Expert Advice: Marketing your mobile or home-based business
Marie-Louise Coster suggests ways to help promote your ‘hidden’ business’.
Owning any business is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week job, there is simply always something that needs to be done and constant promotion of the business is probably the highest on the list.
When you have a high street salon, spa or nail bar, you automatically have a presence and, if situated well, people are walking and driving past all of the time giving you constant advertising and promotion. But when you are home-based or mobile you are almost invisible, no one knows who you are and what you do as you have no street presence, meaning you have to work an awful lot harder to create awareness.
It is suggested that a potential client will see, or hear, about you in seven different ways/places before they often make an appointment. So, for example, that could be a leaflet through the letter box, a boosted post on Facebook, an advert in a magazine or newspaper or both, a poster in a local business or noticeboard, a tweet, an Instagram post, a Google ad, a local event, sponsorship of a local sports team or, best of all, a recommendation from a friend.
That's a lot of different outlets and, when mobile and home-based we work alone so that is a lot of ground to cover. In reality you are most likely just using Facebook and Instagram, but everything combined adds great weight to your campaign.
Let's take a look at some options:
A website is the most prominent replacement for your missing shop window. Your website should be informative, and easy to navigate. None of us want to go on to a website to look for something and have to click on several pages, still not having found what we are looking for, usually resulting in us clicking on someone else's is page; I do it all the time.
You have about a two-minute window to keep the attention of the person who has just entered your website so ensure your contact details are on all pages, because at least then they can call if they want any further information.
Have specific pages about you, your background, whether you are mobile or home-based, promotions and events, the services you offer and the hours you operate.
If you are mobile please do make it clear what areas you cover and what the extra charge is for going further afield out of the area.
Have a specific page for each service; a client may just be looking for a manicure and doesn't want to go through a long page of hundreds of other treatments just to get to the one they are looking for…and please always have the prices there! Is it just me who gets annoyed when they find a treatment list, a lovely explanation of said treatment and then there is no price so I have to hunt for prices? Worse still, I have seen websites that don't advertise the price until you click on the ‘book now' icon! I would be reluctant to click on the ‘book' icon for fear of making an appointment that I may not want once I know the price.
Your Social Media
Social media is by far the most instant and interactive way to engage with both your current and potential client base. It can be a bit time consuming and perhaps even a bit confusing for those new to it but once you get into the routine of it it becomes second nature.
There are several social media platforms, Facebook being the most obvious and widely used followed by Instagram and Twitter.
Facebook is by far the most popular, the whole world (or so it seems) are on Facebook, regularly updating what they are doing, what they are eating (or is that just my friends?) and checking in on what is going on. Most phones come with the app already on them and I remember reading somewhere that a large percentage of us check Facebook last thing at night and first thing in the morning when we wake up. There are many positives to Facebook and with a business page you can monitor it and see exactly how many people are seeing each of your posts so you can learn which posts are most popular, the topic they are covering or the format they are in, and tailor your posts to suit your audience.
With Facebook you get a great mixture of words and pictures so you can make each post different and fresh. Visual things work very well and often create more interest so if you do a lot of nail art or make-up, take pictures and (with the client's permission) post them on Facebook. You can also broadcast a Facebook Live session if you want to demo a new treatment and show how it works; I find this works very well. Before and after pictures are also great so if you do facial peels, non-surgical face lifting, eyebrow enhancements, lash extensions etc. remember to take a picture beforehand so as people can see the difference the treatment has made first hand.
If you have gaps to fill, or you are fully booked and your availability is limited, you can post telling clients when the next gap is and to be organised, or potentially fill a gap last minute if one has come up.
Facebook is also great for promoting services or special offers and, of course, it is free to do so, it is just your time it costs you.
Your page needs to be active so I would suggest regular posts daily, perhaps four to eight posts a day; you want them to run throughout the day but look at your Facebook statistics and see when clients are most active on your page and really target your important posts then but don't forget to drip feed throughout the day so as Facebook can see you are an active account and it doesn't upset your algorithms (which are forever changing).
Now, don't panic, you don't need to schedule it into your diary or set an alert on your phone 'must update Facebook', or block time out of your diary, you can very easily programme them to post at set times. This can be done by scheduling your post and not publishing it immediately. Take a look at your status box, when you write your status you have the option to hit next, this then gives you an option to publish, and a bar comes up saying ‘How do you want to publish this?', if you click on that you will be give three further options – ‘publish now', ‘schedule' or ‘save draft'. If you click ‘schedule' you are then given an option to set a date and time for the post to appear on your feed. I usually set up a week of posts in advance to keep the page active; it is a very rock n roll Sunday evening in my house clearly! I schedule around six to eight posts a day so as there is a post every few hours at regular intervals, and as the week goes on I add posts if I do something or have some news that is relevant at that time, but at least when I am busy the page is still fresh and updated.
