Salon Owner’s Summit / Sales & Marketing

Sharmadean Reid: Know Your Salon Clients – Finding The Human Story in the Data

8 min

Sharmadean Reid: Know Your Salon Clients – Finding The Human Story in the Data

Where to start when introducing Sharmadean Reid? ‘Powerhouse’ does not begin to describe this woman, who has led community movements and built a slew of successful business ventures, not to mention being awarded an MBE from HRH Queen Elizabeth II for her services to Beauty and Women, all before reaching her 40th birthday. But it is her experience building a pioneering nail salon, WAH Nails, that led to the topic of her main stage talk at the Salon Owners Summit 2024.

Travelling across Asia after University, Sharmadean brought the idea of specialised nail art salons back to London with WAH Nails. Harnessing the power of tech and social media, Sharmadean created a VR nail art tool to help her clients choose their style, and ‘going viral’ was a common occurrence for the salon. Sharmadean chalks the success of the business down to the work she put in at an early stage to really knowing her clients.

Clients -> Data -> Trends -> Sales

Sharmadean’s talk took Summit attendees through the journey from getting to know a single client – something their teams do day after day, to building up a database of insights they can turn into trends, and how to take that trend data and optimise for sales. Here we’ll share some of the top nuggets of wisdom Sharmadean shared on each step of this journey.

Gathering Data: Taking Client Cards to the Next Level

Everyone is familiar with the digital client card ‘notes’ section in their salon software – a space usually populated with information on toner shades or skin pigmentation. Sharmadean challenges salon owners to take their client notes to the next level, using them as a space to gather breadcrumbs of data. Each client, she says, should have a mini-essay about them within their client notes.

What data sources can you use to build up these ‘mini-essays’?

In-chair ‘focus groups’

With clients sitting in chairs and treatment rooms for 7+ hours per day, Sharmadean points out that every day is effectively a free focus group for your salon business. Most industries would kill for that type of access to customer insight. Every treatment or service is an opportunity to mine nuggets of data from each client. 

‘Stalk your clients the way you stalk that person you like’

Sharmadean recommends asking staff to take 5 minutes before or after each client to follow them on Instagram, see what they talk about, and learn how they present themselves to the world. Follow who they follow – their favourite brands, artists, personalities, authors etc. Over time, you’ll begin to get a picture of the reference points they use to build up their style, and you’ll be able to tell them what new service or products they want before they even know themselves. Clients often won’t say directly what their style references are, but if you get to know their interests, you can begin to read between the lines. 

Spending history in Phorest

Your salon software is another goldmine of client data – use your guests’ digital client cards to check out their appointment frequency, service history and product purchases to get a picture of their routine and their needs.

Personify Trends Using New-School Client Personas

Most business owners are familiar with the idea of client personas: archetypes of your dream clients that you keep in mind when designing everything from your brand to your marketing messaging and client journey. However, Sharmadean recommends some changes to make the persona tool more effective.

Demographics vs psychographics

The old style of persona development focuses primarily on the demographics of your ideal client, e.g. their 

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job title
  • Income
  • Marital status

These are all good things to start with, but they don’t get to the core of why someone might decide to spend money with your business. Sharmadean recommends spending more time figuring out their psychographics. This includes things like their:

  • Personality type
  • Daily routine
  • Aspirations / desires
  • Anxieties / fears
  • Loss aversions
  • 10 year goals
  • Friendship circles
  • Values
  • Lifestyle choices
  • Driving factors
  • Opinions / attitudes
  • Social class

Boiling the above down to what she feels are the most important buckets of information for her WAH Nails business to enable her to collect meaningful trends from the data, Sharmadean shared a persona worksheet that she uses with her team, that included the below headings:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Bio
  • Aspirations & dreams
  • Daily routine
  • Anxieties & challenges
  • Friendship groups
  • Heros
  • Brands they love
  • 10-year goals

Create personas that help optimise for sales, but also a happier team

We’ve heard it time and again – if you want something to resonate with your team, you need to get them involved from the outset. Now that your team has taken the time to populate each of their clients’ notes with detailed information, Sharmadean recommends sitting with them to create personas together. Have everyone fill out the above persona sheet based on their favourite client – a real client, not an amalgamation of different clients. 

What makes a client your favourite? As a business owner, it might be a high average spend, but for your team, their favourite might be someone who’s willing to try new things, comes with great reference material, or gives them free creative control. In this way, you’ll end up with personas that will ensure the all-round health of your business – both commercially and culturally, and your team will be bought in.

Persona bio example

During the persona workshop with your team, review everyone’s Client Persona Sheet to identify commonalities. Use this to narrow down 3-5 different personas, and create a detailed bio for each. Below is a bio from one of Sharmadean’s examples:

Archetype: ‘Busy Classy’

Age: 35

Bio: A boss within the beauty product industry. Her style is classy but extra. She wants to get the job done and look good doing it. She is always immaculate from head to toe.

She loves her treatments, when she’s not working she’s trying the latest facial. She highly values self-care and wants only the best of the best, quality and knowledge are important to her.

To help your team remember the personas, give each one an identifiable name – not just a normal name like the old-style persona (e.g. Anne, Ben etc.), but one that relates to the bio of the persona, e.g. ‘Busy Classy’ above.

