November 27, 2014

7 Marketing Lessons From My Local Barber Shop

local marketing lessons

I learn so much from small businesses that I visit.

I have previously written small business thoughts while having a pedicure and recently, I looked around as I sat in the chair at the local barber shop. Suddenly, I had many useful thoughts about local marketing lessons that could be gleaned from this small business.  I eventually came up with seven.

Local Marketing Lessons

Sign Strategy

I discovered the Traville Barber Shop in 2007 due to their signs. The Strip Mall at Traville Gateway in Rockville, MD was new and as I drove past my regular commute route, I saw the sign and decided to try this small business. Primarily it was the closest and I still go there.

I must add that I was the first to review this business. Now, it has 24 reviews and many of them say that they didn’t want to review it, selfishly, because the “best kept secret in Rockville” is now out.

Takeaway: If you have a brick and mortar business, you should make sure you have signs with direction arrows in the surrounding areas.  Especially on weekends.

“Open” for Business Sign

local marketing lessonsWhen the store is open, there is always an “open” sign that attracts attention by blinking. Sometimes, I make the impromptu decision to walk in as it is conveniently open. They also have clear business hours and a nicely marked sign when they close for holidays or other occasions.

Takeaway: Consider an illuminated flashing sign that indicates your business is currently “open for business” during business hours.  Also provide your hours of business. If you ever have to close for holidays or special occasions, make sure you have a sign to indicate this.

The Ritz Carlton Way

I am not saying they copied from the Ritz Carlton’s books, but as you walk in, almost all of them look up and greet incoming customers. The owner, Dimitri Axaopoulus, always make sure he talks to every customer when he is in the store.

Greeting every customer is important.

Takeaway: When a new customer enters your business, a friendly greeting goes a long way to make them feel comfortable. You have to stress the importance to everyone on your team. Remember, smiles are free and priceless.

Asking the Right Questions

I am not that particular about my haircut and too many questions bother me because I am scared of the results of my instructions. I like saying a simple “short” or “medium short” and they seem to know the rest. They do periodically ask my opinion to see if they are following the instructions and I have observed them catering to other customers who want their hair cut in a particular way.

Takeaway: There are several points in the delivery process of your product where your customer’s opinion is important. Build a way into that delivery process to get your customer’s opinion. Train your team to ask the right number of questions at the right time.

Setting Customer Expectations

When I went for a haircut this weekend, it was busy and the chairs in the waiting area were almost full but . But the wait was not long. There was enough staff and I was seated within 3 to 4 minutes. As new customers came in, they were greeted and told that the wait time was not more than 10 minutes and that was probably accurate.

Takeaway: As you become successful, don’t let your service drop. Scale the business and set the right expectations for your customers so that they keep coming back. On the day, I was getting ready to be the keynote speaker at Georgetown University’s Certificate Completion Ceremony and could not have waited long. I am glad they had extra team members to handle the volume.

Providing Extras

You go for a hair cut and then you are delighted by touches like – warm shaving cream and a shoulder and head massage. Suggesting a trim of hair around ears and eyebrows are all things that make me happy. It’s also the way for this store to give it’s customers something extra as part of the package. That delights customers, as you can see from the Yelp reviews.

Takeaway: There is always a way to provide something over and above to delight a customer. Remember, the chance of your next new customer coming from your existing customers is very high.

Taking Care of Non-Customers

Even though my son does not get his hair cut here, he wants to come with me most of the time. He gets hot pop-corn, maybe even a lolipop and the chance to play with the cars in the waiting area. This goes a long way with kids. I have seen a large amount of them come to the business.

Takeaway: Offer customers something that takes care of them while waiting. There are many ideas for this – maybe a car wash while you get your haircut? That’s probably carrying it too far but, who knows? My friend, Anjali Verma at Kidville Bethesda, has an area where kids can get a hair cut and many parents use it.

What have you learned from your local barber?

Barber Photo via Shutterstock

32 Comments ▼

Shashi Bellamkonda


Shashi Bellamkonda Shashi Bellamkonda is VP of Digital Marketing, AKA "Social Media Swami" at Bozzuto.com. Visit Shashi Bellamkonda's blog. He is also an adjunct faculty at Georgetown University. Shashi is a regular contributor to the Washington Business Journal, DC Examiner and other tech blogs like Smallbiztechnology and Techcocktail. Shashi has been in the list of Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champions list for 2011 and 2012.

