We Are Sunshine

Present the Right Image: Create in-store marketing that’s professional, attractive, and impactful

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Technology has leveled the playing field for small businesses. Particularly with marketing, you no longer need a substantial budget, specialized training, or designated staff to replicate much of what companies with far more extensive resources are doing.

In our February edition, we discussed how digital marketing platforms have made it possible for any business to deliver ads to more potential customers for less money. In addition to that, online platforms now make it possible for novice designers to quickly produce attractive, professional-looking ads and other marketing materials.

These resources can be used to help you produce images and videos for your social media posts and digital advertisements, but right now, in the heart of tanning season, it’s a great time to focus on what you’re displaying to the clients that are already in your salon. In-store marketing is practically free and can help you expose customers to different options or push them toward purchases that will help you increase revenue now and in the future.

The Easy Route

A lack of time, money, or expertise should no longer prevent you from utilizing free “advertising space.” Nor should anyone continue to settle for posting specials typed in Microsoft Word. Like anything you put in your salon or in outside promotions or social media, your in-store marketing materials will impact the way people perceive your business. They should always reflect your brand and look professional and appealing.

Putting out plain fliers on white paper with words and some images copied and pasted into a Word document is also a half-hearted attempt at using in-store advertising to make sales. Attractive design makes the product or service you’re promoting more appealing. With in-store marketing, an eye-catching design is also paramount; the more people that pay attention to your flyers and posters, the more your efforts will pay off.

Many multi-location operations have a graphic designer on staff and others have owners or staff that have enough design skills to get them by. If that’s you, keep reading for some advice on how to optimize your in-store advertising content and placement. But other tanning businesses may be paying somebody a lot of money for graphic design. Or perhaps you’re not taking advantage of all your marketing opportunities simply because you don’t know how to produce quality materials or think it takes too long. Maybe you just haven’t considered the importance or don’t realize how easy it is for anyone to greatly improve in this area. If any of this applies to you, there is a better way.

Online graphic design platforms – the most prominent being Canva – are the key. Canva is a drag-and-drop online graphic design tool that allows users to create social media designs, presentations, posters, flyers, infographics, and more. For the purposes of this article, Canva’s mission statement says it all: “Launched in 2013, Canva is an online design and publishing tool with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere.” Canva offers free functionality with thousands of templates, images, and fonts to get you started, or it’s just $9.99 per month to gain access to enhance features on the Pro version.

Even if you do have someone with design skills on your staff, programs like Canva might be able to save you time and money.

SunSeekers by Rosie, a 12-location tanning company in Wisconsin currently uses Canva for most of its graphic design needs. Director of Operations Michelle Miller produces all their social media and in-store. Michelle is self-taught in graphic design and has experience with more complicated programs, but with so much else on her plate, she values the convenience of Canva.

“If you’re the type of company like we are where we change on the fly, I would encourage everyone to use it. We’re a small business and a big business at the same time. We only have about 60-70 employees but 12 locations. We’re very spread out, and we very much fly by the seat of our pants, so trying to use Photoshop and Illustrator to get stuff done right away isn’t practical,” Miller says.

“With the templates, if you want to do something for a quick sale, you’ll have all the backgrounds, and they do a really good job of giving you font options. Just pick an option, change out the wording, and you’re good to go. It’s very simple if you’re just starting out or not tech-savvy.”

When Michelle was the manager of one SunSeekers location, she started delving into graphic design to produce materials for that store, and by the time she was promoted to Director of Operations, she had enough of a knack for it to take on the role for the entire company.

“I started out when I was just solely managing one of our locations. I dabbled a little in Photoshop and Illustrator, and that’s really great if you know how to use it, but if you don’t it’s really frustrating,” she says. “I started using different programs on the store level just making printouts for promotions and rooms, fact sheets for customers and stuff like that, and then when I started taking over our social media and overseeing all our locations, time became a factor, and I really started using Canva more.”

How easy is it really? So easy that Miller does much of the work from her phone, rather than a computer.

“I signed up and did the Pro option they had, and that way I can literally do everything from my phone and put things together in five minutes. Everything I do on there I can change to a different format. Social media posts look the same as stories posts or 8.5 x 11 flyers in our stores,” she says.

“What’s really nice is they have so many artists that create stuff, and there are hundreds of thousands of templates. Do you want to do an Instagram post, video, or flyer? When you select what you want to post, you get thousands of templates and find what’s best for you. It’s really simple because you can easily just go in there and find a template that works best for you and switch out pictures and wording. If you need something fast, you can be done in five minutes.”

Canva’s features allow you to easily alter one design you create for different formats and purposes. You can also replicate different elements you’ve used before to help expedite the process and maintain the consistent brand image you’re looking for. There are templates for pretty much any specific themes you might want to incorporate as well as thousands of “minimalistic” options with more general but attractive design elements that can be used to spruce up any type of content you want to create.

