Caroline Nelson gives some tips on creating systems to protect precious resources and servicing the growing ‘green’ customer base.

Going ‘green’ is where business is heading. Spurred on by consumer environmental awareness, films such as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Leonardo DiCaprio’s The 11th Hour and their nurturing natures, many salon and spa owners have decided to ‘go green’. They are conserving energy, building environmentally-friendly facilities, reducing packaging and marketing materials and using and recommending organic products. And it’s not just the right thing to do – it’s good business.

Today, many consumers demand that the businesses they patronise have a responsible attitude towards preserving the environment. And, even for this reason alone if not for the bottom-line benefits, you will need to develop green policies and strategies otherwise you may risk losing more than just profits. Operating a green business is not only good for the environment but good for profits because conserving resources and cutting down on waste saves money.

Ten years ago, the average salon owner did not think too much about the environment. In fact, when fitting out a new salon most would have not considered using eco-friendly furnishing unless it was purely for the aesthetic value. Let alone consider using water-saving shower heads, etc; mainly because in Australia we thought we had an endless supply of fresh safe water. All this has changed in the last few years as most cities experience tight water restrictions. Now we have been forced to re-examine the way we do business in regards to our facility, stock and marketing.

Green marketing
Green marketing is growing in importance as businesses try to stay ahead of the competition. First, how do you weave ‘green values’ into the fabric of your business? Second, how can we incorporate these values into salon/spa marketing? And third, how do you secure a competitive advantage and reach the new customer segment that has a strong affinity for the environment?

It’s about developing ways to get the marketing message out to the consumer while preserving as many resources as possible. Smart green marketers use sustainable communication tools like the internet. For example, posting your newsletter on your website and sending promotional material to customers by email. E-marketing is rapidly replacing more traditional marketing methods, and printed materials using recycled paper is fast becoming the norm. Green marketing is all about growing your business in a sustainable, intelligent and lasting way – and communicating to customers how great (and green) your services and products are.

One way for salons with the room in their reception areas to reduce brochure wastage is to set up a TV (with a soft, gentle spa music soundtrack) showing services and products they wish to promote. Most suppliers have suitable images and with a little know-how a very professional production can be made. In fact, the teenage son of one of my business coaching clients created just such a production which was put on a loop so that it repeated every 15 minutes. It has been very successful and has generated many more sales than the brochures could have done.

There are several simple rules you need to apply when green marketing if you are to not only continue to grow your business but grow it beyond its previous potential. Now, while all consumers are aware of the implications of eco-sustainability, many will not want changes that will affect them. In other words, they will still want the treatment results and if you can continue to offer this without a price increase they will be happy. Other customers will be happy to pay a little more to be green. Your job will be, in essence, to promote services and products that satisfy your customers’ wants, needs and desires for quality, performance, price and convenience without having a detrimental impact on the environment.

The customers
While it has always been necessary to know what the customer wants if you are to take advantage of the emerging green market, its important to understand the factors influencing their purchasing decisions and behaviour. So you might like to conduct a survey about their feeling in regards to ‘greening’ your salon. In this way, you can examine the purchasing motivations of your customers – for example, what green issues are important to them? Once you know this you will be in a position to formulate winning green innovative strategies that enable your services and products to address these issues. Also, when you have examined what motivates them to purchase green services and products versus non-green you will be in a position to gauge if it is worth investing changing to green.

Many customers will like to know they are doing their bit for the environment, that they can make a difference. This “empowerment” is often the main reason they buy green. On the other hand, you will have customers who will need to be reassured they are doing the right thing by buying green – they must know the service or product will perform the job because they will not forgo quality in the name of the environment. An interesting fact you might also like to consider is that green is the fastest growing segment of today’s consumer market. Plus, consumers in this market tend to both earn higher incomes than non-green consumers, and they are proven to spend more on their personal upkeep in way of services and products. Just the type of customer your business likes to attract.

Simple greening solutions for salon or spa
There are numerous ways you can ensure you are careful in the use of resources and still offer a pleasing and safe environment for your clients. I like to start from the ground up, so for those fitting out or refurbishing their facility you might like to consider the following: 

Floors – install wood floors, or wood harvested from managed sustainable forests, cork flooring or carpet made from natural fibres like wool, silk or even recycled.

Fittings and furniture can be made from natural wood and recycled components – and if locally made it will save on transportation costs and put money back into the local community.

Paints – now readily available are non-toxic, environmentally responsible paints made from natural ingredients such as plant-based, clay and natural wood oils and varnishes, through to high quality synthetic paints and wood finishes which are water-based, zero or low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) and non-toxic.

Plants – clean the air you and your clients breathe with lots of large leaf plants. They look great; create a fresh, relaxing atmosphere and – big bonus – give you more air to breathe.

Cleaning – green cleaning can help to reduce many health and environmental hazards. Microfibre dusting cloths and mops are a great way to remove dust and dirt in a chemical-free way – you will also save money on chemicals. And an extra benefit is a reduction in environmental damage that occurs during the development, manufacture and transport of chemical products.

Water – we in Australia live on the world’s driest continent yet we’re among the heaviest per capita users of water on Earth. As an industry, we need water to keep operating but we do have a responsibility to conserve wherever we can. Installing water-saving taps, shower heads and toilets are a must for all salons and spas and when you reduce the amount of hot water used you will also be reducing water-heating energy – you could be saving hundreds of dollars a year.

Energy – turn off all electronic devices when not in use which in turn will save hundreds of kilograms of carbon dioxide per year. Also, adjusting the thermostat of your reverse cycle air conditioner two degrees down in winter and up two degrees in summer will also save carbon dioxide emissions. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones.

Recycle – implement a simple recycling program to reduce business paper and plastic waste.

Certified organic skincare – these eco-friendly products now offer very high-performance results and most salons or spas should have at least one range on offer to clients who want that choice.

Water-wise options – every salon or spa should include water-wise services in their treatment menu – it shows you care and is a great selling point to the green consumer.

Customers – let them know about what your business is doing to reduce the impact on global warming; the steps you have taken to ensure clean air and careful use of resources, and the safe, healing products that you use in your establishment.

Now I realise that not all of these suggestions can be implemented immediately in every salon – it just may not be practical. But having said that, I think as an industry we need to support a healthy environment. We can all start somewhere, be it by changing to energy efficient light bulbs as the old ones break or introducing systems and procedures that enable our employees to save water and energy. As the saying goes, “every little bit counts”.

Imagine if your customers see that by turning your business green it will be beneficial for their health, their vitality and at the same time still offers them a superior service and results. They will want to buy from you – more often. And they will choose you and your business over your competitors every time.

For further information, please contact Caroline on (07) 55 289 440 or visit www.nelsonbeautybusinessmanagement.com