10 Things You Need to Do BEFORE Season starts!

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The tanning season will be here before you know it.  There is always so much to do when you’re a business owner.  Having a plan makes everything more efficient and helps the make sure you don’t forget anything.  This is a list of ten of the most important items to take care of before season begins.

  1. Update Your Computer(s)

If you are using an old, outdated computer, NOW is a good time to update.  You should at least be running Windows 10 as it provides the latest security updates and features for Windows. Note that if you are going to purchase a computer, you will want to get one with a serial port which is used to for connecting your timers.  There are conversion adapters called “Serial to USB” but they are very flaky and frequently have problems.  This is not an ideal situation when you rely on the connectivity to be functional to control your tanning bed timers.  We generally NEVER recommend using them. You may also be able to make use of your old computer in some cases as a second station or a back-office computer.  If not, you can always donate it to charity.

If your computer is not terribly old but is not yet on Windows 10, you might be able to get away with just upgrading the operating system to Windows 10.  For some people, this can be done FREE but only until December 31st, 2017.  If you’re not one of the lucky ones, you can still do it but it will cost you about $150 for the software upgrade.  Check with our support team on this.

Older versions of windows have been discontinued and in many cases no longer fixed when security issues are found.  This means you may also not be PCI compliant.

Adding memory can also offer you a nice speed boost and can cost as little as $30 to do it!    You should ideally have at least 8GB RAM for optimal performance.  Many systems, especially older ones will have only 4GB of RAM.

If you’d like one of our technicians to review your current computer specifications and make recommendations or even quote a new computer (with serial port), give us a call at 877-488-2901.

  1. Update Your Software

Make sure you are using the latest version of TanTrack tanning salon software available.  This version will have all the latest fixes, features, and even security patches.  Software is made up of several components made by several companies.  Each new release brings the latest updates to each of those components in addition to our own updates and features.  For example, in 2016, our v3200 release was updated to take advantage of Microsoft’s new 2016 database engine.  It offered many new security improvements but also up to a 30% performance increase!

For safety, you should also make sure that all of your windows updates are applied.  This includes not only updates to Windows itself, but also your anti-virus/anti-malware solution.  You should also check other software that you use to make sure you’re on the latest updates.  For example, your internet browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Internet Explorer, etc.), document or productivity applications (Adobe Reader, Microsoft Office, etc.)

  1. Implement an EFT program

If you do not yet have an EFT program, you need to get one going right now.  A recurring revenue model is the best way for your tanning salon to grow and thrive vs just trying to survive.  Don’t worry about losing your older customers.  You can always let them continue what they have by grandfathering them into their existing package.  However, all new customers that walk through your door should be signing up to a monthly package subscription.  Make sure your package offerings are only a handful of packages and they should be very simple to understand and their differences should be very easy to see.  Make sure your EFT packages are priced so that they are more enticing than the non-EFT packages.  Many salons don’t even offer non-EFT packages anymore.  They only offer single visits as the non-EFT option.  If you offer a setup fee as a means to discourage cancelation, you can also offer a starter pack with the new package signup that includes a couple sample lotions to get them used to using lotions, a pair of goggles, and perhaps a sticker or two in a nice little welcome bag.  TanTrack will assist with tracking those recurring EFT packages.  If integrated with our credit card processing partner, TanTrack will update your sales records and the client package when the card on file is approved.  For any declines, it will automatically freeze the client’s package and fire of an e-mail to let them know they need to update their card information.

  1. Review Your Inventory

Many salons sell quite a few different lotions.  You really should narrow down to less than 10 lotion products.  Too many variations on the shelf is just confusing to both employees and customers.  Can your employees name all the products you sell without looking?  Can they tell you something about each of those products? Your employees have to be able to sell the lotions you offer and that requires detailed knowledge of each lotion.  They need to know how each differs from another in functionality, not just the scent or the pretty bottle.  All lotion has a shelf life as well.  Keeping too much inventory on hand can result in product you have to throw away.  Have a clearance sale to get rid of the excess or old inventory you have on hand.  Make sure to consider hot new products from the 2018 lines provided by your suppliers.  Also check the inventory of the other items you sell to make sure you have enough to start the season.  Don’t overbuy unless you can get a big price break and expect to sell the items in a short amount of time and before they expire if they are perishable.

  1. Review Your Business Hours

You typically will have two sets of business hours.  One for the off season and one for the on season.  However, watch those hours and make a decision based on traffic.  Staying open until 11PM may not be necessary if you don’t have enough traffic to justify it.  Remember, you’re paying labor and electricity for all hours you are open.  That said, it is extremely important to have CONSISTENT hours.  Nothing is more frustrating than showing up to a business only to find out they’re closed.  Or their hours changed yet again.  You can review visits from your previous season visit history to make your decision about this year’s hours.

  1. Plan Your Sales & Marketing

Where do you intend to do your marketing?  How are you going to get new clients?  What holidays or special events in your community do you intend to market?  Christmas, New Years, School Dances, Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, Swimsuit Season, Senior Pictures, Back to School Pictures, etc.  Start finding out dates.

