Would you like to bring back 30 to 40 per cent of your non-returning customers? Or conduct a fast, cheap offer to customers with the double benefit of significant new business and new customers?

Then I must tell you about the owners of Me, an established hair and beauty salon in Ponsonby, with a new sister salon in Takapuna.

I was referred to them by the beautiful and gracious Lisa Kershaw, event manager for Wella RED, as good salon owners to interview for my Worldwide Salon Marketing speaking engagement.

Their marketing and customer service initiatives have significant relevance for any industry or business. Quite frankly, owners Andy Grant and Iain Smith are my new heroes. They have combined clever thinking with three business ingredients that so many others ignore: a customer database, everyday technology, and customer communications.

They run many of the normal marketing activities you would expect: product supplier incentives and promotions; advertising in the local paper; radio advertising for branding. This is normal activity and not why you should be so impressed. Let's examine some of their initiatives and detail the relevance for you.

Most salons simply offer hair and perhaps a sideline of makeup or beauty therapy. Me strategically branded their three services as Me (hair), Makeup Me and Touch Me (beauty therapy). This gives them three identifiable separate services to cross-market, which they do oh-so successfully. Their software system (Shortcuts) has built-in bulk text-message merging. They ran a campaign sending 500 texts to hair clients with a push of a button. The offer was to use a Touch Me service and get a gift voucher of equal value for themselves or a friend.

Lesson: In this example we have targeting, cross-marketing, inexpensive, easy, immediate and personal value-added communication. The result was that 300 out of 500 recipients, or 60 per cent, took up the offer. That is 300 non-discounted new pieces of business.

The fact that most people gave away the voucher means it was a fabulous and cheap source of new clients. Furthermore, giving discounts on services rather than cutting prices means generating revenue rather than cutting income and creates a higher perceived value for clients.

Raising the dead
Each Monday Me print two lists - the previous week's clients and those who have not returned in four to six months.

They show the "raise the dead" list to the stylists so they can understand the attrition of their clientele.

More important, they have the receptionist telephone both lists. The first call is a customer service follow-up - "How was your appointment?" The second call is a "We miss you, how can we bring you back?"

Lesson: This raising the dead list gives you a great vehicle for feedback and tweaking service - Me normally gets 30 to 40 per cent of the clients to return. If you look at the average lifetime value of a client - let's say $2500 in this case - this simple exercise is a significant revenue generator conducted during a quiet time.

Time is an asset
For many businesses time is a chargeable asset. If lost, it cannot be recouped. When a client is late or doesn't show, it's lost revenue. Me sends a text message reminder for all appointments 24 hours in advance.

Lesson: If you sell time, ensure that your clients value it by reminding them of their appointment. The small investment of a text creates revenue by allowing you to fill unanticipated gaps. By keeping appointments on track you show busy clients you value their time.

Value clients
Me runs VIP client appreciation/reward parties where they roll out a (real) red carpet. They have professional singers, a fashion show, catering and a bar. It's their biggest expense, but they do bring in partners, such as BMW for a win-a-BMW-for-a-week promotion, L'Oreal for goodie bags, and GHD straightening irons for spot prizes. Iain was very proud when a husband of one of their clients said to him: "I'm just blown away by the amount you actually invest back into your clients."

Lesson: It's not all one-way. The return on investment includes great publicity, more business from existing clients and word of mouth, bringing in new clientele.

Activity equals success
Me thinks of clever ways to create activity that will bring in more business. They created a model search with a local company. Models need hair and makeup, don't they?

Sure, Andy and Iain have business problems like any other business. Staff. Clients spreading out their appointments and visiting less frequently creates forecasting headaches.

However, their activities should be a great idea generator, especially in this economic climate. Are you using your staff and your clients to bring in more business inexpensively? It makes a whole lot of sense to me.