Virginia Rizzi heads up the affiliate marketing team at the digital marketing agency Glass Digital. Here, she shares her expertise to help your salon gain sales from affiliate channels, without having to offer voucher codes.

If you’ve recently started welcoming clients through your doors again, you’ll be looking for ways to stand out against the competition and bag more appointments or sales. An affiliate marketing strategy can really help with this, as it will get your business’s name in front of more people.

One of the most popular affiliate marketing models involves offering voucher codes that give customers a discount but, after closing your salon during lockdown, you might not be in a position to reduce your profit margins in this way.

It’s still possible to use affiliate marketing to promote your services, though. Here, I’m going to outline three different techniques you can use, which should help to get more people through your doors.

What is affiliate marketing?

If you aren’t familiar, affiliate marketing is an area of advertising where you pay a publisher — perhaps this is an online magazine, voucher site, or Instagrammer — a small commission if they drive people to your site and those visitors then book and pay for an appointment.

Almost 90% of advertisers think that affiliate marketing should be an element of any marketing strategy, and it’s expected that the industry will be worth $6.8 billion (£5.3 billion) by the end of this year (Digital Global). So, it’s definitely an area of marketing that’s worth delving into. Here are some strategies you could try.

Work with local online influencers

Influencer marketing is huge right now, and you can harness its power by working with online personalities to promote your services. In the age of Instagram, most of your target audience are likely to follow people whose lives or wardrobes they aspire to have. And this will also stretch to the makeup they’re using and the beauty treatments they get. You can capitalise on this to secure more appointments.

If you know of any local online influencers, contact them to ask if they would be interested in a free beauty treatment. In return, you can provide them with an affiliate link that they can post on their blog, Instagram, or anywhere else they have an audience. Whenever anyone books and pays for an appointment with you through that link, the influencer will receive a small commission.

Affiliate marketing is cost-effective, because you won’t usually pay anything until you sell appointments or products, and the amount paid to any influencers you work with will be a very small percentage of your takings. You will also have full control over what percentage you want to offer.

Secure reviews in online publications

Have you thought about inviting journalists and bloggers to your salon for complimentary treatments that they can then review on their platforms? This is quite similar to influencer marketing in that you’ll invite someone down to your salon in exchange for an affiliate link on their social media feed or website. However, an in-depth review of their experience will also be part of the deal.

Securing online reviews can be a great way to attract more customers, because it will help you reach a larger audience and give them a clear idea of what they can expect from your business. This is particularly important right now when people want to know that they’ll feel safe when they visit a salon. Journalists and bloggers will be able to let their readers know what your service is like and how seriously you’re taking Covid-19 precautions. You’ll then be rewarded with more sales, and the publication will be happy with their commission.

Partner with cashback sites

Another option you have is to advertise your services via cashback sites. These use an affiliate model that means, if someone books and pays for an appointment through a link on a cashback site, the platform will receive a small commission, and they’ll also share this with the customer. As a result, you should secure more bookings, the site you’re advertising on will get a small cut, and the customer will receive a slight discount, too.

Securing a space on cashback sites can do wonders for increasing awareness of your brand. TopCashback is one of the most popular platforms, which boasts nine million users. So, promoting your services through these kinds of websites can really help to get your name out there. Customers will also receive a small discount, which could well be the incentive they need to book an appointment with you, rather than a competitor. But, because their discount will only be a very small percentage of the usual cost of the treatment, you won’t be losing the 10–20% that often comes with offering voucher codes.

Affiliate marketing can help to get more people through your salon doors now that they’re open again. While voucher codes that offer discounts are often used as part of an affiliate marketing campaign, it’s completely understandable if you’re hesitant to offer significant discounts using voucher codes. The techniques I’ve outlined here should help you to get the best of both worlds.