Posts from the ‘Salon Pro Marketing’ Category

Your Frequent Buyer Program: A Secret Formula for Effortless Repeat Sales

Your Frequent Buyer Program: A Secret Formula for Effortless Repeat Sales

The other day I passed an upscale nail spa and a sign on the front desk caught my eye: It read “Cheaper by the dozen, buy 12 manicures for the price of 10.”

Well what that hoity-toity nail spa knows is that frequent buyer programs, by any description, are a very powerful tool.

Here are a few ideas for frequent buyer programs.

* Make your program user friendly (for both the client and the salon/day spa). A punch card or a stamp will do. Make sure you keep the number of purchases in the computer in case the client forgets her card.
* For a more “expensive” look, try a plastic card. You can purchase these through your software provider. A wonderful touch is sending the client a printout of her usage.
* Try collaborating with an aligned business and offer “frequent” buyer programs. For example, you can arrange with a neighboring tanning salon to give a free tanning session for every three haircuts in your salon.
* Give a gift certificate valued at $x for every $y spent in services in your salon.
* Offer your top “inner-circle” of clients an exclusive discount as a reward.
* Arrange to give frequent flyer miles with your gift certificate program.

After you decide you’re going to have a program, make sure you:

* Clarify your goal.
* Clarify all the technical aspects of your program (how it works).
* Have a reward that the client considers valuable, but not so expensive that you lose money on it.
* Determine the length of your program—give enough time so the client can benefit.
* Know how the clients will receive the bonuses—don’t make them wait too long or jump through a ring of fire to get the bonus. They’ll only get frustrated and all your hard work will go down the drain.Test your program.

Andrew Finkelstein, President of the Beauty Resource, is a successful New York City-based entrepreneur, author, speaker, and coach who helps professional beauty businesses get more clients. Andrew’s E-zine The Finkelstein Report is the beauty industry’s #1 marketing resource with free articles, marketing tools, and valuable advice for salons and day spas owners. Contact Andrew at

If you are interested in printing a postcard for your sales or buy one get one events, please visit Salon Pro Marketing

Four Big Time Pricing Myths

Pricing your services and/or products is an integral part of your salon/day spa generating the sales and profits you are looking for.

The question you want to ask yourself is what prices should we be charging? When you think about the answer, please keep your objective clearly in the forefront.

For sure your ultimate objective is to maximize the amount of money your business makes. It’s just that on the road to doing that you can use pricing as a strategy (there’ll be more on pricing as a strategy in a future Finkelstein Report).

However before we can even make pricing decisions it’s important to wipe your mind clean from four big pricing myths. If you hang onto these myths, you’ll be sure to dilute any advantage that a pricing strategy will bring to your salon/day spa.

Myth #1 Price is the client’s most important buying criteria. Sure price is important; however, it usually comes up around #4 in consumer shopping surveys about what’s important to them. Yes, there are people who buy based strictly on price. The question you must answer is do you want to do business with these folks?

Myth #2 You have to match or even slightly under-price your services or product in a competitive or commodity driven market. With so many different ways to differentiate your salon/day spa, I’m astounded people even think this way.

For instance, you could try:

  • Specializing in a particular niche within the beauty niche (example: hair color or laser treatments)
  • Touting your experience or credentials
  • Partnering with top of the line manufacturers
  • Limiting accessibility

Myth #3 Pricing only involves taking the cost of your service or product and marking it up by your desired profit margin. Unfortunately, too many salons/day spas don’t have a handle on their true costs so even if they wanted to do cost-plus pricing they couldn’t. For that matter, cost-plus pricing may have nothing to do with the value of your services or with the market price.

However, if you don’t know already, please find out the cost of delivering the service and figure out what gross margin you need to cover all your fixed expenses.

Myth #4 If your sales are stagnant or falling behind, just drop your price and they will increase. Remember that although people put a high value on price, they also put a high value on quality. In the service business, perception is reality, so when you lower the price you chip away at the perception of your quality.

