by Marissa Porcaro, PBA Director of Marketing and Communications

As marketing strategies head down a more technical path, it’s astounding to see how many people can be reached with the click of a button. An equally important result of this is who is potentially being left out from this technological reach. It’s common knowledge that many aging Americans are resistant to diving into various types of modern communication, but smartphones, tablets and apps are here to stay; so how do you overcome the potential challenges to keep lines of communication open with your older clients? Or, are they truly being underestimated when it comes to digital forms of communication?

Direct Mail? Social Networking Sites? Email? How Do You Choose?

While direct mail communications are effective in that they typically reach your clients’ mailboxes, the costs associated with designing, printing and sending postcards for appointment reminders or to keep in contact with clients who haven’t been in for a while could possibly exceed the benefits. Electronic forms such as email or social networking sites can truly assist in keeping costs under control, with the added benefit of potentially having the ability to track how many of your emails or Facebook messages have actually been read.

Several recent studies have looked into online communication accessed by various age groups whether it is strictly email or social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. According to a 2013 Pew Internet study, 52 percent of adults surveyed between the ages of 50-64 use social networking sites, as well as 32 percent of those surveyed ages 65 and over.  This is a far cry from the 18-49 age group in which 80 percent on average access social networking sites.

As a means to close this gap, many salon owners are taking advantage of this rise in interest among older generations, seeing it as an opportunity to help teach them social media advantages and how convenient it can be to keep up with their salon of choice. Robin Spence, owner of Bella HairSpa in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of these proactive salon owners who has implemented a business practice of providing iPads to clients while they are in their stylist’s chair. According to Spence, they go through a “show-and-tell with Facebook at the chair,” finding that many older clients already have an account to keep up with family, but her salon uses it as an opportunity to have clients “Like” their site, get familiar with the news feed and everything it has to offer. For those who do not have an account, they provide informational how-to cards which walk them through the process of connecting to their Facebook page from home. Spence mentions that the typical response from older clients is how easy it was, but some still want the one-on-one phone call for appointment reminders.

Despite an increase in social media access by those over 50 during the past few years, email currently seems to be the most effective at reaching older clients due to the percentage using email on a regular basis. A separate 2012 Pew Internet study on email and internet use found that 53 percent of American adults ages 65 and over access the internet in general with 86 percent of those surveyed using email.

Pat Helmandollar, President of Savvy Salon and Day Spa in Cornelius, North Carolina, has found that email is their best form of electronic communication so long as it is simple and to the point. Although, she did admit to having an older client recently ask when they will be coming out with an App she can access from her smartphone; a shining example that there are older clients out there who have fully embraced modern communication styles and the convenience they truly provide.

A La Carte Marketing

Despite this notion that there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all marketing form for reaching older clientele, there are one-stop shops that allow you to reach out to individuals in a customized way. Kathy Alexander, owner of Salon Nouveau in Tucson, Arizona, has turned to Demandforce, one of many comprehensive marketing programs available to salon owners,. This allows her to connect with clients, young and old, any way she needs to, based on their personal preferences.  “It is completely customized to the wishes of our guests. If a guest wants a reminder text two hours before her appointment, we will do that. If another prefers a reminder phone call, we will do that instead.”

Whether you use electronic communications, are sticking to more traditional marketing, such as postcards and phone calls, or all of the above, the most important thing to remember is to keep the lines of communication open between you and your clients. Just as you accommodate them from behind the chair, keep that same mentality in your marketing strategies and don’t push them to accept anything they aren’t comfortable with.

About the Author

Marissa Porcaro is the director of marketing and communications for the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). PBA advances the professional beauty industry by providing our members with education, charitable outreach, government advocacy, events and more. PBA is the largest organization of salon professionals with members representing salons and spas, distributors, manufacturers and beauty professionals/NCA. Visit probeauty.org or call 800.468.2274 (480.281.0424) for more information.