By Vern Cole, Hair Restoration Institute of DFW,
Fort Worth, Texas

There are several times throughout the year when advertising presents a larger-than-life opportunity to generate new sales leads and new business. First and foremost, among these windows of opportunity are January and February. It’s “New Years Resolution” time, the holidays are behind us, and people are focused on self-improvement and feeling better about themselves. 

So, the question is what is the most effective means of advertising during this period, and what is the best time to do it to get the biggest bang for your buck. 

First, ask yourself what type of advertising are you looking at: off-line, traditional advertising — radio, television, cable — online digital advertising, or some combination of both, since this clearly affects your budget. Once you determine where you want to place your ad dollars, you have to ask yourself how many ad dollars per month you are going to budget for you to see the results you need.

Monitoring Your Results

In recent years, I have found that online advertising has given me the biggest bang for my adverting dollar, and in particular, targeted pay-per-click advertising. There are numerous online opportunities for PPC advertising, the biggest of which is Google. But there are also other platforms that can be effective as well, so it pays to look around. 

That being said, one of the most important things you have to do when advertising is monitor the results to see what is working and what is not pulling in the leads you want, and regularly make adjustments in your campaigns.

Let’s face it. In the hair replacement industry, the nucleus of our business is lead generation — pulling in the number of new leads you want so that you can continue to grow and prosper. If you aren’t generating leads and turning them into sales and clients, with ongoing sales to those clients, you are not going to see growth. 

That is why each month I meet with my web and social media team who manage the effectiveness of my online advertising and marketing to evaluate how well our ad campaigns are working in driving prospects to our website and converting website visitors into opportunities.

If you are on a limited budget, online advertising is the way to go since traditional advertising — radio, TV, cable — is more expensive. Radio and TV, of course, have the potential to make you look bigger. It helps your image, but still, the bottom line is getting people to go to your website. You must have an effective, compelling website that makes it as alluring and as easy as possible for them to give you their contact information. 

People often tell me they can’t afford traditional broadcast advertising. It all comes down to budget and budget allocation. If you can’t afford radio, TV and cable, maybe just go with radio. Radio can be effective, particularly if you have a vanity phone number such as (123) 456-HAIR. Combine that with an effective tagline and just constantly emphasize that telephone number and tagline in all your advertising. Repetition is brand building.

Advertising’s Cycles Throughout the Year

Generally speaking, advertising ahead of major holidays has worked best for me. That means having your campaigns in place 60 to 90 days ahead of holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and summer vacation.

The focus of the advertising that has worked best and most consistently is focusing on getting together with family and friends, with a message like “(fill-in-the-blank holiday) is right around the corner and you want to look your best.”

But once I reached the beginning of November, I turned off my online advertising because people just get busy.

The biggest advertising period that generated the most leads was right after Christmas, beginning the week between Christmas and New Year and running well through the month of February and into March, with campaigns focused on “It’s a New Year and a New You.” I would run that campaign as long as I could until we got closer to spring.

Then I transition the campaigns to a spring and summer theme — graduation, outdoors, active, fun times ahead. Don’t let your hair loss hold you back. 

There is, of course, the summer advertising cycle to consider. I always pulled back in August. People generally want to be out and about, and many people go on vacation in August and are getting ready to send the kids back to school. But once school is in session, I am right back on, which brings us full circle to Thanksgiving and looking your best for the holidays again.

When it comes to advertising, much of it is brand-building and brand-building in advertising is having a consistent message and repeating that message over and over again so that when people think of doing something about their hair loss, they think of you first. 

I would caution you to be careful about pulling advertising too soon during the early summer because there is kind of an isolated market with teachers that I have found. Many teachers are off during the summer and that is when we see them come in.

I remember when I was in high school — more years ago than I care to admit — there was this guidance counselor who, when we got back to school in the fall, looked different but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Years later I realized he had more hair.  He had a hair replacement during his summertime off when people weren’t seeing him every day or perhaps forgot what he looked like. And I’ve seen that repeated over and over again with teachers, professors and people who have time off or now are working from home.

Brand Building and Local Celebrity Endorsement

My advice to any studio owner is to try to cultivate well-known local clients who are in the public eye, particularly well-regarded, well-respected local radio and TV personalities. These types of endorsements are huge brand building and PR opportunities because it is someone else saying nice things about you versus you saying nice things about yourself.

In my case — and I think this is true for just about everyone — I didn’t start out with an “A” class celebrity endorser. I would find whoever I could and then it built slowly until I got to the “A” level endorser, someone who was an instantly recognizable, respected household name. 

In my case, he was a local TV and radio sportscaster who has been in my market for over 40 years. His paid endorsements did wonders for my business. Although his primary endorsement was centered on his hair transplants, I always had him talk about everything we did — hair replacement, PRP, laser, products. And again, he plugged our vanity phone number, repeated our tagline and our website. 

The name of the game is always getting people to go to your website to book an appointment.

Don’t Be Afraid of Change

I remember decades ago, one of my mentors said something that stuck with me. He said, “In advertising and marketing, everything works and then nothing works.” In other words, what worked today might not continue to work. 

Don’t become complacent. Stay on top of your advertising campaigns and measure the results. If it works, don’t fix it. If it stops working or isn’t working as well, change it up. Just because it worked for a month or a quarter, doesn’t mean it’s going to work forever.

On that same note, give your campaigns time to find their feet. There is a tendency among business owners to roll out some type of a campaign and if it doesn’t instantly work — you’re not seeing the phone ringing, or the in-box loaded with leads — they pull the plug. But give it time to work. That may mean two months or even three months. There is something to be said for repetition breeding familiarity and familiarity breeding trust.

I remember learning this quite literally by trial and error.  I ran an ad campaign for two months and saw almost no results. So I pulled the ad thinking, “Why am I wasting my money?” After I pulled the ad, the phone started to ring. My lesson was to learn to stay up for three or four months. Only after that, if I wasn’t getting the number of leads that I was satisfied with and the handwriting was on the wall, I would just pull the plug and cut it off. 

Parting Thoughts

At the end of the day, the only thing people will remember you for is your reputation and your integrity. In my case, as a person of faith, I believe in giving back to my community. That may include time, financial donations, and other resources to local community organizations or my church. 

Be involved in your community. Give back. Cynically, you could think of this as “public relations marketing.” But it’s so much more than that. It’s you sharing your innermost being with those around you, many of whom are less fortunate than you. And that attitude of gratitude, generosity both with your time and resources and personal integrity will come back to you a hundred-fold.