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Give 'em the old razzle dazzle; reflections on a bald head

I haven’t darkened the door of a barber shop in nearly four decades. But recently my live-in barber took an extended business trip, and I found myself needing a haircut. I live in a highly developed suburb of Philadelphia in which there is every manner of hair manipulating establishment under the sun within minutes of home.

Frankly, I didn’t know where to start. Figuring I’d be more comfortable at and old-fashioned barber shop rather than a “salon” or “day spa,” I turned to Google and found the most highly recommended nearby barber.

The place was barebones and the experience was pleasant enough. After about three minutes with the clippers, the barber pronounced me finished, took my $16 and I was on my way. I didn’t give much thought to the process, other than to wonder to myself if the cut would “last” until my next out-of-town client trip.

For the past couple of months I have been developing a new workshop about referral marketing. I have been immersed in that subject and looking at my own experiences with a microscope. The common thread in the literature about building a referral-based business is that you must first be referral-worthy (with apologies to Elaine Benis of Seinfeld fame.) To build a business by referral, you have to give your customers an outstanding experience, every time, repeatedly and sustainably. When you wow your customers, they come back. They give you more business. And they recommend you to others because, among other benefits, it makes then look good and feel good.

As hair is wont to grow, I needed another haircut yesterday. I spotted a new place on the way to the gym, SportsClips, and stopped in. I was greeted graciously at the door. As soon as we established that I was a first-time customer, I qualified for the super-duper treatment (shampoo, haircut, steaming towel and shoulder massage) at the price of the basic haircut. I’m not sure what the barber found to do up there, but she labored over my locks for 15 minutes with three kinds of clippers and scissors-over-comb. The warm shampoo, hot towel and shoulder massage were a great bonus. Then she spotted something she wanted to “refine” in my coif. When I checked out, she gave me her card, a loyalty card, four coupons and the link to a satisfaction survey, which led to another dollars-off coupon. And I can stop in any time for a free neck trim.

I was surprised and delighted. The experience was so well planned and executed that I now plan to start going to the barber again, not just any barber, but this one. I am now a loyal customer of SportsClips. I recommend it to you enthusiastically. Remember now, that for all intents and purposes, I am as bald as an egg that occasionally sprouts fuzz. But because of one experience with a referral-worthy business, in a service category that I don’t really need, I have changed a 40-year-old habit. And I’m telling you about it.

Is your business referral-worthy? Have you wowed a customer recently? If you're not certain, maybe it’s time for a haircut.

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