If you run a nail salon that doesn’t sell a product, there are still numerous ways that this database will benefit you.
For example, let’s assume that you’re renting space next to a restaurant. The landlord appears one day and informs you that that restaurant wants to buy all of the units, and you’re going to lose your space.
Without a customer database, you have a mad scramble on your hands to tell the local community that you’ll be moving.
Unless you’re living in a very small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, there’s a good chance that at least half of your customers won’t know about the move and you’ll lose them as a result.
Even if you do manage to inform them, how will you keep them interested when that move is delayed, or you’re forced to move a little further out of town?
A database allows you to connect with those customers, announce your new location, and ensure that every single one of those customers is there for your grand opening and is able to book appointments from day 1.
Furthermore, if you ever decide to launch your own product or you run a special offer on bookings, you’re always just an email or text message away from letting them know.
As the pandemic has proven, it’s also very useful to have a direct line to your customers, as you can let them know if/when you’re open and what sort of restrictions and limitations are in place.
Reviews can feel like a catch-22 when you’re just starting out.
You need them to attract customers but unless you have customers, you can’t get them!
I recently spoke with a friend of mine who launched an online business toward the tail-end of 2020. He created accounts on a few major review sites, asked his friends and family to leave some reviews to help out, and then waited for the real reviews to follow.
He anticipated that he would receive a few reviews for every 100 orders. When he didn’t receive a single review after 500 orders, he asked a few more friends.
He even added a signature to his customer support emails. Every time he had a happy customer, he would send the signature with a note for them to leave a review. If they were angry, he would use the standard signature.
After over 2,000 orders, he finally got his first review.
He was unlucky, and you generally don’t need to wait that long, but it highlights a major problem with online reviews:
If you don’t chase them, they won’t come.
What’s more, as evidenced by my friend’s solitary 1-star review, when they finally do arrive, there’s a good chance they will be terrible.
As another example, a few years ago I received a concerning message from a relatively successful business owner. He was selling thousands of products a week, generating over $20,000 in monthly revenue, and working hard to keep customers happy, yet a third of his reviews were 1 or 2-star.
When I asked him what he was doing to get reviews, he informed me that he would politely ask customers in emails and on social media.
And that’s the issue because when you don’t push your customers to review, only the angry ones will take the time to review.
Let’s use Trustpilot as an example.
B & H Photo has an average score of 4.9/5.0. 99% of its reviews are either 4 or 5 stars, suggesting that its customers had a fantastic experience.
Compare this to Best Buy, which has an average score of 1.3/5.0, with 84% of its reviews scoring the company the lowest rating possible.
Does that mean B & H Photo is significantly better than Best Buy? Maybe, but if true, that means it’s also way better than Google, Apple, and many other companies.
The real difference is that B & H asks for reviews while Best Buy (along with Google, and Apple) does not.
If you don’t push customers into reviewing your company and give them the means to do so, they simply won’t do it. It doesn’t matter how good the experience was—unless they’re regular reviewers who enjoy commenting on everything they buy, you won’t get that much-needed review.
The exception is when they have a bad experience. Customers want to announce their anger to the world. They want to do something that gets back at the company, shows how upset they are, and tells everyone about their grievances.
They don’t mind leaving a negative review (which entails finding a review site, signing up, confirming, finding the company, and writing the review) because they have something to get off their chest.
Think about all of the products that you bought and the companies that you used last year. How many of those compelled you to speak out about the company?
Sure, if you really liked them, you might have told a friend or left a comment on their Facebook page, but would you take the time to join a review website?
On the flip side, if they failed to deliver your product and were rude to you when you complained, you’ll go to the ends of the earth to discredit them.
As a nail salon, you can use this knowledge to increase your review return and make sure the reviews you receive are reflective of your best, and not your worst.
One of the recommendations I made in the video was to place a QR code and a review reminder next to your checkout. When customers pay for their treatments, you can kindly remind them to leave a review.
They just need to scan the code, write a quick review, and leave their score.
