IHB is a hair and beauty academy/brand with close to a decade of experience in offering hair and beauty courses plus certifications and professional qualifications. A leader in hair and beauty education across South Asia, they operate academies in several countries in the region.
Understanding of Problem
We were first approached by IHB – Bangalore over 2 years ago. The Bangalore branch had been opened in 2017. Partnerships had been established with local entities in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well to operate IHB academies in those countries. The IHB – Bangalore branch was faced with a unique problem.
The brand was intent to sincerely improve the standard of hair and beauty education plus the industry in the region. In their journey up to that point, they had witnessed the generally poor standard of education available in the industry as well as the offering of improperly accredited qualifications.
The resulting problem was twofold: students would go on to acquire sub-par hair & beauty skills which hindered their progress as industry professionals and this also impacted the quality of hair & beauty services offered in the industry in salons and elsewhere.
IHB was on a mission to address the issue of poor standards industry-wide by highlighting their approach to hair and beauty education and the unique successes they were producing for their graduates and how this was positively impacting the industry.
They wanted not just to sell their courses, but to offer potential students and those who joined their academy a proper understanding of the hair & beauty industry, education standards, options available, and professional paths. Therein, they wanted to ensure only people with a genuine passion for the craft plus a hunger for learning would consider their courses and a career in hairdressing and beauty.
- Conceptualizing this message and communicating their renewed brand identity proved difficult for IHB – Bangalore. Many organizations do things differently but may not fully understand how to shape or redefine their brand by first identifying what sets them apart and then communicating it.
- Also, communicating IHB’s message across various student touchpoints was challenging for them, as their expertise is hair & beauty education and not digital strategy, marketing and the like.
- The lack of student awareness on the hair and beauty industry impacted their career choices and also, business-wise for IHB and in maintaining their high standards, it often led to students approaching the academy before becoming qualified leads.
- Communicating impactfully to students depending on where they were in the student journey was difficult for them, as they thought of all students as the same and therefore produced content that was only for individuals who were ready/qualified to start a course and involved only price/service based marketing plus content. They didn’t cater to industry knowledge, student learning experience, career paths, related skills, and so on.
HumanisedTech’s Strategy – Initial Engagement
On being approached to look at this issue and solve IHB’s branding and marketing challenges plus the problem of unqualified leads reaching them, we initiated conversation with key stakeholders in their organization in an initial engagement.
This discussion helped us understand IHB’s industry plus customer segments, their marketing and branding objectives, and the unique challenges they were facing in reaching them. The initial engagement and our learnings formed the basis for the strategy workshop which we held with IHB thereafter, which is a core component of HumanisedTech’s methodology in solving clients’ issues.
HumanisedTech’s Strategy – Strategy Workshop
Brand Identity Renewal and USPs
IHB’s unique hair & beauty education approach had grown organically over time through the experience and values of its founder and faculty mentors. Although they knew they were different, it was hard for them to verbalize this as concise points of differentiation that would have marketing appeal while helping build their authority in the industry.
So we realised, firstly, a deep dive into IHB’s history and journey was needed to understand what had shaped them. We spoke with the founder, management, past students, faculty mentors, and everyone we could possibly speak with. We looked at documents and material they had about the institute and courses extensively. There were several things that stood out.
They stood apart from their competition in so many ways. Their journey had started in 2011 with the intent of improving hair and beauty standards regionally and they had gone on to nurture scores of World Hair Championship winners plus professionals at the top of their game worldwide. Their story had value, but it wasn’t properly highlighted.
And there were key points we identified, hidden gems that could create impact if communicated properly. These included:
- Focus on practical skills training to ensure professional setting readiness
- European-standard hair & beauty courses and qualifications
- International certification without leaving India
- Faculty mentors from Europe plus Founder providing personal mentorship during career
- Theoretical and practical training that equips you with a competitive edge to earn more
- Focused learning depending on whether you’d like to become a hair and beauty trainer,
take part in competitions, own a salon, migrate as a professional, and so on.
The USPs we helped them pick were things they were already doing and known by a few, but they just had not been identified.
These USPs would form a core part of our messaging and communication thereafter, as they had to be consistently included in all marketing messages and content so they would be strongly associated with IHB’s brand.
We help our clients identify a few early versions of these USPs during the first Strategy Workshop itself, and are fine-tuned over time through our research on the client’s company, conversations with key stakeholders, plus knowledge on competition.
HumanisedTech’s Strategy – Strategy Workshop 2
With IHB’s USPs identified, in our second strategy workshop we focused on understanding their branding and marketing objectives including lead generation in detail.
