You might ask why a business to business industrial marketing blog is talking about hair. Why is this relevant?
Good question. It is unbelievably relevant.
It is about the customer experience and creating a force more powerful than a national advertising campaign.
My wife, indeed my family, has turned into word of mouth marketers for a hair salon in a small town in Dundas, Ontario. I have never witnessed this anything like this before. Janet has no qualms talking openly about her hair experience with complete strangers, anytime and anywhere. Let me put this into bigger perspective. I am the guy who actually talks to strangers in elevators. I like breaking the social rules that tell us not to talk to strangers in small spaces. It drives my wife crazy. She hates it, and prior to this hair experience, would never talk to a complete stranger. However, if she sees a woman with curls, especially curls that need a 9-1-1 intervention, she, with utmost confidence and composure, steps in. She intervenes in their very personal hair journey, and stops them to talk about their curly hair in need.
Now I have learned a lot about curly hair. I have two daughters with ringlets and have been married for close to 30 years. So you could say I have been witness to 70 years of hair cuts, colour, styles, bad hair, bed head and one of the most interesting phenomenons in the hair industry, or perhaps in marketing industry: hair loyalty. Women, and men, are absolutely loyal to their hair stylist. Not just a little loyal. They have intense, focused loyalty.
In my experience, my daughters and wife approach women with suffering curly hair, and try to help them about letting them in on the secret they have learned that has led them to the stylist in Dundas. There are two types of recipients to this hair evangelism: those who are ready, and those who are not. Because some people are so intensely loyal to their stylists, products, and their “way” of styling that they cannot possibly believe that there can be a woman who can understand their hair struggle and process. They cannot give up the stylist who has taught them what they know, and been through the struggle of curly hair with them.
Breaking the loyalty to their old ways is a process. Sometimes they are convinced by the locks they see on the heads of my girls. Sometimes its their description of their own process. Sometimes its a garish high school photo of my youngest’s “lion mane”. They offer what seems like a too-good-to-be-true offer, the Shamwow of hair, with the extra Slap-Chop thrown in. However, it is the offer of a better product, with little inconvenience to the customer that sells them on the change.
My youngest daughter, who has my particular penchant for talking to random people on the street and in busses, has been rewarded by her old salon for sending a vast amount of people to see them. She became an unintentional marketing agent for them, rewarded by gift certificates and discounts. However, unlike some marketing agents, all of her testimonial was genuine, because that is the type of loyalty she feels to their service.
Hair has a hold on us. People are attached to it, emotionally and personally. A bad hair cut elicits tears, because it is the way you present yourself. Like grafitti to your storefront, or a terrible logo or marketing material, your hair is part of your ever-important personal image and message. It displays your brand’s purpose and quality. My daughter frequently says curls are part of her personality. Your brand image is vital to your marketing.
After my daughter discovered this curly hair method, based on a hard to find book, our local Chapters was carrying the book on its shelves. People were flocking to buy it after she freely would tell anyone who asked about her hair. In a few months, she had found her hair stylist, a similar phenomenon started. Within a matter of months, the curly hair army was in place. It started with my wife when she would see someone who “just needed it so badly!” she would tell my daughter on the phone. “I could tell they had such great potential!” she would lament, and then describe about how she stopped the woman in a store to tell her about their methods. After good reception, this practice flourished within the family. They stopped women everywhere. For the first time, I was being held up by their chatting with random people.
It has got to the point, over five years, that the message cycles back. Once and awhile a woman with great hair starts talking to my wife, and it turns out my daughter told her about the hair methods two years earlier.
They are now, after many years of bouncing around to several stylists, every product under the sun, and different methodologies, categorically loyal. One method, one product, and definitely one stylist. Despite a daughter who lives 600 kilometres away, she arranges visits home around hair appointments, making sure to see her stylist.
This phenomenon has been interesting as a marketer, as it is a genuine and home-grown marketing force. We have learned much from this experience about any business.
Loyalty: it is powerful when a product is exceptional. Making that product work for the customer, and showing them results will create unending and strong loyalty that will result in a cascade of business.
Services: small and profitable segments, like that of curly hair, are gold mines if you can find them. In this case, they have found an underserved market: curly haired people, who have been traditionally scarred by bad hair experiences. Tailoring services to be specialized, and having excellent delivery of that specialization is rare and valuable.
Word of Mouth: it can keep people in your salon chairs, or clients in your agenda, if you elicit passion from your clients. Make a change that is noticeable to their vital signs: their brand and image is their lifeblood. If you can improve it, people will take note.
There are plenty of lessons to learn from the everyday marketing that happens around us. There is no reason we cannot take advantage of these lessons and apply them to our marketing practices as business professionals. Curly hair has been a wonder for me for the last few years, and its lesson has been easy for me to see: there is no marketing better than a great product, and satisfied customers.
Thanks to Ellenoire and the owner, Noelle Smith in Dundas, Ontario. If you have curly hair then you may know about them. www.ellenoire.com
Do you have your word-of-mouth-army in place? Any experiences that you would like to share?