There are ways to justify lowering prices, if you believe you can retain the clients once you have them in the door and up-sell and cross-sell them with other services. However, if you lower your prices to increase sales you could very well be accelerating your losses.

Andrew Finkelstein, President of the Beauty Resource, is a successful New York City-based entrepreneur, author, speaker, and coach who helps professional beauty businesses get more clients. Andrew’s E-zine The Finkelstein Report is the beauty industry’s #1 marketing resource with free articles, marketing tools, and valuable advice for salons and day spas owners. Contact Andrew at or 212-831-2421 x202

The Top 8 Direct Marketing Offers of All Time

by Dean Rieck

Offers are the heart of all direct response advertising. An offer is not just a statement of your price, it’s the deal you’re making. It’s the total of what the customer gets plus what the customer has to do or pay to get it. By making an offer, you’re saying, “You do this for me, and I’ll do this for you.”  mail Pictures, Images and Photos

Naturally, the better your offer is, the better your response will be. Raising response is not your only concern, of course. For example, it may be more profitable to get a lower response from a more loyal group of buyers. Or perhaps you want orders to come in faster. Or you may need to lower your cost per sale.

In most cases, though, it’s best to start by getting your response rate high, then adjusting your offer over time to maximize your profits. Every offer you make has different characteristics. So, it pays to test.

Here are eight offers that have proven themselves over the years. They almost always raise your response rate:

  • Free Trial. This may be the best offer ever devised. A customer can try out your product free and without obligation for 10 days, 15 days, 30 days, or more. The time frame should fit the product. This offer removes risk for the prospect, overcomes inertia, and works with just about any product.
  • Money-Back Guarantee. This is perhaps the second best offer. A customer pays upfront but, if dissatisfied, can return the item for a full refund. Like the free trial, this offer removes risk but allows you to use customer inertia to your benefit since few people will take the trouble to return something.
  • Free Gift. When you offer a freebie your customer wants, your offer will usually outpull a discount offer of similar value. That’s because a gift is a more tangible benefit. This also has the advantage of not devaluing your product with a price reduction.

  • Limited Time. An offer with a time limit gets more response than an offer without one. You can display an exact date or suggest a response time frame, such as 14 days or 30 days. This forces a decision. And the faster you can force a decision, the more likely it will be in your favor.  

  • Yes/No. You ask your prospect to respond positively or negatively, usually by affixing a “yes” stamp or a “no” stamp or by checking one of two boxes. This offer is involving and usually pulls more response than an offer that does not offer a “no” option. It works because it clarifies the need for a decision right away.
  • Negative Option. This pulls better than positive option offers. You offer a free trial or a special deal on a product then automatically ship future merchandise unless the customer specifically takes an action to refuse. Just make sure this arrangement is clear. People become very unhappy when you start shipping and billing for items they didn’t know they were ordering.
  • Credit Card Payment. Nothing is easier than paying with plastic. These days, there’s no reason not to accept payment this way by phone, mail, fax, or the Internet. In fact, this has moved beyond an offer and has become an expectation.
  • Sweepstakes. This increases your order volume if you’re selling easy-to-understand impulse items. However, these customers aren’t loyal, and you may find yourself forever trapped in an endless cycle of contests.

Copyright © 2003 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.


Dean Rieck is a top-ranked freelance direct mail and direct marketing copywriter. He has been called “the best direct response strategist and copywriter” in America. Dean offers complete copywriting and design services for direct mail, B2B, print, sales lead generation, sales letters, e-mail and online marketing, and radio advertising. For more tips on improving your direct response advertising results, subscribe to Dean’s free direct marketing newsletter at

If you are looking for a resource to design and print your business card or direct mail , please go to Salon Pro Marketing

A Short Menu of Profitable Direct Mail Formats

A Short Menu of Profitable Direct Mail Formats 

by Dean Rieck

One of the beauties of direct mail is that it allows you to send people just about anything you can print. Your creative options are virtually endless. And while the standard envelope package is usually considered the most effective, there are plenty of other formats you can test.