You can contact all of your local schools and colleges to get important dates.  Many of them will also allow some form of advertising.  While most states don’t allow anyone under 18 to tan in a UV bed, there is nothing stopping them from spray tanning.  And pretty much everyone in college will be over the minimum tanning age.  Ask your school aged employees!

Apartment complexes can also be a good source of new clients.  You can often barter or pay to include an advertisement into the new resident packets given out to each new family that moves into an apartment.

You can sometimes even co-op with other nearby businesses to put some flyers on their counter if you’ll let them do the same.  Make it look nice though.  A low-cost plastic literature display looks far better than a stack of business cards on a counter or a business card pinned to a cork board.

You can run “Bring a Friend” or “Bring a Co-Worker” specials.  This is where the new person gets a discount and the person who brought them gets one too on a renewal.

We can even offer you a direct mail service where we send a postcard to people within a close proximity to your salon.  We can even target them by how recently they’ve moved to your area.  This is a great way to get a leg up on the competition and get new customers in to your door.

What about window painting?  There are some very talented artists who can paint your window with a long lasting washable paint to draw attention to a new customer special.  Just make sure you check to see if any permits are required for this type of advertising.

What about your outdoor signage?  Are all the bulbs in working order?

How about your website?  Is it up to date?  Does it have your correct address and correct business hours?  Is it mobile friendly?  One way to tell if a site is mobile friendly is to use your mouse and resize the width of your browser down to about the size of a mobile phone width.  Does the page resize itself so that you can see content nicely?  If so, that is a mobile friendly site.

Update your social media pages.  You should have a Facebook page and a twitter page at a minimum.  You can also do Instagram, Yelp, and Pinterest as well.  Anything more will become quite a lot to maintain.  If you were going to have only one, I would strongly recommend you at least have Facebook. And no, a Facebook pages does NOT count as a web page.  These are two totally different types of pages.  Make sure your Facebook page is a BUSINESS page, NOT a personal page.  A business page must attach to your personal page but don’t worry.  Nobody can see your personal page from your business page.   Once you have the Facebook page, you can add a link to your salon’s actual web page, you can provide all of your contact information and business hours.  You can even add a “call to action” button such as “Call us now” or “Book an appointment” that will link a phone number or a website such as our online appointment system.  There are also some very low-cost advertising options you can take advantage of.  For example, you can create an ad for as little as $5 that is shown to every “Friend” of anyone who liked your tanning salon page.

How about text marketing?  TanTrack has a text marketing feature (v3.2.0.1 or higher) that will allow you to send text messages to your customers that give you permission to text them.  This is very important though!  Remember, texting is an opt-in requirement.  Your customers MUST give you verbal permission or better yet “opt-in” by texting your company’s special code to be added to your list.

There is also e-mail marketing!  TanTrack has built-in e-mail marketing but many providers, especially free ones, will limit the amount of e-mails you can send.  They make it look like all your e-mails are sent, but the overages are just trashed.  Your best bet is to use a third party e-mailing solution.  There are many to choose from and they cost around one cent per e-mail.   They even include some very professionally designed templates so your e-mail message will look very appealing.

What about networking?  You can network with other businesses to create networking opportunities.  For example, a tanning package and travel agency arrangement.  Someone can go on vacation with a nice swimsuit ready tan.  You can do a special date night arrangement where you work with a beauty salon, nail salon, a spray tan, and a restaurant.  You can work with a local bridal and/or tux rental shop or even wedding planners to make sure the brides, grooms, and wedding party look their best.  There many ways to network that are mutually beneficial to all of those involved.

Have you registered your website with the major search engines?

Have you registered your business with the major search engines?  (This is different from registering your website) – Google, Apple, and Yelp are three you don’t want to miss.  Get your business listed immediately!  This way your business shows up on all the mapping systems.  It is free to list in most if not all of these systems!

Map advertising is another easy way to be seen.  Many of the GPS mapping apps offer an advertising platform such as Google Maps, Apple Maps, Waze, and more.  You can pop up ads to people who are in your area.

Consider adding key tags and gift cards.  We offer generic cards or custom printed cards.  Key tags are also a great advertising platform.  They are essentially a walking billboard.  Think of all the time you’ve seen someone set their keys (and any attached key tag) set up on top of a counter at a restaurant or the grocery store.  Call our sales team at 877-488-2901 for a quote on custom printed ones with your salon’s logo.

  1. Training

Make sure all of your staff is up to date with the way you want things to be done.  It is perfectly okay to cover opening and closing procedures over and over.  You want to set the quality of your salon to a high standard.  How should beds be cleaned?  How should the room be reset for the next client?  When do you expect the room to be cleaned after a client has left?  How should the front inventory display appear at all times?  When are the carpets or floors to be cleaned?  How do you handle a rush?  Do you have an emergency plan for a computer problem?  Who do the employees call for any issues such as electricity outage, internet outage, software issue, owner’s emergency numbers? Do the employees know how sell your packages?  Do they know how to sell your lotions?  What about state required training?  If you have a staff, you should be able to be completely unreachable and still have a thorough contingency plan in place and documented so that your employees can start the ball rolling for most things before calling you.

