Case Study: BLO – Blow Dry Bar

Picture 2Blo is a Blow Dry Bar.  Scissors are verboten.  Dye, ditto.  In about 30 minutes, get a wash and blow out style.  No cuts, no colour: Just WASH BLOW GO.  Blo is also the brainchild of Judy Brooks and her daughter Devon.  The two hatched the idea in 2006 when Devon posed a vital question to her Mom, who is a serial entrepreneur of sorts… “why isn’t there a place for quick, great hair, like there is for nails?” And there you have it.

Devon developed the concept with her mom and wrote the Blo – Blow Dry Bar business plan while at the London College of Fashion as a class project (she got 98%, by the way!)  The two took the idea step further — Blo opened its first location in Vancouver, Canada Spring 2007. Being first to market in the category of Blow Dry Bar with a cheeky brand has had its advantages. Blo has a big vision and Judy is working with the young team to capitalize on the success with a well-developed growth strategy.

Starting a business from scratch, in a brand new category isn’t easy.  The two had their work cut out for them.  But they did what so many entrepreneurs fail to do – they stuck to their guns.  They had an idea and they didn’t stray – they offer blow drys.  No cuts, colors, nails, whatever.  Just a great style at an affordable price in less time than it takes to grab lunch.  They offered women an affordable luxury, a way to cram a bit of pampering into their day without feeling guilty about it.  As the ‘lipstick index’ has predicted women are spending more on their appearance during times of recession – and Blo was right there with online reservations, membership cards and hip, cool styles for everyone.

As a result of sticking to their strategy and “owning their niche” – Blo has grown like crazy.  Their first blow dry bar opened in June 2007, and by the end of 2010 they will have upwards of 10 in Canada and the US.  They have over 49,000+ hair cadets in blo’s database (a hair cadet is how they refer to clients. Their media coverage has been amazing with more than 230 national and international media hits. Plus that have received over 200 requests to franchise their business.   All of this because they found a niche and owned it.  You go BLO!

10 Ways to Build Your Business (without spending a penny)


Listen to the recording of my Teleseminar (recording available until April 14, 2010)

Playback Dial-in Number:    1-213-289-0503
Playback Access Code:    218888

You’re here to learn the 10 Ways to Build your Business without spending a penny….and so you will.  I’m going to give you specific things that you can start doing today to build your business and your brand without spending any money.  You will have to put in some time and effort, but it will definitely be worth it.  What is the purpose of the exercise?  To show you how to market your business without spending a fortune so you can you achieve your business goals – whatever they are.  In most cases it is either to attract more of the right kind of customers, or to generate more revenue.

Before we jump in, let me lay the foundation. After years of helping companies and entrepreneurs build their brands and their businesses, I have developed a methodology I call THINK.PLAN.ACT. You can use it at a high level to develop strategic marketing plans.  And you can also use it at a very tactical level.  For example, every morning I spend 30 minutes thinking, planning and acting.  I think about what I want to accomplish during my day.  I plan out my time, meetings, work time, driving, errands, whatever.  Then I take the last 20 minutes or so and complete a task – usually it’s something that I need to do so that other people on my staff can be productive.  Think. Plan. Act.

Successful marketing is all about balance.  If you spend too much time planning and not acting, then you don’t get results.  If you start acting but aren’t focused, then you don’t get results.  If you launch your website, but no one knows, then who cares.  If you start publishing articles, but the topics aren’t relevant to your target audience, then they aren’t going to care.   If you get interviewed for an industry publication, but it isn’t one of your target industries, it’s not going to help you build your business.  Most people jump right to the 10 Ways without thinking about what they want to accomplish, without a plan for how to get it done and without the skill needed to act on any of their ideas.  So bear with me…

When you THINK about your brand and your business…start with what you want to accomplish – your business objectives.  Then work to understand your customers and the problems they are trying to solve.  Next, take a look outside and see what the others guys are doing.  This isn’t rocket science.  It’s stuff you probably know you should be doing…but it doesn’t mean you always do it.

When you PLAN to build your business you identify what you’re going to do, when & where you’re going to do it.  These are the actual detailed tactics of your plan. Usually, when it comes to marketing, the biggest challenge most of us have isn’t a lack of ideas. In fact, I’m going to give you 10 ideas today that will lead you to come up with more ideas.  The biggest challenge is selecting the most effective things to do based on what your customers want, what you like to do and what will help you achieve your objectives.

