Marketing 101 for the Independent Beauty Professional

Beauty is big business. According to a 2021 market summary, the cosmetics and beauty market is worth $84 billion in the U.S. alone. Global sales revenue hit $483 billion in 2020, and it's projected to reach $716 billion by 2025. And the market size of beauty salons (including hair, skin, or nail services) reached $42.8 billion in 2021.

With such encouraging numbers, there's never been a better time to be your own boss and start your career as an independent beauty professional. However, as with any business, you'll have to invest time, energy, and money into marketing to grow and nourish your beauty company. Whether or not you learned some marketing basics during your beauty program, if you need a crash course, here are some tips for getting started.

Major Types of Marketing Channels to Consider

Marketing includes spending money for ads, but today there are a lot of low-cost or free platforms to promote your business too. Demonstrating your work with photos and videos, forming and building relationships with past and future clients through social media, proving you're a knowledge leader in the beauty industry, and offering promotions and discounts are all forms of marketing.

These are some of the most common marketing channels that can be beneficial for beauty business owners.

Offline Advertising Channels

You have many offline opportunities to advertise your business, from print newspapers and magazines to billboards, bus shelters, and radio or TV advertising. But it doesn't have to stop there. What about putting your business cards in coffee shops or on bulletin boards around the community? You could agree to sponsor a local event, providing your services for free or giving away samples of your beauty products to attendees.

Pamphlets and flyers can also be powerful marketing materials when placed appropriately. For example, do you have your own skin care line? Ask local dermatologists that don’t sell their own skin care products if you can leave a few pamphlets with samples in their waiting room for patients to peruse while waiting. Do you run a high-end salon? Go to the five-star hotels in your city and provide the concierge with printed brochures they can hand out to guests.

Online Paid Advertising Channels

Spending money on digital advertising can be very worthwhile, as these ads are targeted specifically to people who are likely to be interested in your services. For example, paid ads on Facebook, Google, Yelp, or Instagram can target readers in a specific age group and your specific geographic location looking for a specific type of service, increasing the likelihood of click-throughs.

Online Organic Marketing Channels

The beauty of online advertising avenues is that they provide opportunities to spread the word about your business, find communities of potential clients, establish yourself as a beauty expert, and promote your services, all for free or with the cost of your time. ("Organic" in marketing means that you are not paying for ad placements.) Ideas for this type of promotion include:

  • Investing in your website, as this is often the first impression clients get of your business
  • Setting up a My Business listing on Google that links to your website or scheduling page
  • Getting followers on your Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or Pinterest pages with a portfolio and other engaging content
  • Creating contests and surveys to collect customer contact information and interact with followers
  • Writing an online newsletter to send out via email or text
  • Establishing relationships with local journalists to use you as an expert
  • Collaborating with nearby businesses on events or cross-promotions

Best Practices for Marketing Your Beauty Business

With paid advertising through print ads or commercials, as well as seemingly infinite digital platforms, print or digital publications, or physical places where your customers spend time, there are dozens of ways to get the word out about your beauty business. Here’s how to take advantage of all of these avenues to get your business out there and drive sales.

Determine Your Messaging

You've undoubtedly heard the term "branding" before, but what does that mean? Your brand is what sets you apart from the competition. Do you provide a more luxurious experience or cater to a particular population or aesthetic? Do you provide a niche service? Do you bundle services or offer a different level of convenience? Your brand can give you a competitive advantage, so use it in all your marketing messages.

Prioritize Advertising

Advertising works. Research shows that increased marketing budgets correlate with revenue growth. Prioritize advertising by devoting a percentage of your monthly budget to it.

The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests 7% to 8% of your gross revenue should be spent on marketing and advertising, but other experts put it at around 11%. Whatever number you choose, periodically review this to determine whether you should increase or decrease, based on your results and business goals.

Create Your Community

Social media gives you a way to showcase your talents and build personal connections with people. You can use it to share makeup or hairstyling tips, post photos of your work, comment on products, and listen in on the beauty conversations people are having. You can also use your social media pages to share promotions or beauty product sales. And you can even collaborate with other beauty professionals to help solve their beauty challenges and refer work to each other.

Another way to create your community of current and future clients is to develop client loyalty programs, offering incentives to those you see regularly or clients who refer you to friends.

Find Out Where Customers Come From

Talk to your clients about how they found you—this can provide insights into what efforts are working and getting engagement and which ones aren't. For instance, if your business primarily comes from other business referrals, you may want to ramp up your offline marketing efforts to keep business cards and pamphlets updated and in the community.

If most of your business comes to you via online methods, you can use Google Analytics or other tracking programs to determine what search terms people used to find you online. If word of mouth is driving your business, make sure your social media accounts are engaging and current to keep the word spreading.

Try Different Channels

What works for someone else may not work for you. Try multiple avenues for marketing your business to discover what works best for you and how to get the most bang for your buck. Now and then, try introducing new methods, such as ads, promotions, or event sponsorships, to see what gets people's attention, gives you a better return on your investment, and feels most authentically you.

Reach Out to Past Clients

Research shows that dormant ties—people you used to know but have lost touch with—can be valuable sources of business. If a client has done business with you in the past, particularly if it was a positive experience, try reaching out to see how they're doing, remind them you're around, and let them know about new products and services you've added to your offerings. You could even extend a discount if they return or refer you to others.

Hype Your Wins

Sharing your wins, such as awards won or exciting new projects you're working on, is a great way to pique people's interest in your business. Wins might include a "best of" local newspaper award, a new credential, involvement in an event or product partnership, or teaching a well-liked class in the community.

You can share your successes in every marketing channel, from social media posts to printed pamphlets and brochures.

Share Testimonials

A happy customer is the best advertisement for your business. Ask your satisfied clients if they would be willing to write up testimonials for you, then share them on social media or create a testimonials page on your website. You can also ask clients to review your business and services on popular review sites, such as Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor.

Use Influencers

Influencers earn this title because people like them and trust what they have to say. In fact, 40% of people have reported making purchases based solely on influencers' recommendations. Do you know an influencer who can share a personal story about, or photos of, your work or products? You might even hire one to tout your business via their blog or social media accounts.

Embrace Content Marketing

Demonstrating your expertise and sharing quality content is a great, cost-effective way to engage with future clients. Quality content might include articles about the latest trends or treatments, blogs demonstrating your knowledge, videos or case studies showcasing your work, infographics, podcasts, live streams, webinars, quizzes, guides, and more.

The more informative, helpful content you have associated with your brand, the more likely people will be to find and trust you.

Respond to Reviews

According to research, responding to reviews about your company—both good and bad—is essential for bringing in new customers.

A recent consumer review survey found that 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 55% say that seeing business owners respond to reviews makes them feel positive about the business. What's more, 89% of consumers would be fairly or highly likely to use a business that responds to both positive and negative reviews. On the other hand, 57% of consumers would be not very or not at all likely to use a business that doesn't respond to any reviews.

In particular, it's a good idea to respond to Google and Yelp reviews in a timely fashion; 1 in 5 reviewers expects a response within 24 hours. For especially nasty or inappropriate reviews (for example, the review is not actually from a real client), you may be able to request they be taken down.

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