How do I build an online client base?


A. Christian Robinson of Firebox.com writes:

Your challenge is to turn the website from brochureware (i.e. basic advertising of your company) into a tool for new customer acquisition, conversion and retention. Here are a few ideas to build up your online offering in these areas:

Acquisition 

1. Search engine marketing (especially local searches)

 

2. Affiliate marketing (paying commission to partners that promote your website)

3. Partnerships with local businesses (e.g. provide a members’ service – offer local deals with bars/restaurants/clothing stores and work with these companies to provide their clients with discounts too)

4. Competitions and promotions through local media

Conversion 

1. Content (e.g. trend-spotting of cool new styles or a ‘celebrity hair watch’ column; offer an ‘ask the expert’ feature where people can write in for advice)

2. Marketing promotions and offers (e.g. using email newsletters to stimulate demand during off-peak periods)

3. Third party accreditation (e.g. a review section where clients can upload comments)

4. ‘Meet the stylists’ – information about your stylists, examples of their past work and any awards they have won

5. E-commerce (e.g. offer online ordering of hair care products)

With each of these suggestions you will have to weigh up the cost of a new feature with the return you could expect from it. For example, a feature that lets customers upload their photo and try out new styles ‘virtually’ could be expensive to develop and not provide a tangible return in the short term. However, allowing customers the convenience of ordering products is not only a benefit but also a new revenue stream.

Retention 

This is where it gets really interesting…

1. Email marketing (e.g. when customers should be getting their hair cut next)

2. Convenience (e.g. provide an online booking service)

3. Personalisation (e.g. a simple after-care customised product solution)

4. Loyalty programmes

5. Customer referral programme

The key is to offer a service customers will talk about to their friends that will generate free PR for you.

Once your website has been re-launched you will need to encourage people to use it. Perhaps you could hold a launch party at the salon, inviting local press and clients. Or perhaps you could hold an online competition promoted through the local press, as well as sending a fl yers to existing clients. Good luck!

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