Salon Owner Courts a Niche Market of Eco-Friendly Customers

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Aurora Marks isn’t a fan of mass-market coupon sites. As the co-owner of Salon Botanique Eco-Chic, an organic hair salon and spa in Morristown, New Jersey, she says she focuses on reaching customers who care more about getting the best quality hair and skin products than about getting a bargain basement price.

What makes Salon Botanique Eco-Chic different from other salons in Morristown?
Well, that’s simple. It’s our products. We use all natural and organic products; even the hair color. Even our building is eco-friendly, and we have low VOC paint on our walls. We also have a customized water purification system that goes throughout the entire building, so we don’t have the added chemicals that are in the city tap water when we wash people’s hair. Even our linens are all natural. We use organic cotton linens and organic cotton robes.

As far as our products go, really that’s the main difference between us and other salons. When you come into our salon, people are surprised because it doesn’t smell like a salon. You don’t smell the ammonia and all those other chemicals. We have people coming in who are cancer patients, who are going through chemotherapy, pregnant women, and even teenagers who weren’t able to color their hair before – but now they can because of this organic color system.

We really try to stay true to the eco-friendly in whichever ways we can, without compromising the beauty of the skin or the hair.

What types of advertising have you tried since you opened?
When we first opened up we did some things to create publicity. We did the ribbon cuttings, invited the mayor, had a big party, and newspapers came. We’ve also done full-page color adds in various magazines and newspapers, and we advertised in Natural Awakenings, which is a free magazine for people who are more holistically minded and interested in using non-chemical forms of food, creams, lotions, and makeup.

That was the original way that we started, with newspaper ads and magazine ads. Eventually we decided to create our own website, and that’s when things really started to happen. We get probably 80% of our new clients through the website, and then once people come here it’s word of mouth. But I would say a huge portion [of our new clients are] because of the website.

Your salon has been featured on a handful of hyperlocal blogs, like Patch. Did your appearances on those sites generate publicity?
Yes, definitely [we have gotten publicity] from Morristown Patch and They are always very supportive of us, which is great. They are supportive of local businesses, and they do feature us quite often in various ways. So, that’s also a very good thing.

What are your views on coupon sites, like Groupon? Do you think they work for salons?
I don’t know if they work for regular salons, because we are different in that way. We did try to do a daily deal that was local, but for us we didn’t find that it really worked. Usually, the people who come to us don’t look at those sites, or they have a different agenda.

Our clients are coming because they don’t want to use as many chemicals on their hair, so they have a reason to come here other than a coupon or a deal. Sure, we have specials. We do have specials. Our specials are to get people to come in and try our salon, and try our services and products. But we don’t do coupons.

Are customers choosing salons differently now than in the past?
We are different from the other salons, so it’s hard for me to speak for them. I know there are several of them [in Morristown] that still do advertising in newspapers or send mailers with coupons. But we’re just not into that. We don’t do that. Then there are other salons that are smaller and older, so they just have their same clientele and they rely on repeat customers.

We still do a lot of donations, so we donate our time or we donate free haircuts or gift baskets to various local causes. We try to help like that around town. I know other salons also do that, too.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.