7 Marketing Lessons From My Local Barber Shop

local marketing lessons

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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:

  • Sign Strategy
  • “Open” for Business Sign
  • The Ritz Carlton Way
  • Asking the Right Questions
  • Setting Customer Expectations
  • Providing Extras
  • Taking Care of Non-Customers

Local Marketing Lessons

Sign Strategy

In the summer of 2007, the vibrant allure of signs drew my attention to the Traville Barber Shop. Nestled within the freshly built Strip Mall at Traville Gateway in the heart of Rockville, MD, it stood as a beacon of community enterprise.

Every morning, as I meandered through my typical commute route, the captivating signboard of this establishment beckoned.

The decision to step in wasn’t just due to its strategic location but also the inviting ambiance it projected.

Over the years, the proximity advantage coupled with their consistent service quality cemented my loyalty, and I found myself repeatedly returning.

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.


  • Ensure you have signs with direction arrows in surrounding areas, especially on weekends.

“Open” for Business Sign

local marketing lessons

When 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.


  • Use an illuminated flashing sign during business hours.
  • 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

While it’s not my claim that they’ve directly imbibed practices from the esteemed Ritz Carlton, there’s an undeniable air of hospitality at the barber shop.

Each step through the doorway is met with warm, acknowledging glances, reminiscent of luxurious hotel service.

Dimitri Axaopoulus, the affable owner with a keen eye for detail, has cultivated an environment of genuine care. His presence is a constant assurance; regardless of how bustling the shop gets, he never misses an opportunity to personally engage with every patron.

Such heartfelt greetings don’t just foster familiarity but embed trust and respect.


  • Always greet every customer that enters your business. Smiles are free and priceless.

local marketing lessons barber shop

Asking the Right Questions

Haircuts, for me, have always been straightforward affairs. I’m not one to dwell on intricate styles or elaborate trims. The very idea of specifying every minute detail often sends anxious jitters down my spine. In my interactions, a mere mention of “short” or “medium short” suffices.

However, what’s admirable is the barber’s intuition and expertise. They don’t just blindly follow; periodic check-ins to ensure alignment with my vision are common.

Moreover, their adaptive approach isn’t just limited to me. Over time, I’ve noticed their meticulous care in tailoring services to patrons with distinct, precise haircut preferences.


  • Train your team to ask the right 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.


  • 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.
  • Set and manage customer expectations.

local marketing lessons barber shop

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.


  • 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

My son, with his buoyant energy, rarely sits for haircuts at this establishment. Yet, the allure of accompanying me seems irresistible to him. And it’s not just the prospect of a new hairstyle that entices him.

The shop, with its thoughtful amenities like piping hot popcorn and vibrant lollipops, makes waiting an adventure. An assortment of toy cars sprawled across the waiting area becomes his playground.

Such gestures, seemingly simple, speak volumes about the shop’s commitment to holistic customer experience.

It’s no wonder that a multitude of kids, lured by these trifles, gravitate towards this establishment, cementing its place in the community.

Cultivating a Community-Centric Business Approach

Cultivating a Community-Centric Business Approach” is a key strategy for local businesses like barber shops. This approach involves building strong relationships with the local community, which in turn can lead to increased customer loyalty and business growth. Here’s how a community-centric approach can be effectively implemented:

Firstly, engage with local events and causes. Participating in community events or supporting local charities can raise the business’s profile and show customers that the business cares about the community. For instance, sponsoring a local sports team or hosting a charity fundraiser can create a positive image and foster community spirit.

Secondly, collaborate with other local businesses. Building partnerships with nearby businesses can lead to cross-promotion opportunities. For example, a barber shop could partner with a local coffee shop to offer discounts to each other’s customers. This not only drives business but also strengthens the local business network.

Lastly, provide a space for community interaction. Creating a welcoming environment in the business premises where customers can interact and feel part of a community is crucial. This could be as simple as having a comfortable waiting area with local newspapers and community noticeboards, or hosting local artists’ work.

By adopting these practices, a barber shop or any local business can become more than just a service provider; it becomes an integral part of the community fabric, leading to deeper customer relationships and a loyal customer base.

local marketing lessons


  • 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?

To provide a concise overview of the insights and lessons drawn from my experiences at the barber shop, I’ve consolidated the primary takeaways into the table below. This serves as a quick reference guide, highlighting the core strategies and practices that any local business can adopt to foster customer loyalty and enhance overall service quality:

Observations at Barber ShopTakeaway for Small Businesses
Noticed the barber shop due to their signsEnsure you have signs with direction arrows in surrounding areas
“Open” sign that blinksUse an illuminated flashing sign during business hours
Staff greets incoming customersAlways greet every customer that enters your business
Asking customer's opinion during the serviceTrain your team to ask the right questions at the right time
Informing customers about the waiting timeSet and manage customer expectations
Offering warm shaving cream, massages, etc.Always find a way to provide additional value
Providing popcorn, lollipops, and toys for non-customersOffer something for those who might be waiting

Barber Photo via Shutterstock


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Shashi Bellamkonda Shashi Bellamkonda is CMO of Surefire Social, AKA "Social Media Swami" at SurefireSocial. 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.

52 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.

  15. Its astonishing how people are now beginning to rush into my barbering shop. Directional signage and offering waiting customers something to entertain them whilst waiting are amazing techniques not to joke with.

  16. I own Barbershops in Bali, Indonesia and really enjoyed this article! One thing we did to get customers to try out our shop which is upstairs on the second floor is to add a LIVE Barbercam, this has been incredibly effective. It’s also been a very useful tool for our loyal customers to check if we’re busy or if their favorite barber is in real time.

  17. great article about simple strategies that are powerful in a small business, its a bit like the fish philosophy..
    in our salon we had a 7 point system that covered the clients visit form start to finish, including a handshake and introduction, talking face to face, massage, shampoo hair after cut, everyone saying goodbye with a smile and holding the door open, all free and powerful..

  18. It’s interesting that you point out setting customer expectations is important. Like you mentioned, customers like being able to go to a barber and get the same service every time. Keeping notes of what each customer wants would be an easy way to remain consistent.

  19. I own my own Barbershop , all these techniques work well, a men’s hair cut comes with trim ear hairs ,eye brow trim. Mustache trim nose hairs all for one price. Any thing like beard trim, hot towel shave,etc. Comes at a bigger price of course. Oh yeah I almost forgot a electronic massage comes with any service we do here at no cost.After any service you get a home made cookie made here in the break room/kitchen area all the kids love that most of all the clients expect that all the time, so if you start that you’ll have to do that forever . A few tricks from the Master Barber. I hope this little bit helps you grow your Barbershop.good luck.

  20. This is an amazing article as I never thought from this angle. It is really good to explore different marketing strategies from our real-life examples. Thank you so much for sharing this topic.

  21. Sir, you have written this very good article, when I read your article for the first time, I did not understand anything, that is why I have read this article thrice, it is very deep knowledge.
    thanks for providing this article…

  22. Simple, interesting & brilliant article. Thanks for sharing quality one as it is bringing out practical, workable lessons.

  23. this is a very knowledgeable blog . I have learned Many things about the marketing through this blog and everyone must understand these marketing skills before starting up the business.

  24. Thank You for an amazing article, it was really helpful for me and loved to read this.

  25. This is an great article as I never thought from this angle. It is really good to explore different marketing strategies from our real-life examples. Thank you very much for sharing this topic.

  26. 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. Thank you so much for sharing.

  27. Great article….many thanks for sharing this amazing guide

  28. Simple, interesting & brilliant article.

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