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  • On Becoming a Niche Marketer

    As a general-service florist, you are looking for a broad segment of the population: those who are or will be buying flowers regularly. As a niche florist, you are looking for a subgroup within the group of active floral consumers, so it will take a more targeted effort. The successful niche marketer learns how to reach that smaller group of potential customers inexpensively and effectively.

    This means, for most niche marketers, mass marketing techniques are not effective. Unless you live in a small community, the daily paper in your town may even be able to "mass" market for you.

    Your niche marketing effort consists of three aims:

    • To build a list of prospective candidates for your services.
    • To begin a relationship with those individuals by sending them a steady stream of mail advertising.
    • To learn how to get the individuals on your list to call or come by the shop. 

    You need several different marketing approaches to accomplish this. There is no perfect approach. You want to find and use any promotion that pays for itself by delivering prospects who will eventually buy.

    Options

    There are many good ways for niche marketers to advertise. The best are usually small, inexpensive techniques that can be repeated. For example, if you specialize in serving the needs of doctors in your community, try a classified ad in a variety of local publications that reach doctors. If you specialize in weddings, you might attend or conduct joint promotions with banquet halls, hotels or bridal shops. A party specialist will want to cultivate relationships with local caterers, possibly sharing customer lists.

    Plan to test different methods, and allow yourself the time and expense for trial and error. Over time, you will find promotions that work. Keep using them until they stop working - even if you grow tired of them.

    Information

    Each of your solicitations must have a "call to action" that tells the prospect he or she must respond to receive something they'll value. As an expert, you are selling information or expertise. One of the best ways to get a good response to an ad is to offer the prospect a taste of your service. For example, a booklet titled "Exotic Flowers" might draw inquiries from prospective customers. For corporate accounts, you might want to have "The Ten Most Impressive Gifts (Under $75)." You could also offer a newsletter, a free brochure or a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

    Whatever you offer, be sure you give only enough to capture their interest. You don't want to give away so much information that they will not need you, but you want to give them enough so they realize you truly are an expert - and not just a florist claiming to be a specialist. Carefully monitor the approach you take in the beginning, and soon you will discover how much to offer and what draws customers to respond to your ads.

    Customer Database

    Your most important marketing tool as a niche marketer is your customer list. For this reason, you should buy a high-quality software package such as one of the Daisy Systems) and invest heavily in training your team so everyone working with this niche knows how to use and maintain the database.

    In addition to the normal contact information you capture about your customers, you need to include information about their purchasing and gift-giving habits, as well as their affinity for your area of specialization. Plan to add even more information about those who buy because this may help you see a pattern that will enable you to identify new prospects. For example, you may find you get great inquiries from people at bridal shows if you sponsor a booth. But further studies may reveal that none buy, making this a poor investment. Or, you might find 20 percent of your corporate customers belong to the civic club you attend, suggesting you should add the entire group to your list.

    Your Marketing Plan

    As you consider a niche market, remember it may take years before specialty customers find you - without some help. You'll need to market aggressively to build a reputation in the marketplace. For best results, develop a simple but detailed marketing plan, listing your strengths and ways to promote them.

     

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