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The 5 R's of Shoestring Marketing

Patti Biro 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.

Also, birthdays are the perfect opportunity to connect with clients, invite them back and offer them a reward for their business. A birthday offer should be significant enough for them to feel special. A complimentary add-on service has higher perceived value and is more personal than a discount. You may want to create a special birthday service, as well.


Whatever your limited budget is, review your return on investment (ROI). Take the time to look at every marketing expense. You may be able to eliminate or trim marketing expenses by reviewing where your dollars are going. You work hard for your marketing dollars, and they should work hard for you.


At least twice per year, take a fresh look at your skin care business through the eyes of a client. You might want to ask a friend or colleague to “mystery shop” your business. You’ll get great information for areas that need attention. Refreshing service areas, revamping menus and rearranging retail areas can boost not only your spirits, but also your revenue. Updated menus and retail displays create buzz, and that gets clients engaged.


Just as repeat clients are the heart of a shoestring marketing strategy, you need to repeat the steps above. Your goal is to make this part of your marketing habit. The reward is better allocation of time and dollars with less stress.

Patti Biro is the owner and founder of Patti Biro and Associates, a consulting firm specializing in planning and providing innovative continuing education in the spa and wellness industry. She is a frequent presenter on the regional, national and international circuits. Biro can be contacted at 877-561-0738 or via e-mail at