“Within our account, I have a brand account set up so with that one I can choose what colors I like to use and a whole ‘brand kit,’ and you have everything saved,” she says. “If I’m searching for something, I’ll usually do something minimalistic and use nice pictures with a standard background with inlays of leaves or flowers or something like that. If it’s for something very specific like Valentine’s Day, search for that, and you get thousands of templates. But typically, I just find something minimalistic. I try to make sure everything is cohesive throughout our posting. I usually use that brand kit option to make sure everything looks the same.”

Michelle has certainly mastered the program at this point, and there is a lot to learn overall and unlimited room to improve, but she also emphasizes that getting started and creating designs that are better than most novices could accomplish on their own really is practical for pretty much anyone from the start.

“It’s so easy to use, but the only thing I would tell people is you really do want to play around with it, and just dive into all the features it has,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s extremely beneficial, but you really just have to take the time to get to know it. The better you get at it, the more it’s going to help you out. Because of how convenient it is, I tell everyone, even my friends with other businesses, to use it because you can get a free option and it just makes sense for everyone.”

Stay on Topic

So, technology has given you the confidence and ability to produce any type of design quickly and affordably. The next step to optimizing your in-store marketing strategy is to start thinking about the topics you can promote that will produce the greatest short- and long-term revenue gains.

The first thought is probably your monthly specials, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You have so much more to promote, and there are so many different ways to do it. In fact, you might even want to be more particular about the types of specials you post in the salon.

“You might have three specials going on, but one or two are going to be the ones you really want to push. My take on it is even though you have a special, don’t advertise anything you don’t really want to sell,” says SunSeekers co-owner, VP and GM Scott Nichols. “A free week of tanning in a Level 1 is going to get people in the door but we don’t want to have it where people that didn’t hear about it were ready to spend $100 or sign up for membership, but then they see it and take that free week of tanning instead.”

Start by focusing on the aspects that you always want to promote. Spray tans are now immensely popular, and that’s always growing, but a large percentage of UV tanners have still never tried sunless. Many salons are committed to increasing profits and safeguarding customers in the long-term by making concerted efforts to get as many people as possible to at least try sunless. That should be a constant focus.

SunSeekers has a permanent, large-format sunless graphic in a prominent position on a wall in many of their locations.

“The reason we push our sunless so much is it’s the fastest-growing part of our business. If they already have a membership, what else can we sell them? Now you want them to maybe do cocktail tanning. They might be spending an extra $20 to $30 off that. We want our hybrid tanner. That’s our No. 1 goal,” Nichols says.

How can you introduce more people to sunless? You have to give them a reason to try it, and that doesn’t always mean a discount. The beauty of conveniently and affordable creating your own graphics is you can try anything with not much to lose. Get creative and try to identify specific reasons why someone might decide to give something new a try.

“We have a booth that can do just the leg pass, and that’s where we get people. We know a full-body session will be purchased in the future because they’ll love it,” says Jackie Gruber, manager of Caribbean Beach Tanning Salon in Minnesota.

If there’s one sale that rules them all, for most salons, it’s probably EFT sign-ups. That’s another aspect you should always be promoting in the salon. From a timely sense, right now getting people locked into memberships before summer is an even greater priority­­­­­.

“It’s the branding side you want people to see. Why are they pushing this membership? They start to look at the signage and maybe they buy a session, but they come in three or four times and they’re going to keep seeing it. It’s no different than with Amazon. You look at something and put it in your shopping cart and decide whether to buy it,” Nichols says.

You don’t have to offer deals with your in-store ads if you can fulfill a need. EFTs do that inherently, providing convenience, savings, and perks.

“One of the big posters we do is we offer the lowest price EFT, which is the attention grabber, then the bullet points of what the VIP members get,” Gruber says.

Think about the long game when you’re trying to achieve the results you want, like upgrading memberships. That can be a hard sell, but if you can simply get them to try a new level, or even spark a conversation about it, you’re one step closer

“Fliers we’ll do around the salon are from a program on the computer – nothing too fancy. We’ve used so we use the designs they have then add the message. It keeps it a little fresher compared to what I can do. We posted one that simply said, ‘Change levels, See Results,’ and I’ve had tons of people ask what that’s all about. It starts the conversation,” Gruber says.

Promoting the options that more people aren’t already using should also be a continual focus. In most cases, that will mean any non-tanning services or products you offer. Like Nichols mentioned with EFTs, repetition is key. You don’t want to bring up additional services every time a customer visits, but a poster or flyer will remind them unobtrusively.

“We have Twilight Teeth table tents which create daily conversations. Twilight Teeth supplies eye-catching table tents for us. In the tanning salon, customers are trying to look good and feel great, so teeth whitening kits are a great add-on sale,” Gruber says.

“We just started LightStim Red Light Therapy and posted the ‘Before and After’ posters up around the salon to help advertise. These posters create conversation on a weekly basis. We have great frontage windows at our salon, and we utilized this opportunity to grab outsiders’ attention. We created a Versa Spa spray tan and HydroMassage window decal that has helped with walk-in customers for three years!

“Our Versa Spa spray tan window decal reminds customers that there are non-UV tanning options. It gets plenty of questions like, ‘Is it natural looking?’ We love these questions throughout the week. It really helps create more customer service opportunities for us. When the weather warms up, we will put the LightStim Red Light Therapy window decal on the remaining window area.”

