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Grow Your Salon Business with Referral Marketing image

Referral marketing programs encourage your existing clients to attract new clients to your salon, through incentives, such as discounts and free offerings in exchange for referring a friend. Think of referral programs as word-of-mouth marketing campaigns that attract the like-minded friends of existing clients into your chair. 

Why referral marketing? 

Referral marketing is a powerful business strategy for a number of reasons:

1.) People are more likely to patronize a business that has been recommended by a friend, and even more likely if it is a very close friend or family member, somebody that they truly trust. Often, finding the right beauty provider can be difficult, so finding a trusted recommendation from a like-minded source is pure gold. From this perspective, a referral program incentivizes current patrons to actually do their loved ones a favor by getting them in-the-know about a really great service. 

2.) Referral marketing is free, which means zero-risk marketing for you and your salon. Once a referral is successfully made, you get to decide on the incentive that you are offering, which we recommend as discounts on future services. In this way, you are trading your time for their client acquisition, of which may likely be a repeat client. This type of incentive is low risk for you and high reward for your clients, who will be paying for those services regularly anyways. Who doesn’t love a good discount on a reoccurring expense? 

3.) Referral marketing helps to attract your soul clients, or clients that perfectly fit into your niche and your offerings. If you ask your most aligned and satisfied clients to refer friends that they think would love your services, you are likely to get more of those types of clients - ones who love your services! As the saying goes, “your vibe attracts your tribe”… so, when you love the vibe of one of your clients, and they love your work and your salon, enlist them to refer to some of their community with an awesome incentive. Make it a win-win-win - for you, them, and their referral. 

Some beauty professionals only accept referrals, because they simply want to service clients in their specific niche who will fully value their work. This can create a sense of exclusivity and high demand that can send your salon soaring in mystere and prestige if you play your cards right! 

How to run a salon referral marketing program:

Here are a few tips for running an effective referral marketing program for your salon: 

1.) Find a few soul clients 

The best clients to target for a referral program are the ones that you most enjoy working with. When a client is a soul client, they might resonate with your work, light up your creativity or inspire you in some way. Perhaps they are simply kind or lovely to be around. Maybe they love to dye their hair a new color each month and it's a joy to look forward to. 

Whatever the reason - your soul clients - you know who they are - these are the people that you most want to tap into for a referral program. The idea is that you want to multiply clients like that in your salon. In addition, if they are happy about your services, chances are high that their referral, who they think will love your work, will do just that - love your work! And what’s not to love? 

2.) Provide excellent service

This part is a given - you must provide a high-quality experience and service that your clients will be happy and eager to refer to their nearest and dearest. 

You know that feeling when a service is just so good that you feel the urge to tell your best friends to go there immediately for the same treatment? It’s like a best-kept secret, and you want your people to be in-the-know. That is what we are going for here. 

So WOW clients every time for an organic referral that comes naturally. 

3.) Offer referral incentive 

When a client refers somebody to your program, a referral incentive may include a discount on a product or service, or a free additional treatment (ie. free nail design add-on, conditioning treatment or blowout) to be used sometime after the referral completes their appointment. 

4.) Promote referral incentive

As great as your work may be, it may still take some promotion of a referral program to secure a solid referral.  So, make a graphic (we recommend Canva for no-experience-necessary graphic design), describing the discount or offer, and outline the details of the referral program. We recommend promoting this in a few ways - any or all of these will be effective: 

  1. Print a poster or quarter sheet for hanging up in your salon studio - something visually appealing that clients can view during their appointment. 
  2. Put the graphic in an email blast and send it to your clientele email list. 
  3. Post graphics to social media accounts and on stories.

5.) Ask influencer clients to promote your salon

Do you have any clients that have a large following on social media? If so, think about whether you might be comfortable asking them to tag you after a haircut in a post. Let them know that you are looking to grow your client base. If they insist on financial compensation, ask them about trades for services or discounts on services.

 If it seems worthwhile to pay for a shout - consider it! Influencer marketing often pays off if the niche is right. Make sure to pay attention to this though - is your influencer national or global, or do they have a local following? It’s important that their post reach a local audience that can come to see you in-person, so keep that in mind before spending any money on an influencer post. 

Build Community

If you are seeking to build your client base, we recommend trying a referral program that encourages existing clients to bring their friends into your chair. Not only will this bring in business, but it also builds a strong community behind your business. When existing clients are incentivized to bring in their friends and rewarded with future discounts or offers, this serves to inspire loyalty and more frequent visits from those existing clients. Plus, your favorite clients will simply find it fulfilling to connect others to your work. 

In addition, trusted referrals are more likely to resonate with your services than a random stranger, and for that reason, a referral marketing program is more likely to succeed in attracting and retaining repeat clients. People spend a lot of marketing dollars trying to locate their niche audience to sell to, both online and in-person. Referral programs leverage your existing clients to locate your niche audience live, and reach them word-of-mouth, skipping the exploration phase and going right to the good stuff. 

Holiday Referral Program

The holiday season is an especially fruitful time for attracting new clients through referrals, as it is such a busy season, and many are looking for treatments and services. Consider offering a holiday-themed- “gift” - a discount to referrals that goes both ways, to the referral and referee - for a limited time only, during the holiday season. Perhaps if your books are typically filled during the holiday season itself, the promotion can launch during the holiday season for use in the new year. This is a great way to ensure that you hit the ground running with full books in 2023. 

We hope that you will try this fun, free and fruitful method for growing your salon business, risk-free. 

Please let us know about your trials, successes and experiences with referral programs. We love to hear (and share with the Sola community) about any tips that you have that may help fellow Solapreneurs to thrive in this area. 

Cheers to books full of your ideal clients in 2023!