Not only will a large number of your customers leave a review, but you’ll find that most of them are positive. After all, what kind of customer stands in your salon, face-to-face, and leaves you a bad review?
What’s more, if you think they’re angry and had a bad experience (despite your best efforts) just don’t point out the review code!
If you have their email, you can also send them a prompt to review you. In such cases, it’s best to grab a free account at one of the main review sites (including Trustpilot) and let them automate the process for you. Their software connects through a number of different e-commerce platforms, including WooCommerce.
There are premium versions of this software that offer a few more benefits, but these usually cost a couple of hundred bucks a month and are just not worth it for small businesses.
Once you have these reviews, you can use them as social proof.
Post them on your website, announce them on social media, and let your prospective customers know just how happy your current customers are.
You could even send a weekly email where you highlight all of the previous week’s reviews and then pick one at random to win a prize. Not only is it a great way to connect with your customers, but it incentivizes the ones that haven’t left reviews to be more proactive in praising your company!
You don’t want to pressure them too much, because if you keep hassling someone who doesn’t want to leave a review, you may frustrate them into giving you a negative score. But at the same time, you need to nudge them in the right direction.
Be honest with them. Let them know how much these reviews mean to you.
You’re a small business, customers are your lifeblood, and reviews are the only way you can keep doing what you’re doing.
Dealing with Bad Reviews
Before we move onto the next section, it’s worth discussing how you should respond when you receive bad reviews.
They are never welcome and it’s always hard to receive them. After all, you have put your life and soul into that business and now someone is trashing it. You’re bound to take it personally.
Although difficult, the trick is to respond politely and professionally.
Remember that you’re not just writing for the reviewer, you’re writing for all the prospective customers that will stumble across that review.
Don’t threaten them. Don’t call them a liar or try to belittle them. They are well within their right to leave a review and express their opinion, and if you respond by calling them fake, suggesting they are a competitor, etc., you’re going to look like the bad guy and you’re going to scare potential customers away.
If the story they are telling is a lie, tell the truth. If you think they are fake, then politely respond with something like, “Thank you for your review, but I am unable to find your details in our records. Maybe this review was intended for another company with a similar name?”
If they have a genuine concern, apologize profusely and offer to make it up to them.
Sometimes, bad reviews can be removed. If they are slanderous or obscene, you can request that the platform removes them. If not, they might actually work in your favor providing you respond in a professional manner.
Your customers will understand if someone is being genuine or not. But they won’t understand if you respond by calling them “fake”, threatening them with lawsuits, and acting like a petulant child.
It’s a mistake that a huge number of small businesses mistake and it costs them dearly, both in terms of customers and reputation.
For example, I recently stumbled across a website’s review page that had received an influx of negative reviews. After sorting the reviews by date, I discovered that they all began when the owner responded negatively to a bad review.
A customer had made a mistake in inputting their address and their parcel had gone missing. Rather than trying to resolve the issue with the courier, the owner implied they were stupid and that the fault was their own, before posting their full address (for all to see) as proof of their mistake.
In retaliation, the customer, and presumably their friends, responded with a torrent of bad reviews. This caught the attention of other people with bad experiences, and before long, the review score toppled from around 4.5 to 2.5.
How to Increase Local Sales
One of the things that scare brick-and-mortar businesses away from the internet is that they don’t need global, national, or even state-wide support. They’re focusing on a very specific area and are worried that online advertising won’t help them with that.
But unless you’re located in the heart of the desert and cater exclusively to technophobic seniors, you need the internet.
The first thing you need to do is increase exposure among current customers and passing trade.
Place a banner in your salon that advertises your website and encourages people to visit and book online. If someone calls or visits in-person, tell them about the site and remind them that it will be quicker and easier for them in the future.
You can then do the same with the outside of your store.
Many small online-only businesses pay big money for billboards and other physical advertisements—if you have a store, you have the chance to do this for free.
Think about how many people walk or drive past your store every day. Every single one of them is a potential customer.
An eye-catching banner will tell them what your business does, what makes it unique, and why they need to book an appointment, right before listing the website details where they can do that in just a few clicks.
