What I learned from sweeping up hair

Picture_2 I’ve worked many an odd job during my illustrious career but the one that gets the most raised eyebrows was my job as the Jack of All Trades at a beauty salon.  Mostly, I did clean up, hauled heavy boxes, stocked the hair dye shelves and swept up a whole lot of hair.

I was about 14 and couldn’t get a "real job" yet so I took this one for cash under the table.  The salon was a throwback to the 50s, where ladies came to get their hair done weekly and gossip.  While the job itself left a lot to be desired, there were some real life lessons (and marketing truths) among the tendrils.

Being noticed matters:  While some patrons took notice of the teen-aged boy in the all woman territory, most didn’t.  In fact, for the most part, I was invisible.  They might absentmindedly lift up their feet as I swept around them or hand me something to throw away, but I was just the clean up kid.  They didn’t really take notice of if I was tall or short, blond or dark-haired, or what my name was.

For those few ladies who actually took a moment to greet me or ask me about my work, I was immensely grateful.  Being invisible stinks. 

Marketing truth:  Our clients/customers feel the same way.  Being ignored or invisible is actually worse than getting bad news or bad service. 

If you listen to a group of people with something in common, you’ll be stunned what you learn:
  Okay, so the one advantage of being mostly invisible is that I could listen in on the patrons conversations without them paying any attention.  It was quite an education for a 14 year old guy! 

Like all hair salons, the chairs were close.  So pretty soon, 5-6 women between the stylists and the customers, would be knee deep in a no-holds barred conversation.   They quickly  drove the conversation to those things that were top on their mind.  When given the opportunity, they talked about what mattered to them. 

Marketing truth:  You can gain incredible insights if you create an environment that allows people to be themselves and share their thoughts.

In the end, people are hungry for approval:
  Many of the women who came to this salon were very wealthy, had everything they could want and yet, they still stood a lot taller once a clerk or stylist complimented them.  People, no matter how successful, all together or intelligent still crave being noticed and appreciated.

it didn’t just change their posture — it changed their entire demeanor.  You could see it in their eyes and how they interacted with everyone around them.  There was a bounce in their walk as they left the salon.

Marketing truth:  It is a brand’s ultimate success if being associated with it says something complimentary about the consumer.  If owning a Harley says I am cool, bravo to Harley.  If being an Apple fanatic says I am creative, high five to Apple. 

Why am I sharing this, you wonder?  It’s part of an on-going writing project started by Robert Hruzek.  Ironically Marcus Goodyear had started a very similar project.  (hat tip to Robyn for finding this project.) And I believe that in every experience, we can learn a little something about marketing.  If I can learn some marketing truths while sweeping up hair…I know you’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Okay, I shared my weird odd job and what I learned…your turn!