How should I market my rural fashion business?
I run a ladies' fashion shop in a rural market town. Can you give me some advice on how to market my business?
Feargal says: The reality is that for most small, independent retailers, formally paid-for marketing is a rather limited and rare luxury. Usually budgets are very tight and good independent retailers get highly creative with low-cost/no-cost initiatives to help raise the awareness of their business.
There are some obvious routes that you could look at such as advertising in a regional newspaper or doing bursts of advertising on a local radio station to coincide with either new season arrivals or a sale.
I hear varying reports as to how cost-effective these solutions can be. Good quality brochures distributed door to door once or twice a year can certainly be effective, especially when you bring in a new brand label and once you can get access to high-quality images from your suppliers.
Lots of fashion retailers tell me that running events can be quite successful, eg offering your key customers sessions with a stylist, running your own, in-house fashion show, etc.
Certainly you need to be able to contact your customers on an on-going basis and I would strongly recommend that if you don't have a database of mobile numbers for your customers (with their permission to contact them) then you need to set about building this immediately.
Do keep in mind that it is always easier to work with your own existing customers rather than trying to attract new ones.
In Superquinn, I used to talk with colleagues about "the bath tub principle". Imagine a bath full of water. The water is your customers. The bath has some holes with water leaking from it. Traditional retail thinking is to rush out, at enormous expense, and start advertising to people who are not your customers to try to keep the bath full. I would challenge that model somewhat by suggesting that more time should be put into "stopping the leaks" by working with your existing customer base in a far more proactive manner.
Of course, social media is a subject onto itself and I know many fashion retailers around the country are doing fantastic work by keeping their customers informed of exciting new fashion trends and products they stock through social media channels. Once you start thinking about local marketing, there are so many exciting initiatives that you can organise for little or no money.
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