Now, we have thought about what we want to accomplish and what our customers need, we’ve built a plan of detailing what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it.  The next thing is to ACT on it.  The key to doing anything consistently is to make it a habit – you need to create a marketing habit.  For some people, they take the first hour of every day and work on networking.  For others, they spend 30 or 40 minutes blogging – writing in theirs and commenting on others.  I spend 15 minutes in the morning and in the afternoon on social media – chatting with my networks, catching up with the communities I’m apart of and engaging in conversations where I have an interest or can add value.  The point is to make it a daily habit.  Then you can consistently do it everyday – which is what it will take. To build your business you need to market it everyday.

Here is your list of “10 Ways to Build Your Business (without spending a penny)”. You can click on each one to get more details and links to relevant resources.

  1. Call your existing customers
  2. Join an Affiliate Marketing program
  3. Launch an E-zine
  4. Use your email signature line
  5. Give something away for free
  6. Use social media
  7. Start a blog
  8. Publish articles online
  9. Create a video
  10. Get free publicity

FaceBook No-No’s

While you are building your credibility on FaceBook, there are certain things that you could do – easily – that will completely undo everything you’ve accomplished to date and prevent you from ever building credibility through this social networking site in the future.  Plus, it can happen in a matter of minutes.

Here are some things that you definitely want to avoid doing on FaceBook:

1.  Do not spam people’s inboxes or walls. This will not only cause you to lose credibility, it can also cause you to get banned from FaceBook. FaceBook is one of the best social networking sites in existence and it is important to keep it in it’s currently clean, spam free state, so that it remains a useful and valuable tool for everyone who uses it.

2.    Never post messages on other people’s walls with the sole intention of linking to your own website. It’s obvious and just makes you look desperate and greedy. Don’t link anywhere at all. Instead, post interesting comments and people will click your name to learn more about you from your profile, where you should obviously link to your websites.

3.    While you want to give yourself and your business a human face, you really don’t want to get overly personal – especially with photos and videos. You aren’t searching for a hot date – you are trying to build your brand and your business. Don’t forget that – ever.

4.    Don’t add an abundance of silly applications to your profile. It just clutters your profile, makes it load slow and really just takes the viewers attention away from that which you want their attention firmly glued to – information about you and your business.

5.    Never have ‘cyber wars’ with anyone on FaceBook. If someone is bothering you, simply block them. It isn’t hard to do – and it’s much more reasonable than throwing flames for the whole world to see.

Above all, use good common sense. Always think before you act – or before you hit a submit button. Consider your customers, your potential customers, business contacts, and potential business contacts – how will they view what you are about to do?

If you follow these no-no rules, you will almost always be just fine.

You can actually manage Twitter

The biggest problem with the standard Twitter web application is that you only see the main Tweetstream.  In order to get the mosst out of Twitter, you need to keep an eagle eye on your replies and Direct Messages as those are the direct conversations with your followers.  This is where the value of Twitter lies. What are the Tweeple to do?  Are we forever stuck with the limited features of  Of course not.  There are a tone of client applications that will help you actually manage Twitter.

Your TweetStream - To start with, download TweetDeck.   TweetDeck is a client application that helps you sort all your incoming tweets into columns so you can see what’s going on.  You can sort by Direct Messages, Mentions, Hashtags (#) and now with LinkedIn and FaceBook feeds as well.  Plus it keeps the last 500 tweets in each column so you have a longer running history.  The screen has a continuous right hand scroll, so you can set up different groups and their tweets will appear in that column. You might have a group called “best friends” and another for “gardeners” for instance.  That way you don’t miss important tweets from people who are more important to you than others. At the time of writing, Tweetdeck is probably the most widely used application for Twitter and I would highly recommend it to you.

Your Tweets - Start getting some tweets into the system now. On the Twitter home page, it asks What You Are Doing?  Quite frankly many people don’t care until you have built a relationship with them as a result of following.  If you’re just getting started try some of these ideas to get things rolling.

