Category Archives: Target marketing

Why niche marketing works

ID-100201541How many times as marketers and business owners do we struggle to really identify and communicate with our true target audience? Often this is because the audiences we have identified are simply too diverse to make a coherent communications plan viable; so we end up spreading our messages too thinly to be impactful in any one customer segment.

Today I can across a business that has done a brilliant job of finding a niche and making it their own. They are a great example of how, by focusing on a niche, you can make your marketing messages clear and concise and ultimately more successful.

The company in question started life as a printers. At that stage they were probably like many other printers – producing all sorts of items and competing in a largely price-driven, commodity market place, with a diverse customer base. At some stage in the company development though, they decided to focus on printing race numbers for runners competing in events. And, if you look at them today, they not only  print race numbers for many different types of event, but they also provide many peripheral products to their customers –  anything from event signs and barrier tape to nine different types of safety pin to attach the numbers to competitors tops!

By changing from a product-led business, undertaking many different printing services, to a customer-led business, focusing solely on the events market, they have transformed their business model. And, in so doing they are now able to reap the benefits of a totally customer focused marketing approach. Here are some of the advantages to think about:

  • You and your staff can more easily become ‘expert’ in your chosen niche, leading to a better understanding of the issues and problems your customers need to solve
  • Greater empathy with your customer leads to clearer messaging and better communication
  • The clearer your target, the clearer your approach – from identifying key terms for seo  and finding influential partners  to sourcing appropriate trade journals and mailing lists – everything becomes clearer.

It goes without saying that, if you intent to focus exclusively on one niche, then it needs to be capable of sustaining your business now and in the future. The approach though still applies to bigger businesses, where cross functional teams can be focused on different customer segments to reap the same benefits.

If you feel you are spreading your marketing too thinly across a number of different audiences or are struggling to identify your key customer groups, it might be worth thinking about taking a niche approach.

image: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

 

 

How to keep your marketing campaigns relevant

I received a number of totally irrelevant email shots this week which got me wondering why ‘common sense’ seems to be lacking in many marketing campaigns.

The first was a fantastic buy-one-get-one-free offer on dog biscuits – great…if you own a dog that is! I am (slightly) sympathetic to this campaign as I do currently buy pet supplies from the company in question and, statistically speaking, there is a 30% chance I have a dog. Although, looking at it another way, there is a 70% chance I don’t have a dog, so why bother trying to sell me dog food without finding out first?

The second was another discount offer, this time on nursery furniture – brilliant, but 12 years too late. The third was announcing a new range of clothes for toddlers which again, was totally mis-timed. Getting the timing of a marketing campaign right can be tricky, but surely anyone can work out that whilst baby products would have been relevant to me some years ago, they aren’t now.

Companies like Tesco are masters of using transactional data to match up the right offers with the right customers, but many smaller companies simply don’t have access to mountains of data or the ability to act on it. So what can they do?

Here are a couple of common sense ideas that may help make your marketing campaigns more relevant:

  • Map your customers buying process – including the time period over which your products are likely to be relevant to your customers
  • Know your customers – a research programme or engagement through social media may help you get closer to their needs
  • Keep your data clean – it’s worth taking the time and effort to keep your customer data up to date
  • Take calculated risks – use the data that you have to make an educated guess about what additional products your customers might buy (in the pet suppliers example I’m sure the company could have narrowed my pet ownership down to a rabbit, guinea pig or other small pet).

If your marketing campaigns are relevant they are likely to be more successful and produce a better return for you. Better to spend the time planning the right campaign than irritating customers with irrelevant marketing.

Image: www.tomfishburne.com

Is sponsorship a viable marketing option for small businesses?

I was with a client last week brainstorming low-cost marketing ideas when I stumbled across the fact that they had a long-standing sponsorship arrangement with a local golf club. I use the term ‘sponsorship’ loosely; it actually consisted of a rather faded board with a logo on it somewhere around the course. Clearly there was potential to make much more of the arrangement and, by the end of the discussion, we had come up with an exciting plan to really leverage the deal.

Like any other tactical marketing activity, the use of sponsorship must fit into, and work with, your overall strategy. It must, of course, be relevant; there is probably no point sponsoring a basketball team  if your target market is mum’s with pre-school aged children for example.