Often an alternate format will increase response. But even if your response ends up being lower, many formats let you deliver your message at a reduced cost while maintaining enough response to offset the difference and give you more net profit. Here are a few format ideas:

  • Reduce costs with a self-mailer. It offers low cost and a quick read, good for quickly recognized content. It also helps speed response because it’s not as in-depth as a full package and looks more urgent and newsy. To make a self-mailer work at peak efficiency, combine elements of a standard direct mail package and a print ad. Include a strong headline in bold type, copy in easy-to-read sections, strong visuals, clear offer, reply card, toll-free number, message or mini-letter printed near the recipient’s address, feature list, testimonials, guarantee, and other elements as needed.
  • Signal exclusivity with an invitation. To make an offer special, you can issue an invitation in the appropriate format, usually a smaller envelope and letter on high-quality paper. This works best for offers targeted to high-income prospects, professionals, and executive level positions; for events such as conferences, meetings, and presentations; or for offers that need a quality feel.
  • Add urgency with a telegram. This is a good idea that is, unfortunately, wildly overused. It can be little more than an envelope design, such as “Urgent Gram,” “Speed Gram,” or some variation. Or it might be an envelope and letter combo resembling an actual telegram printed on yellow paper with tractor-feed holes down the sides of the letter. One way to make this format work is to create your own urgent-looking envelope for fulfillment materials. This allows the envelope to get noticed and assures that the contents will be relevant and interesting instead of boilerplate.
  • Create an official look with a snap-pack. This format is often used for official notices or statements, so it gives your ad message the same feel. And because the recipient has to rip open the edge of the envelope and pull out the contents, it creates involvement. It’s good for generating inquiries or for organizations with recognizable and trusted names. It has been used with particular success in the nonprofit sector to deliver what appears to be an urgent, cheap appeal for funds.
  • Generate quick leads with a postcard. Direct sales are possible with postcards but only for simple offers, such as magazine subscriptions. They are much better for building traffic for local retail or for generating inquiries for familiar services, such as real estate or carpet cleaning. However, because response is so easy, lead quality is often low. But it’s worth testing. Just remember to telegraph your message with a clear benefit headline, strong and tangible offer, a picture of what you’re offering, lean copy, and a bold call to action.
  • Use dimensional mailings cautiously. Boxes, bags, tubes, folders, and other unusual formats are great for getting attention. But while there are plenty of examples of successful campaigns, these formats are usually misused, wasting money on a novel format when a standard format could deliver a more powerful message and net a greater response or profit. Most of the dimensional mailings I have seen are simply a way for ad agencies to jack up their fee and cover up the fact that they don’t have anything to say about a product or service.
  • When in doubt, use an envelope package. The classic direct mail package consists of an outer envelope (usually #10, 6”x9”, or 9”x12”), a letter, brochure, reply card or order form, maybe one or more inserts, and a reply envelope. The reason this format is a standard is that it has been developed, tested, and perfected over many years. And it works. Test other formats but don’t be different just to be different.
  • Test formats head-to-head. The important point in format testing is to keep the offer, copy, graphics, and all creative elements as similar as possible so that you are testing the format itself and not a new creative treatment. And always test a new format in a head-to-head mailing with the old format. Never make a change until you have proven results.

Copyright © 2003 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.


Dean Rieck is a top-ranked freelance direct mail and direct marketing copywriter. He has been called “the best direct response strategist and copywriter” in America. Dean offers complete copywriting and design services for direct mail, B2B, print, sales lead generation, sales letters, e-mail and online marketing, and radio advertising. For more tips on improving your direct response advertising results, subscribe to Dean’s free direct marketing newsletter at

If you are considering postcards, please visit  Salon Pro Marketing

7 stupid ways to screw up your direct mail

Screw up Direct MailA famous chess player once revealed to me how he wins so many games, often against far more experienced players. I had expected some arcane theory or secret formula. However, what he said was this: “I try to avoid making mistakes.”

I’ve never forgotten that bit of wisdom. In fact, I routinely give similar advice to my direct mail clients. Yes, I have all kinds of deep and well-thought-out ideas about creating effective direct mail, but the first thing I tell them is this: “Avoid mistakes before seeking brilliance.”