Your social media tags should also be placed on the banner.
That banner will remain for years, so even if it attracts just one customer a month, it will pay for itself and ensure a steady stream of profit.
On the advertising side of things, you need to consider both paid and organic advertising:
The problem with running an online business is that it’s not a case of, “Build it and they will come”. You can attract customers to your premises by using signs and banners, but it’s a different story online.
They won’t come to you, so you need to go to them.
It’s particularly hard to get this right with organic advertising. You’re using time and experience in place of money, and while it can be tricky at first, you’ll get into a rhythm before long and it will get easier.
Open an account on Facebook and Instagram and start posting about reviews, customer experiences, new products, and anything else that is relevant. Snap pictures with your customers; encourage them to post on their own pages and tag them on yours.
The great thing about local businesses is that a person who lives down the street and has 2,000 followers can be just as valuable (if not more so) than an influencer who lives in another state and has 1 million fans.
The first person will have many friends and family in your region, all of whom are potential customers. If they post about you and praise you, their followers may become your customers.
Take pictures of every finished treatment, sift through them at the end of the week, and post the very best. Unique nail art creations are huge right now, so if you do a few of those, make sure you ask customers for permission to post.
Google will also index your site and if you use Google My Business, it will link it to your location. If you post relevant content on the site, you’ll begin to rank for the keywords that you use, and when people search for those, they’ll come across your business.
The great thing about local businesses is that you don’t need to worry about creating pages and pages of content or acquiring a huge number of links. You’re not competing with the biggest websites and businesses in the world.
If you’re a small nail salon in a small town, your competition is the other businesses in that town, as opposed to Young Nails and other major brands.
This makes it easier to get noticed and means that a few basic website pages, along with an occasional blog post, maybe sufficient in getting your site to the top of the Google rankings.
SEO can be a complex and multifaceted process, but the basics are actually quite simple. Google crawls your website to determine what you do and to make sure you’re listed in relevant searches.
It determines your ranking in these searches based on the quantity and quality of content, along with the number of respected sites that link to you.
All of this can be manipulated, and that’s why SEO experts make so much money. But as a small business, you just need to focus on creating content that is as good as you can make it, as long as it needs to be, and as relevant as possible.
Everything else, rankings included, will come organically and you’ll eventually get the traffic that you need.
Paid advertising allows you to target specific demographics using keywords, banner ads, video advertising, and a number of other possible methods.
Facebook Ads and Google Ads are two of the most effective and both should be used if you’re looking to increase your traffic and focus on more targeted visitors.
Google Ads has been discussed extensively here on Growth by Sabir, and if you click here, you can read an interview I had with a leading Google Ads specialist.
Google Ads are the little text ads that you see at the top of the search results and the banner ads that appear on millions of websites.
We all have that older relative who thinks the internet is listening to their phone calls because every time they are interested in a product, service, or website, they start seeing it everywhere. More often than not, it’s because they visited that site, Google tracked them, and now they are part of the website’s remarketing campaign.
The Google network is vast, so any ads that you post through your Google Ads account could appear on a number of different websites.
You can tell Google where you want to focus those ads and what type of demographic you want to target. It’s not the best for demographic-specific advertising, but it does a great job at finding customers in certain regions, as well as those interested in specific products.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money creating banner ads, nor do you need to pay a copywriter. Google will do most of the work for you and will pull text and images from your site to create relevant ads.
When creating these ads, one of the things you will need to look out for is the location setting of a specific ad group.
By default, it sets the location to “Customers who are in or have shown an interest in this location”. This means that you could get attention from people who are visiting the area and live nearby, which is great, but it also means you’ll get interest from writers researching the area, people looking into nearby companies, and more.
It’s a mixed bag, and it’s one of the things you will need to monitor.
I recommend keeping the default setting, to begin with, and then switching it to “Customers in this location” a few weeks down the line. You can then compare the two and see which one works best.
As noted in a previous This Week With Sabir episode about conversion rate optimization, creating effective ads is often just an endless series of A/B testing.
