Professionals and salon owners alike often unabashedly disclose and promote their chosen brands. Many of them feel that because a lot of popular lines have established very loyal consumer followings, it makes sense to capitalize on the product company’s marketing efforts. Some are also fiercely loyal to these product lines, particularly those professionals who work in brand-exclusive salons. For them, the product isn’t just a product—it’s a lifestyle. (Aveda people, I’m looking at you.)
However, this practice of putting a focus on the products you offer instead of your professional ability and your brand’s value is a poor strategy, and here’s why:
- The brand isn’t your brand. Our businesses are service businesses. Products are the tools and mediums we use to facilitate the execution of those services. Our advertising should revolve around our product, not the tools we purchase from brands that we have no stake in or control over.
- You are more than the product you apply. Marketing the product line instead of yourself misplaces the focus and undercuts your professional ability. Don’t undervalue your expertise and education by placing your value on a product line’s label. Generate loyalty through expert service execution, otherwise clients may falsely believe you can be easily replaced by anyone utilizing that product line.
The product doesn’t “make” you, you “make” the product.
- Brand recognition is a double-edged sword. Another reason putting the focus on the product is a bad strategy has to do with public perception of that brand. Sure, Dermalogica has earned a substantial following of loyal clients—but what about those clients who have had bad experiences with bad estheticians and wrongfully place the blame for that poor experience on Dermalogica?
The same concept applies to lines in all professional arenas. It doesn’t matter how much they love your portfolio, clients who falsely believe “Redken color melted my hair,” aren’t going to be patronizing a Redken-exclusive salon because they attached their negative experience with a piss-poor stylist to the product line that she used to jack their hair up instead of placing that blame where it rightfully belongs—square on the shoulders of the professional who made the mistake to begin with.
- You are the professional. This may sound harsh, but as a professional, I don’t believe it’s the client’s business (nor do they have a right) to dispute the quality of the professional products we use or demand that we accommodate their requests for a particular product unless they have an allergic reaction or other medical sensitivity to justify that demand. We’re the professionals. We invest a substantial amount of time and money into our education. We train with these products, we research them, and we keep ourselves informed about reformulations and other developments in product technology.Unless the client is an informed, licensed, currently-practicing professional themselves, they don’t have the right to pass judgment on a professional product’s capabilities.
Clients who question or debate your product decisions are clients who likely don’t trust your professional abilities.
For this, you can blame other professionals who attached their value to their chosen product lines instead of putting the client’s focus on their skills and knowledge.
“What products do you use?”
When new clients show more interest in your products than in your portfolio, have a response ready that places the focus back on your professional skills.
“I use a variety of high-quality professional lines, choosing which are best for you based on your lifestyle and individual needs.”
Explaining to your clients what you’re using and why as you’re performing their service so they are better educated on your methods is a fantastic practice, but those products are your selections to make as the professional, and they should be taking a major backseat to your capabilities.
Any explanations you provide should be delivered to enforce your value and expertise; not to distract from it.
“I want you to use my preferred product line. Nothing else works.”
It’s one thing for a client to request a cool new product or technique to try it out, but if theyre going to sit in my chair and try to tell me that the tools or products I use are “damaging” based on an experience they had with some license-carrying butcher who didn’t know her ass from her e-file, we’re going to have some words.
Do not invest in new products to satisfy demanding clients.
Instead, ask them why they feel they prefer that product line. What qualities did they like about it? Clients tend not to know about the wide variety of professional products available, nor do they keep informed about advancements in product technology or professional techniques. Use their request to aid in your consultation. Explain to them how you can give them exactly what they’re asking for–without catering to their hilariously unreasonable demand that you invest in a new range of products just for them.
Should they still insist you buy into a new line, be firm in your refusal. (Typically, this kind of stubborn behavior is indicative of a problematic client.) My recommendation is to tell the client that they are welcome to find another professional willing to cater to their demands. I won’t be told how to do my job and neither should you.
When Loyalty Isn’t a Virtue
In the past, professionals and brands alike tended to honor a mutual loyalty, with professionals only utilizing professional-only brands, and brands only providing their products to professional salons. However, that changed, and in my opinion, professional-exclusive lines are going to become a thing of the past.
Now, brand loyalty tends to be one-sided, with professionals pledging devotion that isn’t returned.
This disloyalty on behalf of our product lines may not turn out to be a bad thing, mostly because professionals will have no choice but to return the client’s attention to their actual value, instead of standing on a pedestal slapped with brand names.
Why wait to separate? After all, hasn’t the day when it stopped making sense already arrived? Clients can now purchase virtually any professional product they like from their smartphones, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s completely fine. The square footage salon owners used to devote to failing retail sections can now be devoted to an additional station–after all, those services are the products of our brands. In the age of e-commerce, retail has become nothing more than window dressing and yet another chore. How many of you actually want to compete with Walmart, Target, or Amazon?
What about you? Are you using your brands as a crutch? Do you think it’s beneficial to promote the products you use instead of placing a hard focus on your professional abilities? Tell us in the comments!