This post isn’t as much about content marketing, content strategy, or even marketing. Instead, it’s about bad haircuts and the kooks behind the shears we helplessly trust.
Weirdout #1: Sal
My troubles with barbers goes way back to the Gulf War. I was in the ballpark of 10 years old, and every few weeks I would go to a nearby mall to get my haircut before running into KB Toys to drool over, well everything. Sal was the best barber in the shop; he was the closest thing I ever had to a go-to barber.
Spiky on top. Rat-tail in the back. Piece of cake, and everyone goes to the toy store happy…
Feeling patriotic, my parents and the barber decided to style my hair differently. This time, they shaved an American flag and a big “U.S.A.” into my head.
Following my elders’ lead, I thought I was the coolest. I was very, very wrong, and all my friends let me know it until my hair grew back.
Weirdout #2: The Russian who Pretended to be Italian
Fast-forward to when I was about 19. I was in college and I didn’t really care about my appearance. I just wanted a cheap haircut to get me through summers of caddying in New York humidity (which doesn’t hold a candle to southern humidity, but it’s still awful).
A barber shop a couple blocks from my house was a bargain for my beatnik standards. Everything was fine until the massage started. The barber, a thick-accented Russian with greasy black hair and hairy knuckles took a hand massager to my shoulders and neck. A “free perk” for neighborhood Italians he would call it.
Maybe it was my age. Maybe it was my anti-social behavior. Maybe it was the hairy knuckles. But, I didn’t want a free massage; despite my love for anything cheap, that was a costly breach of trust I never got out of my head.
Weirdout #3: Saint Russ
Thinking back, it’s no wonder I don’t have a go-to barber at this point in my life. Now, I just wait for my hair to become unwieldy and borderline vagabond before I hopelessly wander into any salon with an open chair.
The last barber I found tried to save me, just not from my tangled mop of hair.
Trying as hard as I could to avoid another Sal or barber-masseuse, I picked a shop based on Google reviews. This one guy had over four stars, and that was good enough for me. I pulled up to the strip mall and parked in between a dive bar, a tattoo parlor, and his barbershop. (An alarm bell was going off in my head, but I thought it best to not judge a book by the strip mall it was in.) The barber was wrapping up with a client, and he didn’t have another appointment so he could fit me in as a walk-in.
Soon enough I was in the barber chair and talking about my hairdo like a piece of artwork. He nodded, clumps of hair fell in my lap, and we were underway. The haircut was going great, and hope-against-hope, I was wondering if I found a barber I could lean on regularly.
That’s when things started going horribly wrong.
With half of my head shaved to a kempt length and the other length looking like I was head-banging too close to the speakers at an AC/DC concert, the barber started his obligatory small talk. He stared me in the eyes through the mirror, buzzer humming inches from my head, and asked, “Do you think you’re going to heaven or hell?”
Houston, we have a problem…
My first thought was, “Where the hell was the Google review on this segment of the haircut?” My $20 haircut just turned into a hostage situation, and I was both the captive and negotiator. I thought about ripping off the black smock and leaving a cloud of hair flakes in my trail. The other half of me didn’t want to roll the dice again with another barber. I decided to wait it out. How bad could it be, after all?
The next 15 minutes turned into a careful dance.
Sitting stiff as a board, I explained my personal code of morals, spirituality, and religion. My whole life, I thought I was doing a decent job of making the Big Guy upstairs proud. Apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong.
My captor took a wrecking ball to my personal belief system and went straight into his sales pitch. According to Russ the Apostle, it’s so easy to find the “true Grace of God.”
You know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. Let’s just leave it at that.
My responses were tactfully inoffensive, pensive, and sheepishly acquiescing. Convinced that I was worthy, he gave me a pocket-sized Book of Some Holy Guy and told me to read it, pass it to my wife and family, and come back to discuss.
I gave him money for the haircut, exchanged pleasantries, and got the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks out of there.
Cut to the Chase
Believe it or not, I can shoe-horn a lesson about marketing content into all of this…
There is a clear difference between a captive audience versus captivating your audience. It may seem obvious to you that your product is a cure-all for what’s ailing your customers, but don’t assume everyone wants to be saved. Just because it’s free, that doesn’t mean your customer wants a massage (although that sounds glorious right now).
Instead of pushing things on customers, ask yourself if you’re listening. Are you pushing products in your content, or are you easing into solutions downstream?
Creating a gentle path using content marketing techniques ensures you’re building a relationship that prepares customers for a sale and turns prospective customers into informed purchasers and brand advocates.
Awareness, education, consideration, purchase. Whether you’re selling salvation or shaving heads, there’s a customer journey for a reason.