If you spend more than $10 a day, you’ll trigger an event that asks you to book an appointment with an account manager. They will help you with some of the basics, show you the ropes, and optimize your campaigns.
The initial steps of setting up a Google Ads account may seem complicated, but as with anything else, it all becomes familiar in time and within a few hours you’ll understand how to create, manage, and optimize ads.
Facebook has more information on the exact age and location of its users, so it’s often better at highly-targeted local advertising campaigns.
It can also be more expensive and it’s very easy to lose a lot of money without seeing much return, so it’s best to start slowly and make sure you know what you’re doing before you increase your investment.
Start by creating some simple advertisements for your business—a promotion, a video, some social proof.
Target the ad to customers in your region and focus on the demographics most likely to visit your salon.
If you use the Facebook Pixel, you can track all website visitors and conversions and make sure you know exactly who is clicking the links and converting on your website.
The great thing about online ads, when compared to traditional advertising, is that the pricing is much more accessible and scalable.
If you run a billboard ad, you need to pay for the design and printing of that ad. Only then can you think about actually running it, at which point you’ll likely face a minimum length of several weeks or months because no one is going to let you run a billboard ad for a few hours.
Online ads, can be as small, cheap, and simple as you want, and if you want to run them for just a few hours—go for it!
A budget of just $5 or $10 a day should be enough to generate activity on Google or Facebook. It won’t break the bank and it’ll ensure you have some info to analyze after a month or so.
You can even get a coupon to get you started. Both Google and Facebook offer these for new customers.
Make a Start and Be Patient
The sooner you take your nail salon online, the sooner your business will grow. When that happens, your profits will follow, and you can start thinking about expansion and all the other great benefits that come with having a profitable and growing business.
Stop making excuses—my customers aren’t online, I can’t afford a developer, I don’t know-how. They are only harming your business.
As this guide proves, it’s really not that difficult to get online.
If you know how to use Facebook and Google; if you know how to send emails and follow basic instructions, then you have everything you need to take your business online.
Once you make that first step, it’s important to take it easy, remain patient, and don’t expect everything to happen at once.
We live in an age of virality, where people can go from the depths of obscurity to the heights of superstardom overnight. But they are the minority.
For every influencer who sees their following blow-up overnight, there are a thousand people like Joe Yoon, who get there through hard work and tireless dedication over many months.
For every business that gets lucky because of a celebrity endorsement, news feature, or global trend, there are countless more that make it to the top because they invested their time and money and struggled for years.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you get to the finish line inch by inch.
Every promotion, every new customer, every incremental website change moves you another inch toward your goal.
You’re not going to clear those 26+ miles in just a few days, no matter how much time or money you invest, but if you keep inching forward, you’ll see the progress, the line will get closer, and you’ll make it to the end in time.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to remain patient and consistent.
I have seen many businesses fail because the owners panicked about the lack of movement with their online ads.
They throw money at the problem, and when it doesn’t work, they invest more and more, and before long, their capital is dry, their coffers have been cleaned out, and the business is on the brink of failure.
The more you invest, both in terms of time and money, the more urgency you feel, and if you’re staring at a Google Ads screen or an appointments app and constantly hitting “Refresh”, you’re probably in too deep!
So, take that initial step, get your business online, think about organic and paid advertising, and bide your time. The results will come eventually.
Learn More About Succeeding as a Beauty Business
If you are visiting Growth by Sabir for the first time, you will be glad to know that there are many more guides and videos waiting for you.
All of these are targeted toward specific areas of e-commerce, advertising, and all the other aspects concerned with creating and running an online business.
In 2020, I spoke with 25 different guests, all of whom were experts in their field. They provided millions of dollars’ worth of insights for business owners like yourself and this information was condensed into a guide on How to Launch a Successful Online Business in 2021.
Not only will this guide tell you everything that you need to know to launch and run an online business, but it also contains links to additional guides, all of which go into further detail about highly specific topics, including qualitative testing, influencer marketing, Google Ads, and more.