For many salon owners, one of the hardest parts of running the business isn’t staying organized or even keeping clients happy; it’s finding a consistent supply of promotional opportunities to grow and get more clients.
Even with a well-oiled social media plan and email marketing strategy, it can be challenging to make your business known to a wider audience. Investing in marketing tools like Google ads or flyers might bring a few new clients through the door, but this quickly dries up once a campaign is over.
So, what’s the most effective and sustainable way of growing your client list, without breaking the bank? One strategy is to partner with other local businesses.
Successful salon partnerships don’t just give you a steady supply of client referrals. They also open up new marketing opportunities, expand your business and service offerings, and boost your value perception to existing clients.
What is a salon partnership?
A salon partnership refers to marketing and cross-promotional opportunities with other businesses — ideally, those that are also in your local area. These can take place either within your salon or through your marketing channels, such as social media, email marketing, etc.
What does a salon partnership look like?
Salon partnerships can take many different forms, depending on what businesses you choose to partner with and your overall goals.
It isn’t even necessary for a prospective partner to be in the same industry as you. For example, a hair salon could choose to partner with a nearby cafe they know is popular with the same demographic as their target audience.
In most cases, the purpose of a salon partnership is to gain access to a pool of prospective clients who are likely to be interested in your offerings. Partnership activities include but are not limited to the following:
- Shared discounts/loyalty programs
- Referral programs
- Social media/email campaigns
- Co-marketing e.g. podcasts, video tutorials, blog posts
The 5 biggest benefits of salon partnerships
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the benefits you can gain from having great salon partnerships.
1. Making yourself a part of your local community
If the bulk of your audience is consumers who live and work in your area, it’s critical to be able to cast yourself as a local business. You can invest heavily in local SEO and business listings like Google My Business, but ultimately it’s having friends in the same space that will make all the difference.
Whether you’re partnering with another stylist or hairdresser who can bring an extensive client base or a local spa that can advance word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, salon partnerships give your business much more legitimacy than going it alone.
2. A strong source of referral traffic
In the hair and beauty business, referrals are a major goldmine. For something like a haircut or a bikini wax, consumers want guidance from people in their life that they trust.
This is often friends and family, but also other service providers in the same space that consumers have built a relationship with. In fact, 74% of consumers identify WOM as a key factor in their purchasing decisions. So, by partnering with another beauty business in your local area, you can gain a powerful source of client referrals.
Because if a stylist or technician at a partner establishment recommends one or more of your services to a client, they’re much more likely to book an appointment than if they saw your flyer on the street.
3. Augmenting your service offerings
As a salon business, it’s in your interest to have a comprehensive list of services. The more offerings you have, the wider your appeal to prospective clients.
But adding new service offerings isn’t always cost-effective. Hiring new staff, investing in new materials and equipment, and additional marketing to boost client awareness can quickly add up to massive overheads.
Furthermore, it might not make sense from a brand perspective to expand into an entirely new area.
For example, if you’re a beauty salon specializing in eyelash extensions and treatments, adding manicures to your menu doesn’t make much sense. Instead, it’s much better to launch a partnership with a longstanding nail salon. Partnering with another specialist helps you to solve your clients’ additional pain points, but without having to shoulder the expenses of offering the service yourself.
4. Leveraging the expertise of other partners
Being a salon business owner can often feel like being in a one-man or one-woman band; being a stylist, an administrator, a manager, and a marketer all in one. This is where it can be beneficial to have a little extra help.
If you have a partner or two, it’s quite likely they’re going to be stronger in some areas than you are, and vice versa. For example, if one of your partners has a successful loyalty program, you could look at whether your business (and clients) can opt-in to boost earning and redeeming, rather than launching your own separately.
5. More ambitious marketing initiatives
Marketing is easily one of the biggest outflows for any small business but often gets the smallest time investment. Almost half of small businesses say that they spend less than two hours per week on their marketing efforts.
One of the less-touted benefits of salon partnerships is that they allow businesses to pool their resources for more engaging marketing initiatives. While a booth at a certain tradeshow or an after-hours salon event might be out of your reach independently, sharing the load with other like-minded businesses opens new avenues for engaging with prospective clients via cross-promotions and co-marketing in both online and offline settings.
How to identify potential salon partners
Not all salon partnerships are created equal. You need to spend time vetting potential partners to ensure it’s a good fit. Here are some factors to consider.
Would a partnership be mutually beneficial?
For a partnership to be successful, it needs to offer value to both parties. You need to focus on exactly what your business can bring to the table, and where a partner can help to strengthen your brand proposition.
For example, if you have a strong email list, proposing a regular email marketing campaign is one way that your salon can add depth to a partnership. If a potential partner has experience or know-how in hosting live events, this could be a key area for you to capitalize on. In sum, you need to identify the unique selling points of your business versus your partners.
Are you similar, yet different?
For a productive partnership, you and any potential partners need to have a clear overlap in terms of your target audience. However, you also don’t want to be in direct competition with them. For example, it makes little sense to partner with another salon that also offers waxing services if you have the exact same business model.
Do you share the same values?
A salon partnership mustn’t force you to compromise on your brand’s values. For example, if your salon has made its use of cruelty-free hair products into a key selling point, you don’t want to form a partnership that would force you to walk back on this commitment.
Ultimately, your reputation as a service provider rests on your ability to foster trust in your clients. Violating one of your core brand values is sure to damage your reputation — and once this happens, it’s very difficult to repair it. Studies show that almost half of consumers have abandoned businesses that violate their values. That’s why you need to make sure from the outset that any partnership is in both your and your client’s best interests.
Are your target audiences aligned?
It’s important to find a niche as a service provider to differentiate yourself from your competitors, but this also means seeking out salon partners whose clients align with your target audience.