What sort of mistakes? After working with over 250 clients in the U.S. and abroad, I’ve seen lots of smart people making lots of stupid mistakes. But there are a few particularly stupid things I see again and again, each guaranteed to screw up your direct mail big time.

Stupid Thing #1 — Allow a trigger-happy “general” agency within killing range of your promotion.

One of the world’s largest chemical companies sent me a self-mailer to review. They were using it to generate inquiries for a special program here in the U.S., but it hadn’t produced the sort of response they wanted.

They didn’t have to tell me a general agency had created it. I could tell by looking at it. The copy was cutesy, full of pun-heavy, meaningless headlines. The design was garish, with wild colors and hard-to-read type styles. The offer was hidden. The response elements were buried. The central message was disjointed and unclear.

My review consisted of two words: “It stinks.”

My solution consisted of three words: “Do it again.”

They said they could design the piece themselves if I gave them new copy and some very specific design direction, so that’s what I did. But when I got samples a couple months later, I was shocked. The copy had been hacked to death. The design had reverted to its original hideousness.

The reason? They showed it to some people at their New York agency. The creative team took a fit and mercilessly sacrificed the newly born self-mailer on the altar of creative irrelevance. The result? More lousy results.

I have nothing against general agencies, but most of them simply can’t do effective direct advertising. (Most can’t do good brand advertising, either. But that’s another article.) If you’re serious about selling products, generating leads, or raising funds directly, keep a safe distance between your direct mail piece and most general agencies. Say, a half mile or so.

Stupid Thing #2 — Have the artist design the piece first, and the writer fill in the blanks later.

I’ve been in this situation more times than I care to admit. And the result is always bad. It’s usually an agency. And it’s usually right after they’ve won a client’s business with the aid of a few funky design mockups.

Trouble is, when clients are sold that way, they want to see a final product that looks like the original pitch. The format is set  and the layout is created before any thought is given to the actual message.

Like the time an agency sent me a mockup of a three-dimensional mailing to announce a trade show. The copy areas were indicated by neat little gray boxes here and there in the design. My job: fill in the blanks.

But, I asked, what about a response form? What about a letter? What about … no, just fill in the blanks, thank you.

I love designers. I work with them all the time. But with all due respect, designers should never, ever lead the creation of a direct mail sales message. Images entice, impress, demonstrate, dramatize, tease, assure, amuse, and suggest, but they don’t sell. Words sell. And words come from the writer.

Stupid Thing #3 — Plaster a clever teaser on every envelope you mail.

A teaser is a technique, not a requirement. But some people seem to experience physical pain at the idea of mailing a plain envelope.
A financial services firm asked me to write a lead generation package. I delivered it, and my contact called me to say some of my copy had been lost.

Me: Lost?

Client: Yes, there is no teaser copy for the envelope.

Me: Oh, well I didn’t write any.

Client: Didn’t write any? (Long silence.) Well the envelope can’t go out like that. What would the board of directors say?

Me: Are you mailing it to the board of directors?

Client: No, but they want a professional-looking package.

Me: Really? I would think they want a package that gets the best response possible. And in this case, I think that means using a plain envelope.

Client: (Another long silence.) Okay, well, our designer has some ideas for teaser copy, so we’ll come up with something.

The decision about whether to use a teaser depends on what you are selling and your relationship with your prospects. And it depends on whether you want your ad to look like an ad. Sometimes it should. Often it shouldn’t.

My rule on this is simple: When in doubt, leave it out.

Stupid Thing #4 — Spending 2 weeks on the flyer and 2 hours on the letter.

I know. Brochures are sexy. Letters aren’t. But the old saying is as true as it ever was: “The letter sells. The brochure tells.” So if you spend all your time on the tell, you just aren’t going to sell.

A newsletter publisher sent me a sample of a direct mail package that wasn’t working like they thought it should. I could see one big problem right away. The letter was a four-paragraph snoozer — little more than “Enclosed you will find, yadda yadda.” The company president said his secretary wrote it.