You can link your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts so if you update Instagram with a picture you can click on the link to share it on other platforms and automatically have it posted to Facebook and Twitter. Likewise, you can set your Facebook account to automatically update your Twitter account with the same post meaning you don't have to spend time updating both. This is very easy to do but the only reservation I would have about this is that Facebook and Twitter attract two different audiences and Twitter is largely a more worldwide audience than Facebook can be and is a way of networking with more business-related contacts than local clients. Facebook and Twitter do need to be treated differently to get the best out of them ideally.
Instagram is brilliant for showcasing your work, particularly if you are a nail tech, session stylist or make-up artist, and is also great for following those who could inspire you in such fields to see the work they create.
You have to think of social media as your shop window so it needs to be professional, well presented, informative and enticing. You can post pictures of the treatment rooms, use visuals from the brands you use and show clients who are yet to visit what awaits them; this often makes them less nervous about visiting.
I would advise being 'everywhere like a cheap suit' because each platform will attract a different audience and by being on all of them, you will put yourself in front of everyone. Just be organised, monitor it and have fun with it, social media can be a great business tool when used correctly.
The good old fashioned leaflet drop still works a treat. It is a good reminder you are there and stops your advert getting lost in amongst other things on the same page of a magazine.
If you are mobile it is a great way of telling people that you visit their area regularly and what you offer. It will make it more cost effective for you to build up clients in areas so as you can visit them all in one go, reducing travel times and making your time much more productive.
For home-based salons, target the streets near you first and start working out a bit. If you have some small villages near you that don't have a beauty salon, take a little drive out to them and target them too.
Please don't be disheartened, you will deliver 500 leaflets and probably only get an instant response of about five. It is five more than you had before and the other 495 will have seen you and may use you in the future.
Leaflet drops are another reasonably inexpensive way to promote your business; with sites like Vistaprint you can get leaflets printed reasonably cheaply and professionally and you can deliver them yourself for free. Don't forget to reward yourself with chocolate at the end as you will have burnt loads of calories in the process!
These can be very expensive, but if you can wangle a free article based on something exciting that is going on in the business, such as a business anniversary, a new treatment etc. or by offering a competition, it will work a treat. I think people are more likely to read an article and can, sometimes, bypass and advert.
Local events will be non-existent at the moment due to the pandemic, but when we get back to some sort of normality they are a great way to build a presence in the local community.
If you see any school events, charity events or similar going on within the locations you work (if you are mobile) or in your local town or village (if you are home-based), book a table and offer reduced price treatments such as a file and polish, Indian head massage, back massage (if there is a more private area) etc.
Take pricelists, leaflets, retail items to sell and use the event as a marketing tool. Most of these events cost about £20, a lot cheaper than an advert, and they are a great way for people to meet you and see who you are and what you do.
I'm not going to lie, some will be shocking, others amazing; I did some terrible events in the beginning but I always gained at least one client from it and covered my costs so it was worth siting there for hours!
You could be creative and develop an online Zoom event specifically for your business. Charge the clients a small fee, send them a gift and do a facial party with them, or a talk or demo, have a Q & A, have guests...think outside of the box.
If there is a ladies rugby or football team, a tennis club, or hockey club or something similar within the location(s) you work look in to sponsoring them. They will draw a crowd every week and your business will constantly be in front of them.
Network with Fellow Professionals
Find other local mobile and home-based hairdressers and therapists, foot health practitioners, nutritionists etc. and try to team up to promote each other. Just be choosey as to who you team up with and ensure they are professional and share your business mind and professionalism. You could do talks, demos or Facebook live sessions on each other's Facebook pages.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is always going to be your best way of promoting the business, so perhaps offer a recommend a friend scheme, alternatively have an open evening (if home-based) asking clients to bring a friend who has never visited you before.
If you are mobile, maybe suggest to some of your clients that they could have a girls night in, you could come and pamper them all and you could build up a client base that way.
Sign Write your Car
This applies to mobile and home-based businesses; you can't have a sign on your house but you can have one on your car so whenever you are driving around people will see your business name and look into what you do.
Always monitor the ways you promote your business so as you can see what effectively works and what doesn't, that way you won't keep trying something that just doesn't work. When you are a ‘hidden' business' it is hard work to build a name but just keep at it and keep going, you will achieve it in the end.
Marie-Louise Coster is a Beauty Therapist, Trainer and Business Consultant, with over 20 years' experience in the industry. All About Mi Beauty & Holistic Training School is ABT-accredited.