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CEO Turns a Barbershop Into a Unique Place Where Men Pay a Monthly Membership Fee to Join the Club

CEO Turns a Barbershop Into a Unique Place Where Men Pay a Monthly Membership Fee to Join the Club

November 19, 2008

8 reasons why this business has a good chance of succeeding

All successful businesses follow the 8 essential Laws of Marketing, and Kennedy's All-American Barber Club does too. Here are the 8 Laws and how Kennedy's applies them:

1. Plenty of hungry fish - affluent, discerning men (most of whom need a haircut and a shave) who want to be a part of an old-world charm that their fathers and grandfathers enjoyed.

2. An irresistible bait - unlimited haircuts, shaves, mini-facials and waxing for men and free, unlimited haircuts for children under 13.

3. A Promise of an Obvious, Obvert Benefit Always (POOBA) - a 'sanctuary to relax and enjoy the best haircut and straight razor shave you've ever had.'

4. A Big Zig ' membership to a gentleman's barber shop for men who want something very different from the big chains.

5. A reason to believe - video testimonials from members on the website tell others about their unique experience.

6. A story - every piece of marketing talks about men who felt out of place at the big chains and want a place where they would enjoy getting their grooming services.

7. A sense of scarcity - first 250 men at a grand opening get a free haircut.
No-risk offer - 'the 8 best haircut and straight razor shave you've ever had, or it's FREE!'

For a sample of a mailer from the barber shop, please click here.

Founding partners look to franchise their barbershop membership model

A few weeks ago, CEO Chris Hurn asked me to speak in Orlando for his GKIC marketing meeting. While I was there, he showed me his business model. I was so shocked that I had to share it with you here...

Not too long ago, a barber shop was a place for men to get away, catch up on local politics, talk about sports, cars and yes, women too, and just hang out with other guys.

That was until the Hair Cuttery and Great Clips unisex shops took over cities and towns across the U.S. with promises of a 10-minute, no-frill, get-in, get-out and get-on-your-way haircuts. Can I have your phone number please? No, I don't need your name; just your phone number. The old barber shop became just that - a quaint old image of a simpler, less hectic time suited for a Norman Rockwell painting.

But a group of guys are looking to bring back the barber shop of yore with a shop that's more like a gentleman's club, offering 'the best haircut and straight razor shave you've ever had,' along with an old-boy camaraderie and a free drink.

Kennedys All-American Barber Club (KennedysBarberClub.com) is taking that clubby feel even further - and is actually selling memberships.

It's this unique sales approach and the marketing opportunities it engenders that make Kennedy's a fascinating case study. It's also a terrific example of how take a service that has become a commodity today and turn it into something vastly different and as a result, create an entirely different experience.

Kennedy's started out as Carr's, a franchise of British-style barber clubs. When Carr's began to struggle, Chris Hurn, a member of Carr's, and his partners saw an opportunity and stepped in to take over.

Their clients include men for whom a clean, professional look is crucial: business owners, entrepreneurs, and retired baby boomers, as well as young, aspiring professionals [who also want to attract the opposite sex].

Kennedy's All-American Barber Clubs currently have six locations and plan to add 10

CEO turns a barbershop into a unique place where men pay a monthly membership fee to join the club Founding partners look to franchise their barbershop membership model to 15 more over the next month. 'People have an innate yearning to belong to things,' says Hurn. 'We're upping the clubbiness aspect' to play to that desire. And it seems to be paying off. The company has about 2,000 members and is planning to launch a line of private-label grooming products and a glossy magazine for members. They hope to be a nationwide franchise in the next several years. Kennedy's even has a patent pending on the membership concept.

Even current economic downturns aren't dampening the enthusiasm members and new customers have for the business. By setting up automatic monthly payments, membership to Kennedy's becomes 'like another small utility payment,' says Hurn. Plus, the regular income eases some financial constraints on the franchise owners, according to Hurn.

Like any successful chain, clients can expect the same level of service every time they visit. 'This creates a high perception of value,' says Hurn, and reinforces Kennedy's solid reputation.

Also, by inviting kids up to age 13 to receive free, unlimited haircuts as part of the membership, Hurn believes Kennedy's offers a unique father/son experience and grooms a new crop of future customers.

The company uses basic demographic information such as income, location within three to five miles of a franchise and housing prices to target their audience of professional men for direct response mailings.

They use the mailers to tell Kennedy's unique story and explain what sets them apart from other shops and salons. For a sample of their mailer, click here. 'We're explaining that customers deserve our services and need this experience. There is a tremendous value proposition here and our offer is for people to come in and try it.' They also offer a bold guarantee: 'The best haircut and straight razor shave you've ever had, or it's FREE!'

Every now and then, Kennedy's will offer a free haircut and shave, worth $60, which does pull in a few more clients, but they are fairly rare promotions. Hurn describes the free offer as a 'one-off,' downplaying its significance and noting that he has that offer printed on the back of his business cards.

He does add, however, that offering free haircuts to the first 250 men in line at a grand opening is a great marketing ploy: 'This naturally tees-up opportunities to sell membership from the moment a new club is open. For our grand opening, we're getting as high as 60% conversion of a 'freebie' into a new member.'

Kennedy's subscribes to the 'buy, die, or tell us to get lost' style of marketing. 'People have to proactively tell us when they want off our list, as these generally aren't emails, but purchased, demographic-based lists that we send direct mail to,' explains Hurn. 'Thankfully, no one has legalized 'no mail' statutes, so we can still get in people's mailboxes,' he says.

Word-of-mouth has also benefited Kennedy's since it's hard not to talk about such a unique concept ' and it's not just clients who want to talk about them. The owners are often interviewed for TV and radio shows and have been featured in the biggest franchise industry publication around. 'You can't buy that level of exposure,' Hurn says. Even more exciting, Hurn will be winging to Los Angeles soon to discuss a possible reality TV show about the franchise. 'It's a unique concept. Everyone seems to love it.'

By bringing a bit of the past into the present, Kennedy's All-American Barber Club has seen a niche opportunity and filled it, and Hurn sees that as a key to their success. He thinks that more industries could benefit from applying the membership concept, and more business owners need to think about how to creatively apply it to their business.

'Now is a great time to start a business ' there's nowhere to go but up. There's less competition now, so it's a good time to take massive action. That's the difference between winners and losers in business; winners take the step and make it happen.'

Hurn adds, 'The easiest way to stand out is to do extraordinarily complicated things, even for a simple business model ' most people are just too lazy to copy you, even when they could.'