I could go on and on about the importance of letters, but here’s the bottom line. If it’s in an envelope, it needs a letter. And if you enclose a letter, it should sell. That’s where you make the personal connection. That’s where you make your pitch. That’s where you close the deal.

A package can work without a brochure, but it will seldom work without a good letter. It’s the most important part of every direct mail package, and you should allot your time accordingly.

Stupid Thing #5 — Create a slow-reveal “Burma Shave” brochure.

Remember those Burma Shave signs along the highway? (If you do, you’ve just revealed your age.) They would present a rhymed message, with each line on a different sign, so as you drove past, the message was slowly revealed, saving the product name for the end.

Cute. But a bad technique for direct mail brochures. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about. A few words of copy or a clever graphic on each panel. The reader has to open the brochure — reading in exactly the right order from panel to panel — to figure out the message.

Early in my career, I worked with an agency that insisted every brochure have a “set up” on the cover and a “payoff” inside. It was like writing jokes instead of brochures. Every time I delivered clear, straightforward copy that started selling right on the cover, it was rewritten to set up, then pay off.

Burma Shave signs had a simple purpose: to fix the Burma Shave name in the minds of buyers. However, your brochure has a much more difficult and immediate task: to support the sales message in the letter with explanations, details, and proofs. People look to it not for entertainment but for information.

So if you have something to say, say it. Start saying it right on the cover. And make sure your message is clear no matter how the reader skips around from panel to panel.

Stupid Thing #6 — Play hide and seek with the order form, guarantee, and testimonials.

A software company had tested a half dozen versions of the same mailer. All of them had performed poorly. When I got the samples, I could see why. The order form was hidden on the last panel of the brochure. The guarantee — one of the strongest I’ve ever seen — appeared in only one place in the middle of some text. And the testimonials were merely filler for a few open areas in the design.

But an order form is not a piece of extra paper. A guarantee is not a necessary evil to jam into the copy. Testimonials are not a design element. These are each part of the skeleton of your direct mail message. Without that skeleton, the body of your package collapses into a helpless mass of paper.

Whenever possible, make your order form a separate piece that falls right into your prospect’s lap. Highlight your guarantee on every piece to assure your prospect of your integrity. And group your testimonials so they make a stronger impression.

Stupid Thing #7 — Guess, guess, guess instead of test, test, test.

This is probably the stupidest thing of all. And I run into it all the time. Despite the image our industry has for being a bunch of number-happy bean counters, a frighteningly large percentage of businesses don’t test. Or don’t test properly.

One guy wanted me to help him sell a software product. He was using a self-mailer, but I thought he needed an envelope package. He said he had tested envelope packages and firmly stated that they don’t work.

But after asking some very specific questions, I found out he had done one mailing. With a new offer. To an untried list. During a bad time of the year. And didn’t mail it against his control. In other words, he did a lousy mailing, got lousy results, and concluded that envelope packages are lousy.

And you would be amazed at the businesses I talk to that don’t test at all — respected, household names you probably think are testing their socks off. Some of the worst offenders are big companies that have direct mail programs, but don’t rely on them for their success. And (egad) you’re probably borrowing techniques from these people!

I don’t care how smart you are or how well you know your market or product. Until you run a properly designed test, you don’t know jack. And even then, you should test again just to be sure.

Is testing expensive? Let me put it this way: it’s less expensive than rolling out a mailing that is destined to under perform or flop.

Avoiding stupid mistakes won’t guarantee success. But like the chess player, you will reduce your losses and thereby increase your wins.

Dean Rieck is a top-ranked freelance direct mail and direct marketing copywriter. He has been called “the best direct response strategist and copywriter” in America. Dean offers complete copywriting and design services for direct mail, B2B, print, sales lead generation, sales letters, e-mail and online marketing, and radio advertising. For more tips on improving your direct response advertising results, subscribe to Dean’s free direct marketing newsletter at

For your postcard design and printing needs, please visit Salon Pro Marketing