Let’s talk about building an audience for your shop. How did you first decide to open a shop? Did you see a need that wasn’t being met, or did you just think, “I really like x”? Believe me, it’s been done both ways. That’s essentially the chicken or the egg question.
You know how it goes:
What comes first? The egg or the chicken?
Many amazing products have always started with the idea of providing a solution to a specific audience. From laundry detergent to furniture, and informational books to design and information products, the best products are always designed for a very specific focused audience. However, there are some examples of the opposite working, too, but it’s a harder road to travel. You might have a shop now and you did decide to “build it” and they will come. I started a shop myself with this mentality.
Building An Audience First
If you have not started your shop yet – you are in luck! You can and should build an audience first through social media and other outlets. Knowing the target customer you wish to serve is an important first step. You can start with determining who comes into your shop now. What does he or she look like, how many children, what are they searching for? You can create email and marketing that talks directly to your chosen audience. Naturally the audience you pick should be one in which you can brainstorm product ideas based on their needs within your area of expertise and passion – and related to your store.
By finding the audience first and building up a following, then creating the products that the audience needs, desires and wants, you’ll create more focused offerings that truly speak to your audience. You’ll need to build a great relationship that attracts your audience so that they want to sign up for your newsletter and come into your boutique to learn more. I say you should be yourself and understand your customer, then go out and find him/her. Do they listen to NPR? Do they read the paper? Or do they shop online?
The more you know your audience, even if you started with the store and are working backward, you will find you can sell more. Talk to your next few customers who come into the store and ask them if they have things they are looking for and what they usually buy. Another thought is to go to the outlets you are considering marketing on, such as radio, and ask about the demographics they target. They have different audiences and could tell you when / what time you should aim for to get to your target market.
Building the Product First
If you’ve already built a shop and now you’re seeking to increase sales or find other customers, the problem is that your products might not speak to any one particular audience if you did not have a specific group in mind when you created your shop. Think about the impression you give when people walk into the store. Is it fun and floral, is it a variety store, are there lots of clothing in bright colors, or what is your clothing style that you tend to purchase? Figure out the answer to the question: Who does this shop solve problems for, exactly?
When you are able to determine a niche group of customers for the shop you’ve created, you will still have to go back to the beginning, build up the customers as you work daily with marketing and social media, make them realize they want and need your products, and then finally offer the product to them when you get them into the store. You can’t sell a product without a customer.
The problem with this approach (products first) is that if you’ve created a product that can’t find its niche, then you may have wasted your time and efforts and money. Nothing beats market research. You could spend some time with your vendors and talk about target customers – who they feel they are targeting and what demographic they seem to sell well with.
The Combination Approach
When you choose a target customer, do enough research to determine if there is a need for products that provide answers to this particular audience’s problems. What I mean by that is you can start asking your customers before you go to market or look for a new line, what they are searching for. Ask them if they are interested in certain things. You probably have a couple of customers that come in on a semi-regular basis, try to create a little feedback group with them and see if they’ll tell you what they like to buy. My favorite thing to do is to keep a list at the register for “requests”. That way, when people say “do you have” and you don’t – you can keep track and just note what’s being asked for. Don’t forget to go into other shops to see the items they are carrying.
You don’t need to actually create any new products yet, but you should have an idea of what products that particular group needs before proceeding to market and promote to them, otherwise you are wasting your hard earned dollars. This way, you can be building up your customers while you’re creating your products, simultaneously. In the end you will have successful products because you found what your customer wanted.
By the time the audience is building, and your newsletter has subscribers, you’ll be ready with your first trial product six to twelve weeks down the line. Go to market and find great wholesale products that match what your customer is asking for and try a little. Highlight a new area in your shop and call it the “New and Noteworthy” section – if this meets the needs of your customers they will come in just to see this section on a regular basis knowing what you have is new and what they are looking for. This is how you turn things around and create a truly viable business and shop from a specific niche. Market research and testing can never be replaced by speculation or wishful thinking if you want to create powerful, winning, money-making products.
Your business will be running on jet fuel once you get busy asking your current customers what they want, create the right products in your store, and advertise to the right audiences who have your customers. You will see people walking in all day long, and isn’t that what you dream of?
Let me know your ideas in the comments about what you should do to create a better group of customers? And sign up for the newsletter below to get great tips from our blog on a regular basis when we publish new content!