With the objectives understood, as we’ve explained in the ‘Ultimate Goal’ and ‘Core Problems’ sections above, we moved onto understanding who we would be communicating with in attempting to reach these goals. These included:
For this, we had to develop and understand IHB’s student or customer segments. Not all students are the same, and not all courses are the same. Nor are all career paths the same. So what to communicate to whom is something we looked at.
After identifying a few student segments for IHB, we went onto develop personas based on common traits, interests, etc. we identified for each. There are female mothers who might pursue hair & beauty as a hobby, younger males looking to pursue a career in hairdressing or beauty, or female working professionals in the industry who need a qualification, and so on. Building these personas helped us understand what would appeal to each of them in terms of the unique value propositions and the kind of messaging we would target to them.
Next, we went onto understand the student journey, that is the process an aspiring student or someone who is interested in hair & beauty goes through. That is, they first become aware of the hair and beauty industry, then they may develop a passion for it personally, then it might be considered as a career path, and in wanting a qualification to pursue it professionally they might look at courses and academies, and this is what will lead them to first know who IHB is.
Thereafter, they will assess IHB’s USPs and authority in education, look at competitors’ offerings, and assess which option to go for depending on numerous factors. Thereafter, a decision will be made whether to opt for an IHB course, select a course at another academy, or to drop the idea altogether sometimes.
So each prospective student is at a different stage in their journey and so it is important not to overwhelm them with information that they are not ready for, prematurely. Understanding the student journey and its various steps helped us formulate an end-to-end content and digital strategy for IHB.
Based on the USPs plus the target personas, lists of keywords were built to be used in different kinds of communication from the website, emails, social media, and e-brochures to infographics. This would help build consistency in messaging and students associating the IHB brand with a specific set of values and its differentiated offering.
HumanisedTech’s Strategy – Full-Scale Engagement
After conducting the two strategy workshops and performing an audit of all documents and marketing material and the like plus many conversations with different stakeholders, we were able to understand where IHB stood in terms of their marketing and branding activities and the gaps that existed in reaching their goals.
Thereby, we were able to propose to them areas of improvement and a full-scale digital strategy involving their website and digital marketing that would ensure all digital strategy, branding, and content activities would serve their goals.
The various mediums of our digital execution plus the strategy and activities for each are included below.
A complete revamp of the website was carried out and a fresh site was delivered with a focus on numerous content pages and areas, some visible and navigable on the site and others only accessible through search engines.
The design and layout were kept simple yet elegant based on the needs of the education industry, with focus being given to actual images of training and education and large descriptions where possible. The colours selected match the IHB logo and represents a renewal of colours of trust, professionalism and authority.
Various content areas/pages were created right across the website to:
- Build brand credibility by speaking of history and journey
- Highlight USPs to set quality of IHB education apart
- Build trust in expertise and domain authority by speaking of founder and faculty mentors
- Offering full course details including syllabus and fees to build confidence and remain transparent
- FAQs section was added with questions and answers involving career paths after
pursuing hairdressing, balancing higher studies and doing a course, feeling it isn’t the right course for them halfway through, and so on. This helps the website answer actual questions which we understood students and their parents have.
The USPs, segments, personas, and student journeys discovered during the two strategy workshops impacted the messaging, tone and kinds of content we included in the website areas above.
Also, the website’s many content areas would contribute to improve search marketing and organic traffic into the IHB website, as we had created many keyword rich and valuable information providing areas within the website.
Some of the pages remain hidden but are linked to from Google Search plus Display ads, which will be outlined in the search engine marketing section later.
– Pillar Page: this was set up within the site covering every possible topic involving hair and beauty education. This improves the site’s architecture in terms of searching for related information and allows for improved rankings as a result.
Everything a student would need to know from what career opportunities are available upon finishing a course, what the different types of hair courses are, to what the salary of a hairstylist generally is, was covered in the pillar page article. From the pillar page, you can navigate to a detailed page on each topic for more information.
It serves as a comprehensive resource on understanding the hair & beauty industry, knowing whether it is a right career choice for you, what paths are available, how to pursue a course, and so on. This is perfect for students at various stages of their journey.
The pillar page is visible as individual blog posts when navigating within the site but the actual pillar page article itself can be accessed by navigating to it through Google when searching on hair and beauty information involving Bangalore and India.
– E-Newsletters & E-Brochures: We created engaging and informative e-brochures on IHB, its courses, its pricing, faculty, and so on, to be sent to email lists and shared through other means as well. Our strategy involved sending the right piece of information to the right person at the right time in their journey, based on the student journey we had identified. E-brochures and E-newsletters were perfectly suited for this.
