When things get quiet at Carla Fryar's Great Clips salons in Northfield and New Prague, Minn., she tells her employees to hit the road--dressed as the brand's mascot, Sudz, a life-sized blue shampoo bottle.
"Rather than sending home an employee when it's quiet, we go out on a street corner and hold a sign, sometimes for 15 minutes, sometimes for 3 hours, depending on what we want to get across," she says. Participants include the managers, Fryar or her husband, or the employees or their children.
Fryar, a Great Clips franchisee since 1992, has two salons now, down from the 10 she once operated with different partners. "We do a lot of local things that would not necessarily in most peoples' minds be considered advertising," she says. Some examples of her outside-the-box thinking:
- Get an "air guy"--one of those big inflatable wiggly creatures. "Mine says 'Great Clips' on one side and 'Haircuts' on the other, so we can use it any time," she says. "We bought it and drag it between our two stores. It's not a very expensive investment for the attention it attracts."
- Have your employees paint their car windows with "Go Tigers" or "Win State" or with other timely, locally oriented slogans. "I give employees a free car wash when it's done--and paint is cheap."
- Use an old reliable auto dealer's tactic: hang colorful triangular banners, in this case from their outdoor signage, to the light pole in the parking lot. It actually works, says Fryar.
- Hand out free beads with a coupon stapled to them. She buys them in bulk at party stores.
- Get a permit to put signs out along the boulevard saying "I â™¥ Great Clips" or "$2 Off Haircut" or "No Waiting." Others trumpet a special reduced price. "We might put that out all day, or just a few hours when it's slow. If someone comes in and says they saw it, we give them that price."
- Approach a local Boy Scout group, sports team, etc. and say, "I'll donate $100 if you can get someone to hold a sign for these hours on these days." She says it's an easy way to get help, a good cause, and gets the wider community involved
"Getting the whole staff involved is the key--not just me or the manager," she says. However, since everyone has a different comfort level, be sure to check with each employee. Some may love dressing up in a costume and standing and waving on the corner, while others may not.
Beneath the flurry of activity, Fryar has a slow-and-steady approach to increasing her clientele. "It's about getting one more each day, which is 7 more per week times 52 weeks times the average person gets haircuts every 6 to 7 weeks," she says. "They've been putting off a haircut, see this, and come in"--and, she hopes, come back.
Does she track and measure the results of all these marketing maneuvers? "Definitely. When I had the 10 salons and started to do more of this--and Great Clips was involved in getting us started--we saw how much it increased business, versus the same period of not doing the guerilla marketing," she says.
The first time she tried it was during back-to-school season. "Sales increased 18 to 30 percent over those same weeks from the year before," she says. "I continue to see these same types of results. Just this past month during our haircut sale with the marketing things my staff, managers, and we did, my two salons had a customer count increase of 78 percent and 90 percent over last year's same week."