Marketing or Bust: How Lost Biz Might Be Your Fault

Last weekend, I went to a nail salon with a friend of mine who recently moved to a new, small-ish community near Los Angeles. Not knowing the area, she did a quick Google/Yelp search and after learning that our first choice didn’t have availability, we made an appointment with the second option. The comment that gave promise to this salon was from a long-time customer who had been a customer for 18 years, noting that she felt like family and highly recommended it. Most people can’t even commit to a marriage for that long, so we figured it must be good. But actually, it wasn’t the case. Before proceeding, however, let me be clear:  I am not a complainer…mostly, to a fault…so take this into perspective.

When we pulled up to the tiny strip mall, I didn’t flinch. I’ve been to a number of salons in strip malls, so it didn’t send up red flags. Walking inside, I immediately noticed that there were no massage chairs and the décor was aged. I figured I’m usually not that crazy about the pointed, unintuitive massages given by inanimate objects, so again, it seemed fine. And who’s to judge décor? It was their style, and a style not uncommon in smaller salons.

There were two nail technicians. And there were three of us (including my 4-year-old daughter). Shortly after choosing our colors, we were informed that the owner’s husband would be arriving to do my daughter’s nails. Knowing this wouldn’t be an easy proposition for my daughter, I asked the technician to start with her first, which would ensure the husband would be doing MY nails. Then, I started to notice details, such as:

  • She didn’t clean under my daughter’s nails. Sure, little girls don’t usually get a full manicure, but this seemed too basic to ignore…particularly with a child who, ahem, doesn’t have very tidy nails.
  • There were old fingernails on the carpet. It’s true…and a major no-no in a nail salon, in case you weren't aware.
  • When her husband arrived, I quickly noticed that his finger tips were like something out of Plants vs. Zombies. Based on the disintegrating nature of his skin and nails, I wasn’t sure if he was a farmer or a zombie. He clacked his dentures through my entire manicure.

In the end, the manicures really weren’t even satisfactory. They were priced less than usual, but I honestly would have paid more for a better job.

Here’s how this relates to marketing. During my pedicure, I had a conversation with the owner. She told me business was declining, so I took the opportunity to ask her why. She noted that customers had moved away, that some people didn’t like her location and that many people also didn’t know she was at that location.

Should she consider marketing her business to draw new customers and educate others on her location? Absolutely NOT. Clearly, the reason her business is declining is not because of a lack of marketing, but because of their poor service and environment. The reality is that if your business is dropping off, it may just BE YOU.

Pay attention. Always be analyzing your business and yourself IN your business. Sales are dropping and marketing is working to recover your losses? Then I suggest you gather an advisory committee to share honest feedback about the experience you provide. Send surveys to clients and customers. Take a hard, honest look at yourself and your business.

Because you can’t market something that isn’t worthy of a referral. Your efforts to market will only backfire, leaving you frustrated and without customers.