32 Reactions

  1. Great article! Reminds me a lot of a video we did with a Trenton, NJ legend who has been cutting hair for 50 years! He has great stuff to say about community support and customer service: http://careerfuel.net/?p=9523

  2. Thanks Heather. That is a nice article as well. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Shashi. Did you interview them? I am pretty sure you’ll get more strategies if you get to talk to them more about their business. You can really learn so much from local service providers.

  3. Good post Shashi!

    Service industries definitely need to go out of their way to differentiate themselves from their competition and it seems your barbershop is putting this to practice.

    I can relate with the interacting with the customers strategy. I used to belong to a bootcamp where there were 30+ people in the class. The trainers took the time to get to know me by name. “Great Job, today Jarrod!” or “See you tomorrow Jarrod!” Those little things really solidified my being a member with them.

  4. Great article! I think it points to the importance of customer service, and how that can be a business’ biggest selling points.

  5. Great article Shashi. I think businesses can learn from this example. You have to go above and beyond just regular customer service. Like you pointed out providing extras and taking care of non-customers can be really helpful in getting new customers in the future.

  6. Shashi:

    Thanks for sharing the “best kept secret in Rockville”! :) I have never tested a real shave by a barber. Maybe I should stop someday… ;)

  7. Good post and observations. One barber I went to for years used that back/neck massage device after haircut. I still remember that. i think adding neck, scalp massage for an extra $5 could steal market share from other places. Where else would you get that besides a higher priced massage therapist?

  8. Aww, I love that most of them look up when a customer enters. I can imagine the feeling. And I also like the extras and what they do for those who come with kids. That’s real nice. Feels like family.

    • I have another post in my mind about the customer greeting, about how to treat first timers to your business. I have gone to local watering holes and pubs without a clue to what to eat there and usually it’s one of the employees who recognize the “ignorance” and give you some tips. I am usually looking for a non dark beer, preferably a lager and something with spices in it and usually they deliver something over and above. That is good customer service.

  9. Hi Shashi,

    This was a good lesson to remind us all to be more observant of our daily surroundings and the opportunities for learning we are exposed to every day. It will help me change my perspective on some things. As more and more high-tech devices and software applications are introduced into the marketplace, we often forget that the underlying principle that drives any business is people. The way people respond and like to be treated has not changed for centuries. Your observations are a reminder of what really counts. Thank you.

    • Thanks Barry. I recently told students at a Georgetown University completion ceremony where I was a keynote to take 15 minutes of their day to do nothing. No electronics, books, music or anything. Just to get the balance back and regenerate fresh thoughts

      • I try to do the same thing as much as I can Shashi. Daily is not always possible but I always make some time every week to get in touch with nature. I am fortunate to live in an area with some beautiful beaches and a multitude of wonderful nature preserves where I can get grounded. Since I spend a great deal of time in front of my computer every day, it really helps me clear my mind and get focused.

  10. This article got me thinking about this anecdote I’d heard a long ago.

    There was a plain, small sweet shop in this locality which had a lot of glitzy joints coming up to compliment the growing status of its residents. Big shops, which had a lot more variety and colour and more child-friendly “traps”. But the kids would insist on buying their sweets from this one lone shop. They said that the man always gave them more, literally, more.
    The owner of the shop knew what each child wanted. And when he would dole out (say half a pound) of sweets, he would also weigh the bag and then carefully add more to each bag before handing it over to an eager pair of hands.
    Someone found out why this shop held its own against all the competition.
    He said that he always measured less than what was asked for. And then he added sweets one piece at a time until the bag was filled. This was the “more” that all the kids loved.

    So, was he an evil man playing with little emotions or simply someone who ran an honest business who knew how to show “more”?
    I think he was pure genius.

  11. A simple, interesting but brilliant article bringing out practical, workable lessons

  12. Nice job on this one, Shashi!

    It’s amazing what an old-fashioned blinking “Open For Business” sign can do.

    It sure beats driving past a storefront wondering if the business IS actually open.

    The Franchise King®

  13. Hi Shashi,

    People forget that business is really about simple things to please the customer, done well….

    Almost a month later, this article is still one of the most popular here on Small Business Trends (and you’ve got a lot of stiff competition, because we’ve got some very popular stuff).

    And let me tell you, Shashi my friend, like fine cheese and wine it gets better with “age.”

    – Anita

  14. Great post here. You’ve pointed out a lot of good stuff that businesses should be thinking off to make sure they get more customers. I especially have to mention the last key point in this article which is taking care of customers. Even if you get lots of customers, if they’re not satisfied with your services on their first visit, they will most likely not come back for your services. So as much as its important to get a good number of customers, it is equally important to give them a reason to come back.

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