TanTrack has a training tracking system that allows you to create every type of training you’d like to offer and even set an expiration date to track when the employee is due for re-training or re-certifications.

  1. Check Your Tanning Equipment

Nothing advertises your salon better than a client with a great looking tan!  Check the bulb life to see if any of your bulbs are due for changing.  You get the best deals usually buying your bulbs all at the same time vs just changing out one bed at a time.  A UV meter is the best way to check the bulbs as it measures the amount of UV rays actually coming from the bulbs vs relying on the bulb’s hours.

Clean your acrylics.  The dust on acrylics can block some of the UV rays from reaching your client’s skin.  Not to mention it just looks terrible!

Give each bed a thorough inspection as if it were a pilot before taking off.  Check for any loose screws, damage or scratches, and even the quality of the hydraulic lifts.  You can even open up the canopy to inspect the wiring to make sure there are no burn spots or anything of concern.  You want the bed to feel and look in great shape.  You may not have the coolest or newest equipment but you can make sure yours looks and runs great and still leave your clients with a positive image of your salon.

This is also the best time to change a bed out for a new model.  Consider selling off one of yours locally and replacing it with a new or newer model.  There are a few companies out there that specialize in selling good quality used tanning equipment.

Review your timers.  Does the manufacturer of your timer still exist?  There are still many salons out there using those old Sunstar Database timer systems.  Guess what?  They don’t make them anymore.  You can’t get any parts or even replacement cables for them.  What would your salon do if your timer went out in the middle of season and you now needed to find a used replacement or buy a newer one and re-wire the entire salon?  You can watch for one online that might be for sale so you have a backup unit or better yet, you can consider an off-season re-wire to a newer system.  If you have old equipment that doesn’t support the newer system, there is actually a solution for you as well.  Just call our support team for information on the various timer systems out on the market.

  1. Set Goals

What sales numbers did you do each month last season? Last off season?  How many new clients?  What was your per person sales average?  What were your employee’s individual per person averages?  What do you want to hit this year for those same metrics?  How do you intend to do that?  What kind of incentives do you plan to offer for encouragement?

Measure everything.  If it can be measured, it can be managed.

  1. Inspect Your Salon

Start at the outside and look at the overall appearance of the building you are in.  This includes the parking lot, the look and condition of the building, the appearance of your neighboring businesses, and your own salon’s appearance.  Of course, you can’t change most of that but you can consider requests to your landlord or even organize a meeting with the other business owners.  After all, it is in everyone’s best interest to be a nice place to go and it never hurts to know your neighbors.  What you can do is make sure that your salon looks as good as it can.

If your demographics have changed, or your location just isn’t traffic friendly, you can consider a move if your lease is at the end and a new location is available.  Location is so important but you certainly don’t want to make a move during season!

How can your business stand out?  Would a potential customer pulling into the be drawn to look at your business and within a half second know that you are a nice looking, inviting tanning salon worth checking out?

Are your business hours clearly posted on or near the door?  Does the waiting area look nice and inviting from the outside windows?  Are there any specials visible from the outside?

Does the door open and close nicely or is it a bit of a wrestling match or make a terrible noise when opened?

First step into the salon, what does your waiting area look like?  Are the floors clean?  Are decorations dusty?  Are you decorated for the upcoming holiday? Does the seating look clean and something you would want to sit on? Or would you prefer to just stand?  What about the tables?  Magazines? This is a great time to do some soft selling.  There should be literature that talks about your lotions, your specials, tanning in general, or even your salon.  This is a captive moment for your clients to learn about your salon and its offerings.  If they’re educated, they will become great sales people when they’re referring a friend or family member.

What does your inventory display look like?  Is your counter clean and organized?  Are any visible computer cables neatly tied and organized?

Can the clients see down your hallway?  How does the hallway look?  Are the rooms clearly marked?

Are there any lightbulbs out?

How do the restrooms look?  Are they clean, stocked and clearly marked?  Nobody wants to have to ask for a paper towel, soap, or toilet paper.

Remember, you have to be at the salon.  Your customers do not.  Make it a place they will enjoy visiting.  These are very simple things but they can make all the difference to your customers.

  1. Plan for Off Season

During the season, you’ll be busy running your salon but you also need to be a step ahead.  Start thinking about how you’ll wrap up your tanning season and be ready for the off season.  What major changes will you make?  New location? New equipment? Re-arranging the layout? Equipment, Computer, or Furniture? Remodel? Or just a fresh coat of paint?  Which advertising methods worked best and offered the greatest ROI (Return on Investment)?  What would you have done differently or not at all?  What other new ideas did you think of to try?  How did your staff do?  Is it time to make some staff changes? Is it time to review the training material?