– Infographics: Infographics were created by repurposing information from the e-brochures and the like, along with small marketing messages, to target students at different stages in their journey as part of emails and on WhatsApp and the like.
A dedicated email marketing strategy was formulated involving the use of purchased and acquired email lists, to target routine content to different audience based on their level of interaction with IHB and the stage they were in, whether they had made an inquiry, whether they
had a consultation session with a counsellor, whether they wanted to experience a live classroom session, and so on.
Everything from the subject line to the main email body was targeted to specific students based on their needs. The USPs and keywords identified were used extensively to ensure consistency in messaging and brand association by students.
E-brochure download options were provided in the emails, for those who might be keen to learn more about IHB and its courses and what sets them apart.
Lead magnets were also included in the emails leading to sign up forms for concepts we devised together with IHB including the ‘experience a live class session’ and ‘free faculty mentor consultation session’.
Social Media Marketing
A comprehensive social media marketing strategy was launched to reach different audiences depending on their social media behaviours and whether they preferred Facebook, Instagram or YouTube videos.
Engaging post descriptions and graphics were created moving the focus away from IHB and courses and its prices and so on, speaking more on different hairstyles, kinds of equipment used in the industry, key figures in the industry, and so on.
This was to create greater appeal for the different audiences on Facebook and Instagram, who need considerable information to develop a passion for the industry and only then will they possibly select it as a career path, and require information on IHB courses.
YouTube videos were selected to display/teach hairdressing and beauty skills, techniques used, course book information, etc. to cater to the more advanced information requirements of the hair and beauty audience who learn through videos.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO – Organic)
Through our focus on building keyword lists based on target personas and IHB’s USPs, a detailed SEO strategy was implemented across the website in different areas of content, while also optimizing meta data for the same. The purpose was to improve organic reach with keywords that were popular considering the industry and popular searches.
Thus, the search engine ranking was improved due to being recognized as a provider of quality content that is of value to readers, and not mere content with keywords stuffed in it.
Keyword research carried out in the early stages allowed us to experiment with which ones to continue and which ones to drop, based on results.
Search Engine Marketing (Paid)
After the website content pages were set and producing results and generating traffic, we began to run Google paid ads on behalf of IHB to ensure website visitors can be retargeted appropriate ads upon visiting the IHB website.
Google Display Ads were created with keyword-rich, targeted content and engaging IHB images of actual lesson settings, faculty mentors, students, etc., and linked to particular website pages created to promote IHB’s ‘free experience a live class session’ and ‘free mentor counselling’ sessions. The ads would appear on websites and videos that are viewed by the student or parent who initially visited the IHB website.
Similarly, we created Google Search Ads for IHB to drive action towards the website pages describing the free sessions described above as well as regular course pages as well. The IHB ads are shown to students and parents who actively search for hair and beauty topics, services, courses, and so on.
Results Generated for IHB
Together with the insights gained from the strategy workshops our digital strategy, branding and content efforts created considerable results for IHB within the 1st year of engagement.
– The IHB brand was able to influence industry perception and gain recognition as a thought leader in hair and beauty education in the region, leading to a long list of partnerships, event tie-ups, visits from elite hair and beauty professionals, and further expansion in the region.
– Several new audiences were opened up to IHB, with younger individuals with an early passion for hairdressing and beauty starting to take interest in their content, although it will be much later that they might pursue the interest and consider courses.
– IHB’s search engine ranking grew considerably in an organic manner due to the optimized content and meta data with targeted keywords, improving traffic into the site and generating more leads through the CTAs included on the site to drive actions.
– Better qualified leads reached IHB due to the step-by-step content funnels we had created, ensuring the right content pieces were marketed to the right individuals at the right time. By providing content on the hair and beauty industry, career-skills match, career options, student experience, course alternatives, career fit, etc., we made sure that IHB was able to offer content catering to the information needs of students at different stages of the student journey.
– Our search engine marketing efforts for IHB led to considerable traffic and leads by using Google search ads for searches on hair and beauty, plus targeting Google display ads for those who had visited the IHB site previously.
– Through our digital strategy efforts for IHB we were able to complement their objective of uplifting the standard of the hair and beauty industry, by progressively providing them a voice in Bangalore through their content and marketing to be able to inform students, professionals and all student stakeholders on what a good education in hair and beauty is about and how it can influence the salon, fashion, and other industries through their efforts.