Growing a business with high-value experiences
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Growing a business with high-value experiences

Growing a business with high-value experiences

Georgia-based franchisee Greg Thomas owns more than 60 Great Clips, but he doesn’t trust potential new customers to know the difference between his brand and someone else’s.

“I think Great Clips is a generic name, much like Great Cuts, Sport Clips, Supercuts. I honestly can’t remember what I own,” he says with a laugh. “My neighbors don’t remember if it’s Great Clips, Great Cuts, or Supercuts.”

The common names and potential confusion cause problems when he’s trying to attract more business. Traditional measures can be counterproductive. “I believe that when you advertise for our brand, you advertise for our industry, and that is a problem,” he says. “I mean, McDonald’s is distinctively different. Burger King is distinctively different. But Great Clips, Super Clips, and Sport Clips all sound similar.”

The solution he came up with is one part P.T. Barnum and one part Forbes:

  • Barnum, the ultimately showman, said, “Without promotion, something terrible happens… nothing!” 
  • Forbes, the business magazine, reported, “(T)he number one thing every single customer wants is an effortless, high-value experience.”

When he was a relatively new entrepreneur and franchisee, Thomas created engaging experiences for his customers to differentiate his brand from the others. It started with a visit to a NASCAR race in Atlanta. It wasn’t a major league race with the top stars, but the action was there. What wasn’t there? People.

“No one was in the audience,” he says. “I was like, ‘Why are we sponsoring a race?’”

The corporate office was set on continuing the sponsorship, so Thomas went to the president of the track. “I said, ‘I want some free tickets to the race. I want to fill your stands,’” he recalls. “They said, ‘This is NASCAR. You don’t get anything for free.’”

Thomas persisted and eventually got the deal he wanted. Great Clips sponsored the race, and Thomas got 20,000 free tickets. All he had to do was promote it.

“Most ads say, ‘Come into Greats Clips. We’re Great. We’re Great. We’re Great.’ Nobody listens to that,” he says. “My ad was, ‘Come into Great Clips. Pay for a cut at full price and get free admission to the Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.’”

Race day didn’t go as smoothly as Thomas would’ve hoped. He was the starter who waved the green flag. He initially thought his brilliant idea was a bust because the stands were depressingly empty. 

“Little did I know, they were in the parking lot drinking beer until the start,” he says. “I got up there, and I did the start. I turned around, and it was the highest attended nationwide race in history for Atlanta.”

He’d exceeded his customers’ expectations by giving them an experience in addition to a haircut, and the name “Great Clips” stood out from the Supercuts and Sport Clips of the world. However, while everyone needs a haircut on a regular basis, not everyone wants to spend their afternoon listening to engines roar. That’s okay. Thomas also had a plan for them.

“One year, I bought Six Flags for a day. It was, ‘Come to Great Clips for a full-priced haircut and get a $10 admission to Six Flags.’ It’s a gift with purchase,” he says. “Another year, I did, ‘Come into Great Clips for a full-price haircut and get free admission to the College Football Hall of Fame and a Chick-fil-A biscuit.’ Another year, it was, ‘Come into Great Clips, get a full-price haircut, and get half-priced admission to the Georgia Aquarium.’”

For the 2024–25 season, he plans to do a similar promotion with a professional lacrosse team, Georgia Swarm. He’s betting he can put people in the stands by promoting his business in a way that would’ve made P.T. Barnum proud. He’s also giving his customers the effortless, high-value experiences that Forbes says modern consumers crave.

“The best part for me is I’m having fun growing my business,” Thomas says.

Published: March 29th, 2024

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