It makes little sense, for example, to partner with a high-end health club if your services are at a lower price point. For salon partnerships to result in successful referrals, your offerings need to be tailored to clients’ interests and spending power.
Is it likely to last?
They say that all good things must come to an end, and no salon partnership is going to last forever. That being said, you want to make sure that any prospective partnership has plenty of room to grow and evolve alongside your business. If the scope of a partnership is too narrow to maximize growth opportunities, it’s unlikely to be able to keep pace with your clients’ needs.
How to write a salon partnership agreement
The next step in forming a partnership is crafting a salon partnership agreement or proposal. Doing so aligns with both parties’ expectations and ensures that you’re all on the same page. The following steps can help you do just that.
Set your goals
No business goes into a partnership for the sake of it. Your salon must have identified some clear benefits to partnering with a certain local business, and your partnership proposal is the perfect place to outline these.
For example, one of your goals could be to drive local attendance at your events or to spread brand awareness for you and your partner’s offerings. These goals don’t necessarily have to take the form of KPIs, but this can help create accountability for both you and your partner — i.e. securing a certain number of attendees at your events or cross-promoting on social media a certain number of times each month.
Decide what you’re willing to commit
Depending on the nature of your promotional activities, partnerships can be a big financial commitment. Whether it’s investing in social media marketing, salon advertising, or venue hire for an event, you must crunch the numbers to figure out what you’re comfortable paying for and what you aren’t.
Furthermore, if your partnership involves giving your partner’s clients a discount on services or complementary treatments, you should have this in writing so that you and your partner understand your mutual obligations. For example, if you’re giving your partner a referral fee for sending a client your way, this needs to be agreed on in advance to avoid confusion later.
Remove any conflicts of interest
Before a partnership is formed, you need to do your due diligence. If you’re a hairstylist who’s partnering with a nail salon, you may want to add a clause stipulating that they’re not allowed to partner with any other hairstylists in your local area. Otherwise, you could end up unintentionally sending your client toward a competitor.
A partnership that entails this risk is not in your best interests as a business. Likewise, if you and your partner offer any services that have some kind of overlap, you may want to remove these from any cross-promotional activities or deals.
Outline marketing and PR obligations
The act of partnering with other local businesses is likely to be for marketing purposes. In this case, you need to make clear what each other’s obligations are when it comes to promoting each other’s businesses on social media, email, or via in-store signage and flyers. Knowing what communications are going out and when is incredibly beneficial to your business, especially from the standpoint of monitoring reach and engagement.
Preparing for worst-case scenarios
Every partnership starts with the best of intentions. But that doesn’t mean that even the most productive partnerships don’t hit roadblocks from time to time. To prevent these from damaging your relationship, it’s important to include a roadmap for how to resolve these situations, such as:
- One partner being unable to fulfill their roles/responsibilities
- You and your partner disagree on the best way forward
- How you will split the cost of promotional activities outside of your regular schedule
- One partner wants to end the partnership
How to get paid in a salon partnership
There are a number of ways to generate higher revenues and salon profits through partnerships. Here are some of the most common ones.
In-person events. You could try running in-person events where you can charge for entry. If you’re able to reduce costs by holding these in your own salon, this is a strong source of extra income.
Launch a combined service offering. This is a great way to offer your clients a new level of value, as well as a unique experience they won’t find anywhere else. For example, if you’re running a beauty salon + cafe partnership, you could offer a manicure and brunch combo (and maybe throw in a mimosa too!)
Service subscriptions. One of the biggest advantages for hair and beauty businesses is that clients usually want to book appointments on a semi-regular basis. Partnerships open up the opportunity to offer returning clients a discount in exchange for buying a certain number of your services upfront. For example, if you’re partnering with a nail salon, your subscription could be for four blow-dries and four manicures a month.
Examples of successful salon partnerships
Need inspiration for your salon partnerships? Here are some interesting ones to get you started.
Promoting partners that offer complementary services
If you’re a salon that provides a more niche set of services, it makes even more sense to look for like-minded partners. This is because if a client is coming to you for one service, it’s very likely that they’re looking for others.
For example, if you’re a hair salon that offers specialist bridal hairstyling services, it’s very advantageous to maintain relationships with other businesses in this space. Weddings are a huge business in their own right, where brides-to-be are looking for a plethora of services for their big day. Cultivating a network of wedding photographers, planners, and makeup artists provides you with a rich source of client referrals and some fantastic marketing opportunities.
The makeup artist @naperville_beauty uses her Instagram feed as a place to publicize her beautiful work, but to also cross-promote the other brands involved in the project
Putting the spotlight on neighboring businesses
Sometimes, the best way to create a successful partnership is to keep things simple. Yoga and Spa O Studio is based inside a wider health and wellness complex that includes cafes, retailers, and event space. This leaves the team with plenty of scope for partnerships and creative co-marketing.
In the Instagram post below, O Studio has given its followers “an ultimate day in The Welder” guide that promotes its partner’s offerings as well as their own services. It’s a powerful brand proposition that points to the value of these establishments as a collective; with so many great activities, you could easily spend the day here without needing to go anywhere else.
Ready to launch your next salon partnership?
Salon partnerships might seem a bit daunting at first, but the time and effort to set them up is well worth the reward. As a salon, you’re nothing without a strong local reputation, and partnering with other like-minded businesses in your area is the strategy that sets you up for long-term success as a service provider.
So, now’s the time to take a look down your main street and see if you can identify any potential salon partners. It’s a guaranteed way to spark the interest of prospective clients and set your business on a strong path to growth.
And once you start getting more clients out of those partnerships, ensure that you’re able to give them the best experience possible with the help of Booksy!