Along with their bio and demographics, bring their psychographics into the equation – what is it that pushes them to spend on beauty and hair? Some examples of these from Sharmadean include:

PersonaExperimenterCuratorBusy Classy
ProfessionUni graduateWorks in mediaHigh-income business owner
Life stageFinding her place in the worldYoung professionalWorking Mum
Personality/styleExtrovertCool and cuteChic
What’s important to themStanding outThe right brands, Being a go-to for trend adviceWants experts, First to have the latest innovations

Create ‘evolving’ personas using reality over fiction

Typically, personas are fictional characters created using the demographics and interests of people in your target market. Instead of creating a fictional character, choose a real member of your client base who most closely represents your ideal customer type – one of the clients that you or your team selected for your Client Persona Sheet during the workshop. By doing this, your persona is not frozen in time – they are a living, growing, evolving representation, and so your business, offerings and marketing can evolve along with them.

Some of your personas might be the same personality type, but represented over time – essentially mapping out the lifetime value of your top clients over 10-30 years, because you are growing with your client. 

Bring personas to life for visual learners

Once you have your personas nailed down, ask the team to create a mood board for each one – creative teams are typically visual learners, after all! Include imagery of their typical friend groups, home life, favourite brands, style reference points, most-requested services and products etc. This gives your team a visual representation of cues they can look out for when consulting with their clients. Knowing what persona group a client falls under means knowing what will matter to them on their journey in the salon.

Turning Trends into Sales

Define your client criteria (and what it means to your business)

Though some salons might have the luxury, many are not in a position to turn clients away – if you get a new client walk-in or online booking, of course you’ll take it. But your client criteria determines the type of client you are ‘optimising for’; be that with your marketing, your service list, your decor, client experience etc. 

Your client criteria is an umbrella across all of your personas – no matter which persona you are talking to, they will all have a handful of criteria in common. For example, at WAH Nails, the overarching criteria, and what it means for the business, is:

  • Beauty obsessed – someone just looking for ‘nail salon near me’ would not benefit from the full experience of their salon, and wouldn’t rave about their experience online
  • Style leader of their friend group / influencer in their network – in Sharmadean’s words ‘Talk to the leader and the leader will influence the rest of the group… I get a wider reach for my marketing spend’
  • High proportion of their income spent on beauty – even if their income is low, their proportion of spend on beauty is high, meaning they see the value in it
  • Work in a creative industry – in the case of WAH Nails, this means greater team satisfaction as they were more likely to try new things
  • Has a global network – Sharmadean wanted to position WAH Nails as a top tourist destination when visiting London. Even if the client didn’t travel, they had social connections globally.

The right service, the right product, the right time

Sharmadean added to her persona examples from earlier, to include data from Phorest reports – what is their visit frequency, average spend, their annual value to the business, and their product spending habits.

With this information, you can predict future spending and visits, look for the right time to ensure you’re top of mind based on their frequency, and recommend the right product and service upsells. For example, based on a combination of their visit/spending history and what’s important to them, your team will know to upsell the ‘Busy Classy’ with top-shelf skin products, while the ‘Experimenter’ will want the DIY nail kits to top-up between visits.

PersonaExperimenterCuratorBusy Classy
What’s important to themStanding outThe right brands, Being a go-to for trend adviceWants experts, First to have the latest
FrequencySpecial occasionsRegular with at-home top-upsFrequent
Visits per year31222
Average spend£65£45£55
Annual value(3 x £65 =) £195(12 x £45 =) £540(22 x £55 =) £1210
Product historyDIY kitsTop-up polishLatest skincare

Traditional marketing calendars vs ‘life stage’ marketing calendars

Now that you know your ideal customers in-depth, it’s no longer necessary to try to compete in the noise of generic salon marketing milestones in the year (Valentine’s Day, Black Friday etc.). You can build out a marketing calendar that pinpoints the milestones coming up in your clients’ life stages and journeys – university graduation dates, events in the industries they work in, self-care for stressed Mums after the school term breaks!

Recognise the different value they bring

Each persona will bring different benefits to the business, and outlining these in the persona information will help you and your team appreciate the different value each one offers.

Some might have less frequent visits, but will constantly share your work on their socials, bringing referrals. And their willingness to be daring makes them a rewarding client for your team to work on. Some might come for less expensive top-up services, but their frequency means they generate more revenue over time. They may not feed your team’s need for creativity, but they might push them for perfection.

PersonaExperimenterCuratorBusy Classy
Value for the teamCreative freedomPushes for perfectionPushes for innovation
Referral valueShares your work on socialRecommends to her network of peersTells an industry journalist

The right communication style, better marketing ROI

Based on their personality types, their goals, ambitions etc., each persona may have different media channels in which they prefer to consume your marketing messaging. While one persona may spend their days on social media, another might prefer a text, an email, a deep-dive blog or even a phone call. Getting this right will mean a better ROI from your marketing.

PersonaExperimenterCuratorBusy Classy
What’s important to themStanding outThe right brands, Being a go-to for trend adviceWants experts, First to have the latest
Communication preferencesSocial media, interacting with or reposting on-trend contentDeep-dive email on the rise of a new treatmentPhone call when your new product delivery arrives

Make your personas a fun part of the culture

Sharmadean shared a great story from WAH Nails, where she saw her team glancing at a new client walking through the door and subtly placing guesses as to which persona she might fall into. For those who got it right, Sharmadean could see their elation, and it gave her great satisfaction to see the personas so ingrained into the culture. It meant the team could immediately suggest nail designs that were typical choices for that client archetype, and the client felt seen immediately.

Time to Create Your Own Personas!

Hopefully by now you have your favourite client in mind and you’re ready to work with your team on a persona workshop that will help you realign every part of your business. Use Sharmadean’s Client Persona Sheet above and get started with attracting your dream clients and increasing your business bottom line!

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