Yesterday, while waiting for my turn in a hair salon, I realized how much a similar a digital ad agency business is to this age-old profession. Every little thing that goes on in a hair salon is similar to what an ad agency does, especially in India.
The place: From a corner barber shop to an upmarket hair salon, digital agencies comes in various shapes and sizes. You have the small shops run by couple of people to a well laid and beautifully done up work place employing a large number of professionals.
The offerings: Digital agencies offerings too, are similar to hair salons. On one end you find them basic services, like a shave & cut, of just website design and development. On the other end, you have full fledged offerings - from design to SEO, to Social Media, Analytics, Media...similar to a hair salon whose offerings also include beauty treatment, pedicure/manicure, spa, etc;
Reception: Like all hair salons which has old magazines with dog ear pages, you’ll find most of the agency presentation quoting about the ‘new media’, ‘the next big thing’ and other information that are well past their expiry date...but still makes an interesting read
Style: You might find a lot of posters, and maybe couple of catalogs sponsored by manufactures with a lot of different hair styles that mostly have foreign (read western) models... Similar to what you find in digital agency, in India, spewing case studies and white papers done by their counterparts elsewhere, or independent foreign agencies. Also frequently quoted are the publisher reports
Conversation starters: The hairstylist assigned to you, most often start or early in their conversation would say: Sir, you have dandruff, or dry hair, or whatever... Seemingly, in most pitch presentation, digital agencies would have as part of their discussion: Your webpage SERP ratings are low, You have no social media presence, this is what people are talking about you in review sites, etc... Fear is a good selling point
Piggy back on Partners: Most hair salons display their partners pictures and images prominently - L’Oreal, Garnier, Wella, etc are some names that I regularly see in these places. Similarly, digital agencies sell on their prominence of their partners - Microsoft preferred, Adobe anointed.. even stuff like - we use Radian6, etc.. In some instances, there are certificate(s) hung on these hair salons... similar to the Google certification :)
Cross-sell: Most people go to hair salon for a plain hair-cut; which even the professionals there knows. But, like the hairdresser, every opportunity is used to sell products that the hair salon caters to - How about a facial? there are black heads in your face, a serum for your dandruff problem, etc... Similarly, the client would call a large digital agency for, say, website redesign..the agency folks them ‘suggest’ along with redesign (which now-a-days should be a responsive design HTML5, etc) a CMS platform and some social media integration - which would include Pinterest and a branded YouTube channel
Some more similarities which you might find:
- Almost all the hairstylist offer consultancy - example, Sir you have a round face, and a side partition, short hair might best suit you... Never, hear such offerings from the stylist
- If you ask the client for an option, how he would like the hair cut... most would prefer medium (better to be safe) or short (value for money - I needn’t come again for sometime)
- In many instances, the client themselves have an opinion on what kind of style/cut they want - Make it short from the side, spiked, a slant in the back, etc. The hairstylist is just an executor
- The main objective of the hair stylist is to make the client look good ‘immediately’ after the cut... he is not worried how you’d look on a regular basis
- A hair stylist need to do a good job, each time, every time. One bad job, and the client might never return again
Finally, the truth is, to start a digital agency, like a barber shop, all you need is passion, craft, and couple of tools