Start by tweeting links to interesting blogs posts (either yours or someone elses) with a link to the post. For example: “Interesting post on pest control in tomatos. Link”. Make sure you always include http:// in the link and not just www so the link is clickable in the Tweetstream.  If it’s a long link, Tweetdeck has a facility to shorten it to a small url.  Tweet a link to an article in an online newspaper – the WSJ or NYT have great stuff and are easy to link to.

Another good way of starting out tweeting is with quotes.   Here’s one I just found in the Tweetstream as an example: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle.  There are thousands of these all over the internet that you can use, but use these sparingly as they can become repetitive if all you do is tweet quotes.

Whatever you do, at no stage of your Twitter career start posting sales tweet after sales tweet.  Your career will be shortlived if you do and people will unfollow you very quickly.  Twitter is about engagement, value and a social experience. A constant flow of sales links is just not cool.  By all means post links to your products or sites, but keep them to around 5% of your total tweets at the most.

Another good idea with your tweeting is to keep religion and politics out of them. These subjects can only alienate followers and you can lose them.

Replies – You can reply to someone’s Tweet simply by putting the @symbol in front of their name. This makes the tweet stand out to them as it appears in their reply column or page instead of in the general Tweetstream. It is a very useful way of starting conversations with people in order to build relationships. Simply comment on one of their tweets. TweetDeck has a feature when you hover over the user’s avatar to put their name and reply symbol straight into the posting area.

Retweeting – People appreciate retweets and it is a good way to get noticed by others.  All you do is put RT in front of the @username. Using TweetDeck, hover over the user’s avatar and it will put the whole thing in the posting area. Separate their tweet from your comment if you have one.  I usually put two pipes, which is holding down the Shift key on the character.  This will produce “||” which clearly shows the end of the other person’s tweet and your reply or comment.

If other people retweet your tweets, make it a habit to thank them.  It’s common courtesy. Simply tweet @username Thanks for RT :-) and send. After all, it’s all about making connections, building relationships and learning more about people.

The mechanics of branding

A well designed brand is like a well designed car – lovely to look at, lots of power, and can really take you places. The power of a brand is based on how well it can convince people to buy your stuff. There are countless definitions of what a brand is, and regardless of your definition, if the brand doesn’t help you sell more stuff, then, it isn’t doing its job.

All brands are built with three essential elements: Personality, Message and Identity.

Brand Personality: Defining the underlying personality of a brand is sometimes difficult, but is always necessary if the rest of the brand elements are to come together. The personality reflects what the organization wants its brand to be known for. Think about specific personality traits you want prospects, clients, employees, and partners to use to describe your brand. You should have 4-6 traits (5 is ideal), each being a single term, usually an adjective.

Authentic, Creative, Innovative, Approachable
Trustworthy, Trendy, Cool, Desirable, Reliable
Relevant, Honest, Flexible, Unique, Relevant

How you define the personality determines the tone and voice of your brand, and therefore all your communications. A brand that is “hip, cool, trendy” sounds decidedly different from one that is “honest, trustworthy, reliable”.

Brand Message: What do you customers need from you? Why should they choose your brand of product or service over another one? What can your brand deliver that no one else can? The answers to these questions form the foundation of your messages. I have found it useful to create three core messages based on these customer needs. Each of these messages needs to be supported by “proof points” which are specific, measurable and relevant to the audience. For example, think of Brand X as a car.

Brand X is BETTER: safety record, flexible seating arrangements, trade-in options
Brand X is CHEAPER: gas mileage, insurance premiums, maintenance costs
Brand X is FASTER: redesigned engine, chassis, performance measurements

Which of these messages best reflects the brand is based on the brand personality and the needs of our customers. It is not based on what we think sounds good, what is easy for us to prove, or what our boss thinks. At least it shouldn’t be anyway…

Brand Identity: Ask ten graphic designers their opinion of a company logo and you’ll get ten different answers. Brand design is the aesthetic that communicates the underlying message and personality of the brand. There are five core elements to any brand identity:


How these elements work together are explained in “Brand Guidelines”. These help anyone working with the brand know what to do and not to do with the brand. Combined with templates (Presentations, documents or web pages for example) and standardized collateral (business cards, signage and such) your brand begins to take form. From here on, it is all about execution.