Tokyo Barber Shop – The Ultimate Clip Joint
Last week I did something outlandish and kinda lavish.
I got my haircut.
But this time. it was different.
Instead of paying $1.60 to $2 for a short back and sides at the local barber shop, I decided to go to the most expensive barber shop in the city (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). I resisted going previously because of the high price for a simple cut, but last week I finally succumbed.
I was curious.
As a marketer, I wanted to know how they get a full shop most every day, and yet charge top dollar for a simple haircut in a poor country like Cambodia.
After going there I now know, and that’s why I decided to write this post. It’s a fascinating story and represents a powerful marketing lesson.
So how much did I pay? I know it will seem like a total rip-off, but the most expensive barber shop in Phnom Penh ‘scalped’ me for the princely sum of $5.
Before I give you the lesson, it’s important that you know the backstory, so let’s take a look at that……….
How It Started
Tokyo Barber Shop was started two years ago by a Cambodian national who had a vision for a different kind of barber shop. Like many parts of the world most men’s barber shops are dead boring. Of course, some guys enjoy going to their local barber shop because they have a good relationship with the barber who cuts their hair.
But like a lot of men I equate the experience as something slightly less unpleasant than going to a dentist, although a lot cheaper.
So Tokyo Barber Shop was launched so that more discerning people can experience something different.
After a shaky start, the business solidified and today has become quite a local success story.
The business is now being run by an impressive Cambodian lady of Chinese descent, called Sothy. Here is me with Sothy (on the left) and one of her assistants…….
7 Lessons From the Tokyo Barber Shop Experience
1. Make It Fun
As stated, for most of us going to the barber is not a fun experience. And that’s one of the points of difference with this barber shop. Being surrounded by (mostly) smiling faces made this an enjoyable experience for me.
2. Make it Aesthetically Pleasing
The Shop. If you have a physical business, make it look right for your market. Requirements will vary from region to region and from one industry to another, but if you want to attract more high-end customers, add some style to give it more visual appeal.
The Website. Take a look at their website. It’s clean, uncluttered and packs a punch. Lots of pics and easy to navigate, this site is a cut above (pardon the pun!). Indeed, most barber shops don’t even have a website – such small thinkers. The only thing I would do to improve it is to get the guys to smile more.
Other things I like……
Online Booking. If it’s good enough for other time-sensitive businesses such as airlines and restaurants, why not for an old fashioned men’s barbershop? Why not indeed. What is remarkable is that they’re using progressive initiatives like these in a third world country like Cambodia.
Testimonials. Testimonials from other happy customers give prospective customers the reassurance they need to spend money with a business. They call it social proof and this business offers plenty of that.
So the message to other barbers or indeed any old style offline business is this:
This is the internet age, so either get with it or continue to make small money as a commodity supplier.
3. Offer More Than the Basics
More than a barber shop…….
Sure they’ll cut your hair – short back and sides if you want it. Or perhaps something more fancy. But this little barber shop has gone way beyond being a mere clip joint.
Some of the basic add-ons include a hot towel shave. The manager told me their customers tell her it’s the closest shave they’ve ever had.
But more than that they also have an array of salon and spa services. Take a look…..
- Many Haircut Styles
- Beard Trim
- Hot Towel Shave
Salon Services for Men:
- Tokyo Shampoo
- Ear Cleaning
- Manicure nd Pedicure
- Hair Coloring
Spa Services For Men and Women:
- Facial Massage
- Oil Body Massage
- Foot Massage
- Foot Scrub
- Coffee Body Scrub
- Body Scrub and Massage
Don’t think that men will avail themselves of some of these fancy add-ons? Think again. When I was there a big, macho guy was having his scalp massaged as well as a hot towel shave, while another guy was having his hands manicured!
4. Make Your Customers Feel Special
You’re a man who needs a haircut. You open the barbershop door and instantly you are greeted by a smiling, pretty girl (with big boobs!) who then directs you to your chair. You wait a minute, and she delivers a sealed cup of fresh, cold filtered water.
She then tells you that your barber will be ready for you in 12 minutes, and invites you to have your hair washed. She takes you into the salon room, and two lovely girls proceed to wash your hair while massaging your scalp at the time time.
Got the picture here?
5. Upsell At Every Opportunity
When I went there for a basic haircut, I soon got clarity about their agenda. It’s to move customers beyond a basic haircut into the higher value services that are listed prominently on the wall.
The upselling experience often starts before someone visits for the first time, for the simple reason that many people visit their website before they visit the shop for the first time. And their site makes it very clear that their business is really about all of the additional services on offer.
After my hair had been cut, I went over to pay for it. The manager, Sothy, turned out to be a first class sales lady. She wanted me to try a hot towel shave then and there. She also sold me on the wonders of a full scalp massage shampoo. So next time that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. But you know something? She did it in such a way that I got excited about it!
6. Surround Yourself With Good People
To me, the girls are the backbone of this business. They are so nice, so friendly and know exactly how to make their customers feel special. The barbers themselves do a good job but maybe need a touch more personality and warmth.
7. Eschew the Commodity Pricing Model
With few exceptions, undifferentiated businesses are relegated to the back of the pack. Their margins are lower; they make less money overall because they have no idea how to gain pricing power in a commoditised marketplace.
8. Offer An Experience – Not Just Another Service
Well, I think you get the gist already! Going to the Tokyo Barber Shop will give you an experience, no doubt about that. And I guess it’s an experience that many of their customers look forward to on a regular basis.
9. Sell Sex
Not literally of course! I can confirm that the shop is not a front for an illicit operation, but employing beautiful girls who seriously dote on their customers is a smart move. The guys love it! Face it, most men are like babies – they just love to be pampered.
A friend of mine, Stephen Johnston (a kind of marketing savant), said this to me a couple of years ago: “Many of the most successful businesses sell sex. It’s a primary motivator.” He then went on to cite many examples such as Steve Jobs and Apple (let’s face it Apple products ARE sexy), blockbuster movies, the motor vehicle industry, the luxury boat industry. On it goes.
So there you have it. My visit to a local barbershop turned into a fun experience due to the out of the box experience enjoyed by me and the other customers. That’s what business is supposed to be about, right?
Your Turn – Time to Comment
When it comes to innovation what have you been doing business-wise?
What has been holding you back from implementing innovative ideas?
Make a comment below!
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