As you plan your in-store promotions throughout the year, just continue to think about what you really want to sell, when’s the best time to sell it, and why people that are in your salon for another reason would want to give it a try.

Positioned for Success

The next question is where to promote different elements throughout your salon. What is your most valuable “real estate” and how should you be using it?

Start at the front door and work your way in. Actually, stop right there. The front door (facing out) is certainly prime real estate. Make that flyer pop with color to draw attention, and promote integral aspects of your business to everyone that walks in – think your best equipment, spray tan purchasing options or your inherently valuable EFTs.

Then, moving into the lobby, be careful not to get too carried away. Make sure any promotions you use complement your aesthetic, rather than overwhelming it. No promotions are worth making your space look cluttered and tacky. But a couple flyers or posters where people might be sitting to wait should be reasonable. For anything placed on a wall, try to use some sort of framing option to make it look more tasteful. Flyers placed in sign holders on the counter are also unobtrusive but highly visible.

One of the best ways to create additional real estate and make it seem intentional rather than random is to utilize freestanding poster stands you can place anywhere in the salon, as long as they stay out of the way of foot traffic – think on the side of your counter or somewhere visible after walking in the door, or against walls bordering the entries to hallways that lead to service rooms.

These posters will be more expensive to produce than flyers printed on 8.5 x 11 paper, so give some thought to some different subjects that will make sure to use for at least a few years. Give yourself a few options to interchange so people don’t get too used to seeing the same thing, and then consider adding more into the mix on occasion.

“[Flyers and posters] catch people’s eye for sure. We have used flyers and posters for things such as specials, new products, seasonal, hiring and more. We don’t post too many; we are strategic about when and where in the salon we put them up. We can create seasonal or promotional signs with a local printing company. We of course will use the larger signs more than once, for a few years. These signs are typically seasonal,” Gruber says.

“Our front counter has two pillars on each side, and that’s where I put the ‘Switch Levels, See Results’ poster. We have nice, brown-color posts, and it’s white paper so they see it. We have a hallway that runs to the restroom. On the outside of that hallway, we have another eyecatcher. In the restrooms, they shut the door and we put something there.”

Just because somebody that’s in a tanning room has already made a purchase, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth promoting something else to them. There’s a lot of time to look around a tanning room when changing or applying lotion. Your best tanning equipment is always worth promoting pretty much anywhere, and that’s certainly an option for your lower-level tanning rooms. Make sure you use high-resolution, quality photos and include some brief bullet points about the benefits of upgrading. Promoting spray to UV tanners is always a good option, as well as different product options. In spray rooms, promote the benefits of cocktail tanning and complementary sunless products. If you have additional spa or wellness services, promote those in any of the above.

Yet another possibility is to take your in-store marketing efforts digital, which creates a classy look and can provide added convenience and actually save you money for printing in the long run.

“Behind the counters, we have one or two TVs, and those TVs push the specials. We use a Google Chromecast device, basically a small computer we can log into and upload presentations. We were doing a lot more flyers but trying to get something to all the stores quickly can be a challenge, logistically. All of a sudden you want to run a special now; it might take two days before you get to all the stores.” Nichols says.

“You can get a TV now for $200. You can get a Chromecast for $50. For $250 you can run a. PowerPoint on your wall and make it look a lot nicer.”

Whatever and wherever you’re promoting in the salon, make sure to switch up regularly. Even if you want to keep some messaging in the mix all the time, switch up the design or copy or even just move it around the salon.

“Monthly is a short answer to change them out if not sooner,” Gruber says. “Of course, Valentine’s Day we promote for two weeks or so, then onto St. Patrick’s Day. Every month we have to have something different out there, so they don’t overlook it.”

Get Staff on Board

One final crucial point to remember is that any type of promotion you do will still only be as successful as your staff is at selling it. From overseeing 12 stores, Nichols is sure of that.

“Why is it that sometimes we could be running a pretty big sale and we’ll have a store that will be tanking while the other 11 are doing really well? It comes back to the employees. They might not understand the importance of this special,” he says.

“It’s not even training as much as just communication. We will be talking to the managers about it. We did have a store that was struggling. They had excuses for why they weren’t performing, and just letting them know they’re missing opportunities turned it around right away.”

Knowledge of all the different services and products and how to communicate their benefits to customers should be an ongoing focus of employee sales training. Staff should also be regularly reminded of the importance of suggesting valuable additions to clients’ routines and of the types of sales you want them to focus on. It can get hard to find the time to have these conversations with employees as often as you should, so use your in-store promotions as reminders to yourself to go over the sales strategy with your team. If your in-store promotions are working, customers will be asking about the deals or options you’re promoting, and staff needs to be prepared to take advantage of those opportunities.

In that respect, Nichols says, your in-store marketing starts working even before customers see it.

“You’re almost selling it to the employees,” he says.

“A big part of it is that’s what our employees see. Marketing is just as important to for the employees as it is the customers. If they see that and know this is what we’re pushing, that’s what they’re going to push.”