Another key element to a good sponsorship arrangement is the opportunity for ‘activation’. Simply put, activation refers to how you  use the elements of your sponsorship deal beyond simply slapping a logo on a sports kit or putting up a billboard at a venue.  It is imperative that you put time and money into developing an activation plan to get the best out of your sponsorship opportunity.

There are no end of creative ways to activate your sponsorship deal; here are just a few to think about:

  • PR – make sure that you take advantage of every opportunity to  create a positive association between your brand and the team/individual or event that you are sponsoring. Include online media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs as well as the more traditional methods.
  • Sales promotions – can you offer free samples or special offers to supporters and participants via a database, e-newsletter or fanzine?
  • Hospitality – reward loyal customers, staff or potential new customers with VIP tickets to events.
  • Signage/logo placement – create positive awareness and reinforcement of your brand among your target market.
  • Marketing campaigns – develop marketing campaigns around your sponsorship to gain maximum value.

When most people think about sponsorship they imagine big brands and even bigger bucks. I believe that, with a great deal of focus and a good measure of creativity and commitment, small businesses can implement sponsorship arrangements that can be highly effective in building awareness.

Image: www.freedigitalphotos.net

‘Old’ doesn’t have to mean out of date

A highlight of my recent trip to Paris was stumbling across an amazing shop selling a stunning array of traditional kitchen ware. It looked like a museum piece;  jammed full of every conceivable item from copper pots to pastry cutters. The stock levels were immense, the pricing system idiosyncratic, the staff plentiful and the trade brisk.  But I found myself wondering how successful the business was.

Granted, the shop was  aimed at the serious chef and restaurateur, yet they tolerated our presence good-naturedly despite the fact that we were obviously tourists. Have they just cleverly found their niche in a city that puts so much emphasis on good food and eating? Or are they simply living in the past?

On my return home I googled ‘Restaurant suppliers in Paris’ and up popped: E.Dehillerin  Le specialiste du materiel de cuisine; I recognised the shop in an instant. OK, so their website could be better and the on-line ordering is a little basic, but somehow the business has survived from 1820 – 2012. Not bad going.

I wonder if E. Dehillerin have a social media strategy or are planning on launching an app any day soon? Probably not. Yet they do seem to have an enviable reputation amongst their target market and I found plenty of enthusiastic blog posts about them. They have clearly found their niche and are obviously supplying the right product range and service to keep generations of restauranteurs returning.

Call me old-fashioned, but I’m happy to see that applying the basic foundations of marketing – knowing your customer, supplying the right product and providing good customer service – can still sustain a business in our high-tech world. Yes of course marketing methods have changed over the years, and will continue to do so at a rapid pace, yet the fundamental principles are still relevant.

Can social media level the playing field?

I came across a brilliant example of how  a focused social media strategy really can create results that, in the past,  only an enormous marketing budget could have hoped to achieve.

The ‘product’ in question is football…women’s football to be precise. Women’s football, though supported by the FA to some degree, suffers from a lack of recognition despite the numbers of girls and women now involved in the sport. With a modest marketing budget, teams in the Women’s Super League (WSL), are turning to social media to develop their fan base.

The use of Twitter has been a key part of their strategy with each team in the League nominating an ambassador who engages with fans on a regular basis. Team members display their Twitter account name on their kit to further promote engagement.

The results to date have been encouraging, with social media channels attracting around 80,000 followers. The Fifa Women’s World Cup in July 2011 reportedly attracted over 7,000 tweets per second at its peak; making it one of the most tweeted about events. The real measure of success, attendance of WSL matches, is said to be up by 600%. What other media can boast that kind of success on a relatively low-budget?

Creating the right logo

I’ve spent an interesting couple of days working with a client on their new logo this week. As a lover of marketing planning and process the more creative side of marketing can prove a bit of a challenge. All that subjectivity makes me nervous. Choosing yellow for your corporate colour just because you once owned a pair of fluorescent leg warmers as a child has never, in my view, been a very satisfactory form of decision-making.

Luckily, this particular client is also high on objectivity, so we got along just fine.

When developing a new logo here are a couple of points to think about:

  • Is it versatile? Check what your logo will look like at a very small size, on a business card for example, as well as across all the media you intend to use it on (websites, Facebook, promotional items etc). Also check what it looks like in black and white; not everyone has a colour printer so you aren’t always in control of how your logo is seen.
  • Is it recognisable and memorable? Even small companies who aren’t planning a heavy-weight brand promotion need a logo that their clients will recognise.
  • Is it appropriate? This is where you put yourself in your clients shoes. Fonts, colours and imagery all have meaning and associations; make sure they are the right ones for your client base and your product.
  • Will it endure?  Avoid the need for frequent redesign exercises by choosing styles that are not too ‘fashionable’.
  • Keep it simple. Often the most versatile, recognisable and enduring logos are the most simple.
  • Love your logo! Assuming you are planning to be in business for sometime, it is important to be proud of your own logo. If subjectivity slips in at this point then so be it – we are only human after all!

How to choose the right mailing list

It was with some relief that I opened the sixth, and final, direct mail piece from a certain Scandinavian book printing company today. You may be  wondering why I have received no less than half a dozen different mailing packs from a seemingly unrelated business over the last two months – I certainly am!

I can at least take an educated guess. Though I have never had the need for a book printer, I did  publish a magazine (until I sold the business some 6 months ago). My details have obviously been captured and ‘plonked’ into the generic category of ‘publishing’ and the data sold on to some poor unsuspecting marketer hoping for a list of relevant prospects!

Here are some of the questions you should ask before agreeing to rent or buy, what looks like, a relevant database?

  • Where has the data come from and how is it kept up to date? Has the data originated from a legitimate source, has it been verified and on what basis is it kept up to date?
  • Can you buy the relevant portion of the data and how can it be segmented? If you are looking to target businesses in a particular sector can they be easily identified?
  • What level of detail does the database contain? It is essential that you have a named contact and you may also want a ‘phone number and email address.
  • On what basis can you use the data? You can rent lists for one-off use or multiple use or you can buy the data outright. Be clear about what you need and what you are getting.
  • How will the data be sent to you? The format in which you will receive the data is particularly important if you are using an outsourced mailing house. Make sure it is compatible. 

There are lots of good databases out there – by asking the right questions you can make sure you choose the one that will work for you.

Save time & money with a well targeted marketing campaign

I had a ‘phone call today. The caller simply made me a, very kind, offer of 90 litres of spring water and 100 cups delivered to my door… absolutely free. I hesitated before giving a polite ‘no thank you’, not because it wasn’t a compelling offer, but because it was totally inappropriate.

I had visions of trying to cram an enormous bottle of water into my, already pretty ‘spatially challenged’ home office. I mused at the idea of chatting (to myself) around my new water cooler. I wondered how long it would take me to use up 100 cups. And still my answer was no.

I should never have received that call. Surely given a couple of simple facts about me and my business someone could have worked out that I probably wasn’t  in the target market? And even if I had slipped through that particular net, shouldn’t the caller have qualified who I was? Even the… ‘can I speak to the person responsible for purchasing 90 litres of spring water and 100 cups please’ … introduction would have been better than nothing.

Granted it’s not always easy to identify and reach your market. But it’s certainly worth a try. Identify your target audience as precisely as possible, talk to them in their language, make them an appropriate and compelling offer and, you never know, they might just say yes.

Know your target market

A small business client passed me a piece of direct mail they had received a couple of days ago. A good quality piece, strong message, clear call to action. So what made it so utterly fruitless as a marketing communication?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of direct mail – I’ve seen it  rise and fall in popularity over the years and have always maintained that the label ‘junk mail’ is not altogether fair (though I admit that in far too many cases it is perfectly justified). It’s not enough though to have a well designed mailing piece, as with any marketing communication, it needs hit the right audience – your target market. Those potential customers that need or want your product.

So why send a nicely crafted mailing piece about commercial waste services to a small service business which is likely to have no more ‘commercial waste’ than a few bent paperclips?

Direct mail can work as part of a well thought through business to business marketing campaign but will only be effective if all the elements are right. Defining and understanding you target audience in detail is fundamental to developing any good marketing communication and is well worth taking the time to analyse and articulate as part of your  marketing plan.