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The 5 R's of Shoestring Marketing

By: Patti Biro
Posted: February 28, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Small budgets, overwhelming choices and limited time all create marketing stress for the small-business owner. For marketing to be effective, it has to be an ongoing activity, not just a reaction to a downturn in appointments. Beware of focusing your efforts on creating a constant stream of new clients through promotions, discounts and deals. Doing so may deplete your marketing budget with little long-term growth. Reaching out to the clients and contacts you already have is the key to penny-wise marketing. Shoestring marketing relies on the 5 R’s.


Why is retaining a client so important? The simple answer is that retained customers provide revenue stability. Retention programs cost little to implement and create long-term rewards, and old clients bring in new clients through word-of-mouth referrals. They are more likely to buy gift certificates and, throughout the life of your business, they purchase more products. Old clients also write glowing reviews on social media sites.

Calculate your retention rate, and review your client appointments during the last month. What percentage were returning customers? If it was half or more, you are doing a great job of maintaining a loyal client base. If not, here are some tips. Reward repeat customers; make it easy for them to do business with you and treat them like they are golden—because they are. Provide an exceptional experience for them each and every time. Rewards, even small ones such as samples, complimentary add-on services or small discounts, go a long way to say “thank you” for returning.


Every business has clients who seem to have disappeared. Some move away, experience financial problems or drop you due to poor service or product concerns. Make it a priority to reach out to any client who has not made an appointment in three months or longer. If there has been a service, product or treatment issue, resolve it. Sometimes a friendly reminder is all that is needed. Let technology help you and send “We miss you” e-mails. Better yet, use slow times to make personal calls to lost clients.

Do you have gift certificates that have been purchased and never claimed? Every purchaser and recipient is a potential booked appointment. Select a specific day each month to recall the purchasers of your outstanding gift certificates. If clients have an existing gift-card